Hoover was asked a question: "Who's the ten baddest people you are looking for?" Thus was born the FBI's Ten Most Wanted fugitives.
Last March in Los Angeles, FBI agent Steve Tidwell joined others to mark the 56th anniversary of the Ten Most Wanted list. They did it by adding still another new face and name.
"He is Emigdio Preciado, a well-known South Side gang member," Tidwell said at a press conference.
Police charge that six years ago, the L.A. gang member stepped out of a van and fired 21 bullets from an AK-47 at a patrol car. Three months later, Preciado was seen dancing in a club in Mexico.
"We will never give up the hunt for him," Tidwell said.
"It's one of the longest lasting programs in the FBI. And it is remarkably successful," said Chip Burrus, who until his retirement last June, oversaw the list for the FBI in Washington.
Burrus says history is on "his side" — 457 of the 485 on the list have been captured.
"Mr. Hoover's idea, back in 1950, was to use the power of the media and power of the press, to be able to put the pictures of the people we want out in the public," he told Sunday Morning correspondent Cynthia Bowers.
Preciado's name went on because last October, John Parsons — charged with murdering a police officer — was captured in Ohio.
"So what we do is when we have an opening on the list, we canvass all our field offices. We have 56 field offices around the country," Burrus said. "And we ask them for the worst of the worst: who they would like to see that's done something really bad, and that you think publicity might be able to help you out."
But America's list of Ten Most Wanted fugitives is more than just names and photographs. It is about crimes. One took place here in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 9, 2001, in a house that used to sit in a cul-de-sac.
To the outside world, Robert William Fisher "looked" like the perfect dad and husband. Then a fire destroyed his home. Three bodies were recovered: his wife Mary Fisher, her daughter Brittney Fisher, and her son, Bobby Junior.
"The children's and even Mary's throats were slit so deep that they were almost decapitated. And Mary Fisher was shot in the head," said Robert Caldwell, a FBI special agent in the Phoenix office. "And, in the house, it was found to have been rigged to blow up, to cover up the homicide."
Robert Fisher was missing. His car was later found in an isolated area in northern Arizona. Investigators also determined a possible reason behind his alleged rampage.
"He and Mary were going to divorce," Caldwell said. "He didn't want them to go. It had to be under him or no one at all."
Agent Caldwell nominated Fisher for the Top Ten List and in June 2002, Fisher's name went on it.
"What's he going to do if he meets another woman, starts another family?" Caldwell said. "Is he gonna murder them? And that's the reason why he's on the Top Ten, as we firmly believe he could do this again."
The Most Wanted list has made a difference, and it's had a little help. The FBI says 16 criminals have been turned in by viewers of the TV program "America's Most Wanted." In all, according to the FBI, 148 fugitives have been captured or located because of tips from ordinary citizens.
Among them are Andrew Phillip Cunanan, who killed designer Gianni Versace; serial killers Ted Bundy and Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, the man who came to be known as the Railway Killer; anti-abortion bomber Eric Robert Rudolph; James Earl Ray, on the list twice — first for killing Martin Luther King, Jr., and later for escaping from prison.
Dary Matera is a crime writer and author of "FBI's Ten Most Wanted." He says Americans have always been fascinated with crime. For example, legendary bank robber John Dillinger was a celebrity.
Matera said before the Most Wanted list, famous criminals were just called "public enemies." The term became so popular that it was the basis for the 1931 James Cagney movie. But there never really was a "Public Enemy Number One," just as there is no "number one" on the Most Wanted list.
"They just don't rank it," Matera said. "And the FBI says that's because they're bad guys. And they want them all. And the current list has stretched that concept to the max. Because you have Osama Bin Laden on it, he's been on it and everyone's saying, 'Well, he's got to be number one.'"
Osama Bin Laden isn't on the list for 9/11. Matera said he was listed for the bombings of embassies overseas before 9/11.
Matera says while the FBI denies it, he's been told the Top Ten list always features a variety of crimes.
"You have the drug dealer slot," Matera said. "You have a familialcide slot, the guy who kills his whole family. You have a mafia slot."
Although few of the most notorious mafia members ever make the list.
"John Gotti never was on the list," Matera said. "They don't have a lot of them because they rarely go on the lamb. They don't hide."
Thomas James Holden was the first name on the list; he killed his wife and her two brothers. Eight women have made the list, the first being kidnaper Ruth Eisman Schierin 1968.
"So after her, there were three in a 72-hour period," Matera said. "One of them was Angela Davis."
Davis was a member of the Black Panther Party.
"They had Bernadine Dorn, who was the Weather Underground," Matera said.
The radical anti-Vietnam war group carried out several bombings in the late '60s and early '70s. The latest woman to make the list is accused murderer Shauntay Henderson. She was arrested after less than a day on the list last March. Matera says being put on the list is terrifying for criminals.
"A couple of listees had heart attacks when they found they were on the list," Matera said. "And 21 of them just gave up."
But not Donald Eugene Webb. Charged with killing a police chief, he's been on the list since 1981. There is also James Whitey Bulger. At 78, he is the oldest person ever to appear on the list. He's said to be the inspiration for the Jack Nicholson role in the film "The Departed." Bulger is charged with 18 counts of murder and corrupting two FBI field agents.
"Whitey Bulger is a case that we take very personally here in the FBI for a lot of reasons. 99.999 percent of the FBI agents that are on board today, or have been on boat yesterday, have been 100 percent clean," Burrus said. "Mr. Bulger found a couple of our weak spots."
Sherriff's deputy Michael Schapps is particularly interested in the newest member of the list: Emigdio Preciado, the man who shot him in the head.
"I just want my day of justice when I stand in the court and Emigdio Preciado is sentenced to life behind bars," Schapps said.