J Edgar Hoover Death


Laurel King, Contributor

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j edgar hoover deathFor J. Edgar Hoover, death would come unexpectedly. Although he purportedly had cardiovascular disease, there is no discussion of any efforts to curtail the inevitable outcome of the disease.

Near the end of his life, J. Edgar Hoover's obsessive need to compile information, conduct illegal surveillance, and maintain secret files on everyone in power did not diminish. By 1964, Hoover was utilizing the FBI to investigate Jack Valenti, Hollywood lobbyist and special assistant and confidant to the president (Lyndon B. Johnson). Although the investigation should most likely have been centered on his two-year marriage to President Johnson's personal secretary, it was instead focused on the allegation that Valenti was in a homosexual relationship with a friend, who was a commercial photographer.

Although both President John F. Kennedy and President Harry S. Truman each considered removing J. Edgar Hoover as Director of the FBI, they easily determined the resulting political damage would be too great. This is why, all the way up until his death, J. Edgar Hoover still held a great deal of support in Congress, and had no immediate plans to retire any time soon. On May 2, 1972, J. Edgar Hoover died of a heart attack, which is believed to be a direct result of his cardiovascular disease. Following his unexpected death, as the story goes, all of J. Edgar Hoover's "personal files" were destroyed, including the secret, illegally-obtained surveillance and information on countless hundreds of those in power. Despite the intense controversy surrounding these files, and the suggestion that not all of them were actually destroyed, there have been no new developments about them since his death.

Following his death, J. Edgar Hoover's entire estate – more than $551,000 – was left to Clyde Tolson. Although many maintain that Tolson and Hoover were lovers, and had been romantically linked for decades, others claim the men were merely very close friends (almost 'brotherly'). Several women were reportedly linked to Hoover throughout his lifetime, including Dorothy Lamour (in the 1930s and 40s), and Lela Rogers, mother of Ginger Rogers (in the 1940s and 1950s). However, many close friends of Hoover related story after story of his obvious links to homosexuality and Tolson. Susan Rosenstiel claimed to have seen Hoover cross-dressing at a homosexual party in the 1950s; Ethel Merman claimed everyone knew Hoover was gay; an FBI agent who accompanied Hoover on fishing trips said he liked to sunbathe nude all day; and Luisa Stuart reported seeing Hoover and Tolson holding hands in a limo, in 1936.

Regardless of these and numerous other unconfirmed claims, at the conclusion of Hoover's funeral, Tolson accepted the folded U.S. flag that was draped over the coffin; later, he moved into Hoover's home. Following his own death, he was buried a few yards away from Hoover, after he died of complications due to diabetes, in 1975. Although the relationship between Hoover and Tolson was never officially clarified, many historians have reached the conclusion that the men were romantically involved, despite Hoover's adamant and publicly vocal denouncement of homosexuality.