"The Most Wonderful Life"

photograph by Alan Pogue

Riding shotgun through Lloyd Doggett's 30-year wild journey in politics has been Elizabeth Belk (that's Libby to you) Doggett, who famously first met Lloyd when he was running for UT student body president, and she was assigned by her sorority to evaluate the candidates. He got all their votes, and she got him.

In the years since their marriage in 1971, Libby has been a fixture of Lloyd's campaigns -- during the 1984 Senate race, he notes, she covered more counties than he did. "Twenty-five years ago, I didn't think this far ahead," she says. "I just knew he'd do something wonderful with his life. I shared his interest in being involved and making a difference, and I figured we'd be doing that together, but I didn't have any idea of the specifics."

Libby's efforts on Lloyd's behalf are somewhat remarkable when you remember that she has a Ph.D. in special education and an accomplished career of her own. Formerly executive director of The Arc of Texas (the re-christened Association for Retarded Citizens), Libby is now a special assistant in the U.S. Department of Education, coordinating a 17-agency working group on services to children with disabilities. "It's very consistent with what Lloyd does, in that I'm trying to make government work better," she says. "And I'm fortunate to have a boss who's very understanding and flexible. But every time a neat job comes up in Austin, I have to re-evaluate."

Unlike many congressional families, the Doggetts actually bought a house in D.C., four blocks from Lloyd's office and about 10 minutes on foot from hers, while still maintaining their "real" home in Clarksville. "We have two small residences and one large storage unit," notes Lloyd, while Libby adds that "something in each is always broken. I do all my errands in Austin." She generally comes back every weekend. "Sometimes, the airplane is the best place to get work done."

Libby freely admits to subtly lobbying Lloyd -- or, as she puts it, "bringing home information that he needs to see" -- on education and children's issues, but ultimately, she feels, there's little on which they disagree. "We might talk about issues that are really gray, where our nuances might be different," she says. "But I think he's so smart -- we meet Austinites from India, and he can talk to them at length about India, and he can do that with so many things. I can only compare on education and children's issues -- and he's caught on quickly with those."

The job description of "political spouse" is today, in the Hillary-and-Libby era, much different than back in 1973, when the Statesman described Libby Doggett as "an attractive bundle of energy" and fawned over her new motherhood, and then mentioned in passing her Ph.D. But "I still end up at events or on trips where nobody asks my opinion about anything," Libby notes. "It's still part of being a 'wife.' But I've found that, in Congress, there's 435 different ways of handling being a spouse. Some run every detail of the member's campaigns; some do nothing at all. It's interesting to compare notes."

Not that she's looking to switch places with anyone. "I think we've had the most wonderful life," Libby says. "We have a great family, interesting jobs, a hometown that we love; we've been fortunate in Lloyd's success; and we're always learning. We enjoy our life here and we have a wonderful place -- Austin -- to go home to." -- M.C.M.

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