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Cokie Roberts, New Orleans-born political journalist, dies at 75

Roberts was the daughter of Hale and Lindy Boggs, two members of Congress from Louisiana, and went on to chronicle the political world she grew up in.
Credit: AP

NEW ORLEANS — Cokie Roberts, longtime political reporter and analyst at ABC News and NPR, has died at age 75.

ABC announced her death on Tuesday. Roberts' family said the cause was complications from breast cancer.

Roberts was the daughter of Hale and Lindy Boggs, two members of Congress from Louisiana, and went on the chronicle the political world she grew up in.

She joined ABC News in 1988 and was co-anchor with Sam Donaldson of the Sunday political show "This Week" from 1996 to 2002.

Born Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs on December 27, 1943, in New Orleans, “Cokie” Roberts was the youngest of the three children of Thomas Hale Boggs, Sr., and Lindy Boggs. Hale Boggs had just lost his bid for re-election to his first time in Congress, but would later make a return.

Roberts’ late brother, Tommy, invented her nickname when, as a child, he could not pronounce her given name, Corinne.

Roberts attended the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans and Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Maryland.

She came of age in the shadow of the Capitol. Her father represented New Orleans in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1972, including many years as the powerful House Majority Leader. While traveling on a campaign trip in Alaska, the plane carrying Boggs disappeared and he was presumed dead. His wife Lindy, a descendant of Louisiana’s first Governor, William C.C. Claiborne, succeeded him in the House and served as a popular Congresswoman until 1991. She was later appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.

Roberts spoke frequently of her parents and Louisiana connections in interviews, articles and during appearances in her hometown including just last year when she spoke at an event at Tulane University to mark the city’s tricentennial.

“You say you’re from New Orleans, and everyone knows where you’re from,” said Roberts last year. “You can’t name another American city that boasts its own food, its own music, its own festivals, its own parades and parades and parades.”

She also spoke at Loyola University, the University of Holy Cross and LSU in recent years, earning honorary degrees, and did local interviews to promote her many books.

Just this past June she wrote an essay in America magazine, a Catholic Jesuit magazine, about her mother’s influence and mentoring of Tania Tetlow, the first female president of Loyola University. Roberts spoke at the inauguration of Tetlow in 2017.

In 2005 Roberts spoke to NPR about her first visit to her hometown since the federal levee failures following Hurricane Katrina.

“It is a city that has withstood so many things over its storied history, and the idea that the levees could break is really something that is almost impossible to contemplate,” she said.

She was asked what advice her mother, then 89, would share with her fellow New Orleanians. “Her advice would be pick up, move on. We've got to get it done. But she would also agree that the country has to help.”

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities honored her as its Humanist of the Year in 2015.

Survivors include her husband and co-author Steve Roberts, also a journalist and professor; as well as two children and 6 grandchildren.

In a statement, Roberts' family said "Cokie was – first and foremost – a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, cousin and friend. Cokie’s career as a journalist at National Public Radio and ABC News took her to the heights of her profession, and her success as an author on history and family put her on the best seller list.
But her values put family and relationships above all else."

"We will miss Cokie beyond measure, both for her contributions and for her love and kindness," the family said. "We are hopeful that Cokie now goes to join her parents, former Members of Congress Hale and Lindy Boggs, her siblings Barbara, Tom and William, who predecease her, and her God.”