J. Edgar Hoover

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J. Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover Typed Letter Signed - 1971

A curious, wryly framed presentation that ironically speaks to the many implications about J. Edgar Hoover’s sexuality. On FBI letterhead dated September 22, 1971, the otherwise routine letter describes many of Hoover’s personal interests. Strikingly framed with a photograph of Hoover with his assistant and alleged lover Clyde Tolson watching the famed Joe Louis-Jack Sharkey boxing match of August 18, 1936 with unusual interest.

John Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation-predecessor to the FBI-in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972. Hoover is credited with building the FBI into a large and efficient crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modern innovations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories. Hoover posthumously became an increasingly controversial figure. Some critics asserted that he exceeded the jurisdiction of the FBI. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to use illegal methods to collect evidence. It is because of Hoover’s long and controversial reign that FBI directors are now limited to 10-year terms.


Hoover was a lifelong bachelor, and since at least the 1940s unsubstantiated rumors have circulated that he was homosexual. It has also been suggested that Clyde Tolson, an associate director of the FBI who was Hoover’s heir, may also have been his lover.

Some authors have dismissed the rumors about Hoover’s sexuality and his relationship with Tolson in particular as unlikely, while others have described them as probable or even “confirmed”, and still others have reported the rumors without stating an opinion. Hoover described Tolson as his alter ego: the men not only worked closely together during the day, but also took meals, went to nightclubs and vacationed together. The exceedingly close relationship between the two is often cited as evidence that the two were lovers, though some FBI employees who knew them, such as Mark Felt, say that the relationship was merely “brotherly”.

Tolson inherited Hoover’s estate and moved into his home, having also accepted the American flag that draped Hoover’s casket. Tolson is buried a few yards away from Hoover in the Congressional Cemetery. Attorney Roy Cohn, an associate of Hoover during the 1950s investigations of Communists and himself a closeted homosexual, opined that Hoover was too frightened of his own sexuality to have anything approaching a normal sexual or romantic relationship.

Those who discount the gay rumors about Hoover have pointed out that his concern for public appearances and his reluctance to have the image of the FBI tarnished, as well as his essentially being a careerist whose primary focus was on his work, would have prevented him from forming any long-range romantic attachments.

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