Clyde Tolson

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Clyde Tolson
1st Associate Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
In office
1930 – May 3, 1972
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byMark Felt
Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
In office
May 2, 1972 – May 3, 1972
PresidentRichard Nixon
Preceded byJ. Edgar Hoover
Succeeded byL. Patrick Gray (acting)
Personal details
Clyde Anderson Tolson

(1900-05-22)May 22, 1900
Laredo, Missouri, U.S.
DiedApril 14, 1975(1975-04-14) (aged 74)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeCongressional Cemetery
EducationGeorge Washington University (BA, LLB)
Awards President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service (1965)

Clyde Anderson Tolson (May 22, 1900 – April 14, 1975) was the second-ranking official of the FBI from 1930 until 1972, from 1947 titled Associate Director, primarily responsible for personnel and discipline. He was the protégé and long-time top deputy of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

Tolson was born in Laredo, Missouri to James William Tolson, a farmer and railroad freight guard,[4] and Joaquin Miller Tolson (née Anderson).[5][6] His brother, Hillory Alfred Tolson (1887–1983), was assistant director of the National Park Service, executive director of the White House Historical Association, and an FBI agent before entering the Park Service.[7][8] Tolson graduated from Laredo High School in 1915 and attended Cedar Rapids Business College, from which he graduated in 1918.[9]

Early career[edit]

From 1919 to 1928, Tolson was confidential secretary for three Secretaries of War: Newton D. Baker,[10] John W. Weeks, and Dwight F. Davis.[11] He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at George Washington University in 1925 and a Bachelor of Laws from the same institution in 1927.[6] While attending George Washington, Tolson became a member of the Delta Pi chapter of Sigma Nu.[12]


In 1928, Tolson applied to the FBI and was hired as a special agent later that year. Tolson reportedly indicated on his application that he wanted to use the job as a stepping stone to gain experience and earn enough money to open a law practice in Cedar Rapids.[13] After working in the FBI's Boston and Washington, D.C., field offices, he became the chief FBI clerk and was promoted to assistant director in 1930.

In 1936, Tolson joined Hoover to arrest bank robber Alvin Karpis. Later that year, he survived a gunfight with gangster Harry Brunette.[14] In 1942, Tolson participated in capturing Nazi saboteurs on Long Island and in Florida.[15] In 1947, he was made FBI Associate Director with duties in budget and administration.[16]

Relationship with Hoover[edit]

Tolson (left) with J. Edgar Hoover, c. 1939

It has been stated that J. Edgar Hoover described: "They rode to and from work together, ate lunch together, and often traveled together on official or unofficial business."[17] Their relationship has been described as "what many considered a 'spousal' relationship between the two men".[18] Some authors dismissed the rumors about Hoover's sexual orientation and possible intimate relationship with Tolson,[19][20][21] while others have described them as probable or even confirmed,[22][23] and still others reported the rumors without stating an opinion.[24][25] The two men often spent weekends together in New York, Christmas season together in Florida, and the start of the Del Mar horse racing season together in California.[26]

When Hoover died in 1972, Tolson inherited his estate of US$551,000 ($4 million today), moved into his house,[14] and accepted the U.S. flag draped on Hoover's coffin.[27]

Later life and death[edit]

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded him the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service, saying that Tolson "has been a vital force in raising the proficiency of law enforcement at all levels and in guiding the Federal Bureau of Investigation to new heights of accomplishment through periods of great National challenge."[28] Hoover kept Tolson employed in the FBI even after Tolson became too old for police duty and passed the retirement age.[14]

After Hoover's death on May 2, 1972, Tolson was briefly the acting head of the FBI.[16] L. Patrick Gray became acting director on May 3.[29] Citing ill health, Tolson retired from the bureau on May 4, the day of Hoover's funeral.[30][31] Mark Felt was appointed to Tolson's position.[32]

Tolson's headstone at the Congressional Cemetery

After Tolson left the FBI, his health began to decline further.[14][33] In 1975, Tolson suffered a stroke and remained somewhat frail for the remainder of his life.[34] On April 10, 1975, Tolson was admitted to Doctors Community Hospital in Washington, D.C., for kidney failure.[35] He died there four days later of heart failure at the age of 74.[14] Tolson is buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C., near Hoover's grave.[34][35]

Depictions in fiction[edit]

Tolson has been depicted numerous times in novels, television, and movies, including:


  1. ^ Gage, Beverly (November 10, 2011). "Were J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson Lovers?". Slate. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  2. ^ "J. Edgar Hoover: Gay or Just a Man Who Has Sex With Men?". US: ABC News. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  3. ^ "J. Edgar Hoover Was Homosexual, Blackmailed by Mob, Book Says". Los Angeles Times. February 6, 1993. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  4. ^ American National Biography, vol. 21, John Arthur Garraty, Mark Christopher Carnes, Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 730
  5. ^ Gelder, Lawrence Van (April 15, 1975). "Clyde Tolson, Former FBI. Official, Is Dead at 74". The New York Times.
  6. ^ a b Kessler, Ronald (2003). The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI. Macmillan. p. 29. ISBN 0-312-98977-6.
  7. ^ Who was Who in America, vol. 8, 1982-1985, Marquis Who's Who, 1985, p. 399
  8. ^ "Hillory Tolson, Park Service Official, Dies".
  9. ^ The Delta of Sigma Nu, Volume 81, Issue 3. Sigma Nu Fraternity. 1964. p. 138.
  10. ^ Jerome, Fred (2003). The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against the World's Most Famous Scientist. Macmillan. p. 168. ISBN 1-429-97588-1.
  11. ^ Powers, Richard Gid (1987). Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1 ed.). Free Press. p. 169. ISBN 0-029-25060-9.
  12. ^ Bond Potter, Claire (1998). War on Crime: Bandits, G-men, and the Politics of Mass Culture. Rutgers University Press. p. 48. ISBN 0-813-52487-3.
  13. ^ Gentry, Curt (2001). J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 189. ISBN 0-393-32128-2.
  14. ^ a b c d e Cohen, Richard M. (April 15, 1975). "FBI's Clyde A. Tolson, 74, Dies". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. p. C6.
  15. ^ Wicker, Tom (April 9, 1971). "Nobody dares to pick his successor". Life. Vol. 70, no. 13. Time Inc. p. 44. ISSN 0024-3019.
  16. ^ a b (Kessler 2003, p. 49)
  17. ^ Cox, John Stuart; Theoharis, Athan G. (1988). The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the great American inquisition. Temple University Press. p. 108. ISBN 0-87722-532-X.
  18. ^ Bardsley, Marilyn. "The Life and Career of J. Edgar Hoover". Crime Library. Archived from the original (Chapter 6: Homosexual?) on February 9, 2015. ... The relationship was so close, so enduring, and so affectionate that it took the place of marriage for both bachelors.
  19. ^ Felt, Mark; O'Connor, John D. (2006). A G-man's Life: The FBI, being 'Deep Throat', and the struggle for honor in Washington. Public Affairs. p. 167. ISBN 1-58648-377-3.
  20. ^ Jeffreys-Jones, Rhodri (2003). Cloak and Dollar: A history of American secret intelligence. Yale University Press. p. 93. ISBN 0-300-10159-7.
  21. ^ (Cox & Theoharis 1988, p. 108): "The strange likelihood is that Hoover never knew sexual desire at all."
  22. ^ Percy, William A.; Johansson, Warren (1994). Outing: Shattering the conspiracy of silence. Haworth Press. pp. 85ff. ISBN 1-56024-419-4.
  23. ^ Summers, Anthony (1993). Official and Confidential: The secret life of J. Edgar Hoover. Pocket Books. pp. 83–92. ISBN 0-671-88087-X.
  24. ^ Theoharis, Athan G., ed. (1998). The FBI: A comprehensive reference guide. Oryx Press. pp. 291, 301, 397. ISBN 0-89774-991-X.
  25. ^ Doherty, Thomas (2003). Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American culture. Columbia University Press. pp. 254–255. ISBN 0-231-12952-1.
  26. ^ (Gentry 2001 p. 190)
  27. ^ de Toledano, Ralph (1973). J. Edgar Hoover: The man in his time. Arlington House. p. 375. ISBN 0-870-00188-4.
  28. ^ "Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library". Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  29. ^ "FBI Biography of Gray". Archived from the original on June 30, 2016. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  30. ^ (Gentry 2001, pp. 43, 49)
  31. ^ Breuer, William B. (1995). J. Edgar Hoover and His G-men. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 229. ISBN 0-275-94990-7.
  32. ^ (Gentry 2001, p. 49)
  33. ^ "G-men under fire". Life. Vol. 70, no. 13. April 9, 1971. p. 39. ISSN 0024-3019.
  34. ^ a b Boggs Roberts, Rebecca; Schmidt, Sandra K. (2012). Historic Congressional Cemetery. Arcadia Publishing. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-738-59224-4.
  35. ^ a b (Gentry 2001, p. 736)
  36. ^ Los Angeles newspaper reviews, as cited on the CD recording's page.
  37. ^ Gee, Catherine (March 15, 2011). "Harry Shearer to bring 'J Edgar! The Musical' to London". Retrieved December 8, 2011.
  38. ^ Don DeLillo, Underworld (New York: Scribner, 1997), pp. 555-65, 567-79.

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