Special Agent Gladys O. Jones made history when she was sworn into service in 1974 as ATF’s first African American female agent by Director Rex Davis. Jones held several supervisory positions throughout her career, including National Response Team Program Manager as well as course coordinator at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in 1991. Jones had originally intended to pursue psychology after earning her degree in 1974, but her career trajectory changed dramatically after a visit to the Norfolk, Virginia, Police Department, where she brought to light the issue of open use of drugs in her neighborhood. After being challenged by a police officer to do something about it herself, she did; she joined that very same police department.
Jones was inspired to join ATF after she identified an opportunity to expand her career and work on large-scale investigations. She was the first female ATF agent to be assigned to a task force, working on the Danville, VA, moonshine case –one of ATF’s last major moonshine cases. She also worked on a variety of gun cases, including a major case that included firearms hidden inside 50-pound barrels of grease that were shipped to Grenada. She served in a variety of leadership positions; as the Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) of the San Francisco Field Division, and the ASAC of the Philadelphia Field Division. Jones finally retired from service in 1999.
Importance of Diverse Voices in Law Enforcement
Prior to her retirement, Jones was an integral member of the organization Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE). This involvement was a precursor to her founding of the National Organization of Black Women in Law Enforcement (NOBWLE) in 1984 though she remained active with both. When reflecting upon the importance of diverse voices in law enforcement, Jones’ contributions are a precedent for fellow trailblazers and pioneers who made their mark because of the barriers they had to overcome. ATF appreciates Jones’ contributions and the opportunities she created for new generations to apply and excel in positions that previously lacked diverse representation.
Unfortunately, Special Agent Jones passed away in 2017. She leaves behind a strong legacy, both at ATF and for black women agents in federal law enforcement. Gladys Jones became the change she wanted to see; she continues to inspire those that follow in her path to do the same.