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Hiring Special Agents – Lewis Taylor Part 2

Bureaus are breeding grounds for bureaucracy, and Hoover’s was no different. Hoover might be interested in virtually everything his agency did, down to the smallest detail, but he could not do it all himself. He might read virtually every piece of paper passing through the Bureau of Investigation, he might direct its movement, but he could not control it. Paperwork in Hoover’s domain, as in anyone else’s, had a life of its own.  In Lewis Taylor’s case, all necessary documentation by the Denver field office was completed by May 13. The application folder was mailed to Washington for further action but instead was simply filed away. A confused Taylor, who had already registered his intent to accept the job of Special Agent, wired Hoover on May 29, “Does failure to hear from you mean that application has not been accepted.” The concerned Director instructed Clyde Tolson to look into the “considerable mix-up,” adding, “I certainly hope there are no other files in the same condition.” Tolson could not determine what happened in Taylor’s case but did revise the internal routing of documents to prevent a completed case from being “filed without action.”

In the meantime, Taylor was ordered to undergo a physical examination. After that, things again moved quickly. The young man passed his physical on June 5, and two days later an appointment letter was prepared.  Before the letter could be issued, the Bureau notified New Mexico’s two U.S. Senators.  On June 11, Senator Phipps gave his go-ahead, but Senator Waterman put a hold on the appointment until he talked to the Attorney General. Waterman gave his release on the 15th, but by that time it was too late to place Taylor in the next new agent class in Washington. On June 17, therefore, Hoover cancelled Taylor’s appointment.

The disappointed applicant busied himself with practicing law in Clayton, New Mexico while he awaited his next chance. All the early paperwork was not without result. When new funding became available, Taylor was directed to take a new physical examination. He did this on December 21, 1929, and a new letter of appointment was prepared on Christmas Eve. Then the file sat once more, probably inside the Justice Department, until a new job offer was mailed on February 17, 1930. The eager New Mexican telegraphed his positive reply five days later, and on March 3, forty-seven weeks after first expressing interest, Taylor entered the school for Special Agents.

It was the task of Inspector Keith, the Bureau’s training director, to “devote particular attention” to training each new agent. Taylor, like all new agents, was to be “fully instructed in all phases of the Bureau’s work.”  Taylor learned well the Bureau’s “Manual of Rules and Regulations” and “Manual of Instructions,” scoring 93 and 100 on the respective tests. Keith described Taylor as “youthful, inexperienced, and inclined to be gossipy.” The kid from the New Mexico sticks impressed Keith “as sort of a small town politician.” Nevertheless, Keith was sure Taylor would “do his best to make good,” making a satisfactory Special Agent, but probably never rising beyond that.

On March 30, 1930, probationary Special Agent Taylor entered on duty in the Chicago field office. Special Agent in Charge E.J. Connelly assigned him to general case work. After thirty days, Taylor was developing as expected. His final (60-day) rating is missing from his file, but at the end of May he graduated to permanent status in the Bureau.