FBI Retired Case File Review Celebrates Black History Month

A Brief History Review of African American Special Agents in the FBI:

In 2019, the FBI celebrated the 100th anniversary of African American Special Agents and highlighted the hiring of James Wormley Jones in November 1919. Wormley is believed to have been the first African American special agent hired by the Bureau of Investigation, the forerunner of the FBI. Jones left the Bureau in April 1923. Several other African Americans were also hired during this period, primarily to investigate and infiltrate black nationalist organizations, such as the group led by Marcus Garvey. James Amos, hired in 1921, was the only one who stayed on. He served in the Bureau for over three decades before retiring.

J. Edgar Hoover was appointed director in 1924. African Americans were not hired as FBI special agents for nearly forty years.

The African American special agents serving in the FBI after the mid-1920s and until 1962, were support employees who were given the title of “Special Agent” by Hoover. They had not met the established college requirements, had not been allowed to attend the FBI Academy, and did not perform many of the duties in the special agent job description. They also had the task of being Director Hoover’s drivers when he was in town.

It 1962, Director Hoover was under pressure by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and the Department of Justice to diversify the ranks of the FBI with fully qualified and college educated African American special agents.

The first two African American candidates to attend the FBI Academy, Aubrey Lewis and James Barrow, entered on duty together in the summer of 1962. A year later, in the summer of 1963, Wayne Davis and another African American candidate, John Cary, attended the FBI Academy and joined the Bureau. John Glover received his appointment to attend the FBI Academy and become a Special Agent in October 1966.

The first African American female special agent, Sylvia Mathis, joined the FBI in 1976.

I joined six years later in 1982 and was the 23rd black female in the FBI and the first African American woman to serve as an agent in the Norfolk and Sacramento Divisions.




FBI Retired Case File Review celebrates Black History Month by featuring two episodes with African American FBI trailblazers.

In Episode 186: John Glover – FBI 100th Anniversary of African American Special Agents, retired Executive Assistant Director (EAD) Dr. John Glover, Ph.D. reviews the history of African American special agents in the FBI from 1919 through 2019, why diversity, especially in law enforcement, matters, and recounts stories from his extraordinary career in the FBI.

In Episode 207: Wayne Davis – Director Hoover and FBI Diversity retired Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Wayne Davis (deceased) provides a fascinating personal and historical account of diversity in the FBI and his private meeting with Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1965, at which time the Director expressed his views about Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement.

Past and current FBI recruitment efforts are focused on maintaining a diverse workforce that reflects the demographics of the populations the Bureau serves. However, the percentage of African American agents in the FBI has remained 5% for over four decades.

As noted in the articles linked below, those efforts can be challenging, especially in recruiting African American special agents candidates.

What I See: A Message from the Assistant Director of the FBI’s Training Division

FBI Has Failed to Move the Needle on Diversity Over the Past Decade, Despite Efforts of Recent Directors: Percentages of women and minorities have remained virtually unchanged.

However, with persistence, the contributions of African American special agents in the FBI will continue and we will celebrate Black History Month with more success stories of African American special agents in the FBI.

Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 300 episodes available on all popular podcast apps and YouTube.


  1. […] and read A Brief History of African American Special Agents. […]

  2. […] and read A Brief History of African American Special Agents. […]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top
Malcare WordPress Security