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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,079

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This is the grave of Clyde Tolson.

Born in 1900 in Laredo, Missouri, Tolson grew up in the working class of the period. His father was a farmer and worked for the railroad as a guard. Not much. He went to a business school and graduated from it in 1918. But he wanted a higher education and got into George Washington University where he graduated in 1925, fairly late for the time. During this time, he became a confidant of leading government officials and managed to worm his way into becoming a private secretary in the Department of War at the end of the Wilson administration under Newton Baker and then held onto that position through 1927, working with both the Harding and Coolidge administrations.

Now well-connected, in 1928, Tolson applied to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation under its odious head J. Edgar Hoover. His initial plans were to gain practical experience, pass the bar, and go into the law back in Iowa, where his family was at the time. But he very rapidly became close to Hoover and was hired as assistant director in 1930, a mere two years after he joined the agency. Hoover seems to have targeted attractive young frat guys from George Washington during these years, hiring many of them. Although there’s no question that Tolson’s work at the FBI was more than a little helped along the way by Hoover, he wasn’t a mere hack. He did do real law enforcement work, including shootout with bank robbers where he could easily have died. During World War II, he was assigned to hunt down potential Nazi saboteurs and arrested some in both New York and Florida. So he was actually good at his job. But was he so good at his job that now only is he the assistant director by 1930 but then associate director by 1947 with a big raise and overseeing the budget? No, that’s all Hoover.

The relationship between Hoover and his lackey Tolson has long led to a lot of speculation. These two lifetime bachelors were attracted to each other at the very least as close friends. The question of their sexuality has led to tons of speculation during the years, including when they were still alive. I don’t know. The less I think about Hoover’s sexual life the better. But many said they acted like spouses and of course Tolson had tremendous power because of Hoover. They spent holidays and vacationed together for the years. They went as double dates on dinner with Dick and Pat Nixon. In fact, Hoover left Tolson his fortune when the former died in 1972. And like a wife, Tolson was given the flag that draped Hoover’s coffin at his funeral. What we can say about their relationship, outside of the sexual speculation that was as active within in the FBI and with DC insiders when they were alive as it is today, is that Tolson would do whatever Hoover wanted. It was widely believed that Tolson was the far more intelligent man; no one ever said Hoover was a smart guy. Hoover came to rely on Tolson for everything, including a sounding board for his ideas. However, the other Tolson became known for is being an absolute sycophant, just a slave to Hoover. He seemed to like this. Whether this followed them to the bedroom, we can talk about if we want but in terms of policy from the FBI, if anything Tolson just sharpened Hoover’s evil ideas by being smarter. He certainly wasn’t going to push back on his hero.

Tolson’s health wasn’t that great either. He had a stroke in 1964 and never really recovered. He remained in his FBI post because Hoover wanted him there and he resigned on the day of the funeral. He died in 1975 of kidney failure and heart failure. He was 74 years old.

Clyde Tolson is buried in Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C. He’s not with Hoover, but he’s just down the road. It tilts downward from Hoover to Tolson which I guess is how they would like it, with the ooze from Hoover’s decomposing corpse being lapped up by a thirsty dead Tolson.

If you would like this series to visit other American cops, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. William Parker, the notorious racist head of the LAPD who ruled Los Angeles like a George Wallace wet dream, is in Los Angeles and Bull Connor, another great guy, is in Birmingham. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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