Before there was an FBI, there was the Bureau of Investigation, or BOI. Created in 1908, the BOI’s function was the same as the current FBI’s function. The director was responsible for maintaining qualified field staff and overseeing cases. Today, the director’s term is limited to ten years; many speculate that this law was developed because of one FBI director in particular: J. Edgar Hoover.
Before the Investigation
Hoover was born in Washington, D.C., on January 1, 1895. He wasted no time in starting his career—illustrious or notorious, as it may have been. In 1916, he was awarded his LL.B. from George Washington Law School, and his LL.M., the following year. In 1917, he began working at the Department of Justice and quickly became the division head for the General Intelligence Division. In 1918, he was named Assistant to the Attorney General, and in 1921, when the General Intelligence Division was moved into the Bureau of Investigation, he became the Assistant Director of the BOI.
The Director of Investigations
On May 10, 1924, Calvin Coolidge appointed Hoover as the Director of the Bureau of Investigation. He remained with that title until 1935, when it became the Federal Bureau of Investigation. When Hoover first took over the BOI, there were only 650 agents, 441 of which were special agents. Hoover set to work firing those he deemed unqualified, and established unilateral guidelines for the agents:
- Agents had to be between 25 and 35
- Background checks
- Physical Testing
- Revival of old policies of law and/or accounting experience
Under Hoover’s direction, the FBI began to wield more power and presence in the Federal government. During the 1930’s, the department went after violent crimes and criminals such as Al Capone and Bugs Moran. The unheard of FBI became integral in pop-culture and is still considered today to be a prestigious organization.
Early United States history downplayed a lot of controversies. Personally, I believe the downplay was due to the rise of Communism and the “Russian Red” that Hoover fought vehemently against. Whatever the reasons, we are finding today that many of the Presidents and leaders of the Nation were involved in deep scandals that were not only embarrassing to the parties involved, but also embarrassing to the young nation. Some of these controversies, however, seem to be unsubstantiated and have arisen in recent years—as if in an attempt to quell the ever-rising minority groups, or to somehow “get back” at the memory of a man who did much for the country. No hero is without flaws.
Some of the rumors and controversy surrounding Hoover involve his sexuality. Some say he was a closet homosexual, some say he was a transvestite, and others say he was neither of these. Who is correct? No one really knows, today. Considering some of Hoover’s ideals and “suspects” (like Martin Luther King, Jr.), my personal opinion is that the vendetta he had toward minority groups is being repaid by those in full support of said groups. This is not meant to be accusatory, by any means. It is merely an opinion based on what information I have available to me.
Hoover served under several Presidents—from Coolidge to Nixon. For 48 years, he ran the Department and focused on foreign espionage—first the Nazi’s then the Russians. Rumors state that both Kennedy and Johnson wanted to fire Hoover, but political pressures made them reconsider. According to the FBI’s site about Hoover, no one had such ideas. Hoover’s legacy at the FBI and the changes and zeal with which he lead the department have been unmatched. He did his best to ensure that the United States would survive the unseen wars—the Gangster wars, the Cold War, Civil Rights wars. After his death in 1972, Congress enacted a law restricting the term of the Director to 10 years. The current director is Robert S. Mueller, III, appointed in September 2001 by George W. Bush. He is the sixth director of the FBI.
For more information, please visit the following sites:
J. Edgar Hoover at FBI.gov
J. Edgar Hoover (Wikipedia)
J. Edgar Hoover at biography.com