1934, G-Man was underworld slang for any and all
government agents. In fact, the detectives in J. Edgar Hoovers
Bureau of Investigation were so little known that they were
often confused with Secret Service or Prohibition Bureau agents.
By 1935, though, only one kind of Government employee was
known by that name, the Special Agents of the FBI.
this change came about is not entirely clear, but todays
date, September 26, plays a central role in the apocryphal
origins of this change.
years ago today, Bureau of Investigation Agents and Tennessee
police officers arrested gangster George Machine Gun
Kelly. He was a wanted fugitive for good reason.
Two months earlier Kelly had kidnapped oil magnate Charles
Urschel and held him for $200,000 in ransom. After Urschel
was released, the Bureau coordinated a multi-state investigation,
drawing investigative information from its own field offices
as well as from other police sources, as it identified and
tracked the notorious gangster across the country.
26th, Machine Gun Kelly was found in a decrepit
Memphis residence. Some early press reports said that a tired,
perhaps hung-over Kelly stumbled out of his bed mumbling something
like I was expecting you. Another version of the
event held that Kelly emerged from his room, hands-up, crying
Dont Shoot G-Men, Dont Shoot. Either
way, Kelly was arrested without violence.
rest is history. The more colorful version sparked the popular
imagination and G-Man became synonymous with the
Special Agents of J. Edgar Hoovers Federal Bureau of