Clyde Tolson was born in Laredo, Missouri, in 1900. He went to business college and at the age of eighteen he moved to Washington where he found work as a clerk in the War Department. In an attempt to improve his future prospects, Tolson attended night classes at George Washington University.
When Tolson obtained a law degree in 1927 he applied to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) but was rejected. He tried again the following year and this time his photograph and application form was seen by J. Edgar Hoover, assistant director of the FBI. Hoover hired Tolson and he was quickly promoted through the ranks and after only three years, he was appointed Assistant Director of the FBI.
Tolson and Hoover became very close friends and for the next forty years they were constant companions. In the FBI the couple were known as "J. Edna and Mother Tolson". However, fellow homosexual, Truman Capote, preferred the names, "Johnny and Clyde". Mafia boss, Meyer Lansky, obtained photographic evidence of Hoover's homosexuality and was able to use this to stop the Federal Bureau of Investigation from looking too closely into his own criminal activities.
Hoover became very dependent on Tolson. Hoover told friends that: "Clyde Tolson is my alter ego. He can read my mind." A senior official at the FBI later recalled that the two men were always together: "Tolson was smarter than Mr. Hoover - he had a razor-sharp mind. His great failing was that he slavishly followed Mr. Hoover's every dictate."
Sometimes journalists hinted at the relationship the two men were having. Time Magazine ran one article where it stated that "Hoover is seldom seen without a male companion, most frequently solemn-faced Clyde Tolson". When this happened the journalist concerned would find himself being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
When J. Edgar Hoover died in May, 1972, he left virtually the whole of his estate to his long-time companion. Tolson also took control of Hoover's considerable secret files. Tolson retired from the FBI and according to his friends, that the only time he left the house was to visit Hoover's grave. When Tolson died in April, 1975, it was reported that the FBI agents arrived at his house and removed all these documents. Clyde Tolson is buried with Hoover at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington.