Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis is pushing to have J. Edgar Hoover’s name removed from the FBI headquarters building in Washington, reports Michael Collins.
Hoover’s well-documented attempts to silence civil-rights figures like (Martin Luther) King and to ferret out and fire gays and lesbians working for the federal government left a bad stain on the nation’s history, Cohen said.
“J. Edgar Hoover did some awful, terrible things in his life and as FBI director,” he said. “He was the opposite of justice.”
Cohen is leading a campaign in Congress to cleanse the FBI of what he and many others consider Hoover’s ill deeds. The Memphis Democrat recently filed a bill to remove Hoover’s name from the FBI headquarters, arguing that his questionable tactics during the 37 years he ran the law-enforcement agency don’t reflect the values of the FBI and its agents of today.
Hoover’s “is not a name that is worthy of being honored,” Cohen said.
Cohen is far from the first member of Congress to push for the removal of Hoover’s name from the FBI building. Similar campaigns have been launched by other lawmakers over the years as more details of Hoover’s tactics have come to light. All of those efforts have come up short, and Cohen knows his bill will probably go nowhere in a Congress in which both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans.
It’s still an issue worth pursuing, he said.
At a recent hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Cohen pressed Comey, the FBI’s current director, on whether Hoover’s legacy represents what the FBI stands for today.
“The FBI today is vastly different than it was under its first director,” Comey replied.
Comey refused to get drawn into the debate over whether Hoover’s name belongs on the side of the agency’s headquarters building. Hoover did a lot of good things for law enforcement, Comey said, but he did a lot of other things that, through the lens of history, are rejected as improper. Regardless, from a historical perspective, it’s important “to take the total measure of the person,” Comey said.