John Apostolides: A Greek American Making His Way

As we looked through the U.S. census data from the City of Alexandria in 1920 and 1940 searching for immigrants from Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey, the name John Apostolides stuck out considerably. Found in Ward 6 in the 1940 Census, Apostolides was a 40-year-old FBI lawyer who had lived previously in Washington, D.C. As I searched for more information on his life, I consulted the Washington Post in hopes that there would be something written about this uncharacteristic Greek immigrant. What I found was not at all what I expected, but was still extraordinary in its own right. The census taker in 1940 recorded Apostolides as employed with the FBI and was from Greece, but my research into the Washington Post turned up an Apostolides who had migrated to the US from Cyprus in 1921 and had since then worked as a detective in the Washington Metropolitan police force.[1] The disparity in information here could be explained by the fact that Washington, D.C. is a federal city and therefore, D.C. Metropolitan Police officers could have been considered federal agents.[2]

John Apostolides began his career with the Washington Metropolitan Police in the 1930s as a member of the subversive squad.[3] These squads could be found in most major cities in the United States as the country feared individuals who embraced radical philosophies like socialism, communism, and anarchy. In this period of paranoia, subversive squads were in charge of the surveillance of anyone deemed to have ties to philosophies that were believed to threaten capitalism and democracy. The people that were subject to surveillance were oftentimes foreign born and therefore subject to much scrutiny during this period.[4] Apostolides was valuable to this particular squad due to his mastery of four different languages and his personal experiences with immigrant communities.[5] After several years serving in the subversive squad, Apostolides transferred over to the check and fraud squad.[6]

While with the check and fraud squad, Apostolides had a very exciting and not at all laid back career. One article in the Washington Post details how Apostolides helped to bring down a man who had embezzled $8,500 from his employer.[7] Likewise, the Post applauded Apostolides for his work in bringing in a serial check forger who had disguised himself as a woman in order to rip off dress shop owners.[8] Alongside several other instances of good police work documented in the Washington Post, Apostolides also had one particularly harrowing apprehension of a suspect. While responding to a case of check fraud, Apostolides ran into the criminal in question on the street as he entered his stolen Cadillac. Thinking quickly, Apostolides hailed a cab, commandeered it, and proceeded to chase the man down and force him to pull over a few blocks later.[9]

Clearly John Apostolides was an exceptional man, and one who probably gave Greek and Cypriot immigrants a good name in and around Washington, D.C. While many of his fellow countrymen were seeing success in the private sector as restaurant operators, movie theater owners, etc., Apostolides was a public figure who brought good publicity to the Greek/Cypriot American community while simultaneously serving as a key member of DCPD.

[1] “John Apostolides, 64; Noted Detective Here,” The Washington Post, November 1, 1963, C6.

[2] Metropolitan Police Department: Cooperative Agreement: Federal Bureau of Investigation Police and MPDC, accessed October 12, 2015, http://mpdc.dc.gov/page/cooperative-agreement-federal-bureau-investigation-police-and-mpdc.

[3] “John Apostolides, 64; Noted Detective Here,” The Washington Post, November 1, 1963, C6.

[4] Randi Storch, Encyclopedia of Chicago: Red Squad, accessed September 30, 2015, http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1049.html.

[5] “John Apostolides, 64; Noted Detective Here,” The Washington Post, November 1, 1963, C6.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “$8,500 D. C. Fraud Suspect Found in Reno,” The Washington Post, November 30, 1946, 3.

[8] “Check Bogus Like Figure of Their Passer,” The Washington Post, January 3, 1950, B11.

[9] “Detective in Taxi Wins Auto Chase,” The Washington Post, June 8, 1949, B2.

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