J Edgar And Clyde


Laurel King, Contributor

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j edgar and clydeJ. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson were nearly inseparable, for decades. Frequently playing 'second fiddle' to Hoover, Tolson acted as the FBI's Associate Director (while Hoover was director) from 1930 through Hoover's death in 1972.

In 1964, Tolson had a stroke, leaving him rather weak. The following year, he received a gold medal for distinguished federal civilian service. During the ceremony, President Lyndon B. Johnson described Tolson, saying he "has been a vital force in raising the proficiency of law enforcement at all levels". By 1970, Tolson was too old for duty and well past retirement age. However, Hoover's position in the FBI allowed him to retain Tolson for service. After Hoover's death, Tolson was named acting director of the FBI, but his tenure was short-lived. One day later, L. Patrick Gray was appointed by President Richard Nixon. Two weeks after that, Tolson left the FBI; he died April 14, 1975 due to complications from diabetes, at the age of 74.

During their lives, J. Edgar and Clyde spent an inordinate amount of time together. In fact, Tolson is best known for being Hoover's protege and frequent companion. Hoover himself called Tolson his 'alter ego', because their thoughts, behavior, and beliefs were so similar. Because of swirling rumors about Hoover's sexuality, many historians claim the relationship between the two men was a romantic one. Historians Athan G. Theoharis and John Stuart Cox claim they have definitive proof that J. Edgar Hoover and Tolson were lovers. They spent nearly every day working side by side, had meals together, went to social events, and even vacationed with each other.

Many who knew the men claim their fondness for each other was merely a 'brotherly love', while former FBI member Mike Mason suggests those who denied the sexual relationship between Hoover and Tolson did so to protect Hoover's image. William Styron, a novelist, claims to have seen Hoover painting the toenails of Tolson at a beach house in California, while Harry Hay – founder of one of the first gay rights organizations – says the men sat in boxes at the Del Mar racetrack owned by and reserved exclusively for gay men. Two different medical experts commenting to a Hoover biographer (journalist Anthony Summers) claimed similar beliefs about Hoover's sexual orientation: one said he had a "strongly predominant homosexual orientation" while another claimed he was bisexual, having failed at heterosexuality. Still others make an even more bizarre claim, that Hoover may never have known sexual desire at all.

Although there has been no official confirmation the two men were romantically linked, the assertion is bolstered by Tolson's inheritance of Hoover's estate (more than $551,000), his acceptance of the folded U.S. flag draped on Hoover's coffin, and the fact that he moved into Hoover's home. The two men are even buried near each other, in the Congressional Cemetery. Regardless of the missing official confirmation of the men's relationship status, it's quite apparent they were close. Neither man married nor had any children; whether this was the result of lengthy work hours and frequent travel, or anything beyond that, their separate and combined accomplishments will serve as a testament of their government service.