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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner Building

History has few surprises, but when they turn up, they are normally shocking: Who would have thought that the former Soviet Union would disappear in the middle of the night without firing one bullet in self defense? Or who would have predicted just 10 years ago that America would elect a black president? Or who would have thought that Mark Zuckerberg and a couple of college friends would have created a social networking company, Facebook, which in five years would have made him a billionaire? Who could have predicted that history would unfold this way? Another historical surprise that has been troubling me for years and should trouble you is that the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation still has the name of J. Edgar Hoover tattooed on its front door.

In an effort to rid the country of this stain, I have written a letter to my Federal Representatives – Representative Donna Edwards, Senator Ben Cardin, and Senator Barbara Mikulski – requesting that they adopt an amendment that would rename the building. Senator Harry Reid attempted to fix this in 2001, but he couldn’t get the support of the Congress to pass the amendment. Could you imagine Jews acquiescing to the notion that the headquarters of the highest law enforcement organization in Germany was named the “Joseph Goebbels Building” or the “Joseph Mengele Building” or, God forbid, the “Adolf Hitler Building”? I couldn’t.

For your information, I have enclosed a duplicate of the letter to Edwards, and I’d like to encourage you to feel free to begin your own campaign or follow-up my letters with your own support.

January 12, 2011

Dear Representative Edwards:

As the country is clinging to hope for a full recovery for your colleague, Representative Gabrielle Giffords, I am reminded of another dark era of America’s past when random acts of hate were commonplace on the black citizens of our country. In hindsight, descendants of the men who perpetrated these acts of violence struggle to comprehend their parents’ and grandparents’ motives for the evil that was thrust upon the black citizens of the South. And collectively as a nation, it is difficult to understand the pathology of those who would take the life of another human being for no apparent reason.

I hesitate using the national tragedy as the starting point of my letter to you, but please be aware that my prayers are with Representative Giffords, her family and all of those who she has touched during her tenure as a public servant. The outpouring of condolences for those who were killed and expressions of support from the entire country for those who were injured helps to preserve my faith in America; the home of the brave and the land of the free. Americans from all walks of life are expressing their outrage for the senseless shootings in Arizona. However, I recall with a fair amount of disappointment the lack of such outpouring of sentiment during the height of the Civil Rights Struggle during the 1960s when men, women and children suffered inhumanely while many, including those in law enforcement watched with indifference.

This brings me to the purpose of my letter: I am stunned that in 2011 J. Edgar Hoover’s name is still affixed to the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Despite the fact that he served as its director for nearly 50 years, his legacy as an opponent of the reasonable Civil Rights’ demands for equality should disqualify his name from donning any building in our Nation’s Capital. As Senator Harry Reid said in 2001 while sponsoring an amendment to strip Hoover’s name from the building, “J. Edgar Hoover’s name on the FBI Building is a stain on the building,” and I agree with that sentiment, as I suspect that you do as well. Therefore, I am requesting that you adopt an amendment with the Congressional Senators of Maryland to rename the FBI Building, the “Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner Building.”

It is time that we come to grips with the legacy of hate and indifference that continues to litter our country’s past; even if those legacies are painful to discuss. To be sure, many steps have been made in the right direction to correct America’s past injustices to its citizens of color. To rename the top law enforcement complex after three men who lost their lives engaging in the battle that J. Edgar Hoover failed to fight, would be a noble objective and a fitting tribute to the spirit of dissent that birthed this nation.

In closing, I want to thank you in advance for your support, and as a citizen of this great nation, I am willing to participate in any way that you deem appropriate to have this amendment passed.


David R. Tolson

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