William Hedgcock Webster: From the 8th Cir. to the CIA

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on November 12, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

CNN recently released a list of fast facts on past and present CIA directors. Among those listed is former Director of Central Intelligence William Hedgcock Webster, who traces his roots to right here in the Eighth Circuit.

For practitioners gunning for a more varied career, here's how one person went from serving as a U.S. Attorney and an Eighth Circuit judge to becoming the 14th Director of Central Intelligence.

Early Life

Born in St. Louis, Webster received his early education in the affluent suburb of Webster Groves, Misosuri.

After obtaining his undergraduate degree from Amherst College and his J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, he served as a lieutenant in the United States Navy during World War II.

Following his military service, Webster had a short stint in private practice at a St. Louis firm.

Soon after, he ditched the gig to become a United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri from 1960 to 1961, then a member of the Missouri Board of Law Examiners from 1964 to 1969.

That position seems to be what poised him for a black robe. In 1970, Webster was appointed a judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, and in 1973 he was bumped up to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (holla!).


Webster serves as a case-in-point that, paradoxically, a strong legal background can help guide you to an uncommon non-legal career path.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed him as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Webster rose to Director of Central Intelligence in 1987 after being appointed by President Ronald Reagan. The appointment came after his successful efforts against New York mafia families while director of the FBI during the Carter Administration.

Fun factoid: Webster is the only American to have served as both Director of Central Intelligence and Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Another factoid: He's a pretty hardcore Republican, and his politics are controversial. He was the man behind the now-(in)famous Clint Eastwood-esque quote: "Security is always seen as too much until the day it's not enough."

Webster retired from public service in 1991. He was criticized for failing to predict Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and resigned under pressure in 1991, reports Examiner.com.

He hasn't managed to find his way back to Missouri's legal landscape, but he practiced law at the Washington, D.C., office of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy until 2005. His forte was arbitration, mediation and internal investigation.

Personal political feelings aside, isn't it fun to see folks in the Eighth Circuit charting legal paths beyond the norm?

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