Feature Articles

February 2001

It Ain't Over Till The Fat Lady Sings: Defending Hoover And The FBI

By John William Tuohy

     One of the enjoyable things about living in our nations capital is that I get discover all of the wonderful, off-the-beaten-path historical sites hidden from the tourist who flock here by the hundreds of thousands.

     As an example, over in the far northeastern end of this majestic city, miles from the monumnets, are the National Botanical Gardens which host hundreds of acres of exquisite trees and plants from every corner of the globe. In southeast DC, we have the waterfront, where you can get a great buy on fresh Maryland Blue crab, or tour the hundreds old red brick townhouse's where the greats of American history made and continue to make make, their homes. And then there are the monuments, imperial and imposing in their silent splendor.

     There's another place, known mostly to us inside-the-Beltway types, and that's the Congressional Cemetery on Capitol Hill. Here, among the gentle rolling green hills that overlook the Anacostia River and the Capitol Building, you'll find the grave sites of Abner Doubleday, baseballs inventor, several hundred US Senators, and a slew of cabinet officials, ambassadors, generals and the like.

     At the very edge of the cemetery, oddly enough overlooking the DC jail, and contained in a small but dignified black iron fence, sits the grave of J. Edgar Hoover.

     Hoover grew up not far from here, in Seward Square in the heart of Capital Hill, and lived most of his adult life in a small, unpretentious house about a mile from the cemetery in Naylor Gardens, a long hill that overlooks most of the city.

     It's shame the grave is here, open to vandals and cowards who occasionally come by the old law man's grave and spray paint a swastika across the faded stone that bares his name. It is the ultimate insult to a man who saw to it that Hitler's spies never gained a foothold in the United States. If nothing else, the desecration to the Hoover grave is one more reason to move his remains to the safety of a courtyard inside the building on Pennsylvania avenue that bares his name.

     But they won't move him. They'll leave him there on the edge of this spectacular city where he was born, lived and died. It's a banishment of sorts, unofficial, but banishment nonetheless, carried out in some part because historians insists on holding Hoover up to an impossible standard, and in some part because the people in this town fear historian more than they fear the wrath of an outraged electorate.

     You see, what some of these historians do, for lack of any other rap to tarnish his image with, is to blame Hoover for his failure to defeat the Mafia. In other words, they expected him to have won the war before the battles was over.

     It's not fair of course, to hold Hoover to that standard. But there are a lot of things about the Hoover legend that are tilted. Take the dubious, and let me stress the word dubious, rumor, that Hoover was Gay. This pile of trash was first retched up by that master of sleaze, Anthony Summers, an Englishman and alleged writer who specializes in cheap-shot tabloid sensationalism. We are not, by the way, privy to Mr. Summer's sexual peccadillos or his political leanings. Apparently, he considers that private, personnel information.

     Look, there is not now, nor has there ever been, a single, solid bit of evidence that Hoover was Gay, nor is there any evidence that the Mafia ever played the Gay card to extort Hoover or use the story in any adverse fashion. It just didn't happen.

     The fact is, that the aside from the occasional, but still very rare, bad apple, the Mob, with all its money and political clout has never been able to extort or bribe their way into the Bureau.

     Besides, let's say, just for a second, that the guy was Gay.....well, so the hell what?

     It's none of our business. Besides, an outstanding job and a lifetime of dedicated service to the republic has nothing to do with what a man does or doesn't do in the bedroom. There is just no correlation between the two.

     Sadly the "Hoover was Gay" story has been given credence through the shaky logic that if the Mob wasn't extorting Hoover, then why didn't the FBI leap into the fight against the mob earlier?

     Well, for a lot of reasons. In some part because it wasn't what Hoover's bosses wanted. FDR wanted the Bureau to go after the Nazi's and Axis spies. The Truman and Eisenhower administrations were obsessed with Communists spies and so on.

     The reality was that going after the mob wasn't on the agenda of the various Attorney Generals that Hoover served under. And Mr. Hoover, like the few who manage to stay in power in this town over any length of time, did a lot of serving.

     Forget this rubbish you've read about U.S. Presidents trembling in their boots over Hoover's so called "secret files". Its Journalistic wet dreams. The fact is Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon were tough, vindictive and powerful men who didn't scare easy. They would have handed Hoover his head and his walking papers in the blink of an eye if it served their purpose.

     But they never did. You know why? Because Hoover was the ultimate Beltway insider. He followed orders, kowtowed to the changing winds of power and did what he was told to do, when he was told to do it. That doesn't make him a bad man, it just makes him a typical Washington bureaucrat. This a company town, after all. If you want original thinkers try San Francisco because you won't find any here.

     And in this button-down, company town, the head of a government agency doesn't dash off, or, for that matter, avoid, a protracted campaign against the mob, the Nazi's, the communists or anyone else for that matter, without the approval of the administration in power. If they don't want it to happen, it doesn't happen.

     Another obstacle in Hoover's campaign to fight the mob, the record shows, were the bullies in US Senate, men like Nevada's powerful McCarren who ordered, not asked, but ordered, Hoover to stay out of the Las Vegas and Reno casino industry. Then there were the influential political machines in New York, Chicago, Kansas City and Louisiana, which constantly threw their considerable weight against the Bureau to quash investigations or protect mobbed up elected officials.

     Then why did it take Hoover so long to attack the mob? The fact is, as early as 1947, Hoover already had extensive records on Micky Cohen, Frank Costello, Murray Humpreys, Willie Moretti, Meyer Lansky and hundreds of others mobsters and Mafia families, and, in the late 1950's, Hoover launched the Top Hoodlum Program which was dedicated to combating the mob on a nationwide basis.

     As for those perpetually annoyed Bureau bashers who counter that the Top Hoodlum Program was a half-spirited attempted to answer the raid at Apalichin, I have two words; Joe Valachi. It was the FBI who turned Valachi into an informer and not Robert Kennedy's office.

     Which brings us to the tired old question; wasn't it the Kennedy's who dragged Hoover into the fight against the mob?

     No, it wasn't. And, to me anyway, the better question is what motivated the Kennedy brothers to attack the mob with such a fever? And while we're at it, why didn't Harry Truman, a creation of the Pendergast machine, or Lyndon "Landslide" Johnson, a man with a strange knack for making money appear from no where, why didn't they press the Mafia issue? What skeletons were in their closets?

     The proverbial Fat Lady is about to sing on the power of the Mafia in America. The once mighty Gambino's are on the run. The crime family, although still a potent force in the underworld, are but a shadow of what they once had been. The membership is reduced to running junk, extortion and fighting off the growing influence and power of the Asian and Russian mobs into their traditional domains.

     The same dismal facts holds true for New York's other four families, the Kansas City mob, the Jersey mobs, New England and Philadelphia and if Mafia has one of its imported leather clad feet in the grave, then the praise belongs to the Mr. Hoover and the FBI.

     Did Hoover make mistakes? Sure he did. Everyone, great or not, fail,....... and the great among us tend to fail greatly. The difference is, Hoover left behind agency renown throughout the world for its integrity, its thoroughness, its adherence to the spirit of the law and its dedication to the American people........and there was no mistake about that.

     Bring the director home where he belongs, in the heart of the FBI buildings central courtyard.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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