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New documents show longtime friendship between J. Edgar Hoover and Paul Harvey

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By Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 23, 2010

For the better part of six decades, Paul Harvey spun tales on the radio in his staccato baritone, entertaining up to 24 million listeners a day with folksy vignettes ending in unexpected twists.

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And now, the rest of the story.

Previously confidential files show that Harvey, who died last February at 90, enjoyed a 20-year friendship with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, often submitting advance copies of his radio script for comment and approval. Harvey wrote Hoover and his deputies regularly. Hoover, in turn, helped Harvey with research, suggested changes in scripts and showered the broadcaster with effusive praise.

But the real twist, suitable for one of Harvey's signature "Rest of the Story" vignettes, is how they met -- on opposite sides of an espionage investigation.

The news is contained in nearly 1,400 pages of FBI files, released to The Washington Post in response to a one-year-old Freedom of Information Act request. The trove supplies new details about how America's No. 1 broadcaster came to befriend America's No. 1 G-man.

The records underscore that the men shared deeply conservative convictions and a hatred of communism. And Harvey's vast audience was of intense interest to the image-obsessed Hoover.

Harvey tried to be of service beyond the FBI as well, writing in 1956 to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who had made a name for himself by hunting down alleged Communists in the federal bureaucracy, with tips about "known Reds" at a Texas Air Force base. A senior FBI official added a handwritten notation to ensure that Harvey's letter would not be distributed outside the bureau's top brass: "No dissemination since identity of Harvey cannot be revealed."

An unlikely start

The Cold War beginning of the Harvey-Hoover bond was an incident from 1951, when Harvey was 32. The son of a police officer from Tulsa, Harvey had already made a name for himself as a radio and TV commentator in Chicago, specializing in human-interest stories and strong opinions delivered in shirt-sleeve English. He routinely hammered officials for being lax on security, in particular those in charge of the Argonne National Laboratory, which conducted nuclear testing 20 miles west of Chicago.

After wrapping up his television broadcast on the evening of Feb. 5, 1951, Harvey set out to prove his case -- and make some career-enhancing headlines for himself.

Harvey guided his black Cadillac Fleetwood toward Argonne, arriving sometime past midnight. He parked in a secluded spot, tossed his overcoat onto the barbed wire topping a fence, then scampered over.

Breaking the law in an act of participatory journalism, Harvey planned to scratch his signature on "objects that could not possibly have been brought to the site by someone else," according to a statement later given by an off-duty guard who accompanied him. The signature would stand as proof that Harvey had easily defeated the lab's security.

But seconds after Harvey hit the ground, security officers spotted him, documents show. Harvey ran until, caught in a Jeep's headlights, he tripped and fell. As guards approached, Harvey sprang to his feet and waved.


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