THE MYSTERY OF FBI SPECIAL AGENT LENORE HOUSTON

Why Did FBI Director Hire Lenore Houston in 1924 ~
The Only Female FBI Special Agent Ever Hired By Famed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover?

 

Part 2 of 2

What was it about Lenore Houston that caused J Edgar Hoover to hire her as a Special Agent?

J Edgar Hoover

J Edgar Hoover

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Lenore Houston was born on August 12, 1878 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to Joseph and Esther (née Rakemore) Houston. Joseph was a doctor and Esther was a housewife from a large German family that had been settled in the area since the early 1700’s. Lenore was one of four children and was well-educated having spent three years studying at Swarthmore College. 

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College

Although Lenore came from some degree of privilege, the amount of land her eldest brother inherited was not enough to entice him to stay in Pennsylvania. There is not much information about her middle brother and her youngest brother died when he was a toddler.

Perhaps the source of her recommendations to the position of Special Agent of the FBI holds a clue.

In June of 1922, at the age of 44, Lenore applied for the position of Special Agent. Both Pennsylvania Governor William Cameron Sproul and Beaver County, Pennsylvania District Attorney Louis E. Graham recommended her for this position on several occasions. She was initially hired as a Special Employee of the FBI hired by Director Burns on January 14th of 1924 and was assigned to investigate Mann Act violations (white slave trafficking) violations in the Philadelphia FBI office.

Director William J. Burns

Director William J. Burns

William Cameron Sproul served as the 27th Governor of Pennsylvania from January 21, 1919 to January 16, 1923.  Governor Sproul was born and spent much of his life in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In addition to the geographical connection, Governor Sproul also attended Swarthmore College, Lenore's alma mater.

 
William Cameron Sproul

William Cameron Sproul

 
Louis E. Graham

Louis E. Graham

Louis E. Graham was the District Attorney of Beaver County from 1912 through 1924.  Although District Attorney Graham had no particular connection to Lenore or to Lancaster County, Graham seemed to be the more ardent advocate for Lenore later in her career. Graham continued to recommend Lenore to Hoover until, finally, on November 6, 1924, Hoover changed Lenore’s designation to Special Agent. Lenore's connection with Congressman Graham may be a story that is lost to the sands of time.