This article, part of a special issue of the NIJ Journal commemorating the Institute's 50th anniversary, provides a brief summary overview of the history of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) from its founding to the present day. Instituted in response to rising rates of violent crime in the United States, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (NILECJ), was established to identify and fund efforts in response to President Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the LEAA was replaced a new Office of Justice Programs and NILECJ became the NIJ – an organizational structure the remains to this day. From its founding as NILECJ, NIJ has been uniquely positioned to support and promote research to combat crime and improve the criminal justice system at the National, State, and local levels, and serve as a bridge between justice practitioners and the research community. The NIJ looks ahead to the next 50 years of its commitment to improving criminal justice in the United States by continuing the use of evidence standards and its commitment to effective programs in translating research into real-world change.