Post 817: heroes and feet of clay…

My Dad was proud the city sent him to Washington, DC in 1947 to attend the FBI National Academy. The training lasted 12 weeks. According to the FBI Academy website, the study included:

“…[a] range of subjects similar to the new FBI agents of the day—forensic science, statistics, records and report writing, investigations, enforcement and regulatory procedure, tests and practical experiences, police administration and organization, and firearms training and first aid.”

First class of the FBI Academy 1935

First class of the FBI Academy
October 19, 1935

Noted in the website:

“Early training was held in Room 5231 at the Department of Justice, then home of the FBI…on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. The long and narrow room was aptly nicknamed the ‘wind tunnel.” Firearms training took place at the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia, near where the current National Academy is held.”

Dad’s class was considerably larger, as evidenced by this group photo, taken in front of the same fountain in front of the Department of Justice Building:

That's Dad in the third row, second from left.

That’s Dad in the third row, second from left. (The third and second rows kind of blend together, but trust me — that’s Dad OK!)

Here he is....!

Here he is….! Dad in 1947.

There are some interesting details in the full photo. Maybe you picked up on how the gentlemen stand, hands crossed in front, except for one fellow on the extreme right of the first row. Must not have got the memo. :\

Notice, too, two gentlemen in the center, also not standing with hands crossed in front:

Dad in yellow circle; J. Edgar and Clyde in large red circle; and the fellow who didn't get the memo,   next to the red arrow...

Dad by yellow arrow; J. Edgar and Clyde in large red circle; and the fellow who didn’t get the memo, next to the red arrow…

Many of you may remember Hoover held his position for decades, literally till he died. He scared the bejeebers out of Presidents and anyone else who dared to get on his enemies list. His enemy list included virtually every prominent American, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others big and small. He had files…!

Yet he had his own feet of clay. In a time where homosexuals were outlaws, part of a demimonde necessitated by laws and prejudices that hang on to this day, Mr. Hoover and Mr. Tolson, “gay bachelors”, to use the words in the sense they might have been used in 1947 (but with an ironic specificity when viewed in 2015 terms), shared a home.

Yes, they were longtime roomies!

I seriously doubt my Dad ever thought a thing about this arrangement, if, indeed, it was even generally known outside of Washington gossip circles. I doubt he would have approved.

Yet, as a promoter of professionalism in law enforcement, Hoover did have a claim to respect from people like my Dad, who was Chief of Police in my town while I was growing up.

He was a hero to my Dad, and, with other Chiefs of Police in Nebraska, Dad was one of the founders and first members of the POAN (Police Officers of Nebraska), which exists to promote just those ideals of professionalism Hoover espoused.

Let’s take a final look at the Director and his assistant:

J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director and Clyde Tolson, Assistant  to Director

J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director and Clyde Tolson, Assistant to Director

Hands held stiffly at the side. Both wearing rings on the fingers reserved for wedding bands, perhaps as “camouflage” to dispel questions.

What if…they lived today? Would they take advantage of a recent US Supreme Court decision and reveal the nature of their home arrangement?

Or would they still stand there, stiff as figures on top of a wedding cake the Christian bakers refused to make for two “gay bachelors” getting married? Would they continue to hide their feet of clay?

Would America be able to handle it? Would it even matter? 

28 thoughts on “Post 817: heroes and feet of clay…

    • No, I never was interested in police work. I do have some of his patience with tedious jobs and a tendency toward perfectionism, both of which were very helpful in my work in quality analysis in a hydraulic and industrial hose factory.

  1. Ty and I found this very interesting. Way back when I was kid when dinosaurs roamed the earth-“grinning.” no one ever heard the word gay except to say a person was a good natured happy person.
    Back then and in Hoovers day and age, being gay was a ticket straight to hell.

    • Exactly. I had a friend in California (a retired nurse) who refused to accept the new usage for “gay”, preferring the one you note. It made interesting conversations sometimes! Ha! Word usage and society evolve, though, for better or worse.

  2. Americans tend to want their heroes pure and unspoiled from the temptations of the world —- People tend to want to put their idols on pedestals. —- I think they would keep their relationship under wraps if they were living today because regardless of the changing attitudes of America I do not think acceptance of the Gay lifestyle has permeated the heights where the heroes dwell just yet. Can you imagine the first Gay President of The United States? — The first openly Gay Pope? —- I don’t think so. Not just yet. Maybe later!

  3. By God, that is a fascinating post Doug! Your father and you have a damned good reason to respect and be proud of your father. What a man. The morals and acceptance were so different back then. My dad was in the Canadian Army and we lived in Germany for a couple of years (1955-1958) and apparently dad, a fairly high ranking officer did a lot of work with Scotland Yard and Interpol. He was with the Military Police at the time…seems to me there was another name for what he was doing but there is no longer anyone to ask.

    Thank you for sharing….a very enjoyable post.


    • I’ve wanted to do a blog about this photos for some time, but didn’t know how I would approach it. The Supreme Court opened the door, in some sense! Glad you found it interesting.

      I’m not sure what your father’s job might have been. Sounds pretty interesting, though, and maybe it involved investigation of anything from drug trafficking to spying…! Too bad, as you note, there isn’t anyone you can ask.

      A side note: the sheriff of my county for part of when my Dad was chief was a form,er Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman. When he first came to America, he worked as a railroad agent (that doesn’t sound right – they worked with police when things involved legal issues), then he ran for and won sheriff.

      • How interesting about the RCMP fellow that moved there. I did take some law in college and was fascinated by the differences between Canadian and US law. Dad was a very quiet man and never spoke of his work. He was just starting to get a wee bit more outspoken when he passed away. He was head of Traffic and Security at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. I keep forgetting that Sherriff is an elected office in the states.

        • In some states, so are judges! Federal-level judges are appointed. Oddly, in cities with elected mayors, people like chiefs of police are appointed at the whim of the mayor. In places with a city manager system, the mayor is a figurehead, just a member of the city council the other council members elect to be the person running the city council meetings. Odd how things are done.

          • This is strange! Very interesting though. To me it is odd that the states have so much power. I don’t know how it works in the US but the powers of the provinces varies also and they can opt to follow federal rulings or change them, granted changing them is a big deal. This is so confusing its a wonder we don’t get arrested for breaking the law as soon as we cross provincial lines. Yet with all these changings of federal and provincial laws…”Ignorance of the Law is no excuse.”

          • In theory, Federal law trumps state. There always is a fight for states rights when the issue is one a state doesn’t want to toe the Federal line to — desegregation of schools, for example, in the 1950s and 1960s. Gay marriage is another one where States Righters feel they can ignore the Supreme Court ruling making gay weddings legal in all states. It is a mess!

          • Sounds very similar to provincial and federal law. An interesting local law around Vancouver, BC has legalized the use of medical marijuana. I don’t really understand this as why can’t the rest of BC have the use of medical marijuana too? I get the feeling Vancouver will be the testing ground for the use of pot. They can run into the problems and correct them there and then perhaps move onto the rest of the province. It just seems strange.
            Gay marriages seems to be like the laws for blacks in the 60’s. Some states ignored the federal rulings for schooling…Alabama stands out in my mind. Peeps!

          • I think you may be right about Vancouver. The states that have legalized it to some degree or other technically are violating Federal law, but the Department of Justice seems to be performing an experiment in letting some legal use of it. Not my thing, and I just hope people don’t come to work or drive under the influence. You know they will, though. People are people!

            Yeah, similar attitude. Both were/are opposed on Biblical grounds, though the Bible suggests killing disobedient slaves and a whole range of other bizarre behaviors, by 21st Century standards.

    • It’s odd how paths cross and how they mean different things to different people. As much as my Dad held Hoover in high regard for professional reasons, I found him petty and contemptible for abusing his position to essentially create blackmail files to help him maintain his position and power. The business with Tolson is trivial as far as I’m concerned, and certainly matters less these days than it would have when Hoover was alive, presuming there’s anything to it.

        • How true. Hoover made a practice of it with his secret files on prominent people, but the files apparently were sufficiently scary to make him invulnerable to replacement as FBI Diredctor. Of course, as soon as he died, the process of replacing FBI Directors became more ordinary business, probably to the benefit of the agency and America.

    • Odd, isn’t it? Given his secret files on so many people, I doubt anyone dared to comment of it at the time, though I’m sure it caused some speculation. I personally don’t care one way or other. It isn’t something I would have mentioned to my Dad, though! Hoover was a water walker to Dad because he saw him through a very selective and narrow filter related to police work.

  4. Were those “feet of clay”? They had those in the times back, when homosexuality was outlawed. But how can they continue to have “feet of clay” today when there is nothing wrong with it anymore in our countries?

    • Exactly! I think most people would accept Hoover and Tolson’s arrangement these days, and even cheer their marriage, now possible in 50 US states, thanks to a recent US Supreme Court decision. Hey, we have a black President and talk of the possibility of a woman President next time: Anything’s possible!

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