Readers of this American Tribune blog (now over 425 indexed articles) will never confuse my political position in the ongoing class-war struggle. Here I present a short-profile of G-Man Melvis Purvis as he relates to J. Edgar Hoover…arguable one of the most hypocritical and successful racketeers in American history.
In addition to my work and avid interest as a journalist, criminal/civil investigator, having a PsyD in (Forensic) Psychology, political activism and extensive prison experience, I’ve been a member of CSICOP for the past 25-yrs. Personally, I think there’s a lot of value in knowing the truth…
The Committee of Skeptical Inquiry and Claims of the Paranormal is an org to “promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims.”
One of their recent investigations, published in their magazine, Skeptical Inquirer (July/August 2015), is “Dillinger’s Ghost and Hoover’s Vendetta against G-Man Purvis.”
I believe that Melvin Purvis’s story is important for two reasons. First, the real facts presented here are news to me. Like most, I grew up w/the propaganda that Purvis was this larger-than-life G-Man leading the gov’t charge against arch-criminals … darker-side Robin Hoods. I never knew the full story.
Second, Purvis’s role and how he was treated adds to our knowledge of one of the greatest class criminals: John Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), a rank hypocrite and blackmailer of the first order.
In addition to the irony of Hoover’s creating one of the first-class investigative agencies in the world—the FBI—we’ll never know the full body-count of how many lives Hoover has also destroyed in his quest to seize and maintain his personal power–the directorship of the agency he largely created.
I’ve been privileged to know a good number of quite extraordinary police, prosecutors, judges, politicians and intelligence agents who have endeavored to serve the ideals of American democracy with remarkable social responsibility and sacrifice. But, by and large, they do not run the show…
As a former officer on the St Louis PD recently opined, “On any given day, in any police dept in the nation, 15% of officers will do the right thing, 15% will abuse their authority, and the remaining 70% could go either way depending on whom they are working with.”
As it turns out, one of those who did the right thing was a Special Agent of the FBI, Melvin Horace Purvis II (1903-1960). Purvis was everything that his boss, J. Edgar Hoover was not.
The public generally knows Purvis as the famous G-Man who got John Dillinger and “Pretty Boy” Floyd. But as is usual with Hollywood fiction, Purvis was a bit more complex.
Melvin was a diminutive 5’9” at 140 pounds, and a practicing attorney when he joined the FBI in 1927. Turns out he was remarkably prescient and clever. He soon rose to take charge of the Bureau office in Chicago in 1932. He captured more ranking criminals than any other agent in the history of the FBI.
Described by the press as “Nervous Purvis” because the writer saw his cigar visibly shake when he lit it for the Dillinger take-down. Purvis freely admitted that his nervous system is not built for physical confrontation. “I never led a raid without [quite nervous] apprehension.” Adding, “A sense of responsibility is often an effective substitute for [faux] courage.”
Hoover, a particularly vain glory-seeker, “steamed at the attention given Purvis” and “seethed with jealousy.” Out of public view, Hoover demoted Purvis and maneuvered to sideline him with demeaning assignments. Hoover even re-wrote the official FBI version of Melvin’s exploits excluding any mention of Purvis.
Melvin Purvis was effectively forced to resign from the FBI in 1935. While pretending to be friendly, Hoover continued his not-so-secret vendetta against Purvis, spreading false rumors, blocking his appointment to the federal bench, and undermining Hollywood offers (if they wanted FBI access, they had little choice).
(Despite all this invective, during World War-II Purvis did succeed in being appointed a colonel to the Military Intelligence Division.)
Purvis’s office manager in the Chicago FBI Bureau, Mrs. Doris Rogers (1910-2011), summed up Hoover’s vendetta against the great G-man: “It is the story of a man whose meanness and smallness led him to destroy another man. It is a calumny of the worst order, and there is no way to recall it without raging against it.”
J. Edgar Hoover had styled his name after one of his personal heroes, A. Mitchell Palmer, a former US Attorney General. Palmer is best known for his “Palmer Raids” during the “Red Scare” of the post-Bolshevik (1917+) period.
Hoover was the Justice Dept clerk in charge of organizing those raids. Hoover was born in 1895 and raised in Washington, DC. He lived w/his mother until her death in 1938 when he was 40.
Hoover had a Masters degree in Law. In college he praised the earlier work of Anthony Comstock (1844-1915), a believer in Victorian morality, anti-abortion, the subjugation of women and creating anti-contraception and chastity laws.
Hoover went on to become an arch-racist, anti-communist, closet-residing homophobe. Hoover had never himself made a single arrest of a suspect, nor served in the military. Embarrassed before a Senate committee hearing, he ordered his agents to inform and include him if and when they were ready to arrest Public Enemy #1, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis.
They did so in 1936. Although the arrest went down without incident with Hoover remaining safely out of harm’s way, he rewrote his own fictitious heroic involvement. Having virtual control of the media (and controlled all media “leaks”) Hoover could always count on rewriting history.
All of this is rather ironic (and hypocritical) given that Hoover was believed to be a mulatto who passed for white. He was also known as a cross-dressing closet-queen whose life-long sex-partner, Clyde Tolson, Hoover appointed as his deputy-director of the FBI.
(Hoover went on to lead the FBI for 48-yrs until his death in 1972. Tolson reportedly cleaned out all his secret files, which then disappeared. Hoover’s will left the vast bulk of his estate and home to Tolson.)
It was also well known, especially among veteran journalists and politicians, that Hoover maintained his directorship of the FBI because he essentially blackmailed legislators, including American presidents.
According to President Harry S. Truman, Hoover had transformed the FBI into his private secret police force. Truman stated, “We want no Gestapo or secret police. [The FBI] are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail … congressmen and senators are afraid of him.”
Lyndon Johnson referred to a question regarding replacing Hoover, “I’d rather have him IN the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in.” Richard Nixon was recorded as stating in 1971 that he didn’t fire Hoover because he feared reprisals.
There’s a socio-political lesson in here somewhere…
One of my own personal systemic beliefs—contrary to many of my comrades and the static academic gilding referring to the capitalist system as an “ideology”—is that much of this lauded “private enterprise” is quite simply a criminal conspiracy.
Ideology, like much of the actual practice of religionists, is merely the clothing that hides or excuses their personal and joint criminal behavior for profit, privilege and power.
The schmuck that hands a teller a note and steals a $thousand-or-so is deemed a “criminal,” while the financial officer who loots and impoverishes thousands of citizens of their pensions for his share-holders is … what? A business man?
Dr. Publico (Nick Medvecky, PsyD), September 2015…