Good morning. It is great to be here today to honor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. Next month marks the 101st anniversary of the FBI. And it is worth noting that Efrem has been a part of the Bureau for over four decades of our history.
In September of 1965, the ABC network aired the first episode of “The FBI.” It was the first national TV series to focus on the Bureau. And Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. played the starring role of Inspector Lewis Erskine.
Inspector Erskine became a classic TV character, and a household name. For many Americans, the show was their first glimpse into the work of the FBI, and their first encounter with an FBI special agent.
We could not have asked for a better character, or a better man to play his role. Over the years, many actors have played FBI agents. But thanks to Efrem’s fine work, Inspector Erskine will always remain the icon of an FBI special agent.
Inspector Erskine became the standard-bearer for the FBI in the public imagination. J. Edgar Hoover once remarked, “I have received hundreds of letters from people saying that the inspector on the FBI series portrayed what they thought an FBI agent should portray.”
I would guess those letters referred to more than just his crisp white shirts and clean-cut appearance. Beneath the surface, Efrem captured the true essence of what it means to be a special agent of the FBI.
And that can be summed up in three words: fidelity, bravery, and integrity. These words are the bedrock of our work. And they are the FBI’s motto. But these are more than a motto; they are a way of life.
Efrem’s character embodied fidelity, bravery, and integrity. So much so that he inspired a generation of future FBI employees, many of whom pursued a career in the Bureau because they watched “The FBI” series as they grew up. In those days, he may well have been the Bureau’s best and most effective recruiter!
“The FBI” series ended more than 30 years ago, but Efrem’s service to the FBI did not end. In the years since the last episode aired, he has remained a steadfast friend of the Bureau. He has loaned his memorable voice to help narrate recruiting videos. He has graciously put in guest appearances at various FBI functions. He has participated in charity events, helping to raise money for the families of agents killed in the line of duty.
In 1985, the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI presented Efrem’s character, Inspector Lewis Erskine, with a set of retired credentials. Today, we are proud to honor the man behind the character with another award.
Efrem, for nine years, Inspector Erskine wore the FBI’s badge. Today, we would like to present you with the real thing.
Upon graduating from the FBI Academy, each special agent receives his or her gold badge, crowned by a golden eagle. It symbolizes the solemn responsibility each special agent has accepted: to protect American citizens, to safeguard justice, and to defend freedom.
You, too, have dedicated yourself to these ideals. And through your work on “The FBI” series, you transmitted these ideals to the American public. And you inspired countless men and women to take up that badge, and dedicate their own careers to those ideals.
We consider the honorary special agent award the highest honor that we bestow on individuals outside the Bureau. And today, we are proud to present it to you.
We are grateful for your service and your friendship, and will always consider you a member of the FBI family. On behalf of all your friends at the FBI, past and present, it is my honor to present you with this badge and recognize you as an honorary special agent of the FBI.
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