William Burns is best known as ‘America’s Sherlock Holmes’ and became director at the Bureau of Investigation, to be immediately followed by J. Edgar Hoover. But before he became director, Burns had a long, highly publicized career as a government detective for the Secret Service, then as the head of the famed Burns International Detective Agency, which he founded after leaving government service.
These successes encouraged Burns to start his own agency and he successfully competed with his hated rival, the Pinkerton Detective Agency. He was a public hero for many years (except among labor union men who remembered his questionable tactics in the notorious McNamara case involving the bombing of the Los Angeles Times). But to the general populace, he was a white knight protecting the public interest until he disgraced his government office.
William R. Hunt was a former professor of History Emeritus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He wrote weekly history features for the Anchorage Daily News.