Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, lawyer, and criminologist, born in Washington, District of Columbia, USA. He attended night classes at George Washington University while working as a clerk at the Library of Congress. After being admitted to the District of Columbia bar (1917), he became special assistant to attorney general A Mitchell Palmer, and led the controversial ‘Palmer Raids’ against alleged seditionists. Advancing from assistant (1921) to director (1924) of the Bureau of Investigation (which became the FBI in 1935), he remained director under every president from Coolidge to Nixon. He emphasized modern technological investigative techniques, improved training, and obtained increased funding from Congress.
During the 1930s, FBI exploits against notorious gangsters made him a national hero. In the 1940s and 1950s he became well known for his anti-Communist and anti-subversive views and activities, but in the 1960s he became a problematic political figure due to his lack of sympathy for the civil-rights movement and the Kennedy administration. His reputation declined in later years following revelations concerning his vendettas against liberal activists, notably Martin Luther King Jr, and widespread illegal FBI activities.