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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lindy Boggs, January 31, 1974. Interview A-0082. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Impact of the People's League on Louisiana politics in the late 1930s and early 1940s

Boggs explains her involvement in the People's League, a coalition of young people, primarily in law school and graduate school in Louisiana, that banded together in the 1930s as a non-factional group dedicated to preserving integrity in government and ensuring the election of public officials who would work for the benefit of the people. Boggs's husband, Hale Boggs, served as the president of this group. According to Boggs, the League's biggest achievement was seen in the election of Sam Jones as governor of Louisiana in 1940. Boggs also applauds the work of the People's League in focusing on voter registration drives as a means of giving more people a voice in political matters. Although the League largely dissipated as a cohesive political group after World War II, Boggs seems to credit their grassroots work as a precursor to major changes that occurred in Louisiana politics after the second World War.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lindy Boggs, January 31, 1974. Interview A-0082. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

There is one story that I heard in New Orleans, except no one else seemed to know about it, so I wanted to ask you about it - whether it is true and if it is, if you would elaborate and tell the whole story. The story I heard was that you and your husband, your husband in particular, and you back in graduate school and in law school were more or less the leaders of a young group in the late thirties that really went to Washington and got federal action to come down and prosecute . . . to prosecutions that eventually came, and that out of that group developed a more or less, a cadre of people who went on in Louisiana politics.
Well, Hale was the leader. It was called People's Week, and there were a great group of young people in an organization you know, there still exists a multi-factional organizational situation in politics in Louisiana, and there was no one faction with which they seemed to identify. They did form a group called People's League and Hale was the Chairman or the President or whatever the chief officer was.
Was he in law school at that time?
Yes. I think by the time that they were formally organized with a name and officers he may have been out of law school. He got out of law school in '37 and they didn't have any formal outward organization until perhaps '38 or '39. Several state senators, Lawrence Eustis was a member of the group, Chuck Morrison, who became Mayor and then Ambassador to the Organization of American States, was a member, as was his brother Jake. Raymond Monroe, who was not a political office holder but who, from that time on, was very active in political organizations and all the ensuing races for Governor. Goodness, I should remember them all. They were just an enormously effective group of young people who felt that they couldn't identify especially with any particular faction in order to do a job that they felt was necessary, and that was to establish a feeling that the government could have integrity and could serve the people well without having any monetary difficulties. They did very effective work legally and they did, of course, talk with various governmental agencies that should have been involved, Justice and Post Office. They staged large rallies conducted by the People's League on the White House steps. There was a grand jury investigation going on and the grand jurors felt that the District Attorney was not rewarding their efforts of justice with a thorough investigation, and from that time on the People's League was identified as a political entity, non-factional political entity, and they went on to work effectively and affirmatively in the political organization. The first major effort was the gubernatorial election of 1940. I suppose the campaign started in the fall of 1939. They were able to elect the Governor of their choice, Sam Jones, and Sam has become a very conservative person in the way that he is. He was the candidate of the People's League and all of us went into very active ward-precinct organizational politics. We had ward leaders and precinct captains and poll watchers. We worked very hard on voter registration drives. At that time you had to register every year and by the time you had cleansed the rolls it was time to start all over. I think it gave all of us a sense of responsibility at the precinct level, which is extremely helpful all through your political life. If you go back to the essentials it is there. The issues are explained and the votes registered and voters translated into the polls and counted. So, it was a very valuable lesson. Then, of course, there was no longer a need for a separate organization. They had done their work in exposing scandal and trying to re-establish integrity in government and to attract good people into running parties, making themselves available as candidates and officials. Then they went on. The various members of the League were just absorbed into other factions which they felt compatible with their political feelings. Of course, World War II came along and disbursed a great many of them.
Was there any coming back together after World War II of the same people?
No, but they more or less remained together, I hate to use the word ideologically, but I guess for want of a better word, they seemed to always react, more or less, the same way to political situations and to political candidates'platforms.