From TIME's Archives: The Truth About J. Edgar Hoover

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Since Hoover has never been known to have had any romantic relationship with a woman, his own sex life has long been a subject of rumor, especially within the bureau. The talk has been fed by his close friendship with his FBI associate for 44 years, Clyde Tolson. The two dined and lunched together nearly every day, went to race tracks together on Saturdays, kept each other company on nearly every business or pleasure trip. Those who knew both men well feel certain that the relationship was not a sexual one. To support this feeling, they argue that Hoover was too openly scornful of homosexuals to have been one himself—which does not necessarily follow. At any rate, according to this view, the FBI consumed his passions totally, and he seems to have been basically asexual.

Another bachelor and lifelong FBI career man, Tolson never infringed on the Boss's limelight, but could snap out orders to subordinates with all of Hoover's authority and bite. Hoover left most of his estate to Tolson, who auctioned off much of it before his own death last spring.

It seems clear that Hoover was quite a miser. For some 20 years, he and Tolson dined nearly every night at Harvey's, a topflight Washington restaurant owned by a Hoover friend. He never received a check but would leave a tip in cash. When the restaurant was sold, the two men continued dining at their reserved table, but quit when the new owner began sending Hoover a monthly bill.

Hoover, moreover, pocketed money from the bestselling book about U.S. Communism, Masters of Deceit, even though it was written under his byline by FBI agents working on Government time. On most every conceivable occasion, Tolson solicited gifts among top personnel for the Director. A record was kept of those foolish enough to fail to give. Hoover set up a tax-exempt charitable foundation to help support Freedoms Foundation, which gave at least two $5,000 personal-achievement awards to Hoover.

What sort of man was Hoover? "He was a charmer," concedes one harsh critic, former Associate FBI Director William Sullivan in a Hoover biography, The Director by Ovid Demaris. "He was a brilliant chameleon. But he was also a master con man. That takes intelligence of a certain kind, an astuteness, a shrewdness. He never read anything that would broaden his mind or give depth to his thinking. I never knew him to have an intellectual or educated friend. Neither did Tolson. They lived in their own strange little world."

Sullivan told TIME that Hoover was so intrigued by stories about expanding life spans through medical rejuvenation that he "ordered FBI officials in Switzerland to send him reports about a Swiss physician's formula for prolonging life." Added Sullivan: "He was a man with the ability to carry on 33 fights at the same time without slackening his pace or confusing one fight with another. He was always fighting—with other Government officials, with the immigration people, with the customs agency, with anyone who criticized him. The fights seemed to stimulate him."

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