Helen Gandy

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Helen W. Gandy (April 8, 1897 – July 7, 1988) was an American civil servant. Gandy, who at age twenty-one left her native New Jersey for Washington, D.C., was the secretary to Federal Bureau of Investigation director J. Edgar Hoover for fifty-four years. Hoover called her "indispensable" and she exercised great behind-the-scenes influence on Hoover and the workings of the Bureau. Following Hoover's death in 1972, she spent weeks destroying his "Personal File," thought to be where the most incriminating material he used to manipulate and control the most powerful figures in Washington was kept.

Contents

Background

Gandy, "a wraith-like, grim-faced spinster from New Jersey"[2], was born in Rockville, one of three children (two daughters and a son) of Franklin Dallas and Annie (Williams) Gandy. She grew up in Fairton or Port Norris (sources differ) and graduated from Bridgeton High School in Bridgeton. In 1918, aged twenty-one, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she later took classes at Strayer Business College and George Washington University Law School.

Gandy briefly worked in a department store in Washington before she found a job as a file clerk at the Justice Department in 1918. Within weeks, she went to work as a typist for Hoover, effective March 25, 1918, having told Hoover in her interview she had "no immediate plans to marry." She, like Hoover, would never marry, both being completely devoted to the Bureau.

When Hoover went to the Bureau of Investigation (as it was then known) as its assistant director on August 22, 1921, he specifically requested Miss Gandy return from vacation to help him in the new post. Hoover became director of the Bureau in 1924 and Gandy continued in his service. She was promoted to "office assistant" on August 23, 1937, and "executive assistant" on October 1, 1939. Though she would receive promotions in her civil service grade subsequently, she would retain her title as executive assistant to her retirement on May 2, 1972, the day Hoover died. Hoover said of her "if there is anyone in this Bureau whose services are indispensable I consider Miss Gandy to be that person." Despite this, Curt Gentry wrote:

Theirs was a rigidly formal relationship. He'd always called her 'Miss Gandy' (when angry, barking it out as one word). In all those fifty-four years he had never once called her by her first name.

Hoover biographers Theoharis and Cox would say "her stern face recalled Cerberus at the gate,"[2] a view echoed by Anthony Summers in his life of Hoover, who also pictured Gandy as Hoover's first line of defense against the outside world.[3] When Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Hoover's nominal boss, had a direct telephone line installed between their offices, Hoover refused to answer the phone. "Put that damn thing on Miss Gandy's desk where it belongs," Hoover would declare.

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