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After battling complications from breast cancer, Emmy Award-winning journalist Cokie Roberts has passed away at the age of 75. Here are some facts you may not know about the trailblazing journalist, who leaves behind a husband, two children, and six grandchildren.
1. Her birth name was Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs.
Roberts reportedly got the nickname “Cokie” from her older brother Thomas, who couldn’t pronounce the name “Corinne” when they were children. She married fellow journalist Steven Roberts at the age of 23 and went by the name Cokie Roberts for the rest of her life.
2. She was the only member of her immediate family not to run for Congress.
Roberts grew up in a political family and noted in an interview with the Washington Post that she was “the only person in my original nuclear family who didn’t run for Congress.”
Roberts’ father, Thomas Hale Boggs Sr., was a former Democratic Congressman from Louisiana. After he passed away in a plane crash in 1972, Roberts’ mother, Lindy Boggs, was elected to take over his seat in Congress. Her brother Thomas Boggs became a power broker and lobbyist while her late sister, Barbara Boggs Sigmund, was mayor of Princeton, New Jersey.
3. She was a devout Catholic.
Although her husband is Jewish, Roberts did not covert to Judaism when they married in 1966. Instead the couple blazed a path as an interfaith couple, hosting their wedding in her parents’ backyard. “We had a Jewish Catholic marriage and had to overcome some hurdles,” she told the New York Times.
The couple published two books about their interfaith marriage, “From This Day Forward” in 2000 and “Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families” in 2011.
4. She didn’t set out to become a journalist.
“Journalism just kind of happened to me,” Roberts said in a 2018 interview. “It wasn’t anything I had planned to do.”
She began her career in the 1960s, a time when there were few female journalists, and later went on to join CBS News and a become a “founding mother” of NPR.
5. She authored eight books.
Although she was best known as a broadcast journalist, Roberts authored eight books. Her writing largely focused on the lives of women throughout history.
The books included 2004’s “Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation,” 2008’s “Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation,” and her latest, 2015’s “Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868.”
6. She received over 30 honorary degrees.
On hearing the news of her death, ABC News President James Goldston pointed out that Roberts had been given countless journalism awards as well as 30 honorary degrees. Her recognitions include being inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and being called one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting by American Women in Radio and Television.
Roberts gave numerous college commencement speeches to receive some of those honorary degrees. This included one at her alma mater, Wellesley College, where she spoke of the role of women in the workplace in 1994. She graduated from Wellesley in 1964; former U.S. Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Hillary Rodham Clinton are also graduates of the political science program at the women’s college.
7. She was beloved by some recent U.S. Presidents but not all.
As news of her death spread, former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush released statements, praising the journalist.
“She was a trailblazing figure; a role model to young women at a time when the profession was still dominated by men; a constant over forty years of a shifting media landscape and changing world, informing voters about the issues of our time and mentoring young journalists every step of the way,” wrote Obama in a statement. “She will be missed — and we send our condolences to her family.”
Meanwhile, Bush and former first lady Laura Bush released their own joint statement. “We are deeply saddened that Cokie Roberts is no longer with us,” it read. “She covered us for decades as a talented, tough, and fair reporter. We respected her drive and appreciated her humor. She became a friend. We know Steve, their children, and grandchildren are heartbroken. They have our sincere sympathies.”
However, President Donald Trump, of whom Roberts was critical in 2016 op-ed, was less enthusiastic in his response to her death. “I never met her. She never treated me nicely,” he noted to reporters. “But I would like to wish her family well. She was a professional, and I respect professionals. I respect you guys a lot, you people a lot. She was a real professional.”
Condolences to Roberts’ friends and family and to all the professional and alumnae communities affected by her death.