In 1963, when Wayne G. Davis became an FBI agent, there were 1,600 whites for every black in the Bureau. Davis was one of only five black investigating agents in the FBI.
But times have changed at the Bureau. There are now 35 whites for every black in the FBI, a ratio that still doesn't mirror the U.S. population but one that's light years ahead of what it was when J. Edgar Hoover [TEXT OMITTED] of the 59 special agents in charge (SAC) at the FBI are black. That means each of them directs the investigations of more than [WORD ILLEGIBLE] field agents of the FBI, most of whom are black.
As special agent in charge for Indiana, Davis, 42, coincidentally is in charge of investigating the shooting of black civil rights leader Vernon Jordan, who was wounded in the back by a bullet from a hunting rifle in Fort Wayne, Ind., almost four months ago.
"I'm aware of the pressure there is to solve this case," Davis said in his sixth floor office overlooking downtown Indianapolis. "I'm aware of the bureau pressure and I'm aware of the pressure from the black community, which wants this shooting solved."
If the sniper is ever to be found, Davis may well be the man to do it. To hear his fellow FBI agents tell it, there is nobody in the bureau they would rather see in charge of the investigation. Said one white agent working for Davis on the Jordan case: "Wayne Davis is the best thing that's happened to the FBI in Indiana in years."
"Wayne is agressive, thoughtful and deliberate," said John Glover, the FBI's other black SAC who heads the Atlanta office. "He has incredible self-control."
Davis might need all the self-control he can muster.
He knows the nation's black community has its eyes on him as he investigates the Jordan shooting. He knows FBI Director William Webster has given the Jordan case the bureau's highest priority. Davis also knows he's been working round the clock for almost four months with little progress to show for it.
The 6-foot-3-inch Davis has been in tough spots before. Born in Harlem, in the apartment house where he lived for the next 12 years, Davis went to Harlem public schools and played sandlot baseball and basketball in the streets. He admits to growing up with no love for policemen.
Davis got out of Harlem via sports -- he won a basketball scholarship to the University of Connecticut. Once there, he excelled at everything. He took up high jumping his junior year and was good enough his senior year to be champion of the Yankee Conference. He was cocaptain of the basketball and track teams.
His assignments in the FBI have been anything but soft. He chased bank robbers and fugitives in Detroit and truck hijackers in Newark. He posed as an undercover truck driver in Jersey City and Hoboken in trying to crack a fencing operation, which he helped to do with drawn guns.
Davis was one of the first black undercover agents used by the FBI around New York. When two New York policemen were murdered in 1970 by a group of black radicals based in Harlem, Davis was assigned to the case because of his knowledge of those streets. At least one white FBI agent thinks the murders would never have been solved without Davis.
"We were able to arrest half a dozen suspects in that case with the help of Wayne Davis," said James Ingram, now SAC of the FBI's Chicago office. "Wayne had a large hand in that case."
Davis knows he is up against the toughest case of his 17-year career. Inviting a visitor into his inner office, he stoops, pulls open a file drawer and hefts a set of documents four inches thick up and down like a paperweight.
"This is our first report on the shooting of Vernon Jordan, just the first report," Davis says. "We've put together three or four reports since then, every one as big and bulky as this one."
Davis was making a point: that even though the shooting of Urban League Director Jordan remains unsolved, it's not for want of trying, trying to solve it.
Davis said FBI agents have interviewed thousands of people from Long Island to Los Angeles looking for clues. Agents have followed every lead to its end, no matter how small or flimsy it may have looked.
"There have been times when all 59 FBI field offices have been involved in this case," Davis said. "The effort and commitment on this case is unstinting and unceasing."
Every outspoken white racist and every known member of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana and its bordering states has been investigated. Likewise, for every friend and colleague of Jordan. Likewise for every husband (there have been four) and suitor of 36-year-old Martha Coleman, the white woman who was with Jordan when he was shot outside his motel room.
Newspaper morgues going back three years in a dozen cities have been ransacked for clues to the case. Recent sniper shootings in Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah were investigated all over again to see if they had a Jordan connection.
The rosters of racist clubs have been combed and the members of racist churches have been checked out to see if any of them were in Fort Wayne the night of the shooting. The license plates of cars seen near Jordan's motel the night of the shooting have all been looked into. Telephone calls that described people carrying rifles wrapped in blankets the day and night of the shooting have all been pursued.
"What have we got after all this work?" asks Davis. "We've got a rifle shot at 2 o'clock in the morning, that's what we've got."
Frustrated as he says he is by the progress in the case. Davis insists he is not disheartened. And while he says he has not ruled out any suspect or motive, he is focusing on the theory that somebody who did not know Jordan planned his assassination in a calculated way.
As Davis reconstructed it, a single shot fired by a single person struck Jordan in the back as he walked from a car to his room at the far corner of a Fort Wayne motel. A single shell casing was later found near three matted plots of grass a few yards apart in perfect line of sight to where Jordan was shot.
"My feeling is the shot was fired from one of these grassy areas from a lying down position," Davis said. "What we think we have is one guy who laid down in three different areas trying to get the best angle."
The bullet struck Jordan's back with such force that it spun him around in the direction of the shot. Jordan told the FBI while he was recovering from surgery that he saw a car moving somewhere in front of him as he was falling and spinning around.
"At least he thinks he saw a car moving, that's his recollection," Davis said. "The trouble is there's an offramp right there and it could have been any car."
Coleman and a handful of motel guests who heard the shot have told the FBI only one shot was fired. Indianapolis police said they think there might have been two or even three shots fired, but Davis thinks the two-shot theory comes from a statement by Jordan's surgeon that there are still pieces of bullet in Jordan's body.
"What we've found so far is 160 grains of a 220-grain bullet," Davis said."If we get the rest of it and it adds up to more than 300 grains we'll know we had more than one shot."
But Davis doesn't believe it: "The people who heard anything heard only one shot, so what you'd have to have are people firing in unison or somebody with a silencer and if you had one silencer why didn't you have two silencers. It doesn't stick."
The only hard evidence the FBI has in the case is the shell casing and fragments of a .30-06 cal. bullet found in the motel parking lot (the bullet struck a wire fence before hitting Jordan) and taken from Jordan's body during surgery.
The bullet that struck Jordan came from a high-powered hunting rifle of the type used to kill deer and even bear. It is the type of rifle outlawed in Indiana, which allows hunting with shotguns only.
"This could mean the assassin came from out of state," Davis said, "but it could also be somebody who leaves Indiana to hunt or even be somebody who's used to disobeying the law."
Davis now believes that the shooting of Jordan was planned for some time. He thinks the assassin knew Jordan was coming to Fort Wayne, knew which motel he was staying in and found out the location of his room.
"Jordan's speaking engagement in Fort Wayne had been scheduled for some time, as was his motel reservations," Davis said. "The problem is that our investigation has not come up with anybody overtly trying to identify his room. We've interviewed all the help and nobody can recall anybody making undue inquiries as to what Jordan's room was."
There is one other shred of evidence Davis is pursuing. Three young white men in a dark-colored car came alongside the car in which Jordan was being driven to his motel and shouted a racial insult. The white men drove off, taking a different direction. Could they have turned around and followed Jordan back to his motel?
One of the deepest mysteries in the case, if it is a racial assassination attempt, is why Jordan was chosen. He is not the most prominent black leader in America, nor is he an "irritant," as Davis describes it, in the Jesse Jackson mode.
"If somebody were after an irritant, I don't think it would be Vernon," Davis said. "Vernon is pushing the system like hell but not from a standpoint of radicalism as we used to know it in the late '60s. I don't know, it's just another mystery."
Part of the pressure Davis admits to being under in the Jordan case is self-imposed. Davis knows Jordan. Davis' wife and Jordan's wife not only are acquainted, but also went to school together. Davis admires Jordan for what the civil rights leader has done for blacks in the United States.
"If there were no pressure at all from the outside, I'd still be interested in this case," Davis said. "I think that Vernon Jordan is a shaker and a mover and I feel that what he's been doing has a lot of value and benefit."