100 Years of African-American Special Agents: Linda Berry
Retired Special Agent Linda Berry served for 28 years in the FBI before retiring in 2004. She was the Bureau's second African-American special agent. She shared her thoughts on her 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.
My first experience was got to get off the plane. I think you have to ride a bus to get to Quantico. And I'm going walking down the hall with all these bags trying to find, they told me to put them in the closet, and there was a janitress, a female lady that sweeping the floor, black as a matter of fact. And she looked up and saw me coming down the hall and her first thing anybody said to me in Quantico was, you're not gone make it, none of them do. And I'm like, lady. But she was an elderly lady, so I didn't want to say anything to her. I just smiled and kept going. But I was angry. It's like, how dare you tell me I can't make it here. Why not? What's the big deal? I mean there are people that do make it, why not me?
But that was just the environment: take care of yourself, learn how to do things, go to the end, don't give up. I mean there's just all these things that were coming at you. And I think for me at the Academy, you learn some things about yourself that were never asked of you that you couldn't and can do. I think that's what kept me motivated to continue going and doing things. You just go and do things that you, you've never actually been asked to do before. So how do you know you can't do it?
I had no idea that we had been agents for 100 years. It's a tremendous milestone for everybody to try and step into the footsteps of those who came before me, those who come after us, proud. Of course, most of us got into the FBI not even knowing. I had no idea that I was just the second female, none whatsoever. But then when you find out these things, then you know you have a special job to do and that is to maintain integrity, to really work hard to make the FBI proud of you. And not only your other brothers and sisters, the other people that you work with to join into that loyalty team and it's a tremendous thing to be around for 100 years and really be devoted, be looked up to, be honored, and no smears. That's the basic thing. Really just great agents.
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