Lyle Boren was born May 11, 1910, in Ellis County, Texas. Due to heart problems early in his life, he had to remain relatively inactive until he started school at age seven. He learned quickly, though, and soon caught up with the other children. In 1917 the Boren family moved to Lawton, Oklahoma. Everyone in the large Boren family (nine children in all) had to work to help support the family; Lyle picked cotton and sold newspapers. In 1927, after a brief return to Texas, the family moved to a farm near Choctaw, Oklahoma, in time for Boren to graduate from high school.
Lyle Boren attended college at East Central State College in Ada, Oklahoma. Supporting himself by working as an assistant librarian, tax assessor, and book reviewer, he graduated in 1930 with a B.A. in history and government. He started professional life as a teacher but quickly, by age twenty, became a principal in Seminole County. In 1938 Oklahoma A. and M. College conferred on him a master of arts degree.
Times were hard in Oklahoma during the early 1930s; depression and drought made life a constant struggle for a vast number of its residents. Boren, wanting to become more involved in helping his state, decided to run for Congress in 1934. Having been involved in the Democratic Party as a student, he was familiar with politics and the challenge of government. The problem he had was his age. He was twenty-four, and the U.S. Constitution states that members of the House of Representatives must be at least twenty-five. Since he did not have a birth certificate to prove otherwise, he entered his birth year as 1909. He did not win that year, but he did when he ran again in 1936, this time being truly old enough to hold office. Appearances made it impossible to change his birth year of record, and in many biographical sources it remains 1909.
His first years in Congress were extremely busy. Two high points of his first term were the beginning of his long friendship with Speaker Sam Rayburn and his placement on the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee. During World War II, he chaired this committee's Subcommittee on Newsprint and Brand Names.
Among Boren's legislative efforts were cancer research, old-age pensions, the Civil Aeronautics Board, newsprint and paper shortages, consumer product labeling, railroad freight rates, labor strikes, and municipal bonds. Among the issues confronting him during his first year in office was the proposed reorganization of the U.S. Supreme Court, a plan he favored. He generally supported Franklin D. Roosevelt but not all of the president's programs. He attracted national attention for his extreme criticism of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Calling it a ""dirty, lying, filthy manuscript,"" the congressman believed that the book was an insult to farmers and was created by a ""twisted, distorted mind."" He also lobbied to keep Congressman Vito Marcantonio from getting committee assignments on the grounds that the member of the American Labor Party was too radical. Before Pearl Harbor, Boren opposed American intervention in World War II, believing that war did more harm than good and that the United States did not belong in foreign quarrels. After the attack, he wanted to leave Congress to join the military. Sam Rayburn convinced him to keep his congressional seat. During the war, the congressman voiced opposition to rationing strictures and price controls issued by the Office of Price Administration.
Lyle Boren served in the House of Representatives for five terms. During his campaign for the 1946 primary, several issues proved to be his undoing. That year veterans had great advantages running against incumbents, and Boren received criticism for not joining the armed forces during the war. Another trouble spot was the congressman's relationship with labor. He had strongly opposed wartime strikes and tried to outlaw them. He also had supported the suspension of a limit on the numbers of hours a person could work per day. Finally, he had tried to make it illegal for non-citizens to serve as union officials. In the 1946 campaign, organized labor organized against Boren. He lost his race in the primary to Glen D. Johnson, a youthful war veteran from Okemah.
Boren tried and failed to regain his seat in 1948. He returned to his old district with his wife Christine and children Susan and David, the latter a future Oklahoma governor, U.S. senator, and University of Oklahoma president. Lyle Boren became a cattle rancher and a founding member of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association. In 1957 he became a lobbyist for the railroads. He retired in 1969 and continued his ranching in Oklahoma. He died in Oklahoma City on July 2, 1992.