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J. Edgar Hoover 1895-1972. Background. Born January 1, 1895 in Washington, D. C. Parents: Dickerson and Anna Hoover
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Background • Born January 1, 1895 in Washington, D. C. • Parents: Dickerson and Anna Hoover • Hoover did not obtain a birth certificate until he was 43, which fueled suspicions, in and out of the bureau, that he was of African-American descent – a family out of Mississippi tried to prove these allegations, but failed. • He kept detailed records on himself, teachers, and family members starting at a young age. • At age 11, started his own newspaper, The Weekly Review, that he sold to family and friends for 1 cent.
Background continued… • His school nickname was “Speed” because he thought fast and talked fast. • Hoover’s father, Dickerson, spent the last eight years of his life in an asylum. His cause of death was listed as “melancholia” – clinical depression. • 1916 – graduated with a law degree from George Washington University Law School. • Hoover became a Freemason in 1920.
Hoover’s failure to marry and his constant companionship with Clyde Tolson, led to many rumors about his sexuality. Clyde Tolson was the sole heir to Hoover’s estate and was also buried next to Hoover. Hoover was also an avid dog lover. Background continued…
Head of the FBI • Hoover joined the Bureau of Investigation, later known as the FBI, in 1921. • In 1924 at the age of 29, Hoover was appointed acting Director of the BOI and by the end of the year he was officially named Director. • Hoover remained the Director of the FBI until his death on May 2, 1972 at the age of 77. • The FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. is named after Hoover. Because of the controversial nature of Hoover's legacy, there have been periodic proposals to rename it.
Head of the FBI • During his reign over the FBI, Hoover built an efficient crime-detection agency, established a centralized fingerprint file, a crime laboratory and a training institution for police. • He dictated every aspect of his agents’ lives from who their friends should or should not be, who they should or should not marry, what organizations they could or could not join; decided where they would live; monitored their morals; even told them what to wear and what they could weigh; and bestowed praise and awards, blame and punishments, when he decided they were due.
Head of the FBI • The FBI, under Hoover, collected information on all America's leading politicians. Known as Hoover's secret files, this material was used to influence their actions. It was later claimed that Hoover used this incriminating material to make sure that the eight presidents that he served under, would be too frightened to sack him as director of the FBI..“ • Presidents Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson each considered firing Hoover but concluded that the political cost of doing so would be too great. Richard Nixon twice called in Hoover with the intent of firing him, but both times he changed his mind when meeting with Hoover.
Head of the FBI • Hoover ignored the existence of organized crime in the U.S. until famed muckraker Jack Anderson exposed the immense scope of the Mafia's organized crime network. It has been suggested that Hoover did not pursue the Mafia because they had incriminating evidence (photos) against him in respect to his sexual orientation. • Despite all of these allegations, during his long career of public service, Director Hoover received three presidential awards, sundry citations by Congress, and following his death was the first civil servant in U.S. history to lie in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
Political Views • Conservative • Anti-communist • Against suffrage for women • Opposed the Civil Rights movement
Major Issues of the Time • 1st Red Scare (1917-1920) • Espionage Act of 1917 • Sedition Act of 1918 • The Palmer Raids • House Committee on Un-American Activities • WW II • Iron Curtain in Europe
The more famous of the Palmer raids was December 21, in which 249 people were dragged from their homes, forcibly put on board a ship and deported. "Uncle Sam bids good riddanceto the deportees"(from J. Edgar Hoover'smemorabilia and scrapbookin the National Archives).
Intended Audience • Hoover delivered “The Communist Menace” before the House Committee on Un-American Activities on March 26, 1947.
The Communist MenaceMain Points 1. The Communist Party of the United States intends to destroy the American businessman, take over our government, and throw the whole world into revolution. • “The Communist movement in the United States…stands for the destruction of free enterprise, and it stands for the creation of a “Soviet of the United States” and ultimate world revolution.”
The Communist MenaceMain Points continued… 2. The American programs to help society such as, social security, veterans’ benefits, and welfare are all communist ideas used to lure the support of unsuspecting citizens. • “The American progress which all good citizens seek, such as old-age security, houses for veterans, child assistance and a host of others is being adopted as window dressing by the Communists to conceal their true aims and entrap gullible followers.”
The Communist MenaceMain Points continued… 3. The greatest threat of communism is not how many Communists are in this country, but their ability to insert themselves into positions of power and their ability to persuade through lies and deception. Americans should FEAR the communist infiltration of their government and society. • “What is important is the claim of the Communists themselves that for every party member there are 10 others ready, willing, and able to do the party’s work. Herein lies the greatest menace of communism. For these people who infiltrate and corrupt various spheres of American life. So rather than the size of the Communist Party the way to weigh its true importance is by testing its influence, its ability to infiltrate.” • “…When the Communists overthrew the Russian government there was one Communist for every 2,277 persons in Russia. In the United States today there is one Communist for every 1,814 persons in the country…”
Historical Significance • 2nd Red Scare (1947-1957) • 1947 - Ronald Reagan and wife Jane Wyman provide to the FBI names of SAG members believed to be communist sympathizers. • 1947 - Top Hollywood executives decide not to employ individuals who refused to answer questions about communist infiltration of the film industry • McCarthyism starts(1950): Sen. Joseph P. McCarthy says he has a list of 205 communists in the State Department. • 1950 - California Legislature passes a bill requiring state employees to sign a loyalty oath. • 1953 - Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted of conspiring to commit espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union, are executed. • COINTELPRO
COINTELPRO • COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) is a program of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States. Although covert operations have been employed throughout FBI history, the formal COINTELPRO operations of 1956-1971 were broadly targeted against organizations that were (at the time) considered to have politically radical elements, ranging from those whose stated goal was the violent overthrow of the U.S. government (such as the Weathermen) to non-violent civil rights groups such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference to violent racist and segregationist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. The founding document of COINTELPRO directed FBI agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" the activities of these movements and their leaders.
Questions • Was J. Edgar Hoover paranoid or was communism a real threat in the United States?