J. Edgar Hoover

John Edgar Hoover (January 1, 1895 – May 2, 1972) was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States and an American law enforcement administrator. He was appointed as the director of the Bureau of Investigation – the FBI's predecessor – in 1924 and was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director for over 47 years until his death in 1972 at the age of 77. Hoover has been credited with building the FBI into a larger crime-fighting agency than it was at its inception and with instituting a number of modernizations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories.

Later in life and after his death, Hoover became a controversial figure as evidence of his secretive abuses of power began to surface. He was found to have exceeded the jurisdiction of the FBI,[2] and to have used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders,[3] and to collect evidence using illegal methods.[4] Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten others, even sitting presidents of the United States.[5]

J. Edgar Hoover
1st Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
In office
May 10, 1924 – May 2, 1972
Acting: May 10, 1924 – December 10, 1924
DeputyClyde Tolson
Preceded byWilliam J. Burns
Succeeded byClarence M. Kelley
Personal details
John Edgar Hoover

January 1, 1895
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedMay 2, 1972 (aged 77)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeCongressional Cemetery
Political partyRepublican[1]
EducationGeorge Washington University (LLB, LLM)
J. Edgar Hoover's signature
* Hoover began his term under the title "Director of the Bureau of Investigation" on May 10, 1924

Early life and education

Hoovers Father
Dickerson Naylor Hoover

John Edgar Hoover was born on New Year's Day 1895 in Washington, D.C., to Anna Marie (née Scheitlin; 1860–1938), who was of Swiss-German descent, and Dickerson Naylor Hoover Sr. (1856–1921), chief of the printing division of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, formerly a plate maker for the same organization.[6] Dickerson Hoover was of English and German ancestry. Hoover's maternal great-uncle, John Hitz, was a Swiss honorary consul general to the United States.[7] Among his family, he was the closest to his mother, who was their moral guide and disciplinarian.[8]

Hoover was born in a house on the present site of Capitol Hill United Methodist Church, located on Seward Square near Eastern Market in Washington's Capitol Hill neighborhood.[9] A stained glass window in the church is dedicated to him. Hoover did not have a birth certificate filed upon his birth, although it was required in 1895 in Washington. Two of his siblings did have certificates, but Hoover's was not filed until 1938 when he was 43.[7]

Hoover lived in Washington, D.C. his entire life. He attended Central High School, where he sang in the school choir, participated in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program, and competed on the debate team.[10] During debates, he argued against women getting the right to vote and against the abolition of the death penalty.[11] The school newspaper applauded his "cool, relentless logic."[12] Hoover stuttered as a boy, which he overcame by teaching himself to talk quickly—a style that he carried through his adult career. He eventually spoke with such ferocious speed that stenographers had a hard time following him.[13]

Hoover was 18 years old when he accepted his first job, an entry-level position as messenger in the orders department, at the Library of Congress. The library was a half mile from his house. The experience shaped both Hoover and the creation of the FBI profiles; as Hoover noted in a 1951 letter: "This job ... trained me in the value of collating material. It gave me an excellent foundation for my work in the FBI where it has been necessary to collate information and evidence."[14]

Hoover obtained a Bachelor of Laws[15] from The George Washington University Law School in 1916, where he was a member of the Alpha Nu Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order, and an LL.M. in 1917 from the same university.[16][17] While a law student, Hoover became interested in the career of Anthony Comstock, the New York City U.S. Postal Inspector, who waged prolonged campaigns against fraud, vice, pornography, and birth control.[12]

Department of Justice

J. Edgar Hoover cph.3b10753
Hoover in 1932

Immediately after getting his LL.M. degree, Hoover was hired by the Justice Department to work in the War Emergency Division.[18] He accepted the clerkship on July 27, 1917, when he was just 22 years old. The job paid $990 a year ($19,400 in 2019) and was exempt from the draft.[18]

In 1920, Edgar Hoover was initiated[19] at D.C.'s Federal Lodge No. 1 in Washington D.C., becoming a Master Mason[20][21] by age 25 and a 33rd Degree Inspector General Honorary in 1955.[22]

War Emergency Division

He soon became the head of the Division's Alien Enemy Bureau, authorized by President Woodrow Wilson at the beginning of World War I to arrest and jail allegedly disloyal foreigners without trial.[12] He received additional authority from the 1917 Espionage Act. Out of a list of 1,400 suspicious Germans living in the U.S., the Bureau arrested 98 and designated 1,172 as arrestable.[23]

Bureau of Investigation

Head of the Radical Division

In August 1919, the 24-year-old Hoover became head of the Bureau of Investigation's new General Intelligence Division, also known as the Radical Division because its goal was to monitor and disrupt the work of domestic radicals.[23] America's First Red Scare was beginning, and one of Hoover's first assignments was to carry out the Palmer Raids.[24]

Hoover and his chosen assistant, George Ruch,[25] monitored a variety of U.S. radicals with the intent to punish, arrest, or deport those whose politics they decided were dangerous. Targets during this period included Marcus Garvey;[26] Rose Pastor Stokes and Cyril Briggs;[27] Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman;[28] and future Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter, who, Hoover maintained, was "the most dangerous man in the United States."[29]

Head of the Bureau of Investigation

In 1921, Hoover rose in the Bureau of Investigation to deputy head and, in 1924, the Attorney General made him the acting director. On May 10, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Hoover as the fifth Director of the Bureau of Investigation, partly in response to allegations that the prior director, William J. Burns, was involved in the Teapot Dome scandal.[30][31] When Hoover took over the Bureau of Investigation, it had approximately 650 employees, including 441 Special Agents.[32] Hoover fired all female agents and banned the future hiring of them.[33]

Early leadership

Director Hoover 1940 Office
Hoover in 1940

Hoover was sometimes unpredictable in his leadership. He frequently fired Bureau agents, singling out those he thought "looked stupid like truck drivers," or whom he considered "pinheads."[34] He also relocated agents who had displeased him to career-ending assignments and locations. Melvin Purvis was a prime example: Purvis was one of the most effective agents in capturing and breaking up 1930s gangs, and it is alleged that Hoover maneuvered him out of the Bureau because he was envious of the substantial public recognition Purvis received.[35]

Hoover often praised local law-enforcement officers around the country, and built up a national network of supporters and admirers in the process. One whom he often commended for particular effectiveness was the conservative sheriff of Caddo Parish, Louisiana, J. Howell Flournoy.[36]

Depression-era gangsters

In the early 1930s, criminal gangs carried out large numbers of bank robberies in the Midwest. They used their superior firepower and fast getaway cars to elude local law enforcement agencies and avoid arrest. Many of these criminals frequently made newspaper headlines across the United States, particularly John Dillinger, who became famous for leaping over bank cages, and repeatedly escaping from jails and police traps. The gangsters enjoyed a level of sympathy in the Midwest, as banks and bankers were widely seen as oppressors of common people during the Great Depression.

The robbers operated across state lines, and Hoover pressed to have their crimes recognized as federal offenses so that he and his men would have the authority to pursue them and get the credit for capturing them. Initially, the Bureau suffered some embarrassing foul-ups, in particular with Dillinger and his conspirators. A raid on a summer lodge in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, called "Little Bohemia," left a Bureau agent and a civilian bystander dead and others wounded; all the gangsters escaped.

Video clips of famous Depression Era gangsters, including Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and Machine Gun Kelly.

Hoover realized that his job was then on the line, and he pulled out all stops to capture the culprits. In late July 1934, Special Agent Melvin Purvis, the Director of Operations in the Chicago office, received a tip on Dillinger's whereabouts that paid off when Dillinger was located, ambushed, and killed by Bureau agents outside the Biograph Theater.[37]

Hoover was credited with several highly publicized captures or shootings of outlaws and bank robbers, even though he was not present at the events. These included those of Machine Gun Kelly in 1933, of Dillinger in 1934, and of Alvin Karpis in 1936, which led to the Bureau's powers being broadened.

In 1935, the Bureau of Investigation was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In 1939, the FBI became pre-eminent in the field of domestic intelligence, thanks in large part to changes made by Hoover, such as expanding and combining fingerprint files in the Identification Division, to compile the largest collection of fingerprints to date,[38][39] and Hoover's help to expand the FBI's recruitment and create the FBI Laboratory, a division established in 1932 to examine and analyze evidence found by the FBI.

American Mafia

During the 1930s Hoover persistently denied the existence of organized crime, even while there were numerous shootings as a result of Mafia control of and competition over the Prohibition-created black-market.[40] Gangster Frank Costello helped encourage this view by feeding Hoover tips on sure winners through their mutual friend, gossip columnist Walter Winchell.[41] (Hoover had a reputation as "an inveterate horseplayer" known to send Special Agents to place $100 bets for him.)[41] Hoover said the Bureau had "much more important functions" than arresting bookmakers and gamblers.[41]

While Hoover had fought bank-robbing gangsters in the 1930s, anti-communism was a bigger focus for him after World War II, as the Cold War developed. During the 1940s through mid-1950s, he seemed to ignore organized crime of the type that ran vice rackets such as drugs, prostitution, and extortion. He denied that any Mafia operated in the U.S. In the 1950s, evidence of Hoover's unwillingness to focus FBI resources on the Mafia became grist for the media and his many detractors.

The Apalachin Meeting of late 1957 embarrassed the FBI by proving on newspaper front pages that a nationwide Mafia syndicate thrived unimpeded by the nation's "top cops." Hoover immediately changed tack, and during the next five years, the FBI investigated organized crime heavily. Its concentration on the topic fluctuated in subsequent decades, but it never again merely ignored this category of crime.

Investigation of subversion and radicals

Hoover was concerned about what he claimed was subversion, and under his leadership, the FBI investigated tens of thousands of suspected subversives and radicals. According to critics, Hoover tended to exaggerate the dangers of these alleged subversives and many times overstepped his bounds in his pursuit of eliminating that perceived threat.[42]

Lennon FBI Files Before HQ-11p1
Hoover investigated ex-Beatle John Lennon by putting the singer under surveillance, and Hoover wrote this letter to Richard Kleindienst, the US Attorney General in 1972. A 25-year battle by historian Jon Wiener under the Freedom of Information Act eventually resulted in the release of documents like this one.

William G. Hundley, a Justice Department prosecutor, said Hoover may have inadvertently kept alive the concern over communist infiltration into the government, quipping that Hoover's "informants were nearly the only ones that paid the party dues."[43]

Florida and Long Island U-boat landings

The FBI investigated rings of German saboteurs and spies starting in the late 1930s, and had primary responsibility for counterespionage. The first arrests of German agents were made in 1938 and continued throughout World War II.[44] In the Quirin affair, during World War II, German U-boats set two small groups of Nazi agents ashore in Florida and Long Island to cause acts of sabotage within the country. The two teams were apprehended after one of the men contacted the FBI and told them everything. He was also charged and convicted.[45]

Illegal wire-tapping

During this time period President Roosevelt, out of concern over Nazi agents in the United States, gave "qualified permission" to wiretap persons "suspected ... [of] subversive activities". He went on to add, in 1941, that the United States Attorney General had to be informed of its use in each case.[46]

The Attorney General Robert H. Jackson left it to Hoover to decide how and when to use wiretaps, as he found the "whole business" distasteful. Jackson's successor at the post of Attorney General, Francis Biddle, did turn down Hoover's requests on occasion.[47]

Concealed espionage discoveries

The FBI participated in the Venona Project, a pre-World War II joint project with the British to eavesdrop on Soviet spies in the UK and the United States. They did not initially realize that espionage was being committed, but the Soviet's multiple use of one-time pad ciphers (which with single use are unbreakable) created redundancies that allowed some intercepts to be decoded. These established that espionage was being carried out.

Hoover kept the intercepts – America's greatest counterintelligence secret – in a locked safe in his office. He chose to not inform President Truman, Attorney General J. Howard McGrath, or Secretaries of State Dean Acheson and General George Marshall while they held office. He informed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the Venona Project in 1952.[48][49]

Plans for suspending habeas corpus

In 1946 Attorney General Tom C. Clark authorized Hoover to compile a list of potentially disloyal Americans who might be detained during a wartime national emergency. In 1950, at the outbreak of the Korean War, Hoover submitted to President Truman a plan to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and detain 12,000 Americans suspected of disloyalty. Truman did not act on the plan.[50]

COINTELPRO and the 1950s

Hoover photographed in 1959

In 1956, Hoover was becoming increasingly frustrated by U.S. Supreme Court decisions that limited the Justice Department's ability to prosecute people for their political opinions, most notably communists. Some of his aides reported that he purposely exaggerated the threat of communism to "ensure financial and public support for the FBI."[51] At this time he formalized a covert "dirty tricks" program under the name COINTELPRO.[52] COINTELPRO was first used to disrupt the Communist Party USA, where Hoover went after targets that ranged from suspected everyday spies to larger celebrity figures such as Charlie Chaplin that he saw as spreading Communist Party propaganda.[53]

COINTELPRO's methods included infiltration, burglaries, illegal wiretaps, planting forged documents, and spreading false rumors about key members of target organizations.[54] Some authors have charged that COINTELPRO methods also included inciting violence and arranging murders.[55][56]

This program remained in place until it was exposed to the public in 1971, after the burglary by a group of eight activists of many internal documents from an office in Media, Pennsylvania, and COINTELPRO became the cause of some of the harshest criticism of Hoover and the FBI. COINTELPRO's activities were investigated in 1975 by the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, called the "Church Committee" after its chairman, Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho); the committee declared COINTELPRO's activities were illegal and contrary to the Constitution.[57]

Hoover amassed significant power by collecting files containing large amounts of compromising and potentially embarrassing information on many powerful people, especially politicians. According to Laurence Silberman, appointed Deputy Attorney General in early 1974, FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley thought such files either did not exist or had been destroyed. After The Washington Post broke a story in January 1975, Kelley searched and found them in his outer office. The House Judiciary Committee then demanded that Silberman testify about them.

Reaction to civil rights groups

Meeting on Detriot riots Oval Office
24 July 1967. President Lyndon B. Johnson (seated, foreground) confers with (background L-R): Marvin Watson, J. Edgar Hoover, Sec. Robert McNamara, Gen. Harold Keith Johnson, Joe Califano, Sec. of the Army Stanley Rogers Resor, on responding to the Detroit riots

In 1956, several years before he targeted King, Hoover had a public showdown with T. R. M. Howard, a civil rights leader from Mound Bayou, Mississippi. During a national speaking tour, Howard had criticized the FBI's failure to thoroughly investigate the racially motivated murders of George W. Lee, Lamar Smith, and Emmett Till. Hoover wrote an open letter to the press singling out these statements as "irresponsible."[58]

In 1960s, Hoover's FBI monitored John Lennon and Malcolm X.[59] The COINTELPRO tactics were later extended to organizations such as the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and others. Hoover's moves against people who maintained contacts with subversive elements, some of whom were members of the civil rights movement, also led to accusations of trying to undermine their reputations.[60]

The treatment of Martin Luther King, Jr. and actress Jean Seberg are two examples: Jacqueline Kennedy recalled that Hoover told President John F. Kennedy that King tried to arrange a sex party while in the capital for the March on Washington and told Robert Kennedy that King made derogatory comments during the President's funeral.[61] Under Hoover's leadership, the F.B.I. sent an anonymous blackmail letter to King in 1964, urging him to commit suicide.[62]

LBJ Civil Rights Act crowd
President Lyndon B. Johnson at the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. White House East Room. People watching include Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Senate Minority Leader Everett M. Dirksen, Senator Hubert Humphrey, First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover, Speaker of the House John McCormack. Television cameras are broadcasting the ceremony.

King aide Andrew Young later claimed in a 2013 interview with the Academy of Achievement that the main source of tension between the SCLC and FBI was the government agency's lack of black agents, and that both parties were willing to cooperate with each other by the time the Selma to Montgomery marches had taken place.[63]

In one particularly controversial 1965 incident, white civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo was murdered by Ku Klux Klansmen, who gave chase and fired shots into her car after noticing that her passenger was a young black man; one of the Klansmen was Gary Thomas Rowe, an acknowledged FBI informant.[64][65] The FBI spread rumors that Liuzzo was a member of the Communist Party and had abandoned her children to have sexual relationships with African Americans involved in the civil rights movement.[66][67] FBI records show that J. Edgar Hoover personally communicated these insinuations to President Johnson.[68][69]

Late career and death

One of his biographers, Kenneth Ackerman, wrote that the allegation that Hoover's secret files kept presidents from firing him is "a myth."[70] However, Richard Nixon was recorded in 1971 stating that one of the reasons he did not fire Hoover was that he was afraid of Hoover's reprisals against him.[71] Similarly, Presidents Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy considered dismissing Hoover as FBI Director, but ultimately concluded that the political cost of doing so would be too great.[72]

In 1964, Hoover's FBI investigated Jack Valenti, a special assistant and confidant of President Lyndon Johnson. Despite Valenti's two-year marriage to Johnson's personal secretary, the investigation focused on rumors that he was having a gay relationship with a commercial photographer friend.[73]

Hoover personally directed the FBI investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 1964, just days before Hoover testified in the earliest stages of the Warren Commission hearings, President Lyndon B. Johnson waived the then-mandatory U.S. Government Service Retirement Age of 70, allowing Hoover to remain the FBI Director "for an indefinite period of time."[74] The House Select Committee on Assassinations issued a report in 1979 critical of the performance by the FBI, the Warren Commission, and other agencies. The report criticized the FBI's (Hoover's) reluctance to thoroughly investigate the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the President.[75]

When Richard Nixon took office in January 1969, Hoover had just turned 74. There was a growing sentiment in Washington, D.C., that the aging FBI chief needed to go, but Hoover's power and friends in Congress remained too strong for him to be forced into retirement.[76]

Hoover remained director of the FBI until he died of a heart attack in his Washington home, on May 2, 1972.[77] Operational command of the Bureau passed to Associate Director Clyde Tolson. On May 3, 1972, Nixon appointed L. Patrick Gray – a Justice Department official with no FBI experience – as Acting Director of the FBI, with W. Mark Felt becoming Associate Director.[78]

Hoover's body lay in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol,[79] where Chief Justice Warren Burger eulogized him.[80] Hoover is the only civil servant to have lain in state.[81] President Nixon delivered another eulogy at the funeral service in the National Presbyterian Church, and called Hoover "one of the Giants, [whose] long life brimmed over with magnificent achievement and dedicated service to this country which he loved so well".[82] Hoover was buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., next to the graves of his parents and a sister who died in infancy.[83]


Fbi headquarters
FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC

Biographer Kenneth D. Ackerman summarizes Hoover's legacy thus:

For better or worse, he built the FBI into a modern, national organization stressing professionalism and scientific crime-fighting. For most of his life, Americans considered him a hero. He made the G-Man brand so popular that, at its height, it was harder to become an FBI agent than to be accepted into an Ivy League college.[70]

Hoover worked to groom the image of the FBI in American media; he was a consultant to Warner Brothers for a theatrical film about the FBI, The FBI Story (1959), and in 1965 on Warner's long-running spin-off television series, The F.B.I. Hoover personally made sure Warner portrayed the FBI more favorably than other crime dramas of the times.

In 1979 there was a large increase in conflict in the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) under Senator Richard Schweiker, which had re-opened the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy and reported that Hoover's FBI failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the President. The HSCA further reported that Hoover's FBI was deficient in its sharing of information with other agencies and departments.[84]

U.S. President Harry S Truman said that Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force:

... we want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.[85]

Because Hoover's actions came to be seen as abuses of power, FBI directors are now limited to one 10-year term,[86] subject to extension by the United States Senate.[87]

The FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC is named the J. Edgar Hoover Building, after Hoover. Because of the controversial nature of Hoover's legacy, there have been periodic proposals to rename it by legislation proposed by both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. The first such proposal came just two months after the building's inauguration. On December 12, 1979, Gilbert Gude – a Republican congressman from Maryland – introduced H.R. 11137, which would have changed the name of the edifice from the "J. Edgar Hoover F.B.I. Building" to simply the "F.B.I. Building."[88][89] However, that bill never made it out of committee, nor did two subsequent attempts by Gude fare any better.[88] Another notable attempt came in 1993, when Senator Howard Metzenbaum pushed for a name change following a new report about Hoover's ordered "loyalty investigation" of future Senator Quentin Burdick.[90] In 1998, Senator Harry Reid sponsored an amendment to strip Hoover's name from the building, stating that "J. Edgar Hoover's name on the FBI building is a stain on the building."[91] The Senate did not adopt the amendment.[91]

Hoover's practice of violating civil liberties for the sake of national security has been questioned in reference to recent national surveillance programs. An example is a lecture titled Civil Liberties and National Security: Did Hoover Get it Right?, given at The Institute of World Politics on April 21, 2015.[92]

Private life

Rebozo Hoover Nixon
Hoover with Bebe Rebozo (left) and Richard Nixon. The three men relax before dinner, Key Biscayne, Florida, December 1971.


Hoover received his first dog from his parents when he was a child, after which he was never without one. He owned many throughout his lifetime and became an aficionado especially knowledgeable in fine breeding of pedigrees, particularly Cairn Terriers and Beagles. He gave many dogs to notable people, such as Presidents Herbert Hoover (no relation) and Lyndon B. Johnson,[93] and buried seven canine pets, including a Cairn Terrier named Spee De Bozo, at Aspen Hill Memorial Park, in Silver Spring, Maryland.[94]


From the 1940s, rumors circulated that Hoover, who was still living with his mother in his early 40s, was homosexual.[95] The historians John Stuart Cox and Athan G. Theoharis speculated that Clyde Tolson, who became an assistant director to Hoover in his mid 40s, was a homosexual lover to Hoover (and became his primary heir) until his death.[96] Hoover reportedly hunted down and threatened anyone who made insinuations about his sexuality.[97] Truman Capote, who enjoyed repeating salacious rumors about Hoover, once remarked that he was more interested in making Hoover angry than determining whether the rumors were true.[72]

Some associates and scholars dismiss rumors about Hoover's sexuality, and rumors about his relationship with Tolson in particular, as unlikely,[98][99][100] while others have described them as probable or even "confirmed".[101][102] Still other scholars have reported the rumors without expressing an opinion.[103][104]

Cox and Theoharis concluded that "the strange likelihood is that Hoover never knew sexual desire at all."[100]

Hoover and Tolson

Hoover & Tolson
Hoover and his assistant Clyde Tolson sitting in beach lounge chairs, c. 1939

Hoover described Tolson as his alter ego: the men worked closely together during the day and, both single, frequently took meals, went to night clubs, and vacationed together.[96] This closeness between the two men is often cited as evidence that they were lovers. Some FBI employees who knew them, such as W. Mark Felt, say the relationship was "brotherly", however former FBI official Mike Mason suggested that some of Hoover's colleagues denied that he had a sexual relationship with Tolson in an effort to protect Hoover's image.[105]

The novelist William Styron told Summers that he once saw Hoover and Tolson in a California beach house, where the director was painting his friend's toenails.[106] Harry Hay, founder of the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights organizations, said Hoover and Tolson sat in boxes owned by and used exclusively by gay men at the Del Mar racetrack in California.[106]

Hoover bequeathed his estate to Tolson, who moved into Hoover's house after Hoover died. Tolson accepted the American flag that draped Hoover's casket. Tolson is buried a few yards away from Hoover in the Congressional Cemetery.[107]

Other romantic allegations

Hoover's biographer Richard Hack does not believe the director was gay. Hack notes that Hoover was romantically linked to actress Dorothy Lamour in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and that after Hoover's death, Lamour did not deny rumors that she had had an affair with him.[72]

Hack further reported that, during the 1940s and 1950s, Hoover attended social events with Lela Rogers, the divorced mother of dancer and actress Ginger Rogers, so often that many of their mutual friends assumed the pair would eventually marry.[72]

Pornography collection

Under Hoover, agents were directed to seize all pornographic materials uncovered in their investigations and forward them to Hoover personally.[108] He kept a large collection, possibly the world's largest,[109] of films, photographs and written materials, with particular emphasis on nude photos of celebrities. Hoover reportedly used these for his own titillation, as well as holding them for blackmail purposes.[110][111]

Cross-dressing story

In his biography Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1993), journalist Anthony Summers quoted "society divorcee" Susan Rosenstiel as claiming to have seen Hoover engaging in cross-dressing in the 1950s, at all-male parties.[112][113]

Summers alleged the Mafia had blackmail material on Hoover, which made Hoover reluctant to pursue organized crime aggressively. According to Summers, organized crime figures Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello obtained photos of Hoover's alleged homosexual activity with Tolson and used them to ensure that the FBI did not target their illegal activities.[114] Additionally, Summers claimed that Hoover was friends with Billy Byars, Jr., an alleged child pornographer and producer of the film The Genesis Children.[115]

Another Hoover biographer who heard the rumors of homosexuality and blackmail, however, said he was unable to corroborate them,[114] though it has been acknowledged that Lansky and other organized crime figures had frequently been allowed to visit the Del Charro Hotel in La Jolla, California, which was owned by Hoover's friend, and staunch Lyndon Johnson supporter, Clint Murchison, Sr.[116][117] Hoover and Tolson also frequently visited the Del Charro Hotel.[117] Summers quoted a source named Charles Krebs as saying, "on three occasions that I knew about, maybe four, boys were driven down to La Jolla at Hoover's request."[115]

Skeptics of the cross-dressing story point to Susan Rosenstiel's lack of credibility (she pleaded guilty to attempted perjury in a 1971 case and later served time in a New York City jail).[118][119] Recklessly indiscreet behavior by Hoover would have been totally out of character, whatever his sexuality. Most biographers consider the story of Mafia blackmail unlikely in light of the FBI's continuing investigations of the Mafia.[120][121]

In his book The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, Ronald Kessler exposed as false the claim by Susan S. Rosenstiel, a former wife of Lewis S. Rosenstiel, chairman of Schenley Industries Inc., that she saw Hoover engaging in cross-dressing at a party in 1958 at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Kessler, a former Washington Post reporter, wrote that Rosenstiel had served time at Rikers Prison in 1971 for perjuring herself in a 1971 case.[122]

Although never corroborated, the allegation of cross-dressing has been widely repeated. In the words of author Thomas Doherty, "For American popular culture, the image of the zaftig FBI director as a Christine Jorgensen wanna-be was too delicious not to savor."[123] Biographer Kenneth Ackerman says that Summers' accusations have been "widely debunked by historians".[124]

The Lavender Scare

The attorney Roy Cohn served as general counsel on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations during Senator Joseph McCarthy's tenure as chairman and assisted Hoover during the 1950s investigations of Communists[125] and was generally known to be a closeted homosexual.[126][125] Cohn's opinion was that Hoover was too frightened of his own sexuality to have anything approaching a normal sexual or romantic relationship.[72]

During the Lavender Scare, Cohn and McCarthy further enhanced anti-Communist fervor by suggesting that Communists overseas had convinced several closeted homosexuals within the U.S. government to leak important government information in exchange for the assurance that their sexual identity would remain a secret.[125][127] A federal investigation that followed convinced President Dwight D. Eisenhower to sign an Executive Order on April 29, 1953, that barred homosexuals from obtaining jobs at the federal level.[128]

In his 2004 study of the event, historian David K. Johnson attacked the speculations about Hoover's homosexuality as relying on "the kind of tactics Hoover and the security program he oversaw perfected: guilt by association, rumor, and unverified gossip." He views Rosenstiel as a liar who was paid for her story, whose "description of Hoover in drag engaging in sex with young blond boys in leather while desecrating the Bible is clearly a homophobic fantasy." He believes only those who have forgotten the virulence of the decades-long campaign against homosexuals in government can believe reports that Hoover appeared in compromising situations.[129]

Supportive friends

Some people associated with Hoover have supported the rumors about his homosexuality.[130] According to Anthony Summers, Hoover often frequented New York City's Stork Club. Luisa Stuart, a model who was 18 or 19 at the time, told Summers that she had seen Hoover holding hands with Tolson as they all rode in a limo uptown to the Cotton Club in 1936.[106]

Actress and singer Ethel Merman was a friend of Hoover's from 1938, and familiar with all parties during his alleged romance of Lela Rogers. In a 1978 interview she said: "Some of my best friends are homosexual: Everybody knew about J. Edgar Hoover, but he was the best chief the FBI ever had."[106]

Written works

J. Edgar Hoover was the nominal author of a number of books and articles, although it is widely believed that all of these were ghostwritten by FBI employees.[131][132][133] Hoover received the credit and royalties.

  • J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Scholastic Publishing. 1993. ISBN 978-0-590-43168-2. HV8144F43D46.
  • Hoover, J. Edgar (1938). Persons in Hiding. Gaunt Publishing. ISBN 978-1-56169-340-5.
  • Hoover, J. Edgar (February 1947). "Red Fascism in the United States Today". American Magazine.
  • Hoover, J. Edgar (1958). Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism in America and How to Fight It. Holt Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 978-1-4254-8258-9.[134]
  • Hoover, J. Edgar (1962). A Study of Communism. Holt Rinehart & Winston. ISBN 978-0-03-031190-1.


Theater and media portrayals

J. Edgar Hoover has been portrayed by numerous actors in films and stage productions featuring him as FBI Director. The first known portrayal was by an un-credited voice actor in the 1941 Looney Tunes short "Hollywood Steps Out". Some notable portrayals (listed chronologically) include:

See also



  1. ^ Summers, Anthony (1 January 2012). "The secret life of J Edgar Hoover". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  2. ^ ""J. Edgar Hoover", Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia". Microsoft Corporation. 2008. Archived from the original on 1 November 2009.
  3. ^ ""Hoover, J. Edgar", The Columbia Encyclopedia" (Sixth ed.). Columbia University Press. 2007.
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Kenneth D. Ackerman (2007). Young J. Edgar: Hoover, the Red Scare, and the Assault on Civil Liberties. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 978-0-7867-1775-0.

William Beverly (2003). On the Lam; Narratives of Flight in J. Edgar Hoover's America. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-57806-537-0.

Carter, David (2003). Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 978-0-312-34269-2.

Douglas Charles (2007). J. Edgar Hoover and the Anti-interventionists: FBI Political Surveillance and the Rise of the Domestic Security State, 1939–1945. Ohio State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8142-1061-1.

Garrow, David J. (1981). The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr., From 'Solo' to Memphis. W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-01509-6.

Gentry, Curt (1991). J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. Plume. ISBN 978-0-452-26904-0.

Gentry, Curt (2001). J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393343502. - Total pages: 848

Hack, Richard (2007), Puppetmaster: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, Phoenix Books, ISBN 978-1-59777-512-0

Lowenthal, Max (1950). The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8371-5755-9.

Porter, Darwin (2012). J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson: Investigating the Sexual Secrets of America's Most Famous Men and Women. Blood Moon Productions. ISBN 978-1-936003-25-9.

Richard Gid Powers (1986). Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover. Free Press. ISBN 978-0-02-925060-0.

Joseph L. Schott (1975). No Left Turns: The FBI in Peace & War. Praeger. ISBN 978-0-275-33630-1.

Stove, Robert J. (2003). The Unsleeping Eye: Secret Police and Their Victims. Encounter Books. ISBN 978-1-893554-66-5.

Summers, Anthony (2003). Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover. Putnam Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-399-13800-3.

Swearingen, M. Wesley. FBI Secrets: An Agent's Expose.

Theoharis, Athan (1993). From the Secret Files of J. Edgar Hoover. Ivan R. Dee. ISBN 978-1-56663-017-7.

Frontline (1993) The Secret File on J. Edgar Hoover (#11.4)

Further reading

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
William J. Burns
as Director of the Bureau of Investigation
Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Bureau of Investigation: 1924–1935

Succeeded by
Pat Gray
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Everett Dirksen
Persons who have lain in state or honor
in the United States Capitol rotunda

May 3–4, 1972
Succeeded by
Lyndon Johnson
All the Way (film)

All the Way is a 2016 American biographical television drama film based on events of the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson directed by Jay Roach and adapted by Robert Schenkkan from his play with the same title. The film stars Bryan Cranston, who reprises his role as Johnson from the play's 2014 Broadway production, opposite Melissa Leo as First Lady Lady Bird Johnson; Anthony Mackie as Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King Jr.; and Frank Langella as US Senator Richard Russell Jr., from Georgia.

The film was broadcast on HBO on Saturday, May 21, 2016. The film was well received by critics, with Cranston's portrayal of Johnson garnering praise. It has been nominated for a Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials, with Cranston also nominated for Individual Achievement in Drama for his work on the film. It was nominated for eight Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Television Movie as well as acting nominations for Cranston and Leo.

All the Way (play)

All the Way is a play by Robert Schenkkan, depicting President Lyndon B. Johnson's efforts to maneuver members of the 88th United States Congress to enact, and civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr. to support, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The play takes its name from Johnson's 1964 campaign slogan, "All the Way with LBJ."The play was commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and premiered there in 2012, in a production directed by Bill Rauch, with Jack Willis originating the role of LBJ. It premiered on Broadway in March 2014, in a production also directed by Rauch, which won the 2014 Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play. Bryan Cranston won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance. The play was published in 2014.

Blood Feud (1983 film)

Blood Feud is a 1983 American two-part, four-hour made-for-television crime drama film surrounding around the conflict between Jimmy Hoffa and Robert F. Kennedy in an 11-year span from 1957 until Kennedy's assassination in 1968. The 210-minute film was directed by Mike Newell and written by Robert Boris. It stars Robert Blake as Hoffa and Cotter Smith as Kennedy with Danny Aiello and Brian Dennehy in supporting roles as union associates of Hoffa's.The television film was distributed by Operation Prime Time, a syndicated block of television programming offered to mostly American independent stations.Blake was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe for Best Actor for his performance as Hoffa.

Chaplin (film)

Chaplin is a 1992 British-American biographical comedy-drama film about the life of British comedian Charlie Chaplin. It was produced and directed by Richard Attenborough and stars Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Dan Aykroyd, Penelope Ann Miller, and Kevin Kline. It also features Geraldine Chaplin in the role of her own paternal grandmother, Hannah Chaplin.

The film was adapted by William Boyd, Bryan Forbes and William Goldman from the books My Autobiography by Chaplin and Chaplin: His Life and Art by film critic David Robinson. Associate producer Diana Hawkins got a story credit. The original music score was composed by John Barry.

Citizen Cohn

Citizen Cohn is a 1992 cable film covering the life of Joseph McCarthy's controversial chief counsel Roy Cohn. James Woods, who starred as Cohn, was nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance. Citizen Cohn also stars Joe Don Baker (as McCarthy), Ed Flanders (as Cohn's courtroom nemesis Joseph Welch), Frederic Forrest (as writer Dashiell Hammett), and Pat Hingle (as Cohn's onetime mentor J. Edgar Hoover). It was directed by Frank Pierson. The movie was filmed on location in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Clyde Tolson

Clyde Anderson Tolson (May 22, 1900 – April 14, 1975) was Associate Director of the FBI from 1930 until 1972, primarily responsible for personnel and discipline. He is best known as the protégé and long time top deputy of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Cultural depictions of Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, has inspired or been portrayed in numerous cultural works.


Garveyism is an aspect of black nationalism that refers to the economic, and political policies of UNIA-ACL founder Marcus Garvey. The ideology of Garveyism centers on the unification and empowerment of African-American men, women and children under the banner of their collective African descent, and the repatriation of African slave descendants and profits to the African continent. Garvey was fought by the African-American establishment in the U.S. An investigation by the Justice Department, directed by J. Edgar Hoover, led to Garvey's arrest on charges of mail fraud in January 1922, and his projects collapsed.

Garvey put forward his dreams in response to the marginalization and discrimination of African Americans in the United States and the Caribbean at the time with the hopes of inspiring black Americans to proactively establish infrastructure, institutions and local economies rather than expecting such from the heavily prejudiced post-reconstruction American government. The movement had a major impact in stimulating and shaping black politics in the Caribbean and in parts of Africa.

Genius (U.S. TV series)

Genius is an American anthology period drama television series developed by Noah Pink and Kenneth Biller that premiered on April 25, 2017 on National Geographic.

The first season follows the life of Albert Einstein, from his early years, through his time as a patent clerk, to his later years as a physicist who developed the theory of relativity; the season is based on the 2007 book Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. In April 2017, National Geographic renewed the series for a second season, which follows the life and artistry of Pablo Picasso and aired from April 24 to June 19, 2018. In April 2018, National Geographic renewed the series for a third season, which is set to follow the life of American singer Aretha Franklin and will premiere in early 2020.

Helen Gandy

Helen W. Gandy (April 8, 1897 – July 7, 1988) was an American civil servant. For 54 years, she was the secretary to Federal Bureau of Investigation director J. Edgar Hoover, who called her "indispensable". She exercised great behind-the-scenes influence on Hoover and the workings of the Bureau. Following Hoover's death in 1972, she spent weeks destroying his "Personal File", thought to be where the most incriminating material he used to manipulate and control the most powerful figures in Washington was kept.

Hoover vs. The Kennedys

Hoover vs. The Kennedys: The Second Civil War is a four-hour 1987 made-for-television mini-series depicting the political struggles between FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and President John F. Kennedy and Attorney-General Robert F. Kennedy. The film takes place between the 1960 Democratic National Convention in July 1960 and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968, with the majority of the mini-series focusing on the Kennedy Administration (1961–1963).

Other sub-plots include Bobby Kennedy's frustration with his elder brother's politically risky womanizing and his often turbulent relationship with Hoover and the Civil Rights leadership of the era. The mini-series also touches on the alleged bargains Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. made with Mafia figures in order to get his son elected to the U.S. Presidency.

Hoover vs. The Kennedys was primarily filmed on location in and around Toronto, Ontario.Produced by: Paul Saltzman Daniel Selznick and Joe Glickman

Written by: Lionel E. Siegel and Michael O'Herlihy

J. Edgar

J. Edgar is a 2011 American biographical drama film directed, produced and scored by Clint Eastwood. Written by Dustin Lance Black, the film focuses on the career of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover from the Palmer Raids onward. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Josh Lucas, and Judi Dench. It marked Adam Driver's film debut.

J. Edgar opened the AFI Fest 2011 in Los Angeles on November 3, 2011, and had its limited release on November 9, 2011 followed by wide release on November 11. The film received mixed reviews from critics, although the performances were praised, and it grossed $84 million worldwide. It was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2011, while DiCaprio earned a nomination for a Golden Globe Award and both he and Hammer earned Screen Actors Guild Award nods.

J. Edgar Hoover (film)

J. Edgar Hoover is a 1987 made-for-television biopic starring Treat Williams as the eponymous J. Edgar Hoover, the long-serving (1924 - 1972) Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The film is based on the book The Bureau: My 30 Years in Hoover's FBI by William C. Sullivan and William S. Brown and dramatises key points in Hoover's life between the time he joined the U.S. Justice Department in 1919 and his death in May 1972.

J. Edgar Hoover Building

The J. Edgar Hoover Building is a low-rise office building located at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., in the United States. It is the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Planning for the building began in 1962, and a site was formally selected in January 1963. Design work, focusing on avoiding the typical blocky, monolithic structure typical of most federal architecture at the time, began in 1963 and was largely complete by 1964 (although final approval did not occur until 1967). Land clearance and excavation of the foundation began in March 1965; delays in obtaining congressional funding meant that only the three-story substructure was complete by 1970. Work on the superstructure began in May 1971. These delays meant that the cost of the project grew to $126.108 million from $60 million. Construction finished in September 1975, and President Gerald Ford dedicated the structure on September 30, 1975.

The building is named for former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. President Richard Nixon directed federal agencies to refer to the structure as the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building on May 4, 1972, but the order did not have the force of law. The U.S. Congress enacted legislation formally naming the structure on October 14, 1972, and President Nixon signed it on October 21.

The J. Edgar Hoover Building has 2,800,876 square feet (260,209.9 m2) of internal space, numerous amenities, and a special, secure system of elevators and corridors to keep public tours separate from the rest of the building. The building has three floors below-ground, and an underground parking garage. The structure is eight stories high on the Pennsylvania Avenue NW side, and 11 stories high on the E Street NW side. Two wings connect the two main buildings, forming an open-air, trapezoidal courtyard. The exterior is buff-colored precast and cast-in-place concrete with repetitive, square, bronze-tinted windows set deep in concrete frames.

Critical reaction to the J. Edgar Hoover Building ranged from strong praise to strong disapproval when it opened. More recently, it has been widely condemned on aesthetic and urban planning grounds.

By 2012, the J. Edgar Hoover Building was nearing the end of its useful lifespan, suffering from deterioration due to deferred maintenance and mediocre design. The FBI, General Services Administration, and Government Accountability Office agreed that the building was no longer appropriate for the FBI, but the cost of building a new headquarters led to inaction for several years. Plans were made to relocate the FBI's headquarters elsewhere, but those plans were abandoned in 2017 due to a lack of funding for a new headquarters building.

Kennedy (miniseries)

Kennedy is a 1983 American-British five-hour television miniseries written by Reg Gadney and directed by Jim Goddard. The miniseries is a biography of the 1961-1963 presidency of John F. Kennedy. It was co-produced by Alan Landsburg Productions and Central Independent Television and originally aired in the United States starting on 20 November 1983 around the time of the 20th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination.

The miniseries stars Martin Sheen as President John F. Kennedy, Blair Brown as Jacqueline Kennedy, John Shea as Robert F. Kennedy, E. G. Marshall as Joseph P. Kennedy, Geraldine Fitzgerald as Rose Kennedy, Vincent Gardenia as J. Edgar Hoover, and Kelsey Grammer as Stephen Smith amongst many others.

The series was originally broadcast on NBC, and was also sold to 50 countries, with 27 of them broadcasting the series simultaneously.

King (miniseries)

King is a 1978 American television miniseries based on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., the American civil rights leader and 1964 Nobel laureate. It aired for three consecutive nights on NBC from February 12 through 14, 1978. The miniseries earned nine Emmy Award nominations, including nominations for actors Paul Winfield, Cicely Tyson and Ossie Davis. Several real-life figures from the Civil Rights Movement had minor roles in the production, including then-Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson, King's sister Christine King Farris, his niece Alveda King, and his four children: Yolanda, Martin III, Dexter and Bernice. Donzaleigh Abernathy, Tony Bennett, Julian Bond and Ramsey Clark each portrayed themselves.

Panther (film)

Panther is a 1995 cinematic adaptation of Melvin Van Peeble's novel Panther, produced and directed by Mario Van Peebles. The drama film portrays the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, tracing the organization from its founding through its decline in a compressed timeframe. It was the first narrative feature-film to depict the Black Panther Party.

Robert Kennedy and His Times

Robert Kennedy and His Times is a 1985 American television miniseries directed by Marvin J. Chomsky, based on the 1978 Robert F. Kennedy biography of the same name by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr..

The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover

The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover is a 1977 American biographical drama film written, produced, and directed by Larry Cohen. It stars Broderick Crawford as Hoover, alongside an ensemble cast including Jose Ferrer, Michael Parks, Rip Torn, James Wainwright, Celeste Holm, Ronee Blakely, John Marley, Michael Sachs, Brad Dexter, Tanya Roberts in a cameo role, and in final screen appearances, Jack Cassidy and Dan Dailey. Both Cassidy and Dailey met with then First Lady Betty Ford and helped director Cohen get permission to do the film's on location cinematography in Washington, D.C., in locales where the real Hoover visited or worked.

The film was shown at the Kennedy Center in Washington to a mixed response from Republicans and Democrats who did not like the dark visions Cohen evoked on American politics and the portrayals of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard M. Nixon: actor Howard Da Silva played Roosevelt, and impersonator James LaRoe (credited as Richard M. Dixon) plays Nixon. After it was shown in Washington, the film took a limited nationwide release to theaters, and got a full release to video and television into the 1980s and 1990s.

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