The Story Behind Senator McKellar And J. Edgar Hoover

Whether you recall it from a movie or a book, the incident might stand out in your mind. It was the confrontation during the 1930s that would haunt JEH for a time after.  That incident …..the one when it looked like Tennessee Senator McKellar challenged JEH’s manhood was unlike any other.  It was during the hearings that McKellar wanted to know from JEH how many actual arrests he had made himself.  The Director stumbled and stammered…

But what was actually going on with regard to the rift between McKellar and JEH?  It’s always helpful to know the “story behind the story.”  In this 2013 article in a Knoxville newspaper, some of these behind the scenes “rubs” between the two are revealed. 

Factually, with regard to the “arrest challenge,” we know what happened next; JEH put out the word that he wanted to know when SAC E. J. Connelley and others in New Orleans had gangster Alvin Karpis in their sights.  Hoover, Tolson and others would arrive prior to, and participate in the arrest.  After the grab, the media had a field day in 1936 by suggesting that JEH had arrested Karpis by himself.  (It should be noted that a random sampling of news stories for that day reveals the Director continually using the term “we.”) Released Karpis arrest documents I’ve examined don’t reveal anything close to some of these media accounts. Arrest documents reveal the presence of seventeen agents with various SACs at the scene. 

In his later memoirs, Karpis would lambast Hoover stating “I made that SOB” and would go on record stating that Hoover was hiding behind a building during the arrest and came out when others told him “it was all clear” and that Karpis was in custody.  Once again, documents released point to evidence proving Karpis wrong. 

In fact, JEH was in a a Bureau car with another SAC (Brantley) and SA W. L. “Buck” Buchanan.  As they converged on the Karpis vehicle, two documented pedestrian obstacles prevented a simultaneous arrival with Connelley and others at the Karpis auto. One obstacle was a young boy crossing in front of the Bureau car and the other was a policeman on horseback doing similar. 

As a side note, we’ve shown from contact with Buchanan’s son, and letters from JEH, that it was Buchanan’s necktie used to bind Karpis hands that day. All the agents had forgotten to bring handcuffs. A long search by us a few years back revealed the necktie used has disappeared into obscurity. For decades, the media claimed the tie belonged to SA Clarence Hurt.  Again, not according to the evidence at hand.

To get a full accounting of the “behind the scenes story” with JEH and the Senator, read the article at the above link.  

Everyone have a great Thanksgiving…