(1895 - 1972)
The Man Behind
One of the most controversial personalities of the USA is definitely J. Edgar Hoover. He was the puppet master in the background of power in a way most of the people are not aware. As the founder of the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) in 1924 he soon realised that knowledge is also power and he used his knowledge to his favour and his goals in cold blood. J. Edgar Hoover was the director of the FBI from 1924 to 1972. Many contemporaries were afraid of him and what he could know about them and they had every reason to do so. J. Edgar Hoover compiled countless documents about high-ranking politicians but also show stars like Frank Sinatra and Charlie Chaplin during his term - often with illegal devices like the interception of telephone calls and so on. And where no leverage he paved the way for himself with little courtesies for decision makers.
But who was one of the most powerful men behind the scene?
His ancestors of his father's side came from Washington, the ancestors of his mother's side came from Switzerland (from the canton Graubünden and St. Gallen).
J. Edgar Hoover grew up in Washington in good breeding and he was influenced
by a conservative and religious family which was dominated by his mother.
His father had mental problems and was in psychiatric clinics now and then.
The relationship between J. Edgar Hoover and his mother was extraordinary strong and he lived with her till her death in 1938 - J. Edgar Hoover was 43 years old at that time. This fact led to the indication of a "mother's boy".
Women remained an exception in the private life of this bachelor, he shall have had love attachments with Leila Rogers (the mother of the actress Ginger Rogers) and with the actress Dorothy Lamour.
His uncommon close relationship to his FBI deputy Clyde Tolson soon led to the rumours that he had a homosexual relationship with him. When Clyde Tolson got the better part of Hoover's fortune testamentary after his death stoked the rumor again.
J. Edgar Hoover started his professional life with a study of law at
the George Washington University and after the degree in 1917 he got a
job at the Department of Justice.
There he soon became the head of the section for registration of adverse foreigners and two years later he became the head of the launched "General Intelligence Division".
His hard leadership soon became an unmistakable trademark and J. Edgar Hoover and Alexander Mitchell Palmer attracted attention to the public for the first time on the height of the communist chase in 1920 when he led arrest about 10'000 people who leaned towards communism. It was the biggest mass arrest in the history of the USA, also known under the name "Palmer Raids".
J. Edgar Hoover was appointed to the BOI (Bureau of Investigation) in 1921 but this institution did not have a good backing and was regarded as bad organised and corrupt.
When Calvin Coolidge became the new US president, general Harlan Fiske Stone followed him who launched a reorganisation of the BOI.
He released the corrupt director and announced J. Edgar Hoover as the
new director of the BOI.
Now J. Edgar Hoover was in his element. He expanded the organisation continuously and broadened its sphere of control to inconceivable dimensions. In 1934 BOI was renamed as FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation).
thank to Hoover the FBI reach a high professionalism very fast and he not only established the reputation of the incorruptness but also forced the inclusion of the newest forensic possibilities. This led among others to the implementation of a national wide data base for fingerprints in 1935 and to advanced training courses for the agents to keep them up to date.
J. Edgar Hoover was a talented tactician concerning the interaction with the media. In order to present the FBI to the public in the best light he staged the imprisonment of famous criminals and Hoover became a public star himself.
But Hoover was not content with this. A department of the FBI, specialised in public relation, launched and supported the publishing of chewing gum cards, radio shows and even the TV serial "The F.B.I.", which run from 1965 to 1974 and produced 240 episodes. This made an essential contribution to the brand "FBI" which became a synonym in the public for fight against the crime but also for a mystic institution.
When World War II broke out in Europe in 1939 the FBI shifted its main focus to possible public enemies and it became a more and more important role as a intrastate intelligence service.
With the entry of the USA into the war J. Edgar Hoover also got the possibility to enlarge his field of action to foreign countries by founding the Special Intelligence Service which wa focused on the espionage in South America and the South of North America.
J. Edgar Hoover was decorated with the Medal of Merit after the war.
The business of the FBI was focused again on communism after the war and with the beginning of the McCarthy era the FBI supported his endeavor to ferret out and to haunt members of the communistic party. The height of this dark chapter was the black list with countless people on it, among them also many celebreties for film and television.
The 60s created a new field of enemies and with it for the FBI as well. The growing popularity of Martin Luther King and his efforts for the equal treatment of the Afro-American population in the society was an extremly great threat for Hoover.
Another proof of the huge power of J. Edgar Hoover was demonstrated
in 1965 when he had to retire from his job because of his age. But although
the then US president Lyndon B. Johnson was not a sympathizer of Hoover
(the same animosity also had the Kennedy family) and would had had a chance
to get rid of him nifty, Johnson enacted a special decree which excepted
Hoover from the forced retirement. Also in this example one is wondering
how Hoover was able to influence the decision to his favour and underpin
his position. Not least based on the fact the even presidents like John
F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, who did not have a guten relationship
to Hoover, were not able to dethrone him supported the rumour off the records
that Hoover is the most powerful man in the USA inofficially.
Hoover should once have said: "For me it doesn't matter who is the US president below me".
All these circumstances make the person J. Edgar Hoover a very interesting figure and where reality and fiction becomes mixed there arises a myth.
So thrilling and intransparent the life of J. Edgar Hoover was so unspectacular ended his life. He died from heart failure on May 2, 1972 at the age of 77 asleep.
Still today the person J. Edgar Hoover is fascinating which crystallizes with the filming "J. Edgar" (11), directed by Clint Easwood with Leonardo Di Caprio in the leading role.