WASHINGTON — President Reagan, ending a nearly four-month search, today nominated U.S. District Judge William S. Sessions of Texas to head the FBI.
Sessions, 57, a Republican, would replace William H. Webster, whom Reagan nominated March 30 to take over the CIA from the late William J. Casey. Webster was confirmed as spy chief May 19.
If confirmed by the Senate, Sessions would serve a 10-year-term as head of the prestigious federal law enforcement agency.
Reagan chose an unusual forum for the announcement--standing just outside the diplomatic entrance on the south lawn of the White House in scorching heat and sweltering humidity after he returned by helicopter from giving a speech to a Captive Nations Conference elsewhere in Washington.
Sessions, considered a hard-liner on law and order, is chief judge of the U.S. District Court for West Texas, and is best-known for stiff sentences he gave to drug dealers and for life terms for the killers of U.S. District Judge John (Maximum John) Wood Jr. of San Antonio. His predecessor, Webster, was a judge of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court in Missouri.
Sessions was named a U.S. attorney by President Richard M. Nixon in 1971 and elevated to the federal bench by President Gerald R. Ford in 1974.
Reagan said: "It is with great pleasure that I today announce my intention to nominate Judge William Steele Sessions to be director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"Judge Sessions is well-recognized as a man of great personal integrity and honor, dedicated to the vigorous enforcement of the criminal laws of our country and the evenhanded administration of justice.
'One of the Finest'
"I am happy to be able to draw upon the talents of a person with such extensive experience both on the bench and as a prosecutor to lead the FBI in our fight against crime, . . .
"Judge Sessions has established himself as a fair-minded tough prosecutor and one of the finest federal judges on the bench today. He's committed to protecting the rights of all Americans under the Constitution."
The President also said, "Under Judge Sessions' leadership, I am confident that the FBI will continue its impressive tradition as one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the world unmatched in integrity, commitment and skill."
Standing alongside Reagan and the bespectacled Sessions--who was wearing a gray pin-striped suit and dark red striped tie--were Webster, Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III and White House Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr.
Sessions in a brief reply, said: "Mr. President, I thank you for reposing the confidence in me to become the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I look forward to trying to maintain the high standards that Judge Webster has provided for leadership in the bureau and to working with Atty. Gen. Meese . . . and I'm grateful to you."
Both men then withdraw as the press corps shouted questions about the Persian Gulf and the length of time it took to find a new FBI chief.