100 Years of African-American Special Agents: Julian Stackhaus
Retired Special Agent Julian Stackhaus served for 21 years in the FBI before retiring in 2000. He shared his thoughts on his career, the FBI, and the role of African Americans during events in November 2019 marking the 100-year anniversary of the first African-American special agent, James Wormley Jones.
When I came in, by accident I discovered that I was did 356th African-American agent on duty at that time. And that's in the entire Bureau and it was 13,000 FBI special agents. As you spread those numbers across the country, and the Bureau has offices in 56 areas across the country, that's not a lot of African Americans to go around. But yet some of these cities have major African-American populations. And if you can't service that population then you're doing a disjustice to the people who live there.
And I take this from one of my training agents, his name was Homer Hoffman. Hoffman basically was a civil rights investigator in St. Louis, Missouri. And there were a lot of civil rights problems in St. Louis and in much as St. Louis was a divisive town. I went out with Homer one day. And he was doing a civil rights case in a housing project. And in the back of his car he had all these gadgets and all of these tools and he started marking off areas. He started measuring spaces, taking pictures, and in my mind as a new FBI special agent, and being in the community that we were in, I questioned what Homer was doing because in my opinion he was wasting time.
But he pulled me aside and he says, look, I'm not wasting time. You have to give the people in this community the same degree of investigative effort that you give people in any community. And if you can't do that, you have no reason to be an FBI agent. And from that day to this, I take Homer's advice because my job is, not only am I employed by the FBI, I am employed by the people who live in this country and that I have to give them their just dues and I have to do it to the best of my ability. So, I don't see a lot of problems in what we do. I see problems in the amount of people we have doing what we do and where they are assigned.
When you look back 100 years ago when, James Wormley Jones stepped into the FBI Headquarters—and I think that's where he was assigned—he set a tone there that said, I am a black American and I can do this job no matter my qualifications because I don't have the same qualifications as these other individuals. But I have a skill set that some of them might not have. And if you give me the opportunity, I will take my skillset and I will learn what others do. And with my skillset and learning what others do, it makes me a better agent, because I now know that I measure up. And if I measure up, you can't stop me from doing anything that I want to do in this position that I am in.
So, I look at that and I look today and of course they questions today about numbers and that kind of stuff. My take on the numbers is that we haven't made much progress. And now when I say we, I'm talking about the FBI in general. We haven't made much progress in our hiring than we did when James Wormley Jones stepped through the door. Because on a percentage basis you only have one agent out there doing the work on a percentage basis.
And so you have to look at what Wormley did and say, we need more African Americans. We need more Hispanic agents, we need more women agents, we need more Indian American agents. We just need a diverse cultural agency across the spectrum of what we call the United States of America.
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