FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, angered by a comment attributed to Adlai E. Stevenson in 1949, secretly engaged in petty reprisals for the next dozen years, according to FBI files released last week.
Stevenson, who later was twice the Democratic nominee for president, had been in 1949 recently elected governor of Illinois and was looking for a new state public safety director when the statement that offended Hoover appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times on Jan. 14, 1949; "The new governor is not satisfied that FBI agents are particularly renowned for their administrative ability."
The FBI files, made public under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that when Hoover received a synopsis of the Sun-Times reports, he wrote, "Keep this in mind" on the bottom and sent copies to various ranking FBI officials.
For the next several months, Hoover referred repeatedly in writing to Stevenson's purported statement and retailated by:
Refusing to discuss with Stevenson plans for upgrading the Illinois State Police. On Stevenson's written request for the discussion, Hoover scrawled, "No. This is the governor who recently was quoted as speaking disparagingly of FBI."
Refusing to suggest names of FBI agents who Stevenson might consider for public safety director with overall responsibility for the State Police. On a memo in which FBI assistant director Hugh Clegg recommended that the FBI "stay out of the picture," Hoover wrote, "Certainly, as long as Stevenson is governor."
Rejecting the Stevenson administration's request that applicants from the upgraded Illinois State Police be accepted for the FBI Academy. Officers from other state police departments were receiving such training at the time.
The files snow that in November 1950, FBI executive conference chairman Clyde A. Tolson, without Hoover's knowledge, approved using the Illinois State Police for certain types of federal investigative work. When Hoover learned of the action, he wrote a memo to Tolson saying, "I think it was a mistake to approve it in view of Gov. Stevenson's attitude toward the FBI."
During Stevenson's campaign for the presidency against Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956, Hoover had little contact with Stevenson. Both Hoover and Stevenson are deceased.
Although the files show that Stevenson frequently made favorable references to Hoover and the FBI during the two presidential campaigns, Hoover still carried his grudge.
After Stevenson became United States ambassador to the United Nations, the files show he recommended a Peruvian police official for admission to the FBI Academy.
The executive conference, composed of 13 top officials who had all been sent Hoover's comments about Stevenson, voted 7 to 6 against considering the unnamed official for admission.
The report on the conference meeting on April 30, 1962, notes that, "Mention was made... of his (Stevenson's) contemptuous and uncooperative attitude."
Newton C. Minow, Stevenson's former law partner, said he doubts that Stevenson ever was aware of Hoover's attitude toward him.