J. Edgar Hoover Essay - Critical Essays

Curt Gentry

J. Edgar Hoover

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

J. Edgar Hoover’s career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began on August 22, 1921, when he was appointed assistant chief. A little more than three years later, he was appointed director of the agency, a position Hoover held until May 2, 1972, when he died in his sleep. Long before his death, his name had become synonymous with the FBI.

Hoover served under every United States president from Calvin Coolidge to Richard Nixon. Those who tried to oust him from his job—Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Nixon—found it impossible to do so, largely because of secret files he threaten to release on them or on members of their families.

On the positive side, Gentry shows that Hoover did an excellent in cleaning up the FBI, which had become a dumping ground for political hacks before he took the agency over. One cannot question Hoover’s effectiveness, but it was achieved at great cost and through a flagrant disregard of constitutional guarantees.

Hoover attempted to foist upon an entire nation his warped, narrow views of right and wrong. He used any means at his disposal to destroy those who crossed him or questioned his actions. He used the threat of his renowned secret files—many of them filled with information obtained illegally—to blackmail anyone, including presidents of the United States, into doing his bidding.

Sources for Further Study

Chicago Tribune. September 8, 1991, XIV, p. 1.

Library Journal. CXVI, August, 1991, p. 110.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. September 8, 1991, p. 1.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVI, September 15, 1991, p. 3.

The New Yorker. LXVII, September 9, 1991, p. 96.

Newsweek. CXVIII, September 23, 1991, p. 50.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVIII, July 19, 1991, p. 43.

Time. CXXXVIII, October 14, 1991, p. 87.

The Wall Street Journal. August 29, 1991, p. Al0.

The Washington Post Book World. XXI, November 3, 1991, p. 13.