Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Life and Career of J. Edgar Hoover


Clyde Tolson<br />(National Archives)
Clyde Tolson
(National Archives)

Rumors of Hoover being homosexual swirled around him all of his adult life. He went ballistic when he heard them and hunted down the individuals who had dared to suggest such a thing.

On the other hand, there were many things in his lifestyle that collectively made people wonder. He apparently never had any romantic attachments with women, even in high school. As far as anyone could remember, he never had a date. There were classical statues of nude men in his garden. He lived with his mother until she died. He dressed like a dandy. Not that any or all of these factors represent a homosexual lifestyle, nevertheless some people interpreted them as indicators.

The single factor that gave rise to the strongest rumors was Hoover's lifelong intimacy with Clyde Tolson. Tolson was a tall, handsome man from Missouri who got his law degree from Hoover's alma mater, George Washington University. He was five years younger than Hoover.

Hoover and Tolson on vacation<br />(AP/WWP)
Hoover and Tolson on vacation

He joined the Bureau in April of 1928 and quickly became Hoover's closest personal friend and business associate, replacing Frank Baughman who had gotten married. Tolson's promotion within the Bureau was unprecedented. He soon became the second most powerful man in the Bureau. Whenever Hoover was invited to a social function, Tolson was also invited.

Powers describes what many considered a "spousal" relationship between the two men: "They rode to and from work together, ate lunches together, and vacationed together...When Hoover traveled on official business, Tolson traveled with him...The relationship was so close, so enduring, and so affectionate that it took the place of marriage for both bachelors."

Was this enduring intimacy a homosexual relationship? There does not appear to be any credible proof either way. Hoover was a very straitlaced, religious man who may have suppressed any physical interest he may have had in Tolson.

Then again, it could have been a kind of fraternal relationship to replace the one that he had with his own brother when Dick became preoccupied with his own wife, family and career.

Given Hoover's fury whenever he heard the rumors about homosexuality and given his overriding concern about his public image and the image of the Bureau, it would be unusual for Hoover to carry on such an overt relationship if it had been homosexual In the final analysis, even if Hoover did have a sexual relationship with Clyde Tolson, it neither expiates his sins nor diminishes his accomplishments.


Hoover and Tolson celebrate New Year's Eve at the Stork Club
(UPI/Bettman Newsphotos)

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