Hoover, J.Edgar (John Edgar), 1895-1972

Alternative names
Birth 1895-01-01
Death 1972-05-02

Biographical notes:

Director of the FBI.

From the description of Typed letter signed : Washington, D.C., to Arthur William Brown, 1941 Sept. 12. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 269555861

John Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) served from 1924 to 1972 as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As its first director, Hoover molded the FBI into his image of a modern police force. He promoted scientific investigation of crime, the collection and analysis of fingerprints and the hiring and training of professional law enforcement agents. Though much of what Hoover accomplished during his long tenure was exemplary, his use of counterintelligence techniques went beyond the collection of criminal information to include building dossiers on prominent lawmakers and citizens. Over time his rigid morality and anti-Communism dominated the FBI, forcing agents to follow the Hoover line or be drummed out of the agency. By the 1960s Hoover''s power was immense, yet the civil rights and antiwar movements would do much to discredit his tactics. Since his departure the FBI has sought to purge this part of his legacy from the organization. Hoover was born on January 1, 1895 in Washington D.C. After earning two law degrees from Washington University in 1916, Hoover joined the U.S. Department of Justice, a department he would never leave. During World War I and the years immediately after it, Hoover investigated political radicals accused of subversive activities. In 1919 he was appointed chief of the department''s General Intelligence Division (GID), a unit which enabled Hoover to collect thousands of names of alleged subversives. Hoover used these lists to carry out the so-called "Palmer Raids" in 1920. These raids resulted in the arrest and deportation of thousands of aliens. In 1924, Hoover was placed in a post that would evolve into the directorship of the FBI. Hoover took over the Bureau of Investigation (BI), a relatively feeble federal law enforcement agency that lacked resources and professionalism. Hoover reorganized the bureau and began to put in place reforms and innovations that remain a part of the FBI. Hoover believed in forensic criminal investigation techniques, hence the establishment of a national fingerprint depository and an FBI crime laboratory. Most importantly, Hoover dispensed with political appointees for agents. He recruited college graduates and law school graduates, then trained them in a professional academy. Agents who failed to follow Hoover''s standards of profession conduct were dismissed. In 1935 the BI became the FBI and agents for the firs time were allowed to carry weapons and make arrests. During the 1930s, Hoover became adept at self-promotion, turning FBI agents into heroic "G-men" who tracked down heinous killers and bank robbers. Hoover often went to highly publicized raids and assaults to garner more publicity for him and the agency. Hoover directed the hunt for spies and political subversives during World War II and after the war his attention was fixed on Communist subversion. He generally ignored organized crime investigations, preferring to look for political and moral misfits. By the late 1950s he was firmly ensconced as the nation''s number one fighter of Communist. His fascination with the collection of intelligence through wiretapping, surveillance and double agents increased over time. He established the Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to disrupt the U.S. Communist party. He later used this program in the 1960s against antiwar groups and the Black Panther Party. Apart from monitoring activities, Hoover waged an aggressive attack on alleged subversives, using disinformation to disrupt their activities. Hoover believed that knowledge was power, especially in Washington, D.C. As the years went on he used wiretaps, surveillance and informers to build dossiers on many of the most powerful officials in government. If he wanted to intimidate an official, he would threaten to disclose incriminating personal information, which often involved illicit sexual activities. Moreover, he would share this information this his political friends, building a web of connections that allowed him to remain in office almost 50 years. In the 1960s Hoover became fixated on the civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King. Believing that King was politically subversive and a tool of the Communists, he obtained permission from attorney general Robert Kennedy to wiretap King''s phone and bug his hotel rooms. Though he recorded King''s sexual encounters and other personally embarrassing material, Hoover could never document his political suspicions. Similar techniques were used against opponents of the Vietnam War, but in the end Hoover''s quest proved futile. Though Hoover should have retired at age 70, he insisted on continuing in the post. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon, fearful of the information he possessed about them, allowed Hoover to continue to serve. The agency deteriorated as Hoover became more arbitrary in his decisions. Hoover died on May 2, 1972 in Washington, D.C.

From the description of Hoover, J. Edgar (John Edgar), 1895-1972 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10679508

Hoover was director of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation throughout the time of this correspondence.

From the description of Correspondence with Johan Thorsten Sellin, 1931-1961. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 237004108

Longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigaion.

From the description of Letters, 1935-1959. (University of Iowa Libraries). WorldCat record id: 233121111


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