- Hoover, John (J.) Edgar
- (1895-1972)J. Edgar Hoover was born in Washington, D.C. He earned his law degree from the National University Law School (now George Washington University) night school in 1916 and in 1917 joined the staff of the Alien Enemy Bureau in the Justice Department, where he was active in the campaign against radicals during and after World War I. As head of a newly created Radical Division, Hoover played a leading role in the postwar “Red Scare,” planning and directing the raids in November 1919 and January 1920 that resulted in the arrest and deportation of suspected revolutionaries. In 1921, he became assistant director of the Bureau of Investigation, which later became the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).As director of the Bureau of Investigation and then the FBI from 1924 until his death, Hoover achieved enormous power. During the 1930s, he became a national figure in leading the attack on organized crime and against such infamous criminals as John Dillinger and “Baby Face” Nelson. Hoover was also involved in the investigation and trial of American Nazis after 1938 and German saboteurs in 1942. An adept self-publicist, Hoover encouraged the Public Relations Department to publicize the role of the FBI through the making of films like G-Men (1935) and The FBI Story (1959), a book titled The FBI in Peace and War (1943), and a television series, The FBI, which ran from 1965 to 1974.Hoover played a key role in postwar anticommunist campaigns and provided evidence for the prosecution of leaders of the Communist Party of the United States of America in 1949. He worked closely with the House Un-American Activities Committee and Senator Joseph McCarthy and was also involved in the spy investigations that led to the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953. Hoover authored a book about the communist threat entitled Masters of Deceit in 1958. In the late 1950s, he developed a Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) that was used successively against communist groups, the Ku Klux Klan, and in the 1960s against black organizations. Hoover personally led investigations to undermine the position of the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and even threatened him with blackmail. In the 1970s, Senate investigations produced a report highly critical of Hoover, his failure to tackle organized crime (the Mafia), and many of the FBI’s domestic activities, but such was his power that no president was able to remove him from office. Since his death, he has been the subject of several critical studies, including, among other things, revelations about his sexuality.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.