By Ashley Benkarski
NASHVILLE, TN — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is celebrating 100 years of African American contributions to the agency’s mission to protect the citizens of the United States.
James Wormley Jones, the first African American to join the organization’s ranks, was appointed Special Agent Dec. 2, 1919. Since then, hundreds of African American agents have walked the path he treaded all those years ago.
“To hear the FBI is recognizing our contribution, it makes me really proud,” said Supervisory Special Agent Lowanda Hill, who handles equal employment opportunity and discrimination cases. “To know that those before me paved the way so that I could be here, to be a part of such a large organization that provides so many opportunities, I’m just very grateful and thankful for that opportunity. When we look at the contributions of African Americans it’s a part of our rich heritage and culture, but it also shows you that we’re serving the communities that we represent.”
At this time, Hill said she is the only black female agent in Nashville.
Hill was only six years old when Sylvia Mathis became the first African American woman special agent. “It’s always good to have different perspectives and I think that’s what makes our organization so great, is the diversity,” she commented.
The agency employs 35,000 people, about 13,500 of which are Special Agents. Eighteen percent of those agents identify as minorities, with one percent identifying as African American. Last year, the FBI employed 600 African American Special Agents, the majority of which were men said FBI Public Affairs Officer Elizabeth Clement Webb. Hill said the agency has taken a proactive stance on improving diversity in its body, though change takes time. “It’s an ongoing conversation. Things are always changing and you’ve got to come up with new ways on how to handle those conversations.” The FBI has launched community outreach programs and Diversity Agent Recruitment events focused on enhancing trust between communities and the organization as well as reaching applicants with a wide variety of backgrounds, said Webb.
The last DAR event was held in Memphis earlier this year.
“The FBI enforces more than 300 federal statutes and conducts criminal and national security investigations, and we are best equipped to carry out our law enforcement and national security duties when our employees possess a broad range of education, experiences and skills in order to be successful in our mission,” the agency said in a written statement. “The ethnic and racial makeup of Special Agent applicants have been the most diverse over the past three years, and through the diversity agent recruitment campaign, the FBI is working to hire more than 900 FBI Special Agents of all backgrounds during this year.”
For information on the Special Agent career path and the FBI’s outreach programs, visit https://www.fbijobs.gov and follow the hashtag #OurHistoryOurService for more information on this commemoration.