Courtney A. Evans, 95

FBI official served as a liaison among Hoover, the Kennedys

Courtney A. Evans served as assistant FBI director.
Courtney A. Evans served as assistant FBI director. (Ap Photo - Ap Photo)
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By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Courtney A. Evans, 95, a top FBI official who served as a liaison among FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, died Dec. 11 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the Carlisle Naples retirement center in Naples, Fla.

Mr. Evans, a veteran FBI agent who became friendly with the Kennedys in the 1950s, when he was assigned as a liaison to the Senate Rackets Committee, was plucked out of the ranks in 1960 and made assistant director of the bureau. His job landed him in the middle of a power struggle between the autocratic Hoover and a new administration determined to rein in Hoover's authority, said Athan G. Theoharis, a retired professor at Marquette University, who is a historian of the FBI's Hoover years. "Evans found himself in this very difficult position," Theoharis said. "He briefed the attorney general, but it wasn't always clear that he fully informed the attorney general of FBI practices -- and there was some indication that Kennedy was party to a 'hear no evil, see no evil' [attitude]. Even so, Evans became persona non grata in the bureau."

Hoover sent memos that selectively quoted from earlier directives about the FBI's authority to wiretap phones or bug suspects in criminal investigations, Theoharis and John Stuart Cox wrote in "The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition" (1988).

Mr. Evans briefed the attorney general about the differences between the two types of surveillance, which led Kennedy to ask for a list of wiretap requests. The list was sent to him, then returned to a secret FBI file, which allowed Kennedy in subsequent years to deny that he authorized the wiretapping of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or others.

After President Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Mr. Evans traded observations about the FBI's investigation with then-Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach. Katzenbach knew "it was more difficult to prove that something did not occur than to prove what actually happened," Mr. Evans wrote in a memo, alluding to rumors of Cuban involvement in the assassination. "From the facts disclosed in our investigation, there is no question that we can submit in our report convincing evidence beyond any doubt showing [Lee Harvey] Oswald was the man who killed President Kennedy. [But] we must be factual and recognize that a matter of this magnitude cannot be fully investigated in a week's time."

He resigned from the FBI in 1964 and went to work as executive director of the Justice Department's Office of Law Enforcement Assistance. He later was a founding partner in the Washington law firm of Miller, Cassidy, Larrocca and Lewin, retiring in the mid-1980s.

Courtney Allen Evans was born in Kansas City, Mo., graduated from the University of Detroit and received a law degree in 1940 from the Detroit College of Law, now part of Michigan State University. He joined the FBI immediately after receiving his law degree and worked first on espionage and national security cases, including a spy case in which 33 people were convicted of sending and receiving radio messages from Germany on American arms shipments. He later interrogated German naval officers held at an Arizona prisoner of war camp.

Mr. Evans moved from Arlington County to Florida in 1999.

His wife of 63 years, Betty Evans, died in 1998.

Survivors include a companion, Imogene VanZee of Fort Myers, Fla.; three children, Gregg Evans of Basye, Va., Marty Evans of Crested Butte, Colo., and Susan Kurtz of Stephens City, Va.; a brother; six grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

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