FBI and Homosexuality: 1960-1969

James Baldwin's FBI file grew to 1,884 pages over the course of over a decade of surveillance.

Learn more about the FBI's surveillance of Baldwin in another OutHistory feature by Douglas Field at: http://outhistory.org/exhibits/show/baldwin-fbi/baldwin-fbi. 

1960, July
Early this month Dr. Martin Luther King received a message from a source close to Adam Clayton Powell: unless King fired Bayard Rustin and canceled a proposed demonstration at the Democratic National Convention, Powell would announce publicly that King and Rustin were involved in a sexual relationship. 

Through Powell’s charge was without substance, King felt it was potentially damaging. A few days later King asked Rustin to sever all connections with the civil rights movement and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Rustin resigned. See also: 1963, August 13.

Research request: Is there any FBI involvement in this incident? D'Emilio, Rustin, p. ?

This year the Florida Legislature directed a Legislative Investigation Committee headed by Charley Johns to broaden its investigations to include homosexuals and the "extent of [their] infiltration into agencies supported by state funds," particularly at state colleges and universities such as the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of South Florida. The Committee, and its investigative techniques, were modeled on those of the FBI.

John Howard, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), page 155. See also: Wikipedia: Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, accessed August 28, 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Legislative_Investigation_Committee#Assault_on_homosexuality. See also: 1958: Florida. Research request: FBI links to Johns Committee?

1961, Summer
J. Edgar Hoover publishes an article intended to attract women to work for the FBI.

Let's consider for a moment the work of women in the FBI. There are no female Special Agents. This policy necessarily stems from the nature of the work an investigator is called upon to perform. His job may entail the hot pursuit of criminals involving great physical hazard. Or he may be required to spend days and nights away from home tracking down a dangerous fugitive. Sometimes this means hours in rugged terrain or in isolated areas. But, while none of the FBI's 6,506 women employees carry the title of "Special Agent," they do hold many responsible positions. As stenographers, typists, switchboard and teletype operators, clerks, radio dispatchers, laboratory aides—they render valuable services. Without the competent performance of our female employees, the FBI could not function properly. One of the most indispensable jobs performed by women in the FBI is that of stenographer. . . .

J. Edgar Hoover, “Imagine You A Member of the F.B.I.—The Feminine Touch.” Young & Beautiful (magazine). Accessed December 23, 2012 from http://www.onbeing.org/program/work-and-conscience/feature/imagine-you-member-fbi/1870</ref>

1961, July 29: Mitchell and Martin Defect
The New York Times reports: "The National Security Agency has dismissed twenty-six sexual deviates since two of its code clerks [Bernon F. Mitchell and William M. Martin] defected to the Soviet Union last summer, Representative Francis E. Walter said today."

The Times adds: “Mr. Walter quoted Mr. [Maurice H.] Klein [agency personnel director] as having said in response to a question that all twenty-six of the persons dismissed by the agency were sexual deviates, but that not all were homosexuals.” 

"U.S. Security Unit Ousts 26 Deviates; Walter Tells of Dismissals Since Defection of Two. Washington, July 28 (UPI). New York Times, July 29, 1961. Research Request: FBI files on National Security Agency, Bernon F. Mitchell, or William M. Martin? National Security Agency files linking FBI to this case?

1963, August 13
Senator Strom Thurmond, advocate of the segregation of African Americans, publicly attacks Bayard Rustin, who had been dubbed “Mr. March-on-Washington” by the press. Thurmond discussed Rustin’s Communist ties and his conviction on “sex perversion” charges in Pasadena. Black leaders rallied in defense of Rustin. Research request: FBI involvement?

D'Emilio, Rustin, p. ? Research request: full cite?

1963, August 28
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

1963, October 29
Earliest date of FBI surveillance of Bayard Rustin recorded in files published on FBI website as of Dec. 4, 2012.

FBI file part 2 of 7 says Rustin "was arrested on October 25, 1946, in Harlem, New York City, for commission of a lewd act. (Source: New York City Police Records). 

The file also says that Rustin was also arrested in Pasadena, California, on January 21, 1953, on a charge of sex perversion. He pleaded guilty to propositioning two males to engage in sodomy and admitted he had previously been arrested on the same charge in New York City. He was sentenced to 60 days.

Congressional Record, August 13, 1963. FBI Vault: Bayard Rustin part 2 of 7. Accessed from: http://vault.fbi.gov/bayard-rustin 


Cook, Fred. The FBI Nobody Knows. 1964.

Research request: full cite? anything about homosexuality, sex perversion, or gender deviance, etc.?

Curt Gentry mentions in passing a U.S. Senator "effusive in his praise" of the FBI, who had earlier been a liberal critic, and whose file contained, among other things, the police report of his 1964 arrest in a Greenwich Village homosexual bar. The suggestion is that the FBI blackmailed the Senator to restrain his criticism and become a friend of the FBI.

Curt Gentry, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and His Secrets (NY: W. W. Norton, 1991), p. 35.

1964, February 5
An FBI memo of February 5, 1964 reports an FBI interview on February 4 with Malcolm Little who advised he was known as Malcolm X:

He stated that the so-called Negro leaders are incompetent to lead the Negroes and stated that BAYARD RUSTIN, who was a leader of the one day school boycott in New York City on February 3, 1964, is nothing but a homosexual. He furnished no other information on either RUSTIN or any other person he considered a Negro leader.

FBI Vault: Malcolm Little (Malcolm X) HQ File 12 of 27, page 99.

1964, October 7: Walter Wilson Jenkins arrested
On October 7, a month before the 1964 presidential election on November 3, District of Columbia Police arrested Walter Wilson Jenkins in a YMCA restroom. He and another man were booked on a disorderly conduct charge.

This entry, and its notes are from Wikipedia, accessed December 2, 2011. White, 367; TIME: "The Jenkins Report," October 30, 1964.

This incident has been described as "perhaps the most famous tearoom arrest in America."

Laud Humphreys, Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1974), 19.

Jenkins paid a $50 fine.

Perlstein, 489.

Rumors of the incident circulated for several days and Republican Party operatives helped to promote it to the press.

Dallek, 181.

Some newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Cincinnati Enquirer, refused to run the story.

White, 367.

Journalists quickly learned that Jenkins had been arrested on a similar charge in 1959.

Dallek, 179, 181.

This earlier arrest made it much harder to explain away the later one as the result of overwork or, as one journalist wrote, "combat fatigue."

Perlstein, 490. The journalist was William White.

On October 14, a Washington Star editor called the White House for Jenkins' comment on a story it was preparing. Jenkins turned to White House lawyers Abe Fortas, the President's personal lawyer, and Clark Clifford, who unofficially was filling the role of White House Counsel. They immediately lobbied the editors of Washington's three newspapers not to run the story, which only confirmed its significance.

White, 368. Fortas later emphasized that at the time he did not know the validity of the morals charge against Jenkins. New York Times: "Fortas Asserts Police Need Time to Question Suspects," August 6, 1965.

Within hours Clifford detailed the evidence to the President and press secretary George Reedy, "openly weeping," confirmed the story to reporters.

White 369.

Probably forewarned, Johnson told Fortas that Jenkins needed to resign. Anticipating the charge that Jenkins might have been blackmailed, Johnson immediately ordered an FBI investigation. He knew that J. Edgar Hoover would have to clear the administration of any security problem because the FBI itself would otherwise be at fault for failing to investigate Jenkins properly years before.

Perlstein, 491.

Hoover reported on October 22 that security had not been compromised.

Evans and Novak, 480. White, 369-70.

Johnson later said: "I couldn't have been more shocked about Walter Jenkins if I'd heard that Lady Bird had tried to kill the Pope."

White, 367.

Johnson also fed conspiracy theories that Jenkins had been framed. He claimed that before his arrest Jenkins had attended a cocktail party where the waiters came from the Republican National Committee, though the party was hosted by Newsweek to celebrate the opening of its new offices.

White, 367. Dallek evaluates various claims that Jenkins was set up and dismisses them. Dallek, 180-1

The Star printed the story and UPI transmitted its version on October 14, and Jenkins resigned the same day.

J. Edgar Hoover visited Jenkins in the hospital and sent him flowers.

Ben A. Franklin. "Hoover Asailed on Jenkins Case: Admirers' Criticism Centers on Bouquet From FBI "The New York Times, October 28, 1964, page 34. Research request: full cites for all references above?

1964, November 1-2
Just before Election Day on November 3, rumors circulated that the GOP would reveal that a member of the cabinet was a closeted homosexual. On a recorded telephone call with the Lyndon Baines Johnson, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover assured LBJ that the rumors were groundless.

President Johnson: No, I read that. What they said was that—they raised the question of the way he [an unidentified cabinet aide] combed his hair, or the way he did something else, but they had no act of his, or he had done nothing—

J. Edgar Hoover: No. It was just the suspicion that his mannerisms and so forth were such that they were suspicious.

President Johnson: Yeah. He [Jenkins] worked for me for four or five years, but he wasn’t even suspicious to me.

But I guess you’re going to have to teach me something about this stuff!

Hoover: Well, you know, I often wonder what the next crisis is going to be. [Pause.]

President Johnson: I’ll swear I can’t recognize them. I don’t know anything about it.

Hoover: It’s a thing that you just can’t tell. Sometimes, just like in the case of this poor fellow Jenkins . . .

President Johnson: Yes.

Hoover: [continuing] There was no indication in any way.

President Johnson: No.

Hoover: [continuing] And I knew him pretty well, and [FBI White House liaison Deke] DeLoach did also, and there was no suspicion, no indication. There are some people who walk kind of funny and so forth, that you might kind of think are little bit off, or maybe queer. But there was no indication of that in Jenkins’ case.

President Johnson: That’s right. [Break.]

Hoover: So far, I haven’t been able to get any more detail than was given to me yesterday, namely that this man [the alleged closeted homosexual] was a cabinet officer, and will be exposed today.

Now, I thought of all the cabinet officers that we have—and whom I don’t know personally—but there are none of them that raise any suspicion in my mind.

President Johnson: None in mine. 

Adapted from AllTheWayWithLBJ.com, accessed December 2, 2011 from http://allthewaywithlbj.com/the-jenkins-scandal/ 

1964, November 17: Jack Valenti
A letter of this date to Bill D. Moyers, the Special Assistant to the U.S. President, claimed that Jack Joseph Valenti had had an "association" with a photographer in California who was alleged to be homosexual. Moyers sent a copy of the letter to the FBI to see if it had any relevant information.

The FBI wrote back to Moyers on December 2, 1964. It reported that the allegations against Valenti were not substantiated by an FBI interview with someone who knew him (possibly, the photographer -- the name is deleted).

Joe Stephens. "Looking at Jack Valenti's FBI File." ''Washington Post'', February 29, 2009. Accessed from 

1965: Rock Hudson
An FBI memo of 1965 memo "recommends Los Angeles to be authorized to interview movie actor Rock Hudson." Why, exactly? Much of the memo is blacked out, but one uncensored line offers a hint at the reason: "Los Angeles has advised that it is general common knowledge in motion picture industry that Hudson is suspected of having homosexual tendencies."

Four years later [1969?], when it was reported that Hudson was to star as an FBI man in a planned (but apparently never made) movie called The Seven File, a memo again mentions the allegations that he was gay. "The Los Angeles Office has been instructed to remain alert concerning all developments."

Life. On Rock Hudson's FBI file. Accessed from http://www.life.com/gallery/42072/j-edgar-hoovers-watching-you#index/7

1965, August 5
The New York Times reports: A 39-year-old house detective [Edward Murphy] at the New York Hilton was arrested early yesterday as the leader of a gang that had extorted a total of $100,000 from "rich playboys and executives."

"The case broke, the police said, with the arrest on March 14 [1965] of John Aitken" for impersonating an officer. On July 25 [1965] William Burke had also been arrested for impersonating an officer.

"Detective At Hotel Is Held In Extortion." New York Times, August 5, 1965.

David Carter, in his book on the Stonewall Riots suggests that Edward Murphy headed a national blackmail operation that had or knew of evidence against Hoover and Tolson.

David Carter, Stonewall, pages 93-94, note 8 page 286, citing James T. Sears, Lonely Hunters: An Oral History of Lesbian and Gay Southern Life, 1948-1968 (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1997), p. 244. 

The last article in the Times that mentions Edward Murphy and a blackmail ring states: 

Nine members of a nationwide ring that included bogus policemen who preyed primarily on homosexuals to extort money on threats of arrest were taken into custody here yesterday . . . ."

The Times adds:

Among the defendants in custody was "Edward Murphy, 41 years old, of 167 Christopher Street, a former hotel security guard . . . ."

Jack Roth, "Nine Seized Here; Hogan Says Gang Preyed on Homosexuals and Others."New York Times, February 18, 1966.

On September 19, 1965, Richard Inman, a homophile activist battling police extortion of homosexuals in South Florida, writes to Mattachine-Washington co-founder Jack Nichols (who is using pseudonymn Warren Adkins). Inman states that he knows via a friend inside the FBI that there was one "boss man of the syndicate's homo shakedown detail for the whole of the U.S." , August 17.

Carter suggests that the boss man in question was Edward Murphy.

The following year, on August 17, 1966, The New York Times reported: "Blackmailer [John Felebaum] Gets Five Years in Homosexual Case." The paper adds: "Assistant United States Attorney Andrew J. Maloney said one of the ring's victims had committed suicide after being interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He did not identify the victim."

"Blackmailer [John Felebaum] Gets Five Years in Homosexual Case". New York Times, August 17, 1966.

Gordon Novel, a private investigator and electronics expert, claims that he sought a meeting with James Angleton, the former head of the CIA's counterintelligence division, who urged him to continue a lawsuit against New Orleans prosecutor Jim Garrison, a lawsuit that J. Edgar Hoover, disapproved.

Novel says that Angeleton showed him a photo of Hoover and Tolson having sex taken by the Office of Stragegic Services in 1946. Angleton supposedly told Novel to go and see Hoover and tell him he had seen such a photo. Novel says he met Hoover at the Mayflower Hotel and told him he had seen the photo and Hoover stopped impeding his pursuit of Garrison.

Athan Theoharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex, and Crime: An Historical Antidote, pages 46-47.

1968: "Homosexual Activity . . . of the White House staff"
Shortly after Richard Nixon's election victory in 1968, he ordered an adviser, John Ehrlichman, to establish immediate White House contact with the FBI.

Ehrlichman phoned J. Edgar Hoover, who invited him to his office. Bored by Hoover's conversation, Ehrlichman wondered how anyone could take this man seriously.

"A few weeks later, Hoover phoned the President. There were rumors, he said, about homosexual activity "at the highest levels of the White House staff." They came from a bureau informant, who had mentioned Ehrlichman. Of course, the FBI would check out these rumors if the President so ordered. He did. The rumors proved false. But Hoover had sent his calling card. Mr. Ehrlichman would not take him lightly again."

Oshinsky, David M. "The Senior G-Man, New York Times, September 15, 1991, citing Ehrlichman's memoirs.

1968: J. Edgar Named One of the "Practical Homosexuals"
The Homosexual Handbook, published in 1968, includes a last chapter titled "Uncle Fudge's List of Practical Homosexuals Past and Present . . . ." It includes the name of J. Edgar Hoover on page 267.

David Carter, in Stonewall (2004), says that "After the book appeared, pressure from the FBI caused it to be withdrawn." The publisher soon reissued the book, but without Hoover's name.

Carter, Stonewall, pp. 94-95, citing in note 10 on page 286: Straight News, p. 269, and Donn Teal, The Gay Militants, p. 65.

1968, November 26: Hoover recalls Vendenberg
In a memo to Clyde Tolson, Cartha De Loach, and James H. Gale, J. Edgar Hoover reports his discussion with assistants to President-elect Nixon about the importance of the FBI preparing background checks on all White House appointees. Hoover states that while Dwight D. Eisenhower was President-elect

I had asked for an appointment [with Eisenhower] because one person appointed but not checked [Arthur H. Vandenberg, Jr., see 1952, December] was to be a White House aide and had a bad reputation as a homosexual and he was the son of a prominent Senator, and when I told the President-elect about it he was astounded. I told him that this showed the wisdom of getting these people checked so they can find any black shadow in the picture before they make a public announcement.

Jonathan Ned Katz transcribed this exchange from a document in the FBI Vault, available at: J. Edgar Hoover to Clyde Tolson, Cartha De Loach, and James H. Gale: Memo of November 26, 1968, page 236 in FBI file.

1969: Hoover approves "Pick the Fag" Poster
This year Hoover approved the creation of a ‘Pick the Fag’ poster with prizes (such as 500 rolls of red toilet paper—with Mao’s Tse-tung’s picture—or a free trip to Hanoi) going to the winner correctly identifying one of four antiwar leaders as homosexual.” “Fag Liberation Movement” was the name of one file created by the FBI in 1969.

Haggerty, George E., ed. "U.S. Government Surveillance" pp 109-110, in Gay Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia, Volume 2. See: http://books.google.com/ 909

1969, June 11: Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Chapin Accused
Athan Theoharis reports that Jack Anderson, Drew Pearson's collaborator on a gossip column met on this date with FBI Assistant Director Cartha DeLoach, head of the FBI's Crime Records Division. Anderson advised DeLoach on the rumors that three high-level Nixon aides were homosexuals. The aides were Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Chapin. Another White House aide had provided the information. Anderson and Pearson were looking for more information from the FBI before the columnists publicized the rumor.

DeLoach briefed Hoover on the meeting with Anderson. Hoover briefed Nixon, Attorney General John Mitchell and H.R. Haldeman of the allegations. He suggested that the FBI take sworn statements from the three accused. Hoover expressed his own "outrage and disgust" over Anderson's and Pearson's desire to spread such rumors, and the columnists practice whereby through the circulation of "innuendo they were able to establish [rumor] as fact." See 1969, June 24.

Athan Theoharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex, and Crime: An Historical Antidote, pages 310-31.

1969, June 24: "Homosexual Parties"
Potter. "Queer" (2006): "President Nixon’s aide H. R. Haldeman noted in his diary of June 24, 1969: “Hoover . . . reported to [Attorney General John] Mitchell that columnist Drew Pearson had a report that [John] Erlichman, [Dwight] Chapin, and I had attended homosexual parties at a local Washington hotel. Pearson was checking before running the story . . . [and so] at Mitchell’s suggestion, we agreed to be deposed by the FBI to clear this up.”

Potter. "Queer" (2006), page 369 citing H. R. Haldeman, The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White House (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1994), 66.

1960s, late
"It is possible that the first public, published allegation of Hoover’s homosexuality appeared in the late 1960s in Al Goldstein’s sex tabloid, Screw" See 1974.

See Gay Talese, Thy Neighbor’s Wife (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980), 229. Cited in Potter, Queer, page ?. Research request: electronic copy of the appearance in Screw?