James E. Amos was a very early Black FBI agent who joined the then Bureau of Investigation in the wake of James Wormley Jones. Prior to joining the Bureau, he had a career in government service with the Interior Department and in customs. He was also a Burns International Detective Agency investigator–an organization similar to the world-renowned Pinkertons.
His most important post prior to joining the Bureau was as President Theodore Roosevelt’s bodyguard and attendant. For 12 years, he followed the president on his outings and was around during his most important moments. Roosevelt was also extremely fond of Amos’ proficiency with firearms calling him “the best shot” that he’d ever seen.
Amos also served as a bodyguard to numerous senators, secretaries, and other mover and shakers of early 20th century Washington D.C.
James E. Amos Joins the Bureau
All of this made Amos a sure-fire pick as an agent for the Bureau of Investigation, the forerunner to the FBI. Not only this, but he had in when William J. Burns, founder of the detective agency he worked with took over as the Director of the Bureau in 1921. Still, Amos admitted his application like other potential agents and listed all of these achievements, former clients, and references.
From 1921 until 1953, James E. Amos often doing infiltration assignments into what would’ve been considered “subversive elements” and groups under J. Edgar Hoover’s Bureau. His career saw him in the midst of several landmark cases in FBI history such as the hunt for Murder Inc, the group of hitmen who did murders for the American mafia.
He was at the core of the Duquesne Nazi spy ring in New York because of his friendship with President Teddy Roosevelt. One case at the very start of his career was really responsible for his longevity as an agent.
Infiltrating Black Movements
If you’ve read the two-parter on “Agent 800” Jack Jones, you’ll know that Jones was an agent from 1919 until 1923 and is the first Black special agent. His FBI career was cut short after he was identified as a fed while getting intel on the African Blood Brotherhood. Two years prior, James Amos would be one of the agents who investigated Marcus Garvey, the UNIA, and Black Star. He retired after 32 years in the agency but would die months later in January 1954 at the age of 74.
James E. Amos like Jones would be the first to infiltrate organizations meant to empower Blacks for the federal government but he definitely wouldn’t be the last.
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