Henry E. Petersen (1972-1974)
Early History: Henry E. Petersen was born in 1921 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up in Washington, D.C., and served as a U.S. Marine in the South Pacific Theater during World War II. In 1947, while a student at Georgetown University, Mr. Petersen began his 27-year career in federal service as a clerk for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He subsequently received his law degree from Catholic University and joined the U.S. Department of Justice.
Mr. Petersen started in the Antitrust Division and then moved to the Criminal Division. He held a variety of posts including serving as Chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section during the 1960’s, where he created the Division’s Organized Crime Strike Force, which enhanced interagency law enforcement coordination.
Tenure: In 1972, Mr. Petersen was the first career staffer directly appointed to the role of Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division. As Assistant Attorney General, Mr. Petersen supervised investigations involving allegations of vote rigging and fraud, and oversaw the investigation of the burglary at the Democratic National Convention’s Watergate complex in 1972, which he led until the appointment of a special prosecutor by Congress in 1973. Mr. Petersen also supervised an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore that eventually led to the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew. In 1974, he retired.
Later Career: Mr. Petersen passed away in 1991 in Sunderland, Maryland. In his honor, the Henry E. Petersen Memorial Award is bestowed on those who have made a lasting contribution to the Criminal Division and exemplify character, diligence, courage, professionalism, and talent. Past recipients include former Attorney General Eric Holder, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jack Keeney of the Criminal Division.
This material is based on the review of a variety of historical sources and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. If you have any corrections or additional information about this individual or about the history of the Criminal Division, please contact the Division.