American Law Figure. He served as director of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation Chief for over forty eight years until his death. Born in Washington, D.C. three blocks behind the Capitol in the Seward Square neighborhood, his family had been civil servants for generations and his father served in this capacity with the Coast Guard. He was baptized a Presbyterian at age thirteen and became a devout member even considering the ministry as a career. He overcame a stuttering problem while attending Central High School by becoming a member of the debating team. Excelling in math, physics, Latin and French, he was a member of the track team which won four national championships but his main interest was the cadet corps. He was close to his mother and lived with her until her death when he was 49 in the family home in the Seward Square neighborhood only then moving and acquiring his own residence. While employed at the Library of Congress, he took night school courses at George Washington University which culminated in a law degree. During World War I, he was granted a draft-exempt status with the Department of Justice. In 1924, at age 29, Hoover became the director of the FBI. He took an organization that was considered corrupt, inefficient and dysfunctional and built it into a effective police force. He oversaw the application of science to police work and promoted the creation of police training facilities and established the National Crime Information center boosting a centralized fingerprint cataloging system with a state-of the-art crime laboratories. In 1930's Hoover's agents rounded up notorious gangsters such as John Dillinger, "Machine Gun" Kelly, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, "Baby Face" Nelson and "Ma" Barker. Aided by the creation of Hoover's "Ten Most Wanted List" the American public became involved. The Bureau was kept busy during the War years arresting German and Japanese saboteurs and secret agents then switching in the postwar to communist agents and plots. During the civil rights movement in the 1960's the FBI worked on disrupting and then destroying the network of Klansman who perpetuated racial terrorism. J. Edgar Hoover successfully avoided independent investigations of both his and the FBI's conduct during his tenure while enjoying virtually unchecked public power. He maintained secret files on individuals and organizations from Presidents, movie stars and even First Lady Bess Truman with information illegally obtained by wire taps, searches and seizures. He frequently used this information to destroy or manipulate his enemies or detractors. When he died in 1972 President Richard M. Nixon ordered a full state funeral. Hoover's remains were taken to the Capitol's Rotunda where he lie in state and then to the National Presbyterian Church where some two thousand mourners including President Nixon, First Lady Patricia Nixon and Mamie Eisenhower witnessed his funeral service. A national audience watched on television. His body in a lead-lined coffin weighing over a thousand pounds was used to discourage grave desecration and he was buried in the family plot beside his parents at Congressional Cemetery not far from the house of his birth. The imposing national headquarters at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue East Street NW was named The J. Edgar Hoover Building in 1974. The official collection of memorabilia from Hoover's home and office is preserved in the J.Edgar Hoover Law Enforcement Museum located in the Masonic House of the Temple in Washington, DC. It is maintained by the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation and Society while also offering grants and scholarships in the memory of Director J. Edgar Hoover to deserving men and women in the field of law enforcement.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield