He's gone, and I shall join the ranks of family and friends who will miss him. On March 13, Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, No. 3 man in J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, died of natural causes at the age of 92 at his home in Hilton Head, S.C.
He was a special kind of man. Not only because he was Mr. Hoover's trusted deputy, but because of his many contributions to his community in South Carolina. Deke was special to me as well.
Last year, after a fall on the Newton County rifle range that resulted in a shattered knee, I was in rehab in the hospital in Madison. Mr. DeLoach called my hospital room to inquire about my welfare. Confidant of J. Edgar Hoover, FBI liaison with President Lyndon Johnson, Deke DeLoach had not lost the common touch and was not too busy with his community projects in South Carolina to remember one of his street special agents with whom he once made contact. His call blew my mind! It brought tears to my eyes. It was very special.
I had read his book, "Hoover's FBI," and he had read several of my newspaper columns about our former director, J. Edgar Hoover. Each of us wrote in defense of the FBI against its critics. We shared the belief that the bureau did not get enough credit for some of the things it did to protect American citizens.
In his book, Mr. DeLoach described his personal contacts with J. Edgar Hoover. "When you entered the door ... he would leap up from his desk and come to meet you at the center of the room. He would shake hands, offer you a seat to the right and return to his desk ... where rested a black Bible, gift from his mother."
"He was like a father to me, though an old-fashioned father, the kind who kept his feelings to himself. He didn't go for pats on the arm or back nor was he quick to praise accomplishments."
"While he was in charge, the Bureau was the best law enforcement agency in the world ... due to the standards he maintained.
"Neither Hoover nor Tolson were homosexuals ... there was no evidence of such relationship. There were only rumors spread by enemies ... those who knew Hoover well were unanimous -- J. Edgar Hoover was not homosexual."
Deke DeLoach was in a unique position to know Hoover well, and many times he wrote and spoke of his more than 30 years of FBI service. He corrected many distortions of truth and innuendo. I always appreciated his ability to tell it like it is.
Apparently people in his retirement community appreciated Deke's community service. He was recognized as Citizen of the Month and served as Grand Marshal of the 22nd St. Patrick's Day Parade. Deke's many friends and FBI associates extend their sympathy to his family. As a leader, he taught by example how to walk that tightrope between demands made to law officers by politicians and the limits of the law. His death has brought many of us a new awareness of his life and his accomplishments. Man lives in hopes of becoming a memory. Deke DeLoach succeeded.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.