Interview with Jerris Leonard
QUESTION 9
LOUIS MASSIAH:

Ah, J. Edgar Hoover, who was head of the FBI at the time, talked about the Black Panthers being the, the single threat to the internal security of the country. Ah, I'd be interested in, ah, we're going to stop for a change.





JERRIS LEONARD:

One has to be very careful when you try to put the role of J. Edgar Hoover as director of the FBI in proper context during this time. First of all, it has to be said that Mr. Hoover, at least in my opinion, headed the finest investigative organization in the world. There are those people who said that, ah, Mr. Hoover wasn't, didn't look to favorably on the Civil Rights Division. I want to tell you that every single request that we made of the FBI was carried out fully, completely, and in a professional and competent manner. At the same time, Mr. Hoover had a political audience to play to. He had a huge organization. He had to continue to support that organization, unfortunately, at times he supported it with rhetoric. I think, frankly, that he overstated the, ah, the concern, the real concern that the Black Panthers were to the country. Ah, ah, I think it was legitimate for him to state that they were a violent and unlawful element, but, ah, referring to them as the most dangerous or most important, and I don't remember it exactly, the words he used, the greatest threat to, to the United States, at that time, was an over-statement**.