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An Amusing Tale of How a Son Wrote J. Edgar Hoover to Help his FBI Agent Dad

Washington Post magazine

Washington Post Sunday magazine

A young son wanted to help his overworked dad who was an FBI agent. So he secretly wrote J. Edgar Hoover to get help. The rest is a very amusing story.

By Anthony Edward Schiappa Jr.
Washington Post Sunday Magazine

I grew up revering two men: J. Edgar Hoover and my dad. I was elated when Dad joined the FBI in 1962; it was as if the Yankees had hired him to pitch. My father had been job-hopping, having worked at five newspapers over the previous eight years. While my parents were pleased with the job security and benefits of the FBI, I had ecstatic visions of my father as a commie-fighting, crime-busting G-man. John Dillinger, the Karpis-Barker gang and “Machine Gun” Kelly were as familiar to me as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. “The FBI Story” was the first book longer than a comic book I ever read. When I was 7 years old, I couldn’t name the president, but I knew

who the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was. I still have letters my father wrote during his training at the FBI Academy in Quantico: “Daddy is working and studying very hard to become a good FBI agent. I will be home in August and I will show you my badge and my gun.” What could be cooler?

J. Edgar Hoover/fbi photo

J. Edgar Hoover/fbi photo

Through my boyhood eyes, my father personified the FBI motto of Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity. Six feet tall with looks like Cary Grant, he made the dark suit, white shirt, subdued tie and homburg hat of FBI fame appear stylish. As my father’s new-agent training report noted, “This man makes a very substantial initial impression.” Reticent, he wielded the driest of wits. He signed my fifth-grade autograph book: “To my son, Eddie; may his father lead a long and prosperous life.”

As for Hoover, his career turned out to be stunningly inconsistent. His leadership alternated between brilliant and boneheaded; his tremendous accomplishments sometimes have been overshadowed by his idiosyncrasies. Forty years ago, my family got a taste of the best and worst that Hoover had to offer.

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