Remembering Wayne Davis

Special Agent, Leader, Pioneer Dies at 81

One of the FBI’s earliest Black executives, who during his career led FBI Detroit and several other field offices, died earlier this month at age 81.

Wayne Davis served the FBI admirably for a quarter century, rising from special agent to the head of some of the Bureau’s largest field offices before retiring in 1988. Along the way, he played a role in making the Bureau’s workforce more diverse and inclusive.

Davis earned a degree in business administration from the University of Connecticut and served as co-captain of both the university’s basketball and track and field teams. After college, he served for three years in the U.S. Army as first lieutenant.

Davis graduated from the FBI Academy in 1963. Then, a few days shy of his 25th birthday, he was sent to Detroit for his first assignment. There, he made an immediate impression, capturing a dangerous fugitive and earning the commendation of his peers. He also received an award for helping solve a string of bank robberies, in part through his development of a key informant.

Davis was next assigned to the Newark Field Office, followed by the Washington Field Office, where he became a relief supervisor. In 1970, he was assigned to FBI Headquarters as a desk supervisor. At that point, he was the second Black supervisor in FBI history and one of the two highest-ranking Black agents at the time.

While at Headquarters, Davis was also named equal opportunity officer and then put in charge of FBI efforts to recruit minorities and women in greater numbers.

He later was promoted to special agent in charge of the Indianapolis Field Office. There, he headed up the investigation into the May 1980 attempted assassination of Vernon Jordan, then-president of the National Urban League. Davis moved on to serve as special agent in charge in Detroit in 1981 and in Philadelphia in 1985 before retiring.

Throughout his career, Davis exemplified the qualities of an FBI special agent, displaying leadership, hard work, and dedication to the pursuit of justice. As both a recruiter and mentor, he supported numerous minorities and women on their paths into and through the Bureau. In 1986, Davis was recognized with an Attorney General’s Award for Equal Employment Opportunity.

The FBI works to reflect the diverse nation it serves and protects. Davis both embodied and enhanced that diversity, and he will long be remembered for his leadership and his pioneering contributions to the FBI and the country.