The Federal Bureau of Investigations does not typically commemorate the opening of one of its branch offices but in July an exception was made in that regard. In Jackson, Mississippi, the Bureau is honoring the 50th anniversary of the office there, one that became iconic as a symbol for the department itself as well as for the era during which it was opened.
In July of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and ordered longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to open the office in response to the disappearance of three civil rights workers in particular and the general threat of violence that permeated the Southern United States as well as the country as a whole during that historic summer.
The office became a benchmark of the evolution of the Bureau and is seen by many who know the Bureau’s history well as an emblem of the improvement of the relationship between blacks and the FBI that began after the office was opened. Before that, blacks perceived the FBI as an institution that was meant to keep them down. It was seen as a tool concocted by the federal government to further proliferate the oppression of blacks in America and the opening of the Jackson field office was initially seen as just another element of the expansion of that oppression.
All of that changed over time, however, as one of the first orders of business by the Bureau that began out of that now historic office was to investigate the disappearance of those three civil rights workers who had gone missing.
Once the community saw that the FBI was sincere in its efforts to find the workers and bring to justice anyone who was involved in their abduction, they began to trust the Bureau and see it in an entirely different light.
This week’s commemoration is a celebration of those civil rights workers and the Bureau’s commitment to serving the American public.