"The Society Of Former Special Agents Of The FBI" was founded in 1937 and today is a respected, professional organization. One might think at first that the Society was a welcomed organization by Director J. Edgar Hoover and those at Headquarters. For decades, however, nothing could be further from the truth. For a multitude of reasons, it wasn't until the late 1960s that Director, J. Edgar Hoover and the Bureau in general paid any recognition to it.
Released files kept by the FBI on the Society since "day one," revealed a fascinating look into an FBI that had gained America's recognition and how it would deal with sometimes sensitive issues with retirees and an organization about to adopt the FBI name. The special agents involved in forming the Society had service years spanning about 1917 - 1934, some being employed even before Director, J. Edgar Hoover.
For at least the first twenty years, Hoover himself was appalled at the idea that the Society, in using the FBI name, allowed membership of those agents who were fired or forced to resign over the early turbulent years, and even later. The first Society group was looking to enlist some of the early "political hacks" he had gotten rid of. It galled Hoover and others at Headquarters to think retirees then utilized their FBI affiliation to further their careers. Some in the Society utilized their positions to be publicly critical of Hoover and the Bureau's administration interjecting themselves in areas they weren't really qualified to address and brought embarrassment upon themselves and the FBI from where they came.
Bureau files regarding the Society reveal numerous occasions of letters from former Special Agents who refused to join the Society due to the lack of ethical controls over those allowed to join.
One person who made it clear at times that he was not supportive of Director Hoover was the former Director of the Bureau Of Investigation, Bruce Bielaski. Bielaski held the top position at the Bureau from 1912 - 1918 under Stanley Finch. In 1940, Bielaski addressed the New York convention of Former Special Agents, and was critical of Director Hoover and the Department Of Justice in general. (The letter of Director Hoover to the Attorney General, left, is here in it's entirety.)
As the decades progressed, Society presidents and others within began realizing that the presence of certain retirees was not to their advantage if they were to become a recognized, professional organization. Actually, it wasn't until the 1950s that the Society wrote a "code of ethics." There was no doubt the Society was going to have to clean house. Many times, this in turn, led to internal squabbling among Society members as to who to allow to join.
Not until the early 1960s, mainly with the help of Hoover's No. 3 man "Deke" DeLoach (RIP) acting as a buffer with Society presidents, did Hoover, Headquarters and the Society have a meeting of the minds. Hoover's first appearance at a Society function came later that same decade and the partnership was finally sealed forever.
The below Society member lists were released under the Freedom Of Information Act. The early lists may not reveal the retirement employment years of the agents as you'll note. Membership was not, and is not, mandatory. For the most part, readers will only find the years of service, the home addresses, and in later lists, the business they were employed in during retirement when the list was tabulated.
If you're researching a relative, or any of the agents of the eras, you'll want to check these listings but again: not every retired agent joined the Society!Readers may glean "leads" or verifications from these lists.
The membership listings are but one of the "tools" utilized to provide further information on these agents of yesteryear. And there is one final note. OCR scanning tools will not work on these old documents and as a result, the names on these lists will not show up if you do a "site search." A manual check will be needed.
1937 first member listing
In 1977 the Society's internal magazine, "Grapevine" produced an article naming the original founders of the Society and their backgrounds in the Bureau. That article is here.
The names mentioned, for indexing purposes of Net search engines and this website are as follows:
Special Agent, FBI Society founders
Colonel Francis X. Fay (1922-1935)
Francis J. Kilmartin (1920-36)
John L. Haas (1917 - 1930)
Charles J. D. Noble (1917 - 1920)
John A. Brann (1918 - 1930)
Robert G. Reed ( 1931 - 1936)
Michael F. Glynn (1930 - 1935)
Matthew J. Horan (1934 - 1935)