November 19, 1919 marks the date that 35-year old James Wormley Jones–known as Jack Jones–began his federal agent service. It also marked the Bureau swore in its first Black special agent.
Police Detective and Army Captain
Prior to entering federal government work, Jack Jones attended college at both Norfolk Mission College and Virginia Union University before joining the Washington Metro Police in 1905. Jones would make his way through the department’s ranks before becoming a detective just before World War I.
James Wormley Jones began his military training in 1917. Upon completion, he was made a captain and put in charge of the 368th Infantry’s Company F. Months later Jones and company were sent to serve in France where he led his men in trench warfare. This was a time when the face of war had changed dramatically from the columns warfare of a century prior. Jones’ men dealt with gas attacks, mortar fire, and bullets fired at dangerous velocity and volume.
His all-Black company managed to take territory held by the Germans and was one of the most successful in the attempt. As expected for the time, Company F wasn’t given credit for their exploits in the American press.
When the war ended, James Wormley Jones returned home to Washington D.C to continuing being a detective. He wouldn’t pound the streets of D.C. long as he put in an application to join the Bureau in November 1919.
His timing couldn’t have been better as the Bureau of Investigation–the successor of today’s FBI–was heavily investigating “subversive groups.” This included groups that sought to enrich the lives of Black people in the U.S.