About the Special Agents Association

Chicago, IL

In May of 1937 a group of thirteen dedicated and devoted Investigators, representing Government, Police and the Protection Departments of Industry met for the first time. The meeting was called to order at 12 noon at Harding’s restaurant on the 7 Th floor of The Fair Store, Chicago, Illinois. The purpose of this meeting was to bring together a group of men who were actively engaged in various phases of investigative work. One round table was used which enabled the investigators to become better acquainted. It was at this place and time that the groundwork was laid for the present association.

The first President Pro Team in 1939 was Leonard C. M. Johnson, who on May 15, 1940, compiled and published the first Membership and Governing Rules of the Special Agents Association. The document lists the Officers as, Orville C. Dewey, Chairman, and Chief Investigator for Sears-Roebuck, Legal Department; Nelson D. Zimmerman, Vice-Chairman, Claim Agent, Association of Casualty & Surety Executives; and Leonard C. M. Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer, of Investigations and Trial Preparation. Members of the Executive Committee included, Robert B. Ritter, Investigator in Charge, U.S. Internal Revenue, Alcohol Tax Unit; Herold H. Reinecke, Director, Company Protective Service, Montgomery-Ward & Co.; and William J. Spillard, Special Agent, National Board of Fire Underwriters. The roster of Members included Harold H. Bailey, Chief Investigator, National Association of Credit; Gus Bartels, Investigator in Charge, State’s Attorney Office; Joseph Brown, U.S. Navy Intelligence Division; W. S. Devereaux, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation; H. C. Eldredge, Special Agent in Charge, American Express Co.; Bert Hancock, Sergeant, Department of Crime Statistics, Chicago Police Department; Pete Welsh, Special Agent, Western Union Telegraph Co.; and C. M. Wilson, Assistant Director, Chicago Police Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory.

On October 26, 1939, a Charter was obtained which embodied the present Constitution of the Special Agents Association. These dedicated pioneers launched the Special Agents Association as they foresaw the need for an organization that provided mutual and reciprocal benefits to bona fide Investigators who were genuinely interested in combating crime. The Special Agents Association Seal was formed in 1944 and the motto “Veritas Valet Vitae” embodies the philosophy of the organization: “The truth is worth one’s life”, with the symbols on the seal signifying:

Shield – Authority of justice and law

Star – Constant vigilance

Sword – Courage and daring

Magnifying Glass – Symbols of a special Agent’s work

Blue Field – Symbols of cover and secrecy in which he works

The purpose of the organization as envisioned by the founders, is to bring together, at intervals, those actively engaged in some phase of investigative work for the purpose of exchanging ideas, sources of information, and personal contacts which would be helpful in the investigative profession. The objective also included a plan to conduct meetings at which members may hear speakers of outstanding achievement discourse on subjects of special interest to the members of the association. An additional objective was to promote friendship and cooperation among the members for their mutual benefit.

The Association would further the preservation of, and adherence to, the Constitution of the United States. All applicants would be thoroughly screened with insistence on good reputation, moral character and loyalty to the government of the United States.

At the end of 1940, membership in the Association had doubled and there were 26 active members. When it became evident that the United States was about to be involved in war, the Association developed a strong defense program. The association set up a plant protection advisory committee. Representatives of the national government came to Chicago and conferred with the officers and directors. The federal government instructed their agents in this area to join the Special Agents Association. There was a great danger from espionage and sabotage, and the members were called upon to be especially vigilant in their tasks of plant protection. When World War II, came to an end in August of 1945, the Association had 322 members, which was 25 times the original number of the 13 charter members. By 1945, the reputation of the Special Agents Association had been firmly established, as the organization was known from coast to coast.

In January of 1951, the Association began the publication of the official monthly newsletter, “The Essay”, which announces meetings, carries official notices, and brings news and feature items of interest about the association. Since the inception of the association, the annually published Yearbook and Directory has been the “Who’s Who” of investigators in Chicago. The directory is the life line of the association and its prudent use strengthens the association. In January of 1958, an education committee was formed for the sole purpose of publishing articles and papers written by members of the association and determined to be of interest to the entire investigative field.

In 1962 the Special Agents Association celebrated its 25TH silver anniversary. The gala event was attended by most of the past presidents including John E. Reid, President of the Special Agents in 1952, and renowned polygraph examined and interview/interrogator. Additionally, on recommendation of the resolutions committee, the following resolution was approved; Whereas, Commander Marvin E Van Dera, U.S.N., President of the Special Agents Association, BE IT RESOLVED that the Commander be specially commended for his devotion and personal efforts in promoting the good will, and furtherance of the cause of the Special Agents Association, be especially remembered for his inauguration and authorship of the Special Agents newsletter, ESSAY, which newsletter in itself will stand as his finest memorial and lasting contribution.

In July 1962, the first Special Agents Golf Outing was held in Nordic Hills. This tradition still continues, with funds raised to support charitable organizations, and the Police Chaplains Ministry. It should be noted that the ESSAY continued to keep its members fully informed, as by the article, Board Speaks On

$4.00 Dinner Cost, “As everyone is aware, the cost of dinner at our monthly meeting is now $4.00. It was not raised from $3.75 in order to give anyone a profit. The cost was raised after much deliberation on the part of your board of directors and the committees of the association which are concerned with problems of the budget.”

In 1975, Chester Gould, from Woodstock, Illinois, was a guest speaker and Special Agents Association award recipient for his work on the cartoon character Dick Tracy.

The Special Agents Association celebrated its 50 TH anniversary on February 20, 1988, held at the Hyatt Oak Brook. Speakers for the evening affair included Master of Ceremonies, John Madigan, WBBM News, and Speaker, Justice George Lindberg, 2nd District Appellate Court.

In 1989, Illinois Governor James Thompson (member since 1964) was the guest speaker at the Special Agents Association Past Presidents Night, and was awarded a life membership in recognition of exceptional and valuable services rendered the Association. To date only fourteen members have been conferred this special distinction.

The association moved into the dot com era, when in 2005, the association established its own World Wide Web site; www.specialagentsassn.org. In 2011, the association using digital photography, moved again into the electronic age, as the ESSAY, became immediately available in living color. The ESSAY newsletter has maintained its original purpose, with the format moving into the 21 century.

In 2007 the association elected its first women president, reflecting the contribution and professionalism that their gender brings to the law enforcement, private investigations, and the security area.

The Association continues to thrive, based on the original guiding principles, only the terminology has changed, from contacts, we now engage in net working, from typewriters to computers. What started out as an organization on the watch for sabotage and espionage in 1941, we continue our work as a result of September 11, 2001, to be ever ready to face the threat of terrorism.

In 2010 the Association developed a Challenge Coin, a beautiful piece depicting the seal of the association which is available to members and collectors.

As the Special Agents Association nears its 75TH anniversary in the 2013/2014 season, we encourage all members to actively seek out, other professional colleagues in the investigative and security fields and encourage them to consider joining a premier investigative organization. Where else can you meet to discuss in an informal manner, and rub shoulders with the greats in the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies; attorneys, forensic accountants, forensic scientists, polygraph examiners, banking, private investigative, retail and security firms?

Where – only by becoming one of the elite, and becoming a member of the SPECIAL AGENTS ASSOCIATION!

This document was compiled by Glenn Eiden, a past president, and current Historian. Every effort has been made to be factually correct, based on a review of documents maintained in the historical archives. Every member is encouraged to contact the historian if any modifications or additions are warranted. The Historian continues to request documents and photographs maintained by individual members who wish to contribute to the SA archives, as well as those members who would wish to be interviewed regarding their personal stories or knowledge of specific events as members of the association.

October 2011 / GPE

We invite you to join. We invite you to be one of the select. We invite you to be a Special Agent.

Special Agents Association
P.O. Box 8522
Romeoville, IL 60446