John Edgar “Mother” Hoover is dead at 77. Although Mother was much maligned in recent years by radicals — both Gay and straight — Hoover will probably be remembered in history as one of the great heroes of Gay history.
His critics said he was a master of the queenly arts; that he maintained his power by cunning conivery; that he was a master of deceit, that he used his dossiers on the sex lives of politicians to get his way. All of these techniques are the skills of the old-time queen; the things that queens had to do to survive in a hostile world.
In spite of his right wing political views, in spite of his practice of using his sex files against his enemies, not once in his 48 years in office did he use his files against a Gay brother. Undoubtedly, his files had the dope on many secret homosexuals in high and low places, but to Hoover, this secret was a confidence, a holy trust which he never betrayed.
During the McCarthy-Nixon anti-homosexual witchhunts, Hoover refused to turn over his vast files on homosexual employees to the Unamerican Activities Committee.
When McCarthy and Nixon equated homosexuals with communists. Hoover wrote a best selling book, “The Masters of Deceit”, in which he said that while communism is a conspirital political movement, it has no connection with homosexuality, and, in fact, communists are vehement in their persecution of homosexuals.
When President Johnson’s chief aid, Walter Jenkins, was arrested for sucking cocks in the YMCA toilet, Hoover sent Jenkins a bouquet of roses. Hoover and Jenkins had been close friends for many years. When Hoover was summoned to court to explain why he gave a top security clearance to a man with a long record of arrests for homosexuality. Hoover told them it was none of their business, and refused to turn over his file on Jenkins.
The evil things they say about the viciousness and treachery of Hoover may be true, but he didn’t cooperate in the purges and persecution of homosexuals. In fact, Hoover often used the prestige and power of his office to protect homosexuals from the witchhunters.
Some radicals used to start of discussions of the F.B.I. by saying “Did you know the director is a fag?”. Gay Liberationists often used Hoover as the horrible example of the closet queen. But Hoover could not come-out as a self-declared homosexual. To have done so would have destroyed his effectiveness.
Hoover is survived by Clyde Tolson, his constant companion during the last 44 years of his life. Tolson, now 70 years old, was very close to Hoover. The two bachelors lunched and dined together almost every day and had dinner together in Tolson’s home the night Hoover died. Every day. Hoover would pick up Tolson on his way to work, and drop him off again after dinner in the evening. They spent their vacations together. They worked together in the same office.
Hoover left his entire estate of $551,000 to Tolson, who now lives alone in Hoover’s $100,000 antique filled mansion in Washington D.C.
Most Gays are still hostile to Hoover because of his conservative political views, but in time, Hoover may come to be recognised as the great benefactor of the Gay Community, a man who was loyal to his friends, and never did wrong to a fellow homosexual. The status of homosexuals in America today would be a lot worse than it is were it not for the protecting hand of Hoover.
The story of the 44 years of mutual love and devotion between Edgar and Clyde may become a classic story of Gay love, and rank with the stories of David and Jonathan and Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.
Reprinted with love from the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), May 31, 1972.