Sam Hoover was a two-term mayor in Pasadena, TX and a prominent criminal defense attorney but beneath the respectable front lurked a sociopathic thug. The FBI identified Hoover as an associate of Biaggio Angelica who was among the top mobsters in the Lone Star State, and Hoover's principal racket during the 1950s and into the mid-1960s was running an interstate burglary crew comprised largely of queer teens with whom he was sexually involved. The wise guys were fully aware of Hoover's proclivities for troubled boys -- many of whom he kept in living quarters dubbed "the dog house" behind his own residence -- and that Hoover was fully immersed in Houston's lively gay nightlife. However, Hoover's sexual proclivities never seemed to undermine his underworld position.
Samuel Wells Hoover was born on December 20, 1908 in Hobart, OK. In 1943 he enlisted in the U.S. Army, and according to service records saw active duty as an infantryman "in the European-African Middle Eastern Theater from August 28, 1944, to July 20, 1945, and participated in the battle campaigns of Rhineland, Northern France and Central Europe." Hoover "gained two Battle Stars on his campaign ribbon as well as a Good Conduct medal," and was honorably discharged with a sergeant rank on September 27, 1945. Upon returning home he was elected the Pasadena mayor from 1948 to 1951, and attended the South Texas College of Law in Houston from which he graduated in 1951.
Notwithstanding that in 1936 Hoover had multiple arrests on burglary charges in Oklahoma City, the Texas bar licensed Hoover to practice. Hoover became a criminal defense lawyer "representing pimps and prostitutes, con men, thieves, etc.," according to an September 1958 FBI report, and curiously avoided practicing in the federal courts:
It will be noted during the past week HOOVER has been handling criminal cases in the various courts in Harris County, Houston. It is to be noted HOOVER apparently avoids practice in the Federal courts in Houston, and during the discussion of another matter with AUSA C. D. COTTINGHAM, SDT, Houston, COTTINGHAM mentioned that HOOVER is known to avoid the Federal courts as there are not any deals to be made in U. S. Courts.
Sam Hoover did not simply represent criminals but ran rackets, and was operating an interstate burglary ring, and his crew of teen boys doubled as his stud stable. A January 1959 FBI memo describes Hoover's Fagin-like predatory recruitment of the juvenile delinquents:
A more realistic view of his role in the affairs of Eastern Texas can be observed in checking the records of numerous youthful offenders who have at one time or another come under his influence. Sam Hoover has followed the practice of spotting likely candidates for his organization who may at the time be in trouble with local authorities, offering his legal services to them, securing their release on bail, and initiating them into his crime organization which consists of a loose-knit group of small gangs who engage in burglaries and robberies at the direction of their attorney. It has also been established that a number of youthful offenders procured in this manner by Sam Hoover have been initiated into practices of perversion to satisfy his lust.
Multiple informants advised that Hoover "always has 'queers' working for him," and crew members in jailhouse interviews admitted that they engaged in "homosexual activity" with Hoover.
A July 1959 FBI report provides that "in regard to the housing of his gang while they are not working, HOOVER possesses a 'dog house' which is a small apartment to the rear of his residence at 500 S. Tatar, Pasadena, where these individuals are housed." The FBI periodically put Sam Hoover under surveillance, and a September 5, 1958 memo states "physical surveillance of the home of HOOVER in Pasadena, Texas, during the past week has developed there is a constant visiting of young men to the offices of HOOVER," and "the young men visiting HOOVER's office usually in the age group of 17 to 20, were not recognized as any known police characters in the Houston area." The Houston Police Department told the FBI on August 15, 1960 that it characterized Hoover's crew as the "kid burglars," and "that during the past few months the number of young 18-19 year old group burglars apparently employed by HOOVER has been on the increase."
Houston had a well-established gay community and nightlife in which Hoover was fully immersed. A July 1959 FBI report states that "information has been obtained that HOOVER is a homosexual and frequently engages in homosexual activities," and a February 29, 1960 memo provides that "surveillances of HOOVER during this past week have resulted in it being ascertained that HOOVER is carrying additional case sometimes referred to as a 'overnight case for queers.'" There were many nightlife establishments in Houston at which Sam Hoover could play. A January 1960 FBI memo states "that the Surf Lounge, The Desert Room, The Pink Elephant and the Stage Door Lounge, Houston, are operating in full swing," and "these are all known hangouts of homosexuals." The same memo also quotes a confidential informant identifying a "Pasadena car dealer as a homosexual" who was "a friend of HOOVER's" and threw "'queer' parties at [his] home." A March 1958 FBI report states that "the socially elite group of homosexuals" attended private parties at Cleve's Steak House on 2834 Holman Road in Houston which otherwise "operates as a legitimate restaurant." An employee from one club told the FBI on October 3, 1960 that "she again saw HOOVER in the company of a 'young kid,'" and "HOOVER was attempting to 'put the make on' the young kid."
Vareece Berry, the former police chief in Pasadena, told the FBI that Hoover was "a well-known homosexual among the hoodlum element in Harris County, TX," and not the least of them was Biaggo Angelica. Angelica made his bones with gambling boss Sam Maceo from Galveston. In 1937 federal prosecutors charged Maceo and Angelica in a sweeping indicting with running southwest distribution for a Mafia-operated narcotics ring which was smuggling product from Europe into the New York ports. Maceo was acquitted in 1942 but according to FBI documents Angelica pleaded guilty in 1938, and served several years. Maceo continued his gambling operations, and partnered with Moe Dalitz in opening the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. After Maceo died in 1951 Angelica continued his own gambling and loansharking operations. Angelica owned M&M Music Company out of Galveston which operated jukeboxes, pinball machines, slots and other coin-operated devices, and he owned the Manhattan Lounge at 209 Gray Street in Houston from where he apparently conducted his policy racket. Angelica was a known associate of Tony Vincent Vallone who allegedly operated "dice games, bookmaking, and other illicit activities" from the Sorrento Restaurant and the Chum Club at 6611 Richmond Road in Houston and Dallas boss Joseph Francis Civello who was among the attending bosses at the infamous 1957 Apalachin meeting.
The FBI uncovered a working relationship between Angelica and Hoover, and the pair often met at Hoover's Pasadena home and office. On December 23, 1958, Angelica bombed a health clinic In High Island, TX, and upon his arrest police found a certified check on him payable to Hoover. An FBI report states:
ANGELICA has been reported to be an associate of SAMUEL WELLS HOOVER, a well known Houston criminal Attorney. At the time ANGELICA was arrested and charged with Arson, he possessed a $2500.00 certified check dated December 15, 1958, payable to SAM HOOVER. HOOVER has advised this was a "business loan" at ten percent interest.
Hoover represented Angelica on the charge, and the local mobster later was convicted of arson. An informant advised that in October 1959 Hoover visited Dallas "to meet two 'dagos' (Italians) from Kansas City" in connection with his burglary racket.
Hoover's burglary ring was not his only racket, and he further was involved with running heroin and marijuana from Mexico and pimping whores and rolling johns in Houston. A July 1959 FBI report in regard to his prostitution activities alleges:
HOOVER has also been reported to have several girls working for him engaged in prostitution. The girls generally operate at the William Penn Hotel and at the Blue Bonnet Motel, Houston. The rate is from $25.00 to $100.00 per trick and approximately $250.00 for all night. The modus operandi followed relative to the prostitution activities is that the girls generally pick up dates at different clubs and lounges around the city of Houston which dates have been directed to the girls by members of HOOVER's gang. Subsequent to being sent to the William Penn Hotel or the Blue Bonnet Motel, the individual desiring a date would be assaulted and rolled after turning a trick. HOOVER's take from the girls has been reported to be 40%.
The rackets generated sufficient income for Hoover to acquire multiple properties and business beyond his legal practice, and according to FBI documents he was "reported to possess an interest in the William Penn Hotel, Houston, several motels, drive-in markets, and furniture company."
Sam Hoover was a tough nut for law enforcement to crack notwithstanding their knowledge of his criminal activities, and he frequently was characterized as "shrewd" or "genius." A September 1959 FBI memo states:
HOOVER, who is outstanding and almost a genius in the profession of law, has been the subject of many investigations by local and state authorities with the result that HOOVER has to date been successful in evading prosecution. The possibility exists that local and state authorities in their endeavor to prosecute HOOVER have proceeded too hastily, couple with the fact that HOOVER is somewhat of an expert in the loopholes of the law.
One informant told the FBI in June 1959 that Sam Hoover "never discusses illegal business in his office or over his telephone" because "he 'thinks' that his office as well as his phone is 'bugged.'"
In 1958 Hoover was arrested for ordering the murder of underling James Edward Laird whom Hoover thought was flipping although the charge didn't stick. The break came for law enforcement in 1964. Texas-cop-turned-crime-writer Larry Watts vividly describes the gruesome crime which finally brought down Sam Hoover:
In March of that year, the wealthy owner of a dairy and wholesale grocery supply business, Mair Schepps, his wife, infant child and a family nurse maid were abducted and tortured as they were held captive in the Schepps River Oaks home. The robbery was set up by Sam Hoover, who never appeared at the crime scene, but gave continuing telephone instructions to the three criminals as they attempted to extract information from the victims about the location of a large sum of cash that Hoover believed Schepps was keeping in the home. The victims were bound and sadistically tortured for three hours. Mrs. Schepps was burned with a butcher knife that was heated on a stove and by cigarettes, wired to an electrical cord and shocked when it was placed on her teeth, breasts, and "private parts." When later arrested, they named Sam Hoover as the mastermind.
Hoover was convicted for his ringleader role but inexplicably released from prison after serving only nineteen years on a sixty-year sentence. The degenerate quickly returned to his old ways, and Watts writes that in 1984 Hoover was returned to prison and died in 1992.
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Further reading that may be of interest: