[July 08, 2013] A Tip of the Fedora to Elmer Lincoln Irey
, the Patron Saint of the IRS
A Tip of the Fedora to Elmer Lincoln Irey
, the Patron Saint of the IRS
name is Elmer Lincoln Irey
life and legacy are reminders of the IRS's long and largely unheralded effectiveness in taking down many of the most notorious gangsters, crooked politicians, and white-collar swindlers in American history.
"Our first chief, Elmer Lincoln Irey, foresaw a continual legacy of bringing to justice America's criminal elite and wanted us to always have a profound sense of purpose," says current IRS Chief of Criminal Investigation Richard Weber.
Not that the public knows much about Irey
monumental impact on law enforcement.
That brings us to Irey
, whom Life magazine
called "one of the world's greatest detectives.
The description was apt, but perhaps an understatement.
As biographer William J. Slocum observed, "The story is that Elmer Irey's Intelligence Unit was literally the last hope of the American people in our running battle with the underworld."
Born in 1888 in Kansas City, Irey was raised in Washington, D.C. and began his career as a simple stenographer in the Post Office Department.
While there he
observed the highly scrupled efforts of the postal inspectors, meticulous sticklers for tracking every penny lost or stolen via the U.S. mail.
investigative skills and ability as a leader were so evident he
was placed in charge of cleaning up the obvious corruption among Prohibition agents.
Borrowing a half dozen top postal inspectors, he created Treasury's Intelligence Unit in 1919, and a reluctant legend was born.
Intelligence Unit was literally the last hope of the American people."
In his 1945 book The Giant Killers, Alan Hynd portrayed Irey
as fearless and fair: "His life has been devoted to his job and his wife and sons.
has any personal feelings about the criminals he
jails, it is that he
can't excuse a big shot for cheating on his
income taxes when little people, of whom Irey
considers himself one, pay up dutifully.
Everything else to Irey
is beside the point."
was uncommonly aggressive.
gang were unmoved.
At a time Hoover's men were busy chasing bank robbers, Irey's
Intelligence Unit recognized the structure and eminent danger of organized crime.
agents solved the Lindbergh-baby kidnapping case, then known as the "Crime of the Century.
"Successful results thus examined in retrospect have brought pardonable pride and satisfaction to the personnel," Irey
wrote, then felt compelled to add, "Unsuccessful and ineffective efforts have not been wholly without value; they have demonstrated the 'ways not to do it'-the policies and methods to avoid."
The prose was pure Irey: always mindful of his
reputation, ever aware his
words would be scrutinized by IRS critics.
As head of the Treasury Department's law-enforcement branches, Irey was so publicly credible Roosevelt used him to help promote the need for a dramatic increase in the income tax to finance the American military effort in World War II.
FDR noted the "incorruptibility" and "A-1 efficiency" of Irey's
retired from public service after the war and a decade after doctors warned him he
had a serious heart condition.
The great American detective died July 19, 1948.
In keeping with his
funeral service was filled with friends and family but little fanfare. (By contrast, Hoover received a state funeral befitting a president.) Even in his
1948 memoir The Tax Dodgers, Irey
managed to shift the limelight from himself to his
For IRS Criminal Investigation officials such as Paul Camacho, special agent in charge of Nevada and Utah, Irey is a hero worth of his pedestal.
was a role model back then and is serving as a role model for us now.