Business Hall of Fame: Thomas Hale Boggs Jr.

Perfecting the practice of influencing public policy.

By: Leslie Milk

Illustration by Forrest Greene.

“Everybody needs a lobbyist,” says Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., arguably the best in the business. “Everybody needs to have their views translated in a way that policymakers can comprehend.” It’s a need that has helped Boggs’s firm, Patton Boggs, grow to more than 700 lawyers in nine offices from DC to Doha, representing Fortune 500 companies, state and foreign governments, and organizations in industries from heath care to homeland security. In 2011, gross revenues topped $340 million. Among other achievements, Boggs designed and secured congressional approval for the $1.5-billion federal bailout of Chrysler in 1979.

Boggs is the son of the late Hale Boggs, the powerful Louisiana Democrat who was House majority leader, and of Lindy Boggs, who held the congressional seat for 18 years after his death. As a Georgetown undergrad, Tommy Boggs had a job running Speaker Sam Rayburn’s private elevator. After college, he worked on the Hill and in the Johnson White House. After he got his JD from Georgetown, his mentor, Clark Clifford, advised him to start out doing traditional legal work. “He told me that you can’t be a good lawyer/lobbyist without being a good lawyer first,” Boggs recalls. He turned down offers from big firms to join the fledgling Barco, Cook, Patton & Blow, which had only five lawyers in New York and Washington: “My father thought I was crazy. But I liked the challenge of starting something new.” Now chairman of Patton Boggs’s executive committee, he also has served on the boards of the Congressional Award Foundation, the University of Maryland Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Duke University.

“A career in public policy in Washington is one of the more exciting you can engage in,” Boggs says. “You go to work most days with problems that are different than you had before. That’s an interesting way to make a living.”

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