About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for The Director: My Years Assisting J. Edgar Hoover

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual author lecture with Paul Letersky, author of The Director.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

On Tuesday, July 20, at 1 p.m., Former Congresswoman and Wilson Center Director Jane Harman will discuss her recently published book, Insanity Defense, which examines how four administrations have failed to confront some of the toughest national security policy issues.

And on Thursday, July 22 at noon, we invite you to “Meet Teddy Roosevelt” in the latest edition of the National Archives Comes Alive! Young Learners Program. Actor Joe Wiegand will portray the 26th President and talk about the expansion of national parks during his administration.

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J. Edgar Hoover looms largely over the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and of 20th-century America. He was the founding director of the FBI, and served under eight Presidents as director of the agency and its predecessor Bureau of Investigation.

Within the records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the National Archives, a subset of material relates specifically to Hoover. In fact, one of the most unusual objects among our photographic holdings is a pair of brass knuckles. The brass knuckles—most likely a gift—are engraved with Hoover’s name and were included in a transfer of photographs to the National Archives in 1982. We even have a plaque from United Airlines for joining the 100,000 Mile Club.

Among the paper records, we have investigative case files Hoover kept in his private office to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information, Hoover’s own personnel file, and an entire series devoted to “Congratulatory Letters,” mainly to mark the annual anniversary of his appointment as director.

These are just a few examples from the tens of thousands of cubic feet of FBI records we preserve in the National Archives. Pairing archival records with personal stories and memories brings history to life, and today we’re eager to hear from someone who had access to one the more intriguing figures of 20th-century history.

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Paul Letersky is a former FBI agent who began working for J. Edgar Hoover as a personal assistant in 1965. He knew where the infamous “secret files” were kept and where the wiretaps were indexed, and he had a front-row seat to the comings-and-goings of Hoover’s personal office. He later became a special agent and participated in events that grabbed national headlines. After leaving the FBI, he became a vice president of Pan American World Airways.

Our moderator for today’s conversation is Joe Pistone—also known by his undercover alias Donnie Brasco. Pistone is a former FBI agent who worked undercover between September 1976 and July 1981, as part of an infiltration into the Bonanno crime family and, to a lesser extent, the Colombo crime family in New York City. Pistone was an FBI agent for 17 years until he resigned in 1986.

Now let’s hear from Paul Letersky and Joe Pistone. Thank you for joining us.