J. Edgar Hoover was born in 1895 in Washington, DC. He took night classes at George Washington University while working at the Library of Congress as a clerk. After graduation, he was admitted to the bar in DC in 1917, and he began working for the Justice Department. He quickly rose through the ranks, and was overseeing a branch of the Bureau of Investigation just two years later. In this position, Hoover and the General Intelligence Division gathered evidence on radical groups. This resulted in the Palmer Raids which targeted leftist organizations with communist and anarchist affiliations.
In 1924, J Edgar Hoover was named head of the Bureau of Investigation. It was a dysfunctional government organization, which he quickly overhauled. He set up professional standards and practices. When the organization was restructured as the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935 Hoover remained at the helm. He created forensic methods to investigate crimes, and established the first FBI Lab. He was also a force in standardizing law enforcement practices across the country; he set up the FBI National Academy.
Hoover is well known for his investigation of organized crime during Prohibition. He created the Public Enemy list, which eventually became the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Under his leadership, the FBI went after John Dillinger, Alvin Karpis, Baby Face Nelson, and Al Capone.
His later years in office have been overshadowed by his blackmail tactics against anyone he perceived as an enemy. He was infamous for his wiretapping and surveillance practices. Despite the rumors, no evidence has ever been found showing that Hoover was a transvestite. He remained head of the FBI until his death in 1972.