Best known for: The first Director of the FBI he headed up the Bureau of Investigation and then the FBI for 48 years.
Where was J. Edgar Hoover born?
John Edgar Hoover was born in Washington, D.C. on January 1, 1895. His father worked as a printer for the government and his mother's family had a history of government service. As a child, his mother called him by his middle name Edgar. Young Edgar was a driven student. When he developed a stutter at the age of five, he worked relentlessly to conquer the stutter. By the time he was a senior in high school he was a part of the school debate team.
Edgar graduated from George Washington University with a law degree in 1916. He had worked for the Library of Congress while attending school where he learned how to organize documents. He liked working for the government and, after passing the bar exam, he went to work for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Bureau of Investigation
In 1919, Hoover joined the Bureau of Investigation. At the Bureau, Hoover became an expert on communism. He tracked people that he believed were involved in communism in order to keep the movement from spreading in the United States. As part of the "Red Scare", Hoover arrested thousands of people and had many deported from the United States. In 1924, Hoover was named the Director of the Bureau of Investigation.
In the early 1930s, organized crime and bank robbers had become a serious problem across the country. Many gangsters had become famous like John Dillinger, Al Capone, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and "Machine Gun" Kelly. Hoover put together a team to track down and capture these criminals. These men became known as "G-Men." As many of these gangsters were captured, Hoover and his men became heroes.
Forming the FBI
In 1935, the Bureau of Investigation was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the FBI. Hoover maintained his position as director of the division. That same year the FBI National Academy was formed to train officers to become investigators. By the late 1930s, Hoover and his men had arrested most of the famous criminals of the time.
Anti-Communism and Subversives
During World War II and after, Hoover became concerned about subversives and communists. Subversives were people who Hoover thought were against the government. He wanted to stop anyone who might try to overthrow the government or supported communism. Hoover started a number of internal projects that were designed to infiltrate and discredit political organizations that he didn't agree with. In some cases, his methods were illegal including planting false evidence, harassment, and violence.
Despite his illegal methods at fighting political groups, Hoover remained in power. He did this through secret files he kept on many powerful people in the government. He put wire taps on people's phones, read their mail, and kept close watch on their relatives. He then used this information to stay in power. He kept secret files on senators, presidents, and famous people like Martin Luther King, Jr.
Death and Legacy
Hoover remained the director of the FBI until he died from a heart attack in 1972. Many presidents had wanted to replace him, but were scared to because he had become so powerful in Washington. He is known for building the FBI into a strong crime-fighting organization, but also for violating people's civil rights and abusing his powerful position.
Interesting Facts About J. Edgar Hoover
His birth certificate was not filed until he was 43 years old in 1938.
At the age of fourteen he went to see the Wright Brothers fly their new airplane. He even met Orville Wright.
Hoover played a major role in helping Senator Joseph McCarthy expose potential communists during the Second Red Scare.
He was awarded an honorary knighthood by King George VI of the United Kingdom.
The FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. is named the J. Edgar Hoover Building.