FBI

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.

 



Lies don't have details

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Think for a minute about what you did yesterday.  If a friend asks you what you did yesterday, you would easily be able to recount your activities.  You remember many details.  If someone asks a detail about a part of it or asks you to tell your day's events backwards, it's no problem.

Say you went to lunch at Chipotle yesterday with some colleagues from your firm. You have been worried lately that something complicit is happening at your firm.  You don't know exactly what is going on and you want absolutely no part of it.  While you were out with your co-workers, you overheard them talking about their fraudulent behavior.  You were very upset and weren'tsure exactly what to do.  You decided to just pretend you never heard anything at all.  After all, you don't want to be involved.

Say FBI agents visit you at home and ask you about your day yesterday.  You ask why they are asking questions and they only tell you they have a routine investigation ongoing.  You feel immediate stress and guilt by association.  You tell them you want to be as helpful and cooperative as possible.

Then, without even consciously thinking about it, you begin to minimize and fabricate a story about your day.

They ask if you spent time with your colleagues and you tell them, “No, not really.  I might have bumped into a couple of them but didn't really spend any time with them.”  They ask if you know about or suspect anything improper or illegal going on at your firm.  You try to sound shocked saying, “No, of course not.”

They ask you to tell them what you did yesterday.  Uh oh!  Now, you may not know it,  but your pulse is increasing and your brain is going into high gear to make sure you sound truthful.

You say you went out shopping in the morning, then out to lunch, and then home to do some paperwork.  You leave out that the lunch you had was with the colleagues you already said you hadn't really seen yesterday.

You are then asked by the Agents about where you went shopping,  You provide great detail about what stores you went to and what you bought.  Now they ask you about lunch.  Uh oh. Now what?  You have watched enough episodes of CSI to know that they will be able to get surveillance video from the Chipotle where you and your colleagues had lunch.  Despite rationalizing this, you blurt out that you had a quick lunch at McDonald's so you could get to your paperwork.  Clever!

To be continued...