I gently placed my hand on her shoulder and met her wide-eyed gaze. “Understand what I’m trying to convey here. I would never have embarrassed you in the conference room when I heard your ugly comments in that public forum. I’m speaking to you, here, quietly, and one-on-one, because I want to challenge you to broaden your perspective. It won’t be my FBI for much longer. It will be yours, and the FBI of your contemporaries who were seated aside you that day. That’s an awesome responsibility to be the caretaker of an amazing organization that you clearly thought enough of to endure the rigors of its selection process and become a member of.”
She nodded in understanding. “I’m sorry, I meant nothing by it. It’s just that he didn’t believe that women or minorities should be agents. So I see him as a bigot.”
“I hear you,” I allowed. “But you’re not entirely correct in your reflection of history. Yes, the director was resistant to the idea of female special agents. But he was a reflection of the times he lived during. You do know that he was born in 1895, right? Are we to look back at all the presidents of recent vintage who served as commander-in-chief for a U.S. military that expressly forbid women from serving in the Infantry or Special Operations and tar them as bigots as well? Please, you MUST view the past through the prism of historical context. Not doing so does a grave disservice to the folks who lived during periods vastly different than the 21st century one we reside in. President Obama just evolved on marriage equality during the 2012 election season. Was he a bigot as recently as 2011?”
“Of course not,” she responded.
“Okay, good. I agree,” I continued, “but, I would also like to direct your attention to a book written by Hoover’s number-three-in-command, Cartha D. “Deke” DeLoach, and entitled, Hoover’s FBI: The Inside Story by Hoover’s Trusted Lieutenant. I have a copy of which I’d be more than happy to share with you. DeLoach spent many years by Hoover’s side. Never once heard him utter a racist word or idea. His impression of Hoover was of a man fiercely dedicated to preserving fairness and justice in our system of laws. And just so you understand the truth — there were black FBI special agents in the bureau as far back as the early 1920s. Hoover issued no edict precluding their service. In fact, he was DECADES ahead of the times. The U.S. military waited almost thirty years later to integrate its units. J. Edgar Hoover didn’t preclude white and black special agents from partnering up during the ’20’s. Did you know all this?”
Not waiting for a response, I continued:
“As Mr. DeLoach made clear in his book, the exacting standards to join the bureau, according to Hoover, simply weren’t to be lowered for any purpose — in support of diversity or otherwise. And back during the 20th-century, African-Americans possessing law or accounting degrees (as advanced degrees were a prerequisite for special agent consideration in those days) were typically drawn to the higher-paying private sector job market. That’s not bigotry, hatred, or exclusion. That’s FACT. Were you aware of this, as well?”
Her eyes widened and she nodded in concurrence. “I see your points. I’ll check that out.”
I returned to my console and placed the monitoring headphones back over my ears and switched the recorder to the “on” position to begin my daily surreptitious overhears of Atlanta’s Gangster Disciples. Satisfied with my interaction with the young agent, I was still pragmatic about the chances of changing the entrenched belief system of the Millennials. Far too many Leftist indoctrination outlets in our mainstream media and in Hollywood and Academia to think that a few more one-on-one engagements with young FBI agents were going to change the perceptions they had formed of our larger-than-life former director — a man that the Left of his time viewed as a fascist dictator.
But, I hadn’t ignored her one-sided vocalized criticisms and I had handled it in the manner I always handled necessary sensitive communication — quietly, one-on-one, and with an earnest effort to expand someone’s horizons, to hear their side, and then artfully craft the counter when necessary. I wanted to challenge her to learn the facts, and I also wanted to get her to commit to understanding the application of historical context when sitting in judgement of our forefathers.
Truth be told, the aforementioned Atlanta-based Millennial FBI special agent certainly wasn’t the only person to share the Hoover-is-evil-and-should-be-stricken-from-FBI-history position. As recently as 2015, Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) undertook an effort to have Hoover’s name removed from the FBI’s headquarters building in Washington, D.C. Now, put aside the natural inclination to view this move as naked political pandering since Cohen — a white man — serves constituents in Tennessee’s 9th congressional district, which includes all of Shelby County, and is the state’s only African-American majority district.
Let’s soak in Cohen’s “reasoning” provided in a statement release:
“The civil rights we enjoy today are in spite of J. Edgar Hoover, not because of him. Yet, his name adorns one of the most prominent buildings in our nation’s capital and one that houses one of the agencies of government responsible for justice. Given his well-document abuses and prejudices towards African Americans, gays and lesbians, I believe it is past time to remove his name from this place of honor.”
I simply can’t suffer fools in the manner I could when I was much younger, and but a fool myself.
To the esteemed congressman from the state that brought us Elvis, Graceland, Nashville, my amazing brother-in-law Mark, and the Grand Ole Opry, I say this:
Sir, you are not a young, wet-behind-the-ears, twenty-something-year-old FBI agent. Your efforts are not borne out of ignorance, they are purely political. You have mischaracterized the relationship between Hoover and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and you have minimized and distorted the FBI’s efforts and professional record during the Civil Rights era of our national history. You do a disservice to the facts and you contribute to the proliferation of “fake news” when you speak of Hoover’s animus towards MLK and you do so with ZERO insider knowledge and a whole lotta baseless conjecture to fit your false narrative. May I please also refer you to any number of books written by true insiders (like DeLoach) whose word I’ll take any and every day of the week over your own.
J. Edgar Hoover’s long chronicled spat with Dr. King was related to comments King had made about Southern FBI agents being unable to shed their ties to the cultural norms of their friends and associates, ergo, leaving them incapable of fairly administering justice or pursuing those who were attacking Civil Rights demonstrators during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Dr. King was wrong. If he had understood the mechanics of the bureau, he’d have known that agents aren’t returned to their home regions, and during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the vast majority of agent personnel stationed in the Deep South were…wait for it…originally from the Northeast and Midwest.
Hoover, a man known to hold a grudge and embellish every slight — real or perceived — never forgot this inaccurate and insulting remark. No one was to unfairly malign the integrity of his special agents. Their word and conduct were to be considered beyond raproach. King’s casual and flippant accusation infuriated Hoover.
It ultimately led to Hoover’s infamous referral to King as “the most notorious liar in the country.”
One good turn deserves another, as they say.
Unfortunate that this misunderstanding between two powerful, egotistical, hubris-laden, and influential leaders led to the inaccurate supposition that FBI Director Hoover despised Dr. King for his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. And the sharing of this truth, here, must be seen as an inconvenient fact to those of you who much prefer to view the former FBI director as evil incarnate. I apologize, in advance, that my providing of these recorded facts just might have gotten in the way of your intended good ol’ fashion smearing.
Sorry, not sorry.
I also struggle to comprehend the mindset of those who think that erasing our complicated national history, obliterating historical figures for failing to live as PERFECT human beings in all pursuits, and whitewashing the facts are a good thing. But I can apply perspective and appreciate other positions. I was initially resistant to the idea of removing the stars and bars of the C.S.A. battle flag from my home state of Georgia’s flag…UNTIL…I researched the history of the flag and was stunned and repulsed to learn that the flag was changed by the Georgia State Legislature in 1956, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, as an “F U!” to the brave men and women who courageously endured police batons, water hoses, and attack dogs for demanding equality under the law. By educating myself to the onerous purposes behind the Rebel flag’s inclusion in the Georgia State flag, I became a proponent for its removal. This change made sense to me. It wasn’t heritage. It was hate. But not every acknowledgement of southern history can fit into a one-size-fits-all assessment of appropriateness.
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