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Clyde Tolson

Clyde Tolson
Associate Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
In office
President Herbert Hoover
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard Nixon
Director J. Edgar Hoover
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Mark Felt
Personal details
Born (1900-05-22)May 22, 1900
Laredo, Missouri, U.S.
Died April 14, 1975(1975-04-14) (aged 74)
Washington, D.C.
Alma mater

George Washington University

George Washington University School of Law

Clyde Anderson Tolson (May 22, 1900 – April 14, 1975) was Associate Director of the FBI from 1930 until 1972, primarily responsible for personnel and discipline. He is best known as the protégé and intimate companion of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.


  • Early years 1
  • Career 2
  • Relationship with Hoover 3
  • Later years 4
  • Death 5
  • Depictions in fiction 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early years

Tolson was born in Sigma Nu Fraternity.[5]


In April 1928, Tolson applied to F.B.I. and was hired as a Special Agent later that month. 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.[6] After working in the 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, Tolson was in a gunfight with gangster Harry Brunette.[7] In 1942, Tolson participated in capturing Nazi saboteurs on Long Island and Florida.[8] In 1947, he was made FBI Associate Director with duties in budget and administration.[9]

Relationship with Hoover

Clyde Tolson (left) with J. Edgar Hoover

It has been stated that J. Edgar Hoover described Tolson as his alter ego: "They rode to and from work together, ate lunch together, traveled together on official business, and even vacationed together."[10] Rumors circulated for years that the two bachelors had a romantic relationship.[11] Some authors dismissed the rumors about Hoover's sexual orientation and possible intimate relationship with Tolson,[12][13][14] while others have described them as probable or even "confirmed",[15][16] while others reported the rumors without stating an opinion.[17][18] 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.[11]

When Hoover died, Tolson inherited his estate of US$551,000 and moved into his house;[7] he accepted the U.S. flag draped on Hoover's coffin.[19]

Later years

In 1964, Tolson suffered a stroke, and as a result, remained somewhat frail for the remainder of his life.[20] In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded him a gold medal for distinguished federal civilian service saying 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.”[21] Hoover kept Tolson employed in the FBI even after he became too old for police duty and past retirement age.[7]

After Hoover's death on May 2, 1972, Tolson was briefly the acting head of the FBI.[9] L. Patrick Gray became director on May 3.[22] That same day, Tolson contacted Mark Felt and instructed him to write his letter of resignation.[23] Citing ill health, Tolson retired from the bureau on May 4, the day of Hoover's funeral.[24][25] Mark Felt was appointed to Tolson's position.[26]


Tolson's headstone at the Congressional Cemetery

After Tolson's departure from FBI, his health began to decline.[7][27] On April 10, 1975, Tolson was admitted to Doctors Community Hospital in Washington, D.C. for renal failure.[28] He died there four days later of heart failure at the age of 74.[7] Tolson is buried in the Congressional Cemetery near J. Edgar Hoover's grave.[20][28]

Depictions in fiction

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


  1. ^ a b Kessler, Ronald (2003). The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI. Macmillan. p. 29.  
  2. ^ The Delta of Sigma Nu, Volume 81, Issue 3.  
  3. ^ Jerome, Fred (2003). The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against the World's Most Famous Scientist. Macmillan. p. 168.  
  4. ^ Powers, Richard Gid (1987). Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1 ed.). Free Press. p. 169.  
  5. ^ Bond Potter, Claire (1998). War on Crime: Bandits, G-men, and the Politics of Mass Culture. Rutgers University Press. p. 48.  
  6. ^ Gentry, Curt (2001). J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 189.  
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Wicker, Tom (April 9, 1971). "Nobody dares to pick his successor". Life (Time Inc) 70 (13): 44.  
  9. ^ a b (Kessler 2003, p. 49)
  10. ^ Cox, John Stuart; Theoharis, Athan G. (1988). The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition. Temple University Press. p. 108.  
  11. ^ a b Bardsley, Marilyn. "The Life and Career of J. Edgar Hoover".  
  12. ^  
  13. ^ Jeffreys-Jones, Rhodri (2003). Cloak and Dollar: A History of American Secret Intelligence.  
  14. ^ (Cox, Theoharis 1988, p. 108): "The strange likelihood is that Hoover never knew sexual desire at all."
  15. ^ Percy, William A.; Johansson, Warren (1994). Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence. Haworth Press. pp. 85+.  
  16. ^  
  17. ^  
  18. ^ Doherty, Thomas (2003). Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture. Columbia University Press. pp. 254–255.  
  19. ^  
  20. ^ a b Boggs Roberts, Rebecca; Schmidt, Sandra K. (2012). Historic Congressional Cemetery. Arcadia Publishing. p. 123.  
  21. ^ "Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library". Retrieved 2012-01-07. 
  22. ^ FBI Biography of Gray
  23. ^ (Gentry 2001, p. 43)
  24. ^ (Gentry 2001, pp. 43, 49)
  25. ^ Breuer, William B. (1995). J. Edgar Hoover and His G-men. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 229.  
  26. ^ (Gentry 2001, p. 49)
  27. ^ "G-men under fire". Life 70 (13): 39. April 9, 1971.  
  28. ^ a b (Gentry 2001, p. 736)
  29. ^ Los Angeles newspaper reviews, as cited on the CD recording's page.
  30. ^ Gee, Catherine (March 15, 2011). "Harry Shearer to bring 'J Edgar! The Musical' to London". Retrieved December 8, 2011. 

External links

  • Associate Director Tolson's personnel records and copies of memoranda at FBI's FOIA Website
  • NameBase - Clyde Anderson Tolson (Archive)
  • "Clyde Tolson".  
  • Clyde Tolson (Character) at the Internet Movie Database
  • Clyde Tolson at the Internet Movie Database
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