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Who is J. Edgar Hoover?

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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: 2707195204, Bill Perry, City Of Boston Archives
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2016
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John Edgar Hoover is the most controversial FBI director in the history of the US. Although he was well-respected during his life, controversy ignited after his death in 1972. According to certain sources, J. Edgar Hoover abused his authority, persecuting certain figures because of their political beliefs rather than because of criminal activity.

Born in 1 January 1895, J. Edgar Hoover graduated from George Washington University with a law degree, and almost immediately started working for the Justice Department. His quick wit and high intelligence got them a series of promotions, and by 1924 he had been appointed head of the BOI (Bureau of Investigation), later renamed FBI. He remained head director for 49 years, a move that was highly criticized by presidents and law enforcement alike. After his death, the FBI enacted a law limiting FBI directors to a ten-year term.

J. Edgar Hoover earned recognition for apprehending members of the German U-boats that prowl the US coast during World War II. He was also responsible for creating a better, larger version of a fingerprint file system, which led to the creation of the FBI Laboratory. J. Edgar Hoover created the FBI's training academy and concentrated on recruiting more agents to expand the agency.

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On the other hand, J. Edgar Hoover gained a reputation for political persecution, especially against those he believed "guilty" of embracing communism or disrupting the peace. This included many non-political figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Charles Chaplin, and the Black Panther Party. J. Edgar Hoover was also highly criticized for failing to delve deeper into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. While the FBI conducted an investigation, the agency refused to consider the idea of a conspiracy, which lead others to believe the involvement of insiders in JFK's death. J. Edgar Hoover kept secret files on many of the top political leaders of his time, which many believe he used to control and intimidate powerful figures.

Throughout his career, J. Edgar Hoover was very lenient towards the Mafia. Experts think this is because different mafia organizations had damning information on Hoover's secret life as an homosexual and cross dresser, which they used to blackmail him into submission. Whether this is true or not has been topic of hot debate for decades and remains unclear as of today.

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