Friday, July 24, 1998
State's FBI chief since '95 retires
After I.C. Smith leaves his west Little Rock office a week
from today and the door locks behind him, he won't get back
in. The combination will change.
At midnight, after more than 25 years of service, he
will no longer be with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Smith has been special agent in charge of the FBI in
Arkansas for three years. Thursday, he turned in his badge,
a day after calling his staff into a meeting to announce
his July 31 retirement.
"I think it's important that you leave when you still
have enthusiasm for a job," he said in his office Thursday.
Smith, 55, said he started thinking about retirement in
June. He decided it's best to leave quickly after
announcing his departure so he won't face a long wait.
He wants to read more. He wants to golf more. He wants
to spend more time surfing the Internet. He wants to build
a sailboat and a Cajun pirogue, a canoe. He's considering
writing about his FBI experience. He hasn't had time for
any of those because his job often requires 12-hour days.
"I haven't been fishing since I've been in Arkansas,"
he said. "I brought new fishing gear with me when I moved
here that I have never used."
Smith started in Little Rock on July 31, 1995. On his
first day, he told his secretary not to screen his calls,
he said. Because of that, he's talked with hundreds of
citizens about their feelings toward the FBI.
"When you are inaccessible, sometimes it takes on a
sinister air," he said. "When you're open, people realize
that you're real people."
Smith said he made himself available to journalists for
that same reason. He said he avoided responding to
reporters' questions with "no comment" and tried to offer
whatever information he could.
He said strengthening the bureau's relationship with
local law-enforcement agencies was one of his most
Chief Deputy Danny Bradley of the Pulaski County
sheriff's office said local officials appreciated Smith.
"I hope the next agent in charge here is as easy to
work with and cooperative as he's been," Bradley said.
Sgt. George Craig, spokesman for the sheriff's office,
said, "You couldn't ask for a better man, and you couldn't
find a better man,"
Smith said he's tried to emphasize civil-rights law
enforcement. He wrote a pamphlet about the FBI's role in
enforcing civil rights, and under his watch the Arkansas
office investigated the summer 1996 church burnings, a
high-profile civil- rights case.
He also increased the office's investigation of public
corruption, he said.
"We've increased the overall complexity of our
investigations into white-collar crime," he said.
He cited investigations of illegal dealings within the
defunct 7th Judicial District Drug Task Force, headed by
former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon of Benton. Harmon
has been convicted of several felonies.
Smith said the office's openness and activity with
civil rights and white-collar cases have caused people to
feel comfortable about calling the bureau with tips helping
the bureau with investigations.
"We now get calls every day from individuals who have
confidence in the FBI to let us know of things they feel
are important," he said.
The mood in the office turned somber after Smith's
announcement, Sandy Finch, his secretary, said. Others said
Smith also fostered openness within the agency.
"He's very personable," said Brent Mosher, supervisor
for violent crimes, domestic terrorism and national foreign
"I can't think of an instance when anyone couldn't walk
into his office and discuss any personal problems or
problems on their jobs," Mosher said. "We're going to miss
"I think the man has a near-photographic memory,"
Mosher said. "You can talk to him about names, dates and
places. He locks in on it, and at a later date he can
Mosher said Smith's Washington connections also helped
One of his jobs there was counter-intelligence. He
headed an investigation into a Chinese spy who landed a job
in the CIA. Smith spent about a year away from the
Department of Justice, which oversees the FBI, and went to
the State Department, where he helped with security at
embassies and protected American officials traveling abroad.
After returning to the FBI, he worked in Australia for
more than two years as a legal attache. He taught
law-enforcement techniques to police on South Pacific
He displays model boats from Samoa and Fiji in his
office, along with other souvenirs.
Smith grew up near Calhoun, La. He was a police officer
in Monroe, La., before working for the FBI. He wanted to
come to Arkansas in part because family members moved here.
While special agent in charge, Smith experienced two
dark days, he said. One came in 1995 when a man he was
investigating hanged himself in jail. The other came in
1997 when an FBI truck, along with the guns inside, was
stolen in Memphis. That attracted national media attention.
Smith quickly took responsibility, although he was not
directly involved. He said Thursday that some FBI employees
have been disciplined.
But he wouldn't elaborate.
He said the hanging and the theft of the truck did not
cause him to retire. He just feels as if it is time to go,
Until FBI Director Louis Freeh chooses Smith's
replacement, William Temple, assistant agent in charge,
will head the Little Rock office.
Meanwhile, Smith said he will watch the FBI after he
leaves. And he won't be too shy to call with his opinions,
Copyright © 1998, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All