He was born in Washington, D.C. but the details of his early life are almost unknown, a birth certificate for him was not filed until 1938. All known information can be usually traced back to a single 1937 profile by the journalist Jack Alexander. He was educated at George Washington University[?], graduating in 1917 with a degree in law. Rather than enlisting for the war he found work with the Justice Department. He soon proved himself capable and was promoted to head the Enemy Aliens Registration Section. In 1919 he became head of the new General Intelligence Division of the Justice Department[?] (see the Palmer Raids). From there in 1921 he joined the Bureau of Investigation (BI) as deputy head and in 1924 the Attorney General made him director.
When Hoover took over the BI[?] it had approximately 650 employees, including 441 Special Agents. It was renamed and empowered as the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935. In 1939 the FBI became pre-eminent in the field of domestic intelligence.
Evidently, Hoover amassed significant power by collecting files on people, especially politicians, that were kept off of the official FBI records. This unofficial legacy is speculative because his secretary of decades, (Miss) Helen Gandy, spent the days after Hoover's death destroying all of these files.
Speculation that Hoover practiced homosexuality and was a secret transvestite has never been confirmed with factual evidence. However, his right-hand man, Clyde Tolson, was a constant companion for more than 40 years, and they often vacationed together. Hoover and Tolson were both lifelong bachelors and Hoover lived with his mother until her death in 1938 when he was 43 years old. Hoover was raised a devout Presbyterian, considered the ministry as a career, and used this publicly known fact to render his personal conduct, sexually or otherwise, unimpeachable during his tenure at the FBI.