J. Edgar Hoover Cross-Dressing: Did He Really?

By | November 20, 2020

test article image
Hoover photographed in 1959. (Federal Bureau of Investigation/Wikimedia Commons)

Long after his death in 1972, J. Edgar Hoover has held the American public's attention, mostly because of all the speculation over his intensely private life. Was he gay? A cross-dresser? Secretly black, in deep with the Mafia, and/or in a Norman Bates–esque relationship with his mother? For all of the questions and secrets swirling around his personal life, the one thing that we know for sure about Hoover is that he was dedicated to law and order, or at least his own version of it.

He Was Secretly A Republican

Hoover never officially joined a political party and always claimed to be "not political," but in private, he was staunchly Republican, and despite all insistence to the contrary, his views deeply affected his work. He consistently chased after people on the left, blaming them for the "moral deterioration" of the country, and "anarchist elements." He even aspired to run for president, although at the time, that would have meant running against F.D.R. As much as Hoover hated the Squire of Hyde Park, who he felt was far too left-wing, he was elected a record four times, so it would have been a long shot at best.

test article image
Hoover watches as Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act in 1964. (O. J. Rapp/Wikimedia Commons)

Was J. Edgar Hoover Black?

It's safe to say that Hoover's thoughts on race were complicated. In private, he harbored great prejudice against people of color, to put it mildly. Ever the "apolitical" director, he insisted that the Civil Rights–era miseries of black Americans were not in his jurisdiction, even as he himself ordered the Bureau to investigate black leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.

During the 1960s, Hoover went to extreme lengths to ruin King's reputation. After his surveillance produced evidence that King was having affairs with several women, the F.B.I. took an unusual turn and did their best to make sure the info got out. It didn't work, but even after King's death, Hoover did everything possible to keep his birthday from becoming a national holiday.

All of this animosity toward the black community has some led researchers to believe that Hoover had a bit of self-hate—as well as African blood—running through his veins. They point to early pictures of Hoover as a young man with a dark complexion and coarse hair and theorize that his anxiety over his lineage fueled his angst toward the Civil Rights movement. A black writer named Millie L. McGhee has even suggested that Hoover was a family relation of hers, but this claim—along with others about Hoover's racial background—has never been substantiated.