James Smith, the engineer who is now the 1st Black man to head FBI office in New York

James Smith. photo via linkedin/James Smith

A year after being appointed to run the Houston FBI office, James Smith is heading to New York to make history. The FBI on Monday named Smith as the assistant director of the FBI’s New York Field Office, making him the first Black man to head the office, according to a report by NBC New York.

Smith joined the FBI as a special agent in 2004 and first worked in the Los Angeles Field Office investigating drug-trafficking organizations, money laundering, and violent gangs, a statement from the FBI said.

The Massachusetts native was also on the SWAT team and worked in Baghdad before he was promoted to supervisory special agent and transferred to the Criminal Investigative Division at FBI Headquarters to work in the MS-13 National Gang Task Force Unit, the FBI said.

By 2012, Smith was at the International Violent Crimes Unit managing international hostage-takings, major crimes, and fugitive matters, the FBI statement said. He came back to the Los Angeles Field Office the following year to be the supervisor of the Violent Crimes Against Children Squad before leading the office’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Squad in 2014. Two years later, he was made assistant special agent in charge of the San Antonio Field Office, where, according to the FBI, he helped lead the investigation into serial bombings in Austin that killed two people. Over 600 FBI workers searched for the suspect who later killed himself.

Smith went back to work at the FBI Headquarters in 2020 as an inspector in the Inspection Division before becoming the special agent in charge of the Houston Field Office in 2022. While in Houston, the FBI said “he prioritized violent crime investigations by advocating for a surge of federal resources to the Space City,” adding that he “fortified relationships with local and federal partners by overhauling FBI resources to proactively target repeat violent criminals and hold them accountable at the federal level.”

Smith, before joining the FBI, was an aircraft engine maintenance manager and a powerplant engineer for two airlines. Holding a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Smith almost didn’t join the FBI.

“I was 36 when I entered and I turned 37 one month after I graduated from the academy,” Smith, who was raised in a family of officers, said to KHOU 11. The cutoff age for entering the academy is 37, the news outlet said.

After almost 20 years with the FBI, Smith will now lead over 2,000 FBI special agents and staff at the New York field office. He replaces Mike Driscoll, who will leave the New York FBI office at the end of June to enter the private sector, NBC New York reported. 

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 29, 2023


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