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Supreme Court justice and civil rights advocate

J. Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover

Beginning in the 1940s, Marshall battled with federal law enforcement officials for failing to protect the civil rights of black Americans in the South. Initially, Marshall and FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, exchanged a series of nasty letters on this matter. Hoover began to monitor Marshall and his contacts in the civil rights community. But throughout the 1950s and 1960s, they secretly developed a close, even friendly relationship, cemented by their mutual dislike of Communism:

A: Hoover and I didn’t get along at first, and I thought I was right and he thought he was right. And then later on we got along. The end of it is he was convinced that I was responsible for routing the commies out of the NAACP. And I did. Well the end of the story is the three appointments, the federal appointments I got, Hoover was [in support of me].

Q: So Hoover liked you.
A: I’m sure he wouldn’t admit it. He didn’t admit he liked anybody. He didn’t really like anybody.

Q: I thought (NAACP Executive Secretary Walter) White purged communism out of the NAACP?
A: I did. I did more than anybody else and if you don’t believe me ask!

Q: Why?
A: Because I didn’t like ’em and I didn’t like what they were doing.

Q: So you worried it would turn communist?
A: Yes.

Q: And Hoover knew that you were behind the purges? And he supported you?
A: Yes. No, but nothing they could do about it. I let him know. Because I wanted the communists out. He didn’t help us. We did it on our own. We got rid of them finally in Boston. Got a conference. And that was one thing, I mean we’d been after them but they wouldn’t expose themselves so easily. They’d either go against religion or something like that. And that’s how you could tell.

Q: You and Hoover seemed to have got along fine.
A: Oh no, we had fights. Well yes, at one of my swearing-ins he was there. And when I was solicitor general, on his birthday Johnson had him over to the White House for lunch and I was there for it and there was just Hoover, Tolson, Ramsey Clark and me. And the president.

Q: But wasn’t Hoover a racist?
A: I never thought he was. I still don’t.