Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Clyde Tolson at J. Edgar Hoover’s funeral

On the whole Seth Rosenfeld’s book about domestic spying and the government’s efforts to undermine dissent is not sympathetic to J. Edgar Hoover and the agency with which he was virtually synonymous. Still I found this passage about Hoover’s elderly (and now widowed) second-in-command Clyde Tolson a poignant portrait in a few words:

The casket was lowered and the flag shrouding it folded and presented to [Clyde] Tolson, who looked weak and confused. He had resigned the day after his companion’s death, and on inheriting nearly all of [J. Edgar Hoover]’s estate lived in Hoover’s house among his antiques until his own death three years later.

If you’re curious to read some thoughts on the relationship between the two men you might check out this slate article, which ends with a snippet from a letter Clyde wrote to Edgar:

“Words are mere man-given symbols for thoughts and feelings, and they are grossly insufficient to express the thoughts in my mind and the feelings in my heart that I have for you,” Hoover wrote to Tolson in 1943. “I hope I will always have you beside me.”

And, no, I haven’t forgotten the FBI’s persecution of homosexuals, an irony (Hoover’s vicious defense of his closet?) that certainly colors any discussion of the Tolson-Hoover relationship.

source: Subversives: the FBI’s war on student radicals and Reagan’s rise to Power by Seth Rosenfeld

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