Top Secret Facts About J. Edgar Hoover

November 7, 2023 | Stephanie Kelsey

Top Secret Facts About J. Edgar Hoover

“The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous they cannot believe it exists. The American mind simply has not come to the realization of the evil which has been introduced into our midst.”

Secrets, secrets, secrets. That’s the best way to describe J. Edgar Hoover. We don’t really know a whole lot about the first director of the FBI, but he sure knew a lot about us. He may have modernized the Bureau, but he had unconventional techniques and tactics to get his end result. Keep reading to find out more about this incredibly private, and pretty particular, man.

1. Baby J

He may have been born on New Years Day 1895, but his birth certificate was never filed until 1938! Oh, and the J? It stands for John.

j. edgar hoover

2. Leader of the Pack

Hoover began running the FBI when it was just BI. Yeah, seems silly, but it’s true. It was simply known as the Bureau of Investigation back in 1924, not adding Federal for another 11 years. 

Albert Einstein FactsWikimedia Commons

3. Don’t Mess With Him

There’s a lot to be said about his techniques as the head of the FBI. Certainly, he progressed the Bureau by implementing enhanced training and advocating for a scientific approach to investigation. But some of his methods, like wire-tapping and reading mail, weren't entirely within the prescribed rules.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsShutterstock


4. Self-Serving

Hoover did a lot of things for his own benefit. If he didn’t like a certain group or organization, especially political ones, he did what he could to discredit them. He even went so far as to plant false evidence just to get his ideal outcome.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsFlickr

5. Rumor Has It

Hoover spent his life as a bachelor, never marrying. This fact led to much debate over his sexuality, which was a big deal back in his day, and could have cost him his job. Some of the rumors that circulated about him included him having a liking for cross-dressing, being gay, or not leading a romantic life at all. There were also talks about him hosting all-male gatherings in hotel rooms in New York City. Some of the rumors that circulated about him included: his interest in cross-dressing, his potential homosexuality, his possible lack of intimate life, or even hosting exclusive male gatherings in New York City hotel rooms.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsShutterstock

6. Was He?

There was much speculation that he did, in fact, have a romantic relationship with FBI co-worker and associate director Clyde Tolson. These rumors swirled because they worked together for decades, travelled together for business and personal vacations, drove in to work together, had lunch everyday together and sometimes even wore matching suits. When Hoover's life ended, the majority of his estate was inherited by Tolson.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikipedia

7. …Or Wasn’t He?

Even though he was romantically linked to Tolson, he was also associated with a couple of famous women. The first was Dorothy Lamour, an actress, in the 1930s and 1940s. Following his passing, Lamour didn't deny that they had a relationship. The other woman was Ginger Rogers’ mother, Lela. Many people who knew the couple thought they would end up getting married one day.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons


8. Deflecting His Own Preferences, Perhaps?

Despite the rumors about his personal preferences, Hoover successfully convinced President Dwight Eisenhower to remove any government member suspected of having differing lifestyle choices in what was known as The Lavender Scare.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons

9. Flying High

Hoover went to see the Wright Brothers fly their plane when he was 14 and even met Orville Wright.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons



10. A Little Friend

Hoover had a bit of an odd friendship—with Shirley Temple. He even took her around the FBI offices in 1938, and showed her how to ride a mechanical horse.

Shirley Temple FactsGetty Images


11. Women Need Not Apply

He didn’t really have a high opinion of women during his years running the FBI. He wouldn’t allow women to be agents, and if a woman did work in the Bureau, they could only wear skirts or dresses. Oh, and they weren’t allowed to smoke at their desks. Only men were given that privilege.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsShutterstock

12. Presidential Pickings

Hoover served in the FBI under six different Presidents: Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson. The only two he actually had good relationships with were the latter, Roosevelt and Johnson. The other four all considered getting rid of him, but he had a great image in the public, and was considered honest and competent.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons


13. Are You on the List?

If he really wanted to, Hoover could have been the ultimate blackmailer. He had files on over 430,000 Americans, many that were kept in his personal office where his secretary could keep an eye on them. Some of the more well-known names in his collection: Marylin Monroe, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Hellen Keller, and Colonel Sanders. These days, you can actually take a look at these files (with a few exceptions), as they’re on display at the National Archives.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikipedia

14. Well Isn’t That a Turn of Events

Hoover may have been blackmailed himself by the Mob. While the Special Committee affirmed the existence of systematic unlawful activities, Hoover vehemently disagreed. It's speculated that Hoover was so resistant to acknowledging the reality of wrongdoings by groups, because they held potential to unveil personal information he wished to keep private.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsShutterstock

15. Like a G

In the 1930s, despite his refusal to acknowledge any structured illicit activity, he set up a task force of "G-Men" who relentlessly pursued individuals like Al Capone and John Dillinger.

Al Capone FactsWikimedia Commons

16. Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

Due to Hoover essentially overstepping the boundaries of power given in his role, the tenure for FBI directors is now capped at a maximum of 10 years. Hoover maintained the director's position for an extended period of 48 years, starting from 1924 until the end of his life.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikipedia

17. Astute Student

Hoover attended George Washington University, where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order. During his time at the University, he also worked at the Library of Congress.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons

18. Plugging His Own Path

After graduating from law school in 1917, Hoover didn’t enlist in WWI. Instead, he opted for a draft-exempt position in the Justice Department. Many see this as cowardice, but in fact, he was part of the cadet corps when he was in high school, even being the captain while in his senior year.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons

19. Proving His Worth

What’s more, in 1920 Hoover joined in a raid against L’Era Nuova gang in Paterson, New Jersey. Hoover himself interrogated the group’s leader and was able to get the evidence needed regarding the 1919 anarchist bombings.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons

20. Family Man

While some labeled Hoover as a coward, others hypothesized that his decision not to enlist was due to his obligation to look after his family. His father Dickerson Naylor Hoover, who suffered from mental illness, was forced from his government clerk position without pension, leaving J. Edgar to pick up the slack.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikipedia


21. Up For Debate?

Hoover was pretty involved in his high school debate team, something that’s a pretty big accomplishment considering he had a stutter as a kid. While on the team, he debated against a woman's right to vote and expressed his support for capital punishment. His school newspaper called his logic “cool" and "relentless.”

J. Edgar Hoover FactsShutterstock


22. A Knightly Honor

King George VI knighted Hoover in 1950, but Hoover was not allowed the use of “Sir" (the knighthood was an honorary title).

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons

23. You Can Bet on It

Hoover was a fan of horses. More specifically, horse races and betting. When he would go on vacation, he’d always look for the closest racetrack, and would often send agents to make bets for him.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsNeedpix


24. Positive Spin

Hoover served as a consultant on the TV series The FBI, which aired in the 1960s and 1970s. Episodes and cases were inspired by real events the FBI worked on. Hoover was pretty specific about the show, though, and made sure he had absolute final say on the script, which generally put the FBI in a positive light.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons


25. The Writing’s on the Wall

Hoover was given the credit and accolades for writing three books, but many believe they were actually ghost-written by other members of the FBI.

J.D. Salinger FactsShutterstock


26. Politically in the Closet

Something he never admitted publicly: he was a Republican. Hoover even helped one Senator, Joseph McCarthy, round up suspected Communists in the 1950s, providing McCarthy with information that President Truman’s government was helping over 200 members of the Communist Party.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons

27. Red Light

His attack against Communists didn’t start in the 1950s, though. He also played a prominent role in the first "Red Scare" in the early 1920s, forcing thousands of people to leave the country because of his conviction that they had associations with Communism.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons

28. Yeah, It Was All Me

Hoover took a lot of the credit for solving one very famous kidnapping case: that of aviator Charles Lindbergh’s 20-month-old son. A few months after the ransom was paid, the little baby’s body was found in the woods near the Lindbergh home, but it took another three years before the culprit was found. Hoover and the FBI professed to have resolved the case, although it is highly probable that most of the effort was exerted by the law enforcement authorities in New Jersey.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons



29. Four-Legged Friends

He may have been a slightly terrifying man, but he did love dogs. His parents gave him his first dog when he was a child, and went on to have at least seven more. He was even known to give dogs as gifts to Presidents Herbert Hoover (who was of no relation) and Lyndon B. Johnson.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsPixabay

30. What's in a Color

There was some speculation that Hoover was either half black, or was born to a black mother and then raised by the Hoovers. It seems pretty silly, but when author Millie McGhee released her book Secrets Uncovered: J. Edgar Hoover—Passing for White? in 1998, she revealed that Hoover and herself shared a common ancestor, a great-grandfather, and McGhee is black herself. On Hoover’s father’s side, the family came from Virginia and Mississippi at a time when interracial relationships were pretty common.

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikipedia



31. No Positive Proof, Though

This feels a little creepy, but in the 1960s, the LAPD talked to countless young men in an effort to find the area’s pedophiles. Every summer, Hoover spent some time in Los Angeles, and his name came up when the young men were conversing with law enforcement authorities. The investigator, Don Smith, said,  “The kids brought up several famous names, including those of Hoover and his sidekick [Tolson].”

J. Edgar Hoover FactsWikimedia Commons


32. The Scent of Man

Hoover almost always wore one specific item of women’s attire—and he refused to talk about it. He preferred to wear women’s perfume over men’s cologne. He never talked about it, so the reason or reasons why are still up in the air.

Russian Empire quizPixabay


Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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