Partner J. Edgar Hoover
Congressional Cemetery Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA
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 is best known as the protégé and long-time top deputy of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Tolson was born in Laredo, Missouri to James William Tolson, a farmer and railroad freight guard, and Joaquin Miller Anderson. His brother, Hillory Alfred Tolson (1887–1983), was assistant director of the National Park Service and executive director of the White House Historical Association, and an FBI agent before entering the Park Service. Tolson graduated from Laredo High School in 1915 and attended Cedar Rapids Business College from which he graduated in 1918.
From 1919 to 1928, he was confidential secretary for three Secretaries of War: Newton D. Baker, John W. Weeks, and Dwight F. Davis. Tolson completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at George Washington University in 1925 and a Bachelor of Laws from the same institution in 1927. While attending George Washington University, Tolson became a member of the Delta Pi chapter of Sigma Nu.
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. 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. In 1942, Tolson participated in capturing Nazi saboteurs on Long Island and Florida. In 1947, he was made FBI Associate Director with duties in budget and administration.
Clyde Tolson (left) with J. Edgar Hoover, c. 1939
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." Rumors circulated for years that the two bachelors had a romantic relationship. Some authors dismissed the rumors about Hoover's sexual orientation and possible intimate relationship with Tolson, while others have described them as probable or even confirmed, and still others reported the rumors without stating an opinion. 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. When Hoover died in 1972, Tolson inherited his estate of US$551,000, moved into his house, and accepted the U.S. flag draped on Hoover's coffin.
In 1964, Tolson suffered a stroke and remained somewhat frail for the remainder of his life. 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." Hoover kept Tolson employed in the FBI even after Tolson became too old for police duty and passed the retirement age. After Hoover's death on May 2, 1972, Tolson was briefly the acting head of the FBI. L. Patrick Gray became acting director on May 3. That same day, Tolson contacted Mark Felt and instructed him to write Tolson's letter of resignation. Citing ill health, Tolson retired from the bureau on May 4, the day of Hoover's funeral. Felt was appointed to Tolson's position. After Tolson left the FBI, his health began to decline. On April 10, 1975, Tolson was admitted to Doctors Community Hospital in Washington, D.C., for kidney failure. He died there four days later of heart failure at the age of 74. Tolson is buried in the Congressional Cemetery, near Hoover's grave.
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