Rep. John Lewis on the Passing of Iconic Journalist Cokie Roberts
I was so sad to hear today that a legend of the Washington press corps, Cokie Roberts, has passed away. Cokie was a trailblazer, especially for women in journalism, who did not hesitate to use the power of the fourth estate to hold public figures accountable. As the daughter of two towering members of Congress, politics was a part of her DNA. Her father, Thomas Hale Boggs, who represented the 2nd district of Louisiana for almost 30 years, also served as House Majority Leader and Majority Whip.
Her mother, Lindy Boggs, who won her husband’s seat after he died, was re-elected seven times. Their combined careers in Congress lasted 46 years, nearly all of Cokie Roberts’ young life. She grew up instinctively understanding the ground she would cover as a journalist, and she used her insider knowledge for the public good. She asked tough questions and formed solid opinions that made journalists and newsmakers in Washington lean in whenever she shared her thoughts.
When she joined a fledgling National Public Radio in the late 1970s, as a part of an all-women news team, she made it plain that women journalists could break news, run down a story, interrogate officials, and operate effectively at the center of the hard news game. Her eloquence and expertise were highly sought after, and she anchored and appeared on some of the most influential news programs in television history – NPR’s All Things Considered, the PBS MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, and ABC’s This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts, Nightline with Ted Koppel and World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. She won several Emmy Awards, the Edward R. Murrow Award, has dozens of honorary degrees, and was recognized by American Women in Radio and Film as one of the 50 all-time greatest women in the history of broadcasting.
Despite these high honors, Cokie was never puffed up but always grounded and humane. She was gracious, she was elegant, and she exuded a classic style that was once the prerequisite for respect in Washington politics. She was also so kind and compassionate, a true believer in the dignity of all human kind. I served in Congress with her mother Rep. Lindy Boggs and was deeply moved when Cokie asked that I speak at her mother’s funeral a few years ago.
Cokie Roberts was one of the founding mothers of journalism in this country and a representative of the highest standards in the field. A light has gone out in the Washington press corps, and she will be deeply missed.