Handwritten at the bottom of the memo is Director Hoover’s verdict: “Tell [name redacted] no + that Wicker should have done his research first before he wrote the hatchet article. H.”
In fact, another bureau memo indicates that Wicker did his due diligence: His secretary phoned the director’s office five weeks in advance of the article’s publication. Hoover declined to speak with him then, too.
ON NOVEMBER 19, 1970, THE TIMES PRINTED A WICKER column titled “Calvin Coolidge’s Revenge,” after Hoover’s latest broadside against his critics. Wicker playfully mocked the director’s hypersensitivity, but noted “this kind of thing stops being funny when it is realized that the F.B.I. is a police agency” with a mountain of personal dossiers on American citizens. He concluded that no president would dare fire him or even simply “tell the old boy to shut up.”
Hoover had the article duplicated for nearly every high-ranking bureau member listed on his interoffice stationery, including a note, in excellent penmanship: “This jerk has mental halitosis,” with his powerful “H” struck beneath.
The column appeared just as Hoover received an update from Special Agent Francisco, with more news from the professional writer. “[Name redacted] informed me yesterday that the publishing of the book had been held up for reasons not known to him, but that now his agent has advised him that the book is being prepared for publication on an unknown date by Random House.”
The publisher identified, they now had leverage. Milton A. Jones, a top aide in the Crime Records division, wrote in a memo, “As you are aware, Random House published Don Whitehead’s 'The F.B.I. Story,' as well as a young reader’s edition of this work, and 'J. Edgar Hoover on Communism,' and has indicated an interest in publishing a book by the Director on the New Left movement.”
Jones also dug up some pertinent information on Wicker at the request of Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s faithful Number Two. The memo included a brief sketch of Wicker’s early life, career, and his relationship with the F.B.I.
“The Bureau has never conducted an investigation concerning Wicker,” the final memo said. “Files do reflect that he was characterized by at least one associate as a 'screwball.' In 1957, he reportedly went over Great Falls in the Potomac River and received considerable publicity.” Wicker, then a correspondent for the Winston-Salem Journal, capsized in his canoe and became one of two people known to have survived the 76-foot plunge and its multiple drops over massive, craggy rocks.
More to the point of Jones’ memo was determining the source of Wicker’s discontent with the F.B.I. It reported that Wicker had taken his son and a group of boys on a tour of bureau headquarters in 1967, and that the journalist had once been invited to a party for a Communist leader held at the Cuban mission to the United Nations (it could not be confirmed whether he attended). The memo catalogued his criticisms of Hoover going back five years, taking offense at a 1968 column that suggested President-elect Nixon could have gotten dovish presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy to join his administration if he had named McCarthy director of the F.B.I. and Hoover ambassador to the United Nations.