Last Updated 27 Jul 2020

Biography of William Steele Sessions

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On May 27, 1930 in Fort Smith, Arizona William Steele Sessions was born. This future Director of the FBI and Federal Judge however did not grow up in the Arizona area. Shortly after his birth his family moved to Kansas City, Kansas ("1988 Yearbook" 1988). This is where William attended his entire grade school career. Instead of following his father's footsteps of being a minister, William chose to enlist in the Air Force. In 1951 shortly after he graduated high school William enlisted.

He was commissioned in 1952 and served as an airborne radar intercept instructor until his service was up in 1955, he had acquired the rank of captain in those four years. During those four years in the Air Force, Mr. Sessions fell in love and married. Her name was Alice June Lewis. Upon his leaving the Air Force, the couple moved to Waco, Texas where he then began attending Baylor University. He received his bachelors of arts in 1956 and then immediately began attending Baylor University School of Law, which he graduated in 1958 with a law degree.

Once Texas placed William on the states bar he went into private practice, which he continued until 1969 ("The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide" 1999). With the Sessions private law practice doing well and with him gaining recognition, Mr. Sessions was appointed Chief of government operations section, in the Criminal Division of the U. S. Department of Justice and remained there until 1971 ("Judges of the United States Courts" 2000).

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So with his career really starting to take off there didn't seem much more he could do, but in 1971 Mr. Sessions had been appointed U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas and along with that, the President at the time, Gerald Ford, placed Mr. Sessions to be district judge for that Western District. He served in the city of El Paso until December of 1979, which he was then transferred to San Antonio to replace the assassinated District Judge John H. Wood. That following year in February he was named Chief Judge and would be until his appointment to the FBI in 1987.

During the twelve years William Sessions was on the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Texas he had earned a reputation for being tough, but hair in law and order justice. He received a great deal of attention in 1982 when he gave stiff sentences to five convicted conspirators that were involved in the 1979 murder of his own colleague, John Wood Jr. , the only federal judge to be assassinated in U. S. history ("1988 Yearbook" 1988). William Sessions was at the height of his career when on July 24, 1987 President Regan named him to be Director of the FBI.

On September 25 of that year the senate gave Mr. Sessions a unanimous vote for him to become Director and on November 2 he took the oath of office. So now that he was in the ultimate position what was he to do? To start off on the right foot, William's first move was to reorganize the bureau's senior staff. He created a new post, deputy director, which carried the responsibility of day-to-day operations and the deputy was assisted by two associate deputy directors ("The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide" 1999).

Next on his list was that with the Cold War no longer in existence, Mr. Sessions redeployed the agents formerly engaged in counterintelligence work to handle violent and white-collar crimes. Another reason for this move was in response to a forty percent increase over ten years of violent crimes. He designated the investigation of violent crime the FBI's sixth national priority in 1989, and by November 1991 the FBI created "Operation Safe Street", in Washington, D. C. It was a concept of federal, state, and local police task forces targeting fugitives and gangs.

With the successes of this operation the FBI was ready to expand the operational assistance to police nationwide ("A Short History of the FBI" 2000). In addition to this fight toward violent crime, on April 18, 1988, Director Sessions jump-started the Drug Demand Reduction Program by placing the program in important sections of the FBI. Those sections were the research unit and the office of congressional and public affairs ("The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide" 1999). He felt it would prove very useful to have the program instilled in these sections.

The purpose of this program was for FBI offices nationwide to begin working closely with local school and civic groups to educate young people on the dangers of drugs. As a result of the community outreach efforts under the program separate ideas branched off into systems such as Adopt-A-School and Junior G-Man programs, all involved in the education of drug dangers ("A Short History of the FBI" 2000). Probably Director Sessions greatest accomplishment while he was with the FBI was how he dealt with the problem of discrimination with in the bureau.

In 1990 a survey of the Bureau Employees, which was requested by Director Sessions, found a majority of FBI employees were dissatisfied with bureau personnel practices, especially with assignments and promotions. The unhappiness was widespread starting among blacks, Hipics, women and then white males. Seventy percent of these people believed promotions were unfair and given to unqualified agents. The survey also found discrimination due to a person's race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex or age. Along with that finding it found that women felt "the old boy network" was keeping them from assignments.

While in the white males it was found they felt the effects of reverse discrimination. So after all of these findings Director Sessions made minority recruitment a top priority ("The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide" 1999). He made it a top priority by instituting strong affirmative action hiring policies and measures to remedy past discrimination, as well as, revising the FBI applicant tests to ensure fairness in the selection process ("The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide" 1999). It seems that all leaders at some point in there tenure are involved in some situation that attracts national attention.

In Director Sessions case, there were two such events. These situations had a major impact on FBI policies and operations. First was the FBI's response to the shooting death of Deputy U. S. Marshal William Degan. He was killed at Ruby Ridge, Idaho while he was on a surveillance detail of federal fugitive Randall Weaver. During the standoff Weaver's wife was accidentally shot and killed by an FBI sniper. The result of that was Weaver and his children received a money settlement for the FBI's mistake ("A Short History of the FBI" 2000).

The second event was the fifty-one day standoff with a religious sect located just outside of Waco, Texas. Members of the sect had killed four ATF officers along with wounding many others. Instead of successfully ending the standoff the agents could only watch in horror as the compound burnt to the ground ("A Short History of the FBI" 2000). These two unfortunate events set up public and congressional inquires into the FBI's ability to respond to crisis situations. So in the end these horrible events could ultimately benefit the agency by weeding out flaws in their policies.

Along with having these large situations arise, in 1993 Director Sessions was criticized within the FBI for violations, by his wife and assistant Sarah Munford, of Bureau regulations, federal and state laws. The violations were minor breaches of security by Mrs. Sessions and Mr. Sessions was also involved in most of these violations. Some examples of Director Sessions abuses and neglects ranged from his home alarm system did not alert the FBI and his fencing was not that government provided security enhanced wrought iron fence (Robins 1993).

The Director was entirely inconsistent in his actions with respect to accepting the advice of the Bureau's professionals. This shows a clear pattern of his taking advantage of the government and his position. Some more examples of his abuses are: using an FBI plane to haul firewood from New York Cit to Washington, Carried an unloaded gun in the trunk of his car in order to classify it as a "law enforcement vehicle" so he could avoid paying taxes on the cost of driving to work, and may have obtained a sweetheart deal from a Washington bank on a $375,000 home mortgage (Sachs 1993).

That is just a couple of the abuses Mr. Sessions committed. Mrs. Sessions did not help the abuses either. Along with the abuses stated earlier, Sachs states that she used bureau cars as transportation to get her hair and nails done (1993). Among other things she on numerous occasions barged in on official business, which obviously caused a great disturbance. As a result of all of these ethical charges, they led to intense resentment of a double standard in the highly disciplined agency where agents are routinely punished for minor infractions (Sachs 1993). So in the end President Clinton asked Mr.

Sessions to resign, but he refused which ultimately resulted in his termination on July 19, 1993. President Clinton stated "his greatest accomplishment was getting more women and minorities into the agency" (Sachs 1993). Today Mr. And Mrs. Sessions reside in San Antonio, Texas where he is in private law practice with his sons. So as we have seen Mr. Sessions seemed to be headed in the right way with this agency, but for some reason or another ran into some rough waters. In the beginning of his career with the FBI Mr. Sessions had the right idea; it was a time for change in most law enforcement communities.

Mr. Sessions had picked the most widely known and most prestigious one to change. So his steps toward equal and diverse employment were very excellent. Also he showed he had the knowledge for reallocating resources when they were not needed anymore as in with the Cold War agents and placing them on something that needed attention, white collar crime and street violence. Where Mr. Sessions fails is in his tactical knowledge. For example with Waco and Ruby Ridge, if he had known what to do tactically in those situations mistakes might not have taken place.

Another problem could have been that he hadn't surrounded himself with people that could handle those specific situations. As a result things did eventually change. Mr. Sessions had a great knowledge of the federal law and how to go about enforcing it at a court level, but to do that right at the enforcement level is totally different. That kind of knowledge allows for a good internal management style not an external one. So in agreement with President Clinton former Director William Sessions greatest achievement with this agency was improving the organizations recruitment to avoid discrimination.

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Biography of William Steele Sessions. (2018, Jun 23). Retrieved from

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