In 1924 J. Edgar Hoover was named Director of the Bureau of Investigation which changed names in 1935 and became the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As Director, Mr. Hoover had positioned himself into one of the most powerful, influential, covert occupations in America. He was a mystery to his critics and someone to be feared if you were on the wrong side of the law….Hoover’s Law, at times.
As a child and with limited access to television, I along with many of my peers was thrilled when the TV show “The Untouchables” came on the scene in 1959. The magnificent actor of movies, Robert Stack starred in the series as none other than Eliot Ness. The interminable efforts of pursuit against gangsters and mobsters made Mr. Ness the poster boy of the FBI and certainly an iconic hero to my friends and me. The show aired 118 episodes before finally going off the small screen in 1963. However, by the time ABC had taken a “Tommy gun” to “The Untouchables” I was hooked that good always beats out evil. To instill this code of ethics even more, my mother had taken me on a trip to Washington, D.C. – headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As a 9 year old my eyes were as big as silver dollars during our tour of this magnificent institution. A potpourri of confiscated weaponry was proudly on display for all to see and then we went to the indoor gun range. A precursor to the shooting exhibition was a short talk on how agents only shoot to kill. Nope, no wounding of criminals if the FBI had to fire their revolvers. Then the demonstration of marksmanship began as the life sized targets were riddled with bullets in the kill zone. “Okay, I’m only nine, but sign me up,” were the words I wanted to shout.
Growing up I observed America losing her innocence. The unfolding events were depicted in newsreels and explained through the perceptiveness of Walter Cronkite. It was horrifying when police dogs were unleashed to attack protesters in Alabama during desegregation. I watched adults sob at the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, along with witnessing the deaths of over 50,000 U.S. military casualties in Vietnam.
Through it all I matured, got married and started my career. I also wrote a letter to my childhood hero J. Edgar Hoover. I conveyed my admiration to his organization as I showered the Director in accolades and wonderment surrounding his life. Several months passed and I had forgotten about my tribute letter until exiting my car after work one evening when my landlord stopped me and asked, “Are you in trouble Dennis?” “No,” I relied, “Why are you asking me that?” Apparently two men in suits had stopped by the landlord’s office with a host of questions about me and my character. Other people had called me mentioning the same experience and still I was clueless, until the letter arrived.
The envelope was addressed to me, but it was the return address, FBI Headquarters, 935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. that had my hands shaking as I tore it open to see the prize inside. I was instructed to telephone the local office of the FBI and ask to speak with Mr. Quick. Room 313 in the old Post Office at Clinton Square, Syracuse New York is where our meeting would take place. I nervously entered Room 313 and found an empty office with only one desk. However, a door to an adjoining room opened almost immediately and Mr. Quick invited me in.
“The reason you are here Dennis,” the federal agent began, “is because Mr. Hoover received the letter you wrote him and he was so impressed he wanted to offer you a job with the FBI.” Oh dear God I nearly fell out of my wooden chair. It was a fingerprint technician job and I was furnished with the government graduated pay scale and when classes would begin. The position was actually in the headquarters of the FBI. Like a greyhound chasing a rabbit I flew home with the news to share with my wife. She did not follow my enthusiasm and was quick to point out we were newlyweds and couldn’t afford to live in Washington. My brain knew she was correct, but my heart was heavy with disappointment.
When I informed Mr. Quick of my dilemma he immediately invited my wife and me back to his office, whereupon he offered her a job as well. We were given the extensive background paperwork to fill out and sent on our way. I diligently filled in all of the information about my parents, grandparents and organizations any of us belonged to. My wife, for whatever her reasons, refused to complete her paperwork and my career with the FBI never came to fruition.
I have fought my own version of good versus evil. I stand up to anyone who is not treating others properly. I fight for equality in all aspects of life. My career involved adjudicating claims for disability fraud, suicides, homicides and accidental deaths. I stand up for those whose voice isn’t as strong as mine. Even yesterday I scolded a man in a bakery after he continually slapped his hand on the counter for service and then berated the young girl who waited on him. He was rude and his actions unacceptable and I told him this to his face.
Yes, J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation hired me and that fact I will always be proud of.