Then and Now
August 22, 1921 - June 14, 1924
J. Burns was born around 1860 in Baltimore, Maryland,
educated in Columbus, Ohio. As a young man, Mr.
Burns performed well as a Secret Service Agent
and parleyed his reputation into the William J.
Burns International Detective Agency. A combination
of good casework and an instinct for publicity
made Mr. Burns a national figure. His exploits
made national news, the gossip columns of New York
newspapers, and the pages of detective magazines,
in which he published "true" crime stories
based on his exploits. Well qualified to direct
the Bureau, and friends with Warren Harding's Attorney
General Harry M. Daugherty, Burns was appointed
as Director of the Bureau of Investigation on August
22, 1921. Under Mr. Burns, the Bureau shrank from
its 1920 high of 1,127 personnel to around 600
three years later. He resigned in 1924 at the request
of Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone because
of his role in the Teapot Dome Scandal. This scandal
involved the secret leasing of naval oil reserve
lands to private comanies.
Mr. Burns retired
to Florida and published detective and mystery
stories based on his long career for several years.
He died in Sarasota, Florida, in April 1932.