The McCarthy era changed every aspect of American life. Charges of communism were levied against professionals in the arts, business, and every level of government. How those charges defined a dark time and came to destroy two of Louisiana’s most powerful politicians is the story of The Big Lie: Hale Boggs, Lucille May Grace, and Leander Perez.
In the fall of 1951, Louisiana was about to elect a new governor. For most voters in Louisiana, the central question was a simple one: which candidate would maintain the generous populist government ushered in by the legendary Huey Long. For others, many of whom were convinced that somehow Soviet agents were running amok in Louisiana, communism was the only issue worthy of discussion in the gubernatorial election.
Those who were fearful soon found their voice in Leander Perez, longtime boss of Plaquemines Parish and leader of the Southern States Rights movement, who warned Louisianians that a communist takeover was imminent.
Enter New Orleans Congressman Hale Boggs—a civil rights liberal and prominent Washington insider—who was seen as the front runner. Lucille May Grace, the longtime registrar of the state land office and one of the shrewdest politicians in Louisiana history, was his most powerful opponent. With the counsel of Perez, “Miss Lucille,” as she was known throughout the state, turned the 1951-52 race upside down when she accused Boggs of being a communist.
Through interviews with more than forty individuals involved in this historic election, author Garry Boulard blends oral history with long-forgotten material unearthed from more than a dozen archives. The result is an incisive survey of three Louisiana giants and how the 1951-52 elections forever changed their lives.