When Bob Davis reflects on his career as an FBI agent, he sees it as an opportunity to serve his country.
It was an opportunity that moved him around the United States, from the big cities of Dallas and Philadelphia to Amish country to small towns where he was the lone “resident agent.” He’s worked Indian reservations, foreign counterintelligence, white collar crime, and a barn-burning case that ended up as a movie. He capped off his 34-year career by heading up the Coeur d’Alene office of the FBI as supervising senior resident agent.
Along the way, he and his wife, Linda, raised 10 children, now ages 31 to 15.
Davis retired officially on Dec. 31, just a few months shy of the mandatory retirement age of 57.
He could have been a teacher and coach – that’s what he thought he would do. He attended Brigham Young University on a basketball scholarship, where he majored in English and minored in physical education. He was in a master’s program when the opportunity to work as clerk for the FBI came up.
“You could go to school, get a degree, work in a clerical position and then become an agent. I already had a degree,” Davis said.
He put in two years as a clerk and then became an agent. “In hindsight, I think it was a good opportunity to serve the country,” Davis said.
Linda Davis said it was exciting to have her husband in the FBI. “I had no concerns. I never have had. He’s very capable and courageous. I’m completely enthusiastic about doing the right thing for the right reason. It was completely the right thing for the right reason.”
For his first assignment, he was sent to Dallas, where he worked white collar crime. From there he went to Tyler, Texas, as the “resident agent.” As the lone FBI agent in Tyler he got “an opportunity to get a wide range of experience. You have to work just about everything.”
After five years in East Texas, he was transferred to Philadelphia, where he worked in foreign counterintelligence. The FBI wants its agents to get big-city experience, but Davis said that he and his wife preferred a more rural lifestyle, so after three years he sought a transfer.
“We were in the process of having a family. We sought out rural towns.” They got their rural lifestyle when he got a transfer to State College, Pa. – Amish country. In the early 1990s, an arsonist burned down seven Amish barns in one night.
“I worked among the Amish for three years. I learned a lot about them. I was able to solve the crime,” he recalled.
The arsonist turned out to be someone who did not consider himself to be Amish, but who came from an Amish family. A TV movie, “Harvest of Fire,” was made of the incident.
The Davises spent 15 years in the State College area. By that time they had had all 10 kids; some were in college, some had moved to North Idaho. “We decided we didn’t want to be split up. We decided to pick up and move here,” Davis said.
Davis transferred to Lewiston, where he primarily worked the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, which he called “interesting and challenging.”
In the late 1990s, the FBI split the supervisory functions for the state of Idaho and created a position in Coeur d’Alene. In 1999, Davis came to Coeur d’Alene. At the peak, he oversaw 13 agents and four support staff. Locally, the FBI works the Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai Indian reservations and supports the Nez Perce reservation. Agents also work domestic terrorism, incidents involving white supremacists.
They also “work a small amount of all the other programs the FBI has,” Davis said. Everything the FBI faces in bigger areas exists here, only on a smaller scale. That includes white collar crime, bank robberies and Internet fraud.
“My job as supervisor was to make sure (the agents) were free to do their jobs,” he said.
Though as supervisor he did not personally work the cases, he said “seeing the progress made in North Idaho – the decline of the white supremacists – was very rewarding.”
Both Davises speak of the numerous opportunities Bob’s career has provided the family.
“When you have the opportunity to be transferred, you go through a sorting process and get rid of a lot of baggage, not just pieces of things, but emotions,” Linda Davis said. Before settling into new locations, the Davis family would spend time in “temporary quarters” – hotels.
“That’s when you realize the people in your life make your family. Not stuff,” she said. “Except for photo albums and journals, all that stuff can go away.”
“It was fun to reinvent myself.”
As the wife of an FBI agent, it’s something she’s done many times. Linda Davis has had more jobs than her husband has had transfers. She has consistently worked, taking on jobs that allowed her be home with the children – or take the children to the job. She was a model for TV and radio commercials and sold furniture, was a certified image consultant, a Realtor, a paralegal, a water safety instructor, a banker, a bank branch manager, and a mortgage loan officer. She’s taught classes in communication, has taught religion at church and did accounting for a law firm. Currently, she works in business development for North Idaho Title.
The thing that stands out for her about the FBI are its people. “The brotherhood has been the neatest thing for me,” Linda Davis said. “It’s been a wonderful affiliation.”
“It never ceases to amaze me the quality of the people who work us,” Davis added.
One thing Davis said people don’t know about the FBI is the long hours that agents work. “Agents put in 10 to 11 hours a day, 50 to 60 hours a week for 35 years.”
How did he balance those hours with 10 kids?
“Everyone has a particular lifestyle,” he said. “I didn’t have outside interests. My outside interest was my family. Family and church work.” The Davises belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I’m starting to play golf. When the kids were young there was none of that. The kids were wonderful. We always had fun together. We camped, hiked, sang. One of us was always at their activities.”
Now that he’s retired, Davis plans to take six months to see if he likes being retired. He has things he wants to do: Get to know his grandchildren better, update the family Web site and convert family videos to DVD and slides to digital photographs. Among those slides he’s found are ones of him in 1973 when he was in the FBI Academy.
“My career was very positive experience,” Davis said. “It was satisfying, rewarding. I feel like working for the FBI was working for the people of the United States.”
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