JACK SIMPSON: Movie gets Hoover wrong



The new J. Edgar Hoover movie has renewed speculation about the director being gay and abusive of power. For years his enemies have continued to downgrade his contributions to law enforcement. Since he isn’t here to defend himself, it has become easier to besmirch his reputation and vilify him. This helps sell books, newspapers and movies.

Mr. Hoover wasn't perfect. He was human and had faults just like any of us do. Maybe you remember that when he accepted the job as acting director from Attorney General Stone, Hoover said, "I'll take the job on certain conditions. The Bureau must be divorced from politics and not a catch-all for political hacks. Appointments must be on merit and promotions made on proven ability." This wasn't the way the Bureau of Investigation had been run.

So how was Mr. Hoover going to keep politicians from misusing the Bureau for their own personal gain? Maybe some of those "secret files" held the answer. Hoover fixed it so he could not be intimidated and so the Bureau would serve only public interest. He controlled political pressure.

There is no dispute about Mr. Hoover being a stern disciplinarian. He was a hard task master, seeking perfections. If you couldn't stand the heat in his kitchen, he was quick to tell you to hit the road.

J. Edgar Hoover was the founding father of modern law enforcement and doubt it or not, he built the FBI into the finest investigative agency in the world. He worked tirelessly to build an elite corps of loyal, dedicated men and women.

I was honored to work as a special agent for J. Edgar hoover for 23 years. I feel no need to apologize for my service, which I felt was in the interest of my country. I do not agree, based on personal experience, with the way the director has been portrayed by those seeking to bring him down.

I feel his good works will stand the test of time and outlive his critics.

Of course, a leader who did not knuckle under to political pressure, and who had ways to prevent domination by self-servers, was controversial. Those who couldn't control the director and get him to do their bidding had an axe to grind. They sought Hoover's downfall.

In spite of such efforts Mr. Hoover survived as director for 48 years, quite as accomplishment in a city like Washington, D.C.

So, was he gay? Mark Felt, associate director, described Hoover's relationship with Clyde Tolson as "brotherly." Those of us who worked near Hoover saw no evidence to the contrary. Has anyone ever proved otherwise? Rumors, gossip and speculation are B.S. concerning a dedicated servant who made the FBI his life. Hoover was respected world-wide as a crime fighter and protector of the U.S. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio said no one knows if Hoover was gay. He was a heterosexual man and Tolson was his business partner. They served our country.

When I was sworn in as a special agent, I shook Mr. Hoover's hand. He told me, "You not only have to be right, you have to look right." He could tell me this with conviction because in all my years of service for the FBI, I knew J. Edgar Hoover to zealously protect his and the Bureau's public image. He demanded high standards for himself and his employees. Good guys respected him. Bad guys did not.

Think about it. Hoover served eight presidents, he made the FBI more professional, established fingerprint files and a crime lab. He established a National Academy and got agents the right to be armed. He investigated espionage and subversion and his hand rested on all matters handled by the FBI. When did such a busy man have much time for a personal life?

Author Curt Gentry wrote that Mr. Hoover was unscrupulous and that he held unchecked public power, kept blackmail files, and used illegal wiretaps to destroy opponents. Mr. Gentry is certainly entitled to his opinion. Those who worked with Mr. Hoover are also entitled to their view that Hoover trained lawyers and accountants to fight public enemies and organized crime. One deputy director, Deke DeLoach, worked for 30 years with Mr. Hoover fighting crime and subversion. DeLoach saw no evidence of homosexuality and knew the director as a dedicated public servant.

Those who know firsthand of Hoover's positive contributions to law enforcement feel it is unnecessary for him now to suffer public belittlement. He has earned the right to rest with his accomplishments and his faults, if any, gently resting on him undisturbed by rumor, gossip and innuendo. His brotherly relationship with his friend Mr. Tolson, remains private and really unknown to anyone but them. Isn't that as it should be?

J. Edgar hoover said, "One man didn't build the FBI, but one man can tear it down."

His co-workers know Hoover is not that man. He built an efficient, professional FBI. He did not tear it down and does not deserve that reputation.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.