1972 August 24

Hippies in the Bureau? FBI Ordered to Allow Agents to Have Long Hair


The U.S. Civil Service Commission on this day ordered the FBI to reinstate fingerprint technician Joseph Hamm, who had been fired for having long hair. Longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who died on May 2, 1972, had been a legendary fanatic about grooming and had permitted only very short haircuts.

As Director of the FBI from 1924 to 1972, J. Edgar Hoover established what is arguably the worst record of violations of civil liberties of any public official in American history. The most notorious program was COINTELPRO, created on March 8, 1956, as a secret program that engaged in a variety of illegal activities against targeted organizations. The illegal actions included wiretaps, burglaries, theft, the forging of documents, and the dissemination of disruptive disinformation. COINTELPRO was originally directed at the Communist Party and other Marxist groups, but was later expanded to target the Ku Klux Klan, on July 30, 1964, and “New Left” political groups on May 9, 1968.

Public knowledge about the secret program began to emerge after activists burglarized the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, on March 8, 1971, and then leaked the stolen documents to the media. Only one document had a cryptic reference to COINTELPRO, but that led to further investigative reporting that eventually exposed COINTELPRO. The full story of COINTELPRO was not revealed until the Senate Church Committee investigation of the intelligence agencies that began on January 27, 1975.

Learn more about the FBI: Curt Gentry, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets (1991)

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