June 14 (UPI) — William S. Sessions, who directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1987 to 1993, died in San Antonio, Texas, his family said. He was 90 years old.
Family members said Sessions died Friday of a congestive heart ailment.
Nominated by former President Ronald Reagan after serving as a federal judge in Texas, Sessions was confirmed 90-0 by the Senate in 1987 for what was to be a 10-year term running the agency.
But former President Bill Clinton fired Sessions less than six years into his tenure after a Justice Department report accused him of avoiding taxes on an FBI limousine and passing off trips to meet relatives as work-related.
Sessions refused to resign and was ultimately dismissed, blaming the report on disgruntled agents who he said were unhappy with his shakeup of the traditional order created under J. Edgar Hoover, who ran the agency from 1924 to 1972.
Sessions was applauded for diversifying the FBI’s ranks to include more black, Latino and female agents after a long history of complaints and lawsuits alleging biased hiring practices in the agency.
But he also attempted to enlist American librarians to catch Soviet spies, and was forced to admit that agents had been overzealous in spying on Americans who protested government policies in Central America.
The agency’s reputation was also tarnished in the early 1990s by the sieges at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas — both of which resulted in deaths of law enforcement and civilians, including children.
In 1992, the FBI’s hostage rescue team surrounded a cabin at Ruby Ridge near the Canadian border, which was occupied by a fugitive white separatist named Randy Weaver along with his immediate family and a family friend. Weaver was avoiding appearing in court on weapons charges.
After an 11-day siege, a U.S. marshal was dead, as were Weaver’s wife and 14-year-old son.
The following spring, after a 51-day standoff outside a cult compound in Waco and a gun battle that killed four federal agents and six civilians, Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno authorized a tear-gas assault on the compound.
That started a fire that killed 75 people, many of them children.
Sessions was the first FBI director to be fired in the agency’s history.
The second, James Comey, was fired in May 2017 by President Donald Trump.