The Pennsylvania Avenue location of the J. Edgar Hoover Fbi Building is now a sad fait accompli , although many taxpayers still contend that the monstrous structure would perhaps have been better placed in southeast Washington, in the vicinity of the U.S. Capitol power plant, near the railroad tracks and Hoover's childhood home.
Now a controversy centers on chiseling Hoover's name off the FBI building because of his alleged infamies. And although Capitol Hill failed in this attempt four years ago, Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.) appears to be sharpening his congressional tools to chip away the offending 12 letters.
The Post reports that Edwards, an ex-FBI agent and chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee that oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation, believes that "naming the building after Hoover is inappropriate and that someday, quietly, it ought to be changed." Senate members also are discussing repeal of the law that named the $120 million prison-like structure after the longtime FBI director who died in 1972 and was later accused of flagrant abuses of his authority.
Well, all this furor about offensive names graven on government structures is reminiscent of Washington in 1861, when Jefferson Davis became president of the Confederate States of America. Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States and the Civil War was fast becoming a horrible, bloody success. Washington was looking forward to drinking and using water from the Potomac River, instead of from wells -- thanks to the Washington Aqueduct being built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Already, the skeleton of the Union Arch (Cabin John Bridge) was beginning to take shape, spanning the Cabin John Creek some eight miles west of the White House.
This Cabin John Bridge, begun in 1853 and completed in 1964, was for almost 40 years the world's longest single-arch stone bridge. It remains an all-important link in the water supply system that flows beneath MacArthur Boulevard.
Construction of the bridge and waster system was supervised by the famed Capt. (later general) Montgomery C. Meigs, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. On the southwestern side of his granite Union Arch (which conceals an iron conduit eight feet in diameter), Meigs had his stone carvers chisel this commemorative tablet: WASHINGTON AQUEDUCT
Begun a d 1853 president of the u s franklin pierce secretary of war jefferson davis building a d 1861 president of the u s abraham lincoln SECRETARY OF WAR SIMON CAMERON
It was to cause much more vituperation than today's FBI building.
Because Jefferson Davis -- West Point graduate, Mexican War hero, congressman, senator and U.S. secretary of war -- deserted the Union in 1861 to become president of the Confederate States of America, the "traitor" was roundly reviled by the federal government, his former colleagues in Congress and their constituents and also by the Northern press. All denounced Davis and demanded that his name be excised from the tablet, where it was graven above the name of Abraham Lincoln.
In 1862, Caleb B. Smith, secretary of the interior, bowed to popular resentment and ordered Davis' name chiseled off the upper southwest abutment of the near-completed bridge. For 42 years, the blank space intrigued viewers of the noble span.
In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt finally yielded to petitions from all over the South urging that the name of Jefferson Davis be restored to the Union Arch tablet.
Quite ironically, a stone carver from the Deep South, James B. Horne of Moss Point, Miss., was chosen to restor Jeff Davis' name in its original position. Horne was not slowpoke, nor was he a piecemeal artisan. He promptly chiseled every cotton-picking word off the stone block and recarved the entire original (and present) details -- to the letter!
Similar occurrences could accompany the proposal to chisel the name of J. Edgar Hoover off the FBI building -- unless we conclude that Congress and the American people have more important matters to attend to just now than to waste time and money on such trifles.
Indeed, it may also prove wiser to have the offending name remain over the entrance until the building falls into dust -- as a reminder to future generations that they must never again permit abuses of power such as those charged to the late and hate-ridden FBI director.