Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Life and Career of J. Edgar Hoover

The Files

Minutes after hearing about Hoover's death, Clyde Tolson was on the phone to Helen Gandy discussing the disposition of Hoover's very sensitive files. A bit later, Attorney General Richard Kleindienst called Assistant to the Director John Mohr and told him to secure Hoover's private office. Mohr did what he was told and changed the lock on the door.

Mohr did not burden Kleindienst with the knowledge that none of Hoover's files were kept in his office. The controversial files were kept in Miss Gandy's office. She and others were organizing those files so that some would be destroyed and others culled out for special purposes.

There was a document called the "D list" which, in case of Hoover's death or other cataclysmic events, specified the destruction of certain files, films and audio tapes. Shortly after Hoover's death, the "D List" was circulated to a few key FBI officials.

The next morning, L. Patrick Gray III came to visit John Mohr. He wanted to know immediately where the secret files were kept. Mohr denied that there were any secret files and Gray became very upset. Within a few hours, Gray would be appointed acting director of the FBI by President Nixon.

The announcement of Gray, an outsider with no experience in law enforcement, was a huge shock to the employees and management of the FBI. Gray had been a submarine commander and Nixon's military adviser. He had also held several posts within Nixon's administration.

When Gray met Miss Gandy that day, he noticed that she was packing up things that she was removing from her file cabinets and drawers. Gray said that she explained that she was disposing of Hoover's personal correspondence, per his wishes, and packing up Hoover's personal papers on investments.

What he did not realize was that he was permitting her to continue the destruction of Hoover's most secret files. Miss Gandy also kept a special index to these files on index cards. Many of the most controversial files were deliberately mislabeled. The file on Richard Nixon appeared under Obscene Matters.

The next day on May 4, Miss Gandy handed over some twelve boxes to Mark Felt, Deputy Associate Director, to keep in his office. Over the coming week, another thirty-two file drawers were transferred by Miss Gandy into cardboard boxes which were taken to Hoover's home.

All in all, there were 167 folders. Three of them concerned Bureau officials and disappeared. The remaining 164 files represented some 17, 750 pages of material, spanning fifty years. Just over half of these folders had derogatory material, much of which was of a sexual, moral or ethical nature.

Curt Gentry in J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and His Secrets describes the nature of the files: " ... their contents included blackmail material on the patriarch of an American political dynasty, his sons, their wives, and other women; allegations of two homosexual arrests which Hoover leaked to help defeat a witty, urbane Democratic presidential candidate; the surveillance reports on one of America's best-known first ladies and her alleged lovers, both male and female, white and black; the child molestation documentation the director used to control and manipulate one of the Red-baiting proteges; a list of the Bureau's spies in the White House during the eight administrations when Hoover was FBI director; the forbidden fruit of hundreds of illegal wiretaps and bugs, containing, for example, evidence that an attorney general (and later Supreme Court justice) had received payoffs from the Chicago syndicate; as well as celebrity files, with all the unsavory gossip Hoover could amass on some of the biggest names in show business."