Obituary: Cartha D. DeLoach / FBI aide, confidant to Hoover
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Cartha D. DeLoach, who as a top aide and confidant to J. Edgar Hoover was the FBI's liaison to the White House and a powerful intermediary between Hoover and President Lyndon B. Johnson during an especially tense political era, died Wednesday on Hilton Head Island, S.C. He was 92.
The death was confirmed by his son Tom.
Mr. DeLoach, who was known as Deke, spent more than 25 years in the FBI, rising to deputy associate director, the No. 3 position, behind only Hoover and the associate director, Clyde Tolson.
Mr. DeLoach had met and worked with Johnson in the 1950s, when Johnson was the Senate majority leader; he and Johnson helped push through legislation guaranteeing Hoover a salary for life. In 1963, shortly after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson called Hoover -- Mr. DeLoach said it was the day after Johnson was sworn in aboard Air Force One -- and requested that Mr. DeLoach be assigned to the White House.
"There was political distrust between the two of them, but they both needed each other," Mr. DeLoach said in a 1991 oral history interview for the Johnson library at the University of Texas. "Mr. Hoover was anxious to retain his job and to stay on as director. He knew that the best way for the FBI to operate fully and to get some cooperation of the White House was for him to be cooperative with President Johnson."
"President Johnson, on the other hand," Mr. DeLoach continued, "knew of Mr. Hoover's image in the United States, particularly among the middle-of-the-road conservative elements, and knew it was vast. He knew of the potential strength of the FBI -- insofar as being of assistance to the government and the White House is concerned. As a result it was a marriage, not altogether of necessity, but it was a definite friendship caused by necessity."
At the time, Mr. DeLoach headed the bureau's crime records division, which was also in charge of public affairs. He was a principal spokesman for the bureau in the investigation of the murders of James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, three civil rights workers who were killed by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in early summer 1964. Their bodies were not discovered until August; it was Mr. DeLoach who called the president to deliver the news.
Johnson called on the bureau to perform tasks that caused friction with other agencies. Fearful of assassination, he added FBI agents to his security detail, infringing on the territory of the Secret Service. And he drew the bureau into the political arena, requesting investigations into political opponents and reporters.
Mr. DeLoach was the main conduit between Johnson and Hoover, and though he acknowledged that he knew the president occasionally asked the FBI to overstep its authority, he said other presidents had done the same, and that when the president of the United States asks for something, it is difficult to say no.
Mr. DeLoach became head of FBI investigations in 1965, leading the bureau's assault on the Klan after the 1964 killings in Mississippi. He supervised the investigation of the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. But he had also been part of the bureau's scrutiny of the civil rights movement and was aware of the bureau's secret surveillance of King in his private life. In Weiner's book, Nicholas Katzenbach, an attorney general under Johnson, said he believed Mr. DeLoach had offered reporters the chance to listen to tapes of King having sex with a woman who was not his wife.
Mr. DeLoach denied that accusation.
Cartha Dekle DeLoach was born on July 20, 1920, in Claxton, Ga., about 50 miles west of Savannah. His father, Cartha Calhoun DeLoach, was a "merchant of some kind," Tom DeLoach said. The father died when Cartha, his only child, was 10 and "left the family in a whole lot of debt," Tom DeLoach said. Young Cartha worked in cotton fields to help pay the bills. He played football at Claxton High School and on a football scholarship went to Stetson University in Florida, where he played quarterback.
First Published March 18, 2013 12:00 am