A year after being appointed to lead the FBI office in Houston, James Smith is traveling to New York to make history. According to NBC New York, the FBI named Smith as the assistant director of the FBI’s New York Field Office on Monday, making him the first Black male to lead the office.
Smith joined the FBI as a special agent in 2004 and began his career in the Los Angeles Field Office, where he investigated narcotics trafficking groups, money laundering, and violent gangs, according to an FBI statement.
According to the FBI, the Massachusetts native was also on the SWAT squad and worked in Baghdad before being promoted to supervisory special agent and sent to the Criminal Investigative Division at FBI Headquarters to serve in the MS-13 National Gang Task Force Unit.
According to the FBI statement, Smith was assigned to the International Violent Crimes Unit in 2012, where he managed international hostage situations, big crimes, and fugitive cases. The following year, he returned to the Los Angeles Field Office as the supervisor of the Violent Crimes Against Children Squad before becoming the office’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Squad leader in 2014.
Two years later, he was promoted to associate special agent in charge of the San Antonio Field Office, where he, according to the FBI, assisted in leading the investigation into the Austin serial bombings that murdered two people. Over 600 FBI agents hunted for the suspect, who subsequently committed suicide.
Smith returned to the FBI Headquarters in 2020 as an inspector in the Inspection Division before taking over as special agent in charge of the Houston Field Office in 2022. The FBI stated that while in Houston, “he prioritized violent crime investigations by advocating for a surge of federal resources to the Space City,” and 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 worked as an airplane engine maintenance manager and a powerplant engineer for two airlines before joining the FBI. Smith almost didn’t join the FBI despite having a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
“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.
Smith will now head over 2,000 FBI special agents and personnel at the New York field office after nearly 20 years with the bureau. He will take over for Mike Driscoll, who will leave the New York FBI office at the end of June to work in the private sector, according to NBC New York.