William S. Sessions
|William S. Sessions|
|4th Director of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation
November 2, 1987 – July 19, 1993
George H. W. Bush
|Preceded by||John E. Otto (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Floyd I. Clarke (Acting)|
|Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas|
December 20, 1974 – November 1, 1987
|Appointed by||Gerald Ford|
|Preceded by||Ernest Allen Guinn|
|Succeeded by||Emilio M. Garza|
|Born||William Steele Sessions
May 27, 1930
Fort Smith, Arkansas, U.S.
William Steele Sessions (born May 27, 1930) is an American civil servant who served as a judge and fourth Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Sessions served as FBI director from 1987 to 1993, when he was dismissed by President Bill Clinton.
Sessions was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the son of Edith A. (née Steele) and Rev. Will Anderson Sessions, Jr. He graduated from Northeast High School in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1948, and enlisted in the United States Air Force, receiving his commission October 1952. He served on active duty until October 1955. He attended Baylor University where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1956 and an LL.B. degree in 1958.
Sessions is an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. The Scouting tradition runs deep in the Sessions' lineage – his son, Pete Sessions (a member of the United States House of Representatives serving Texas' 32nd District), is also a Distinguished Eagle Scout, his grandsons Bill and Steele are also Eagle Scouts, and his father, William A. Sessions, Jr. wrote the first God and Country handbook for the Boy Scouts of America.
Sessions was an attorney for the firm of Haley, Fulbright, Winniford, Sessions, and Bice in Waco, Texas from 1963 until 1969. He was then appointed Chief of the Government Operations Section, Criminal Division of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., where he served until his appointment as United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas in 1971. In 1974 he was appointed United States District Judge for that district, becoming Chief Judge in 1980. He also served on the Board of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D C, and on committees of both the State Bar of Texas and the Judicial Conference of the United States. Overall he has been a practicing attorney for more than 40 years. He also is associated with the National Youth Leadership Forum on Law (NYLF/LAW).
Sessions was viewed as combining tough direction with fairness and was respected even by the Reagan administration’s critics, although he was sometimes ridiculed as strait-laced and dull and lacking hands-on leadership. He worked to raise the image of the FBI in Congress and fought to raise the pay of FBI agents which had lagged behind other law enforcement agencies.
Despite being a Republican who was appointed by Reagan, Sessions disappointed the administration of President George H. W. Bush for not being partisan, and he was personally disliked by Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. Sessions had an uneasy relationship with Thornburgh's successor William P. Barr. Reflecting the tensions between the Justice Department and the independent Bureau, Sessions announced that the FBI would be looking into whether Justice Department officials illegally misled a federal judge in a politically sensitive bank-fraud case involving loans to Iraq before the Persian Gulf War, and 48 hours later Sessions was the subject of an ethics investigation on whether he had abused his office perks.
Sessions enjoyed the strongest support among liberal Democrats in Congress. Sessions was applauded for pursuing a policy of broadening the FBI to include more women and minorities, efforts which upset the "old boys" at the Bureau. 
Sessions became associated with the phrase "Winners Don't Use Drugs", which appeared on idle North American-released arcade game screens during demos or after a player finished playing a game. By law it had to be included on all imported arcade games released in North America and continued to appear long after Sessions left office. The quote normally appeared in gold against a blue background between the FBI seal and Sessions' name.
Sessions major contributions to the US Criminal Justice Community include the encouraging of the FBI Laboratory to develop a DNA program with a strong legal underpinning and the automation of the national fingerprint process. The later project, known as the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) reduced the turn around time for fingerprint searches for both criminal arrest cycles and applicants for sensitive positions to include teachers from months to hours. A full description of the IAFIS program can be found in Section 2.7 of the book: Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS) published by Elsevier, Inc. in 2005; ISBN 0-12-418351-4.
Sessions was FBI director during the controversial 1992 confrontation at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, at which the unarmed Vicky Weaver and her son were shot dead by an FBI sniper. This incident provoked heavy criticism of the Bureau as did the deadly assault on the Branch Davidian compound that lasted from February 28 to April 19, 1993. These incidents were also related to the discovery of severe procedural shortcomings at the FBI's crime laboratory.
Just before Bill Clinton was inaugurated as the 42nd President of the United States on January 20, 1993, allegations of ethical improprieties were made against Sessions. A report by outgoing Attorney General William P. Barr presented to the Justice Department that month by the Office of Professional Responsibility included criticisms that he had used an FBI plane to travel to visit his daughter on several occasions, and had a security system installed in his home at government expense. Janet Reno, the 78th Attorney General of the United States, announced that Sessions had exhibited "serious deficiencies in judgment."
Although Sessions denied that he had acted improperly, he was pressured to resign in early July, with some suggesting that President Clinton was giving Sessions the chance to step down in a dignified manner. Sessions refused, saying that he had done nothing wrong, and insisted on staying in office until his successor was confirmed. As a result, President Clinton used his powers to dismiss Sessions immediately on July 19, 1993. Sessions was five and a half years into a ten-year term as FBI director; however, the holder of this post serves at the pleasure of the President.
Clinton nominated Louis Freeh to the FBI directorship at a Rose Garden ceremony on July 20. Then-FBI Deputy Director Floyd I. Clarke, whom Sessions suggested had led a coup to force his removal, served as Acting Director until September 1, 1993 when Freeh was sworn in.
Sessions returned to Texas where on December 7, 1999 he was named the state chair of Texas Exile, a statewide initiative aimed at reducing gun crime.
Later in life
Judge Sessions is a member of the American Bar Association and has served as an officer or on the Board of Directors of the Federal Bar Association of San Antonio, the American Judicature Society, the San Antonio Bar Association, the Waco-McLennan County Bar Association, and the District Judges' Association of the Fifth Circuit. He was appointed by President Reagan as a Commissioner of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday Commission, and was a Delegate for the Americas to the Executive Committee of ICPO-Interpol. He is also a member of the Constitution Project's bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee.
In 2006, Mr. Sessions also was present on the American Bar Association task force examining the constitutionality of controversial presidential signing statements, which concluded that the practice "does grave harm to the separation of powers doctrine, and the system of checks and balances that have sustained our democracy for more than two centuries".
- Townley, Alvin. Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America's Eagle Scouts. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 241–252. ISBN 0-312-36653-1. Retrieved 2006-12-29.
- "Distinguished Eagle Scouts" (PDF). Scouting.org. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
- Johnston, David (1993-01-19). "F.B.I. CHIEF PLANS TO FIGHT FOR JOB". The New York Times.
- "Time's Up for William Sessions". The New York Times. 1993-01-22.
- Ostrow, Ronald J.; Jackson, Robert L. (1993-07-20). "Defiant FBI Chief Is Fired by President : Law enforcement: Alleged ethical abuses by Sessions are cited as reason for dismissal. He refused to resign". Los Angeles Times.
- "Constitution Project: Liberty and Security Initiative". Constitutionproject.org. Archived from the original on 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2008-09-07.
- "A trebly dubious death sentence | Reasonable doubt". The Economist. 2008-04-24. Retrieved 2009-01-22.
- "Task Force on Detainee Treatment Launched". The Constitution Project. 2010-12-17. Archived from the original on 2010-12-18.
- "Think tank plans study of how US treats detainees". Wall Street Journal. 2010-12-17. Archived from the original on 2010-12-18.
Former FBI Director William Sessions, former Arkansas U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, a retired Army general and a retired appeals court judge in Washington are among 11 people selected for a task force that will meet for the first time in early January, said Virginia Sloan, a lawyer and president of The Constitution Project.
- "Task Force members" (PDF). The Constitution Project. 2010-12-17. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-18.
- William S. Sessions at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- "Federal Bureau of Investigation: Directors, Then and Now". Retrieved 2014-10-18.
John E. Otto
|Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Floyd I. Clarke
Ernest A. Guinn
|Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas
December 20, 1974 – November 1, 1987
Emilio M. Garza