J. Edgar Hoover's "Marginalia" - A Glimpse At The Man...
Director Hoover's secretary, Helen Gandy, once said that if we wanted to really get to know the Director, we should read his "marginalia;" that is, his written comments which readily appeared on FBI documents. (There are very rare instances of red ink also during early years.) Today, in examining FBI files, many of these captured thoughts are preserved.
As you review documents on this site that contain the Director's "marginalia" you'll find humor, compassion, intolerance, cynicism, anger, valued friendship and more; clearly a buffet of emotions in which we are all too familiar. The few examples are shown here are but a mere splash in the ocean of FBI documents known to exist with Hoover's handwritten comments, many times with Clyde Tolson's on the same page. As you'll notice with those you'll read, there aren't many who could accuse the Director of "mincing" his words. Nor will readers find much of the "political correctness" we experience today whether it is with a member of Congress or one of his own employees.
Many don't know it, but the Director was a notorious prankster in both his notes and his personal actions. Today, most will have a hard time picturing the Director in this vein. However, it has been talked, and written about, by Hoover's longtime assistant, Cartha "Deke" DeLoach (RIP) who was on the receiving end of some and mentioned them to me during the occasions I was in contact with him. Readers will find examples in the writings of DeLoach's book about these written pranks pulled on DeLoach, FBI personnel, and Hoover's closest friends. DeLoach had made mention on one occasion when Hoover sent a postcard to DeLoach's residence from Florida with an apparent photo of a scantily clad young lady on the front. On the back Hoover had written the words [paraphrased] "wish you were here; nice to see you again." The mail was retrieved that day by DeLoach's wife; he spent many a day trying to explain it...
I don't think there's any doubt that Hoover had pulled the same type pranks on Clyde Tolson over the many years. While we haven't examined all of them, I suspect some of the photos of Hoover and Tolson may be categorized into this arena. Unfortunately, many who can attest to these various pranks are long gone, leaving no record behind.
As an example of the Director's humorous side, in 1958 a German magazine wanted to purchase the photo of Director Hoover's "marriage" to the mother of movie actress, Jane Russell, which supposedly occurred ten years earlier in 1948 according to the German magazine.
Associated Press had contacted the Bureau about the request knowing the Director had been a bachelor all along, and never married, especially Russell's mother. In this 1958 FBI memo, you'll see the request and the Director's own handwriting on the memo about his own thoughts on the marriage. The document and his own notations give an inside glimpse of a man whose public image showed much different. No doubt anyone would get a laugh over the "Russell Affair." A couple of years back, I received an email from Russell's son in law who found this communication on our site and expressed his joy in reading it!
On another note, the human side of Hoover appears in his notation on this early memorandum regarding the ending marriage of SAC William Rorer.
Although there are hundreds, if not possibly thousands of examples in the files, the Director didn't hold much back when critical of those in his own organization. Here's just one example of an early comment he made about SAC Melvin Purvis regarding a raid in March, 1934.