John Edgar Hoover

1895- 1972

Director of the FBI




Born in Washington, DC, on January 1, 1895 J. Edgar Hoover supported his family after the premature death of his father. After taking evening classes at George Washington University, he graduated with a degree in law in 1917, and joined the US Department of Justice.

From 1919 to 1921, he worked on the Palmer Raids, a series of roundups in American cities which resulted in the arrest of thousands of citizens and deportation of hundreds of aliens. These individuals were alleged to be communists, socialists, anarchists and radicals, and were charged with attempting to overthrow the government by force and violence.

In 1924, he was appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation, which was renamed the FBI in 1935. When Hoover took over, he reduced much of the inefficiency and scandal that was known to exist in the agency.

He eliminated political appointments, recruited a better staff, established centralized fingerprint and statistical files, began a crime laboratory and introduced a training academy. In the early 1930's, Hoover began a war on "public enemies" to track down high-profile criminals like John Dillinger, "Pretty Boy" Floyd and "Baby Face" Nelson.

While he was unsuccessful in weakening organized crime, his campaign worked well in terms of public relations. During World War II, Hoover was in charge of protecting the United States from enemy agents.

As the Cold War developed, Hoover pursued the organizations and individuals which he believed to be communist with the vigor he had used in the Palmer Raids.

Hoover was a highly controversial figure. He served under eight Presidents and secured a tremendous degree of personal power. His obsessive pursuit of left-wing and other allegedly "dangerous" organizations caused many to accuse him of violating civil rights and prosecuting personal vendettas