You might think that Boone came from an old Idaho family and grew up hearing Idaho place names over the dinner table. If you thought that, you’d be way off.
Boone was born in 1907, in Tehuacana, Texas. She graduated from Westminster Junior College there in 1925. Boone taught in county schools in Texas for years, becoming a principal in 1944. A lifelong educator, she never stopped learning, getting a BA in English in 1938 from East Texas State College, and a masters in medieval literature and linguistics from the University of Oklahoma in 1947. Boone was a trailblazer in 1951 when she became the first woman to get a doctorate at the University of Florida.
In 1965 Boone took a job as professor of English at the University of Idaho. She taught there until her retirement in 1973.
Lalia Boone became interested in Idaho place names because many of them seemed strange to her southern ears. Her curiosity led her to found the Idaho Place Names Project in 1966. The project received early funding from the National Science Foundation, and it became one of two pilot projects nationwide in the American Name Society Place Name Survey.
She and her students spent years interviewing locals across the state for the project, the archives of which are housed at the University of Idaho. Cort Conley, who ran the University of Idaho Press at the time, said that Boone “Commandeered derivations from her students the way wool socks snag wood ticks.”
The first book that came from the project was a volume on Latah County names in 1983. The statewide edition was published the following year. Sadly, the book is currently out of print, but good used copies are often available in local bookstores and on Amazon.
Lalia Boone died at 83 in 1990.