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Federal Bureau of Investigation: History

Enter J. Edgar Hoover

Calvin Coolidge was elected president in 1923 and, in the aftermath of the Palmer raids, one of his first tasks was to reform the Justice Department, the Bureau of Investigation in particular. Harlan Fiske Stone, former Dean of Columbia University Law School and critic of the Palmer raids was appointed to head the Justice Department as attorney general. On 10 May 1924 Attorney General Stone offered J. Edgar Hoover the directorship of the Bureau of Investigation on an acting basis. It was after Roger Baldwin, founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, sent a favorable recommendation to the attorney general that Hoover was named the permanent director of the bureau.

J. Edgar Hoover was born 1 January 1895 in Washington, D.C. After graduation from high school he worked at the Library of Congress and attended George Washington University Law School. Upon graduation from law school in 1917 he went to work as a clerk in the Department of Justice.

When Hoover was appointed Director of the Bureau of Investigation in 1924, the bureau had 441 agents. At the direction of Attorney General Stone, Hoover cut the staff to 339 agents by 1929. During his first few days as director, Hoover went through the personnel files and identified agents that should be fired. Agents that were not fired were retrained. Hiring standards were raised and training in law or accounting was required. A training school was established for various skills and for learning the procedures of the bureau. According to Hoover, promotion would be based on performance, not seniority. Control and standardization were the themes that reflected his management style. Even early on, Hoover was well aware of the importance of public support in fighting crime. In remarks prepared for the Attorney General in 1925, he wrote: "The Agents of the Bureau of Investigation have been impressed with the fact that the real problem of law enforcement is in trying to obtain the cooperation and sympathy of the public and they cannot hope to get such cooperation until they themselves merit the respect of the public" (F.B.I., 1997). Hoover served as director of the Bureau of Investigation (later the F.B.I.) for forty-eight years—until his death in 1972. Without question, J. Edgar Hoover was the most influential man in the history of the F.B.I.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawFederal Bureau of Investigation: History - Before The Beginning Of The F.b.i., The Beginning Of The F.b.i.