By Den Ardinger 32° KCCH

John Edgar Hoover was born on New Year’s Day in 1895 in Washington, D.C.  He was the son of Anna Marie Scheitlin Hoover and Dickerson Naylor Hoover.  His father was in charge of the printing division of the U. S. Coast Guard and Geodetic Survey.  As a child he stuttered but learned to overcome it while growing up in Washington, D.C.

He attended George Washington University Law School and after earning his LL.M. degree in 1917 he started to work in the Justice Department.  In this position he was exempted from the draft during World War I.  Soon after starting with the War Emergency Division he was put in charge of the Alien Enemy Bureau where it was possible, during the war, to arrest and jail foreigners without trial.

Shortly after the close of the war in November 1918, he became head of the Bureau of Investigation’s General Intelligence Division at the age of 24.  His job was to monitor domestic trouble makers and to punish or deport them as seen necessary.

It was at this time he became a Freemason.  On November 9,1920, then aged 25, he was Raised a Master Mason in Washington, D.C.’s Federal Lodge No. 1 and became a charter member of Lodge No. 46.  He went on to join the Scottish Rite (Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Southern Masonic Jurisdiction) and was coroneted a 33rd Degree Inspector General Honorary in 1955.  He was also a member of the York Rite and a Shriner in Almas Shrine.

He became the deputy head of the Bureau of Investigation in 1921 and he became the acting director in 1924.  Shortly afterwards, President Calvin Coolidge appointed him as the fifth Director of the Bureau of Investigation.  Among his first acts was to fire all female agents and to forbid the future hiring of them.  He fired others also and relocated those that displeased him to remote areas.

In 1933 he changed his name to J. Edgar Hoover and dropped the use of John in order to be more distinct from others with similar names.  It was during this period the Bureau gained a considerable reputation taking down criminal gangs.  The country was passing through the Great Depression and bank robberies in the Midwest were becoming common.  The Bureau worked with local law enforcement to bring down well known criminals such as John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and Machine Gun Kelly.

The Bureau of Investigation was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, in 1935 as its power and influence was expanded.  The FBI now became involved in domestic intelligence, set up its own crime laboratory, and began collecting extensive fingerprint files.  Another of its main areas of focus was Communist subversion and in the years that followed they investigated tens of thousands of suspected “subversives and radicals”. 

During World War II the focus was on counter-espionage.  President Roosevelt gave Hoover the power to investigate both foreign espionage and domestic communists and fascists.  This he did with great commitment.

J. Edgar Hoover was not without his detractors and it was known that he held secret information on anyone who opposed him or his plans.  He especially held files on politicians and those in the military or government with power to challenge him, including presidents.  President Truman accused him of running his own private police force.  During the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Hoover monitored black leaders as well as entertainers and this information all became public in time.  As his age reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 1964, President Johnson waved this requirement and allowed him to remain Director indefinitely.

Hoover remained director of the FBI until having a fatal heart attack on May 2, 1972.  His body was laid in state in the Rotunda of the U. S. Capitol which was a rare honor for a civil servant up to that time.  At his funeral, President Nixon eulogized him. The FBI Headquarters building in Washington, D.C. was named the J. Edgar Hoover Building.  However, as time has passed, there have been frequent attempts to rename it.

His history and legacy have remained controversial to this day but there is no denying he had a massive effect on creating and forming the reputation and capability of the FBI.

J. Edgar Hoover…more than a man, a Mason.