Mark Felt's life in the FBI was shrouded in secrecy until last year when he came forward and admitted that he was "Deep Throat," the man behind President Nixon's demise. Felt leaked the details of the Watergate scandal to Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, but kept his identity hidden. He provides more details of his life in a new book co-written with John O'Connor. Read excerpt below.
In the spring of 1954 I received the invitation I had awaited for a dozen years. I was shown into an imposing conference room in the heart of the U.S. Justice Department headquarters in Washington. Portraits and other artwork adorned the fifty-foot walls. The center of the room was occupied by a massive table and beyond it stood a ceremonial executive desk. My destination was a spartan private office in the rear, dominated by a well-worn desk piled high with papers and files. As my host rose to greet me, I sensed his great power. After a long apprenticeship in the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- all of it spent preparing for this moment -- I was about to have my first private meeting with J. Edgar Hoover.
I had seen Hoover face-to-face once before and experienced his intimidating presence. During the final week of my basic FBI training in 1942, a reception was held for the young agents of Class 15 at the Mayflower Hotel inWashington. Before the director arrived, we were carefully instructed how to handle ourselves. We must not crowd around him.We were to form a line and march by to shake his hand, with no unnecessary conversation. Our handshake had to be firm but not too firm. Hoover disliked a "bone crusher" as well as a limp grip. He detested moist palms, and we were told to have a dry handkerchief ready to wipe off any sweat before the crucial handclasp.
Hoover arrived at precisely 6:30 P.M. He strode into the room briskly with Clyde Tolson, associate director, trailing, as always, a few steps behind. Hoover was vigorous and alert, dignified but friendly, and in complete control. He was forty-seven years old and at the peak of his physical capacities. Perhaps more than anything else, I noticed his immaculate appearance. He looked as if he had shaved, showered, and put on a freshly pressed suit for the occasion. Through the years, I never saw him looking otherwise.
The handshaking ceremony took less than fifteen minutes. Each of us received a quick, tight smile from the director. As the last member of the class passed by, Tolson, who had scrutinized each new agent, approached the director and whispered in his ear. A few seconds later, they were on their way out of the room, Tolson again a few steps behind.
Now, in 1954, I was one-on-one with the director, trying to keep my palms warm and dry. Hoover held out his hand and said, "It's nice to see you, Mr. Felt." His square face was accentuated by a jutting jaw. His piercing eyes bore into mine, sizing me up. He was stocky but not fat. He carried himself with a military bearing that made him appear taller than his 5 feet 10. His voice was strong and cultivated, with a trace of southern accent. His clothes were as immaculate as ever. I particularly remember his bright necktie.