First Black FBI agent receives long overdue recognition
Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 11/19/2019, 10:11 a.m.
The first African-American FBI special agent, who was hired 100 years ago, is finally getting recognition, reports CBS News. There are no know photographs of James Wormley Jones, but there is a record of his hiring.
Inside FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. is an archive room filled with hundreds of thousands of documents and a lone application for the job of special agent. It was handwritten in 1919 by James Wormley Jones. Until now, the then-35-year-old has been a footnote in the bureau's history.
“A hundred years ago, right? December of 1919 is when he started. He was the son of a slave, a Washington Metropolitan Police Officer, a WWI veteran," said Andy Vale, an assistant director of the FBI. According to the FBI, Jones was “employed exclusively in an undercover capacity ... working directly under J. Edgar Hoover.”
More Black agents would follow Jones’ footsteps into the bureau and they too would work under cover in the Black community. Hoover would go on to become the longest tenured FBI director, and targeting influential Black Americans would become a pattern. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Hoover targeted Martin Luther King Jr. for extensive surveillance.