Our History, Our Service
Street Renaming Honors First African-American FBI Agent Killed in Line of Duty
Fifty years after the death of the first African-American FBI special agent killed in the line of duty, a street in Edwin R. Woodriffe’s native Brooklyn, New York, has been renamed in his honor.
Special Agents Woodriffe and Anthony Palmisano were shot and killed in 1969 while trying to arrest an escaped fugitive in Washington, D.C.
Decades later, Woodriffe’s daughter, Lee Ann Woodriffe, lobbied local officials in New York to recognize her father’s sacrifice by co-naming the street. The sign honoring his sacrifice now sits at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Claver Place in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, near the church where Woodriffe had served as an altar boy and where his funeral was held.
“He grew up impoverished with limited opportunities but pressed forward with his goals,” Lee Ann Woodriffe said at the street renaming ceremony on April 26, 2019. “He never forgot where he came from. He was always the kid from Brooklyn.”
Born in 1941, Edwin Woodriffe followed his older brother, William, into law enforcement. William Woodriffe, now 93, served in the New York Police Department.
Edwin Woodriffe worked his way through Fordham University as a police cadet and an elevator operator at Macy’s. He later joined the Treasury Department before becoming an FBI special agent. After joining the FBI, Woodriffe relocated to Washington, D.C. with his wife and two children to work at the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
“People walk these streets every day, and they don’t know what happened to my father.”
Lee Ann Woodriffe, daughter of Special Agent Edwin R. Woodriffe
Lee Ann Woodriffe speaks during a street renaming ceremony in honor of her father, who was the first African-American FBI agent killed in the line of duty. FBI Special Agent Edwin R. Woodriffe Way can be found at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Claver Place in Woodriffe’s native Brooklyn, New York.
The Woodriffe family was joined at the renaming ceremony by community officials and Bureau representatives, including FBI New York Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. and FBI Washington Field Office Administrative Division Special Agent in Charge John P. Selleck.
“People walk these streets every day, and they don’t know what happened to my father,” Lee Ann Woodriffe said. “He was a black man from this neighborhood, the child of immigrants, who worked hard and became an FBI agent.”
In addition to marking the 50th anniversary of Woodriffe’s death, 2019 is also the 100th anniversary of the hiring of the first African-American FBI special agent, James Wormley Jones.