MEMPHIS, Tenn. —The Federal Bureau of Investigation marked Black History Month by commemorating 100 years since it hired its first black special agent.
“The first black special agent was James Wormley Jones. He entered the bureau in December 1919," said M.A. Myers, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis field office.
Myers counted Jones as one of his role models.
"We've had a number of black agents ascend to levels of executive management at FBI headquarters. Those were definitely people who were positive role models for me,” he said.
Officials said Jones served as a D.C. police officer before deploying to fight for the U.S. military in World War I.
By the 1940s, more agents followed, including father and son Jesse and Robert Strider.
Their legacy still counts today.
“If you have one group of people making decisions about how we should engage with the African American community, with the Middle Eastern community or any community, if you only have one perspective to guide your strategy how to engage, you're probably not going to have a good decision. Whenever you actually have people from the African-American community or the Middle Eastern community in the FBI helping you make those decisions, you’ll make better decisions," Myers said.
Myers hoped the FBI's hiring practices would make an impact on promotion potential in the future. He said the Bureau has a goal of 25 percent minority hiring.
“If you’re going to have the deputy director of the FBI be a minority, you have to have a pool of candidates to draw from,” he said.
Joann Massey, director of Memphis’s office for business diversity and compliance, called government jobs an equalizer, but also said they haven't accomplished the end goal of equality yet.
“Systemic racism and discrimination still exist in every single facet of our community," she said.
Myers said the FBI hopes to be a part of that change, through hiring practices and by investigating domestic terrorists and white supremacist groups.