ATF Bureau Honors First African-American Officer Killed In Line Of Duty | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

Filed Under:

ATF Bureau Honors First African-American Officer Killed In Line Of Duty

Play associated audio

Family of William Henderson Foote beside his name on the memorial wall at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Elliott Francis
Family of William Henderson Foote beside his name on the memorial wall at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Federal law enforcement officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) yesterday honored the first African-American federal agent killed in the line of duty after Reconstruction.  

William Henderson Foote was a deputy collector with the U.S. Treasury in Mississippi in 1883. A forerunner of today's ATF special agents, Foote enforced liquor laws and arrested moonshiners who were more inclined to kill his kind, so-called 'revenuers,' than be taken into custody.

It was an already harsh job made nearly impossible because of who Foote was," said Todd Jones, acting ATF director.

"Being the deputy collector to collect taxes in Yazoo City, Miss. was a tough gig," said Jones during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. May 14. "But being African-American in post-Reconstruction south who has a gun and a badge with federal arrest authority? An incredible story of courage."

On Christmas Eve of 1883, Foote stepped in to protect a black man who was about to be lynched by three white men. Shots were fired and the three men were killed. Foote was arrested and charged with murder. Days later, while awaiting trial, another lynch mob broke into the jail and shot Foote, killing him. 

Patricia Nolcox, Foote's great-granddaughter, said her grandmother made sure the family never forgot what happened.  

"She talked about what a wonderful man he was, how committed he was to justice, how fearless he was, and the thing she always said, was when they approached him to kill him, how he fought like a tiger," Nolcox said. 

Foote’s descendants joined agents and other ATF officials in a memorial ceremony Monday in the District for the slain deputy collector whose name was added to the Bureau's famed memorial wall of agents killed in the line of duty. 

Dr. Betty Gardner, Foote’s great-niece and a historian, helped document his story. "To have rediscovered him and to really give him his place in history is, well, it's incredible," she said. 

 A total of 185 agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have died in the line of duty. 

NPR

'Queen Of Crime' PD James Was A Master Of Her Craft

A remembrance of murder mystery writer PD James, who died Thursday at her home in Oxford, England.
NPR

For A Century, Thanksgiving's Must-Haves Were Celery And Olives

Ari Shapiro speaks with Boston Globe editor Hilary Sargent on the use of celery and olives as popular meal items during Thanksgivings of the past and their eventual fade from popularity.
NPR

EPA's Proposed Rules Add To Obama's Collision Course With GOP

The Environmental Protect Agency has drafted regulations on Ozone pollution. The latest move exposes divisions between the Obama administration and leading Republican lawmakers over the environment.
NPR

Millennial Doctors May Be More Tech-Savvy, But Is That Better?

Text messages from your doctor are just the start. Millennials are the next generation of doctors and they're not afraid to say "chillax" in a consultation or check Twitter to find medical research.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.