J. Edgar Hoover
Who was he: There have been very few figures in American history as notorious as J. Edgar Hoover. His professional position as the first director of the FBI and the fact that he was able to maintain the position long past what is allowed by civil service law are still a mystery. Hoover served 50 years as FBI director and was known for being ruthlessly obsessed.
While Hoover loudly claimed that law and order were the real missions of the FBI, there is considerable evidence to suggest that he regularly investigated individuals from particular sets of society, including many politicians, including the Kennedy Brothers. He also maintained political alliances while in office, exampled by presidents Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower.
Hoover was very interested in the African-American community, but his interest wasn't altruistic. Hoover regularly targeted black militants and individuals for criminal activity and has been rumored to have been an instigator in the deaths of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and both John and Robert Kennedy. He was also known to maintain secret files on many artists and musicians. Hoover regularly opened individual investigations based on his personal assumptions, with very little in the way of reasonable suspicion.
Hoover effectively acted as a social engineer using and abusing his power as FBI director, often by subtle blackmail and the agency's secrecy code. He maintained a dedicated insulation investigation team to enact his operation. His list of allies and enemies is extensive and well known.
They are the undercurrents of all of his perceptive public activity, which history has shown to be a defense mechanism for his professional protection. These relationships, along with his obsessive drive and known facts of his childhood, have suggested that he suffered from mental illness, as did his biological father.
Since his death there has been increasing written speculation about Hoover, including books focusing on an apparent life-long sexual relationship with his second-in-command, his love of horse-racing (which may have influenced his decision to deny the mafia existed) and his possible involvement in the death of President John F. Kennedy.
Hoover's legacy ultimately is one of rabid destruction. He greatly exacerbated America's authoritarian and dictatorial trends, made it increasingly impossible for politicians to function in Washington without fear and some would say that the current totalitarian disaster that characterizes America today began with Hoover's destructive personality and actions.
Background: J. Edgar Hoover's early life is as mysterious as his professional career. He was born in January of 1895 in southern Mississippi but was relocated to Washington, DC at an early age. What is considered to be J. Edgar in a family photograph is actually his older brother by 14 years, Dickerson. The time period of the photo is inconsistent with the birth records. Also of note is the fact that many of his personal documents appear to have been altered. The alterations, which he ordered secretly as FBI director, are rumored to have been a result of his obsession with a family secret of connection to an African-American bloodline.
Hoover was actually raised by his aunt in Washington, who he thought was his mother for years. Her husband merely tolerated the young J. Edgar. Hoover lived with his aunt until the day that she died, as the bureau is located in the District of Columbia. He used the same dedication professionally that he had developed in his relationship with his perceived mother. He was highly ambitious, having received an appointment to the then General Intelligence Division of the Justice Department Bureau of Investigation in 1917, after receiving his law degree from George Washington University. The position was thought to have been attained through his aunt and her brother's political connections. He worked as a clerk at the Library of Congress while going to college.
Hoover's first assignment with the bureau was to investigate militant and radical groups in the United States. He was personally focused initially on "negro agitators" and Communists. Hoover was largely involved in the investigations that resulted in the deportation of over 10,000 individuals during the "Palmer Raids" of 1919. He was named Director when the Federal Bureau of Investigation was established in the 1920s. By the mid 1930s, he had arrested several organized crime figures such as John Dillinger, making him a national hero of sorts. Hoover chose to ignore notorious gangster Meyer Lansky because it is largely rumored that Lansky had possession of photographs of Hoover exposing him as a homosexual.
The same perception would continue during the Eisenhower administration and the infamous McCarthy anti-communist hearings of the era. The 1960s was the fall from grace for Hoover, as he was directly involved in all communications and investigations in the series of political assassinations occurring in era. Hoover was actually the person who notified Vice President Lyndon Johnson, one of his staunchest allies in government, of the death of John Kennedy. Johnson would say after Hoover's death in 1972 that the message was "delivered with some delight."
J. Edgar Hoover is largely considered to be one of the most powerful public officials of the 20th century by virtue of his legacy, secrecy and length of service as FBI director. His subversive and unethical investigative tactics are still largely reflected in both the FBI and CIA operational process.