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The FBI's Birmingham Field Office Dedicates New Building

The FBI’s Birmingham Field Office
Past and Into the Future


Director Mueller cuts ribbon with Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid and U.S. Attorney Alice Martin
Director Mueller cuts ribbon with
Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid
and U.S. Attorney Alice Martin.

On August 4, Director Mueller helped dedicate a newly constructed FBI office in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s a beauty, by the way, with much needed upgrades in security and technology, including special areas to handle sensitive intelligence and support the most modern evidence collection techniques and computer forensic analysis.

But the real story, as Director Mueller pointed out, is different than this newest upgrade.

The real story is that, beginning in the early 1900s, the FBI began staffing special agents in offices around the country—now in 56 locations—in order to investigate crime and protect U.S. communities. And each place, over time, came to have its own story to tell—different kinds of crimes, different kinds of cases, even different kinds of personalities, reflecting their geographic locations.

Birmingham Special Agent in Charge C. W. McPhailIn the case of Birmingham, a special agent in charge named C. W. McPhail had the honor of opening the first office for business there in 1924. Its agents investigated violations of federal law, and because there weren’t many criminal federal laws in those early days, the office was as small as its territory was large, to include Alabama, Georgia, and parts of Tennessee and Mississippi.

Then, less than 40 years into its existence, a bomb went off on Birmingham’s 16th Street.

Director Mueller said about it: “I want to recognize someone who has witnessed firsthand much of the FBI’s growth over the years, as well as many other changes that have taken place. Glenn Rotenberry will have been with the FBI for 43 years in October. He was employed as a security clerk in the Birmingham office for less than a month when he answered the phone on September 15, 1963, to learn that the 16th Street Baptist Church had been bombed. Four African-American girls were slain as they attended Sunday school in a racial killing that shook the nation.” He added, “We did not call it terrorism then, but terrorism is what it was. And in this case, like too many others, justice came slowly. In 2002, former Klu Klux Klan member Bobby Frank Cherry became the third man convicted in the murder of those four young girls.”

What has the FBI as a whole learned from this Birmingham case? Three things, according to Director Mueller:

1) That “it is our mission to protect the civil liberties of all Americans. Because when just one of us loses just one of our rights, then the freedoms of all of us are diminished.”
2) That “the motivations of terrorists have not changed. They still hide in the shadows and have such contempt for human life that they are willing to kill children to live out their hatred.”
3) That “no matter how long it takes, we do not give up. And we will not give up until freedom prevails against fear, acceptance prevails against extremism, and all Americans can live in peace and security.”

We encourage you to read Director Mueller’s complete remarks—and also to visit the Birmingham Field Office website to learn about what it is doing to protect the community.