This week’s celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s contribution to civil rights and freedom for all Americans is another reminder of the necessity to remove from the FBI headquarters building the name of the notorious racist, bigot, human rights abuser and blackmailer who used that institution in his long campaign to demonize and destroy the civil rights icon.
J. Edgar Hoover’s most notorious – but far from only – crime was his vendetta against King. He had King followed for years, tapped his phones and those of his associates, planted cameras in his hotel rooms, spread false stories about him and collected extensive files.
The FBI even sent King an anonymous letter in 1964 in a comic opera attempt to convince him to commit suicide.
In Hoover’s twisted mind the civil rights movement was part of a communist conspiracy and a threat to the republic. He did everything he could to disrupt and discredit the civil rights movement.
Another favorite target Hoover suspected of Communist ties was Albert Einstein. Hoover ordered the FBI to collect “any derogatory information” it could find on Einstein, according to FBI documents. Evidence of the scientist’s questionable loyalty apparently was an offer to be president of a foreign country – Israel. Hoover kept Einstein under surveillance for 22 years, hoping to arrest him as a political subversive or even a Soviet spy. Einstein was an outspoken advocate of social justice, peace, disarmament and civil rights – all subversive causes in Hoover’s eyes.
Harry Truman accused Hoover of “dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail.” No wonder he was one of the presidents on Hoover’s enemies list. The FBI chief worked secretly to help Thomas E. Dewey defeat Truman in 1948.
U.S. Circuit Judge Laurence H. Silberman, a Reagan appointee, called for removing Hoover’s name from the building, saying, “It is as if the Defense Department were named for Aaron Burr.”
The Government Services Administration plans to tear down the Hoover building and put up a new FBI headquarters in the suburbs in the next couple of years. That would be a good time – albeit long overdue – to toss the name on history’s trash heap.