KING AND THE FBI
The Price of Conviction
Gregg Reese | 1/16/2014, 2:29 p.m.
Now, deep in the turbulence of the ‘60s, he faced his biggest challenge. Radical elements seemed to be sprouting up on every college campus to openly exhibit contempt for American ideals and institutions, and sweeping up the best and brightest of the Baby-boomer generation in the process. Of particular concern to Hoover was the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement, which he saw as being ripe for infiltration by the Communist Party.
Specifically distasteful to the F.B.I. director was the movement’s most famous proponent, Dr. King, whose alleged promiscuous sexual liaisons offended Hoover’s puritanical sensibilities. Since his death, Hoover has been the subject of numerous insinuations and innuendoes, including speculation that he was a cross-dressing homosexual with hidden African American ancestry, one source being literary icon and fellow Washington, D.C. native Gore Vidal, which may explain his relentless pursuit of individuals with similar backgrounds and preferences.
“Hoover was becoming famous, and it was always said of him—in my family and around the city—that he was mulatto. People said he came from a family that had ‘passed.’ It was the word they used for people of Black origin who, after generations of inbreeding, have enough White blood to pass themselves off as White. That’s what was always said about Hoover.” -Anthony Summers, Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, 1993.
The idea that homophobes (those with an irrational fear or hatred of gays) are themselves a repressed homosexual goes back to Sigmund Freud’s initial musings on the nature of human behavior. Ethnic self-hatred is common enough to have spawned a number of studies, possibly the best known case being that of closeted U.S. Attorney Roy Cohn (and a political ally of Hoover) who zealously railroaded fellow Jews Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to the electric chair for passing atomic weapons secrets to Russia, and strongly opposed gay-rights legislation before he himself died of AIDS.
As for Hoover, much has been made of the fact that for such a well-known public figure, little documentation was available on his early life, with no birth certificate on record until he was well into his 40s, along with his unusually close association with fellow F.B.I. man and lifelong bachelor Clyde Tolson.
Hoover’s inclination toward the persecution of African American political groups went back to Marcus Garvey and the Black Nationalist movement in the early 1920s.
By the late ‘60s he had developed an intelligence apparatus unsurpassed in its ability to amass information on any conceivable person or subject, and implemented a program called COINTELPRO specifically to disrupt dissident political organizations. COINTELPRO contributed to at least one murder, that of White civil rights volunteer Viola Liuzzo, and after her death circulated gossip about her alleged sexual hi-jinks with her Black co-workers.
Dr. King’s activism, viewed as radical and subversive, had made him the subject of countless vendettas, resulting in an arrest record consisting of such various offenses as contempt of court, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, driving without a license, loitering, tax evasion, and violating probation.