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J. Edgar Hoover

Born On Capitol Hill, The Justice Department, The Palmer Raids, Hometown Advantage

Born January 1, 1895 (Washington, D.C.)

Died May 2, 1972 (Washington, D.C.)

Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

During his tenure J. Edgar Hoover built the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into one of the most powerful law enforcement agencies in the world. Appointed director in 1924, he held the position for nearly fifty years, through eight presidents beginning with Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933; served 1923–29) and ending with Richard Nixon (1913–1994; served 1969–74).

"I have observed the rise of international communism with great concern, particularly communist efforts to infiltrate and infect our American way of life."

Though gaining great fame for his apprehension of several famous outlaws, Hoover's primary notoriety as the nation's leading law officer came from attacking potential criminal activity by political radicals over several decades. Hoover contributed to national stability and security during the intense international and domestic emergencies of the Bolshevik Revolution (takeover of Russia by communists), the Nazi threat of World War II (1939–45; war in which Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allied forces defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan) and the Cold War (1945–91). The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry from 1945 to 1991 between the United States and the Soviet Union falling just short of military conflict. J. Edgar Hoover. (National Archives and Records Administration)

Communism is a governmental system in which a single party controls all aspects of society. In economic theory, it bans private ownership of property and businesses so that goods produced and wealth accumulated are shared equally by all.

Hoover is also considered one of the leading innovators in American governmental history for his application of science and technology to police work. The FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., is named the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

For More Information


Gentry, Curt. J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.

Hoover, J. Edgar. Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism in America and How to Fight It. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1958.

Sullivan, William C. The Bureau: My Thirty Years in Hoover's FBI. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1979.

Web Sites

"Crackdown!" Smithsonian Magazine. http://www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/smithsonian/issues02/feb02/red_scare.html (accessed on August 15, 2004).

"J. Edgar Hoover." New York Times Obituary. http://nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0101.html (accessed on August 15, 2004).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law