John Edgar Hoover (January 1, 1895 – May 2, 1972) was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972. Hoover is credited with building the FBI into a large and efficient crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modern innovations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories.
Late in life, and after his death, Hoover became an increasingly controversial figure. His critics have accused him of exceeding the jurisdiction of the FBI. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. It is because of Hoover's long and controversial tenure that FBI directors are now limited to 10-year terms.
J. Edgar Hoover was born on New Year's Day 1895 in Washington, D.C., to Anna Marie (née Scheitlin; 1860–1938), who was descended from a line of Swiss mercenaries, and Dickerson Naylor Hoover, Sr. (1856–1921), of English and German ancestry. Annie's uncle had been the Swiss honorary consul general to the United States. Hoover grew up in the Eastern Market. He worked at the Library of Congress during college and obtained a law degree from George Washington University in 1917. While a law student, Hoover became interested in the career of Anthony Comstock, the New York City US Postal Inspector, who waged prolonged campaigns against fraud and vice, including pornography and information on birth control, a generation earlier.