By Steve Clemons | June 22, 2015 | People
Former CIA and FBI director William Webster and wife Lynda celebrate big anniversaries in love and work.
If Washington were to have a real “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” a Brangelina-style couple who appear ordinary— they get traffic tickets and carry their own groceries—but were really top-of-their-game CIA operatives, it would be Mr. and Mrs. Webster, sans the weapons and assassination orders (I think).
Judge William Webster and wife Lynda, who this year celebrate 25 years of marriage and 10 years of The Webster Group, stand out as one of the country’s great power pairings. Growing up in the suburbs of St. Louis, William armed himself with a law degree and soon found himself ascending as a District Court and then US Appeals Court judge, earning a reputation as a tough-minded, common-sense deployer of the law. President Jimmy Carter made him the third director of the FBI, tasking him with crippling the very active New York mafia scene.
After a decade, President Ronald Reagan moved the judge from the FBI to the CIA, making him the first and only person to serve in both roles. William’s mission was in part to build channels of communication between the two intelligence empires and, in his words, “reestablish the American people’s trust in these institutions…to tell the truth when it could be told and not substitute a lie when it couldn’t.”
Whenever there is national security trouble, William seems to save the day. After the tragic Fort Hood slayings, he led the inquiry commission for the FBI. Today, he chairs the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Lynda says he was so effective in restoring integrity and confidence in the agencies because “the man doesn’t operate in gray—he is black and white ethically…. People know he is being straight with them.”
Lynda herself—the Angelina to William’s Brad Pitt—came to DC from Illinois wanting to join the CIA. William says, “She came fully equipped, passing all the tests including the security issues, except [she] had a childhood health issue they feared might reemerge and break her cover.” She nevertheless found another way to play a role, as head of sales and then marketing for Washington’s historic Willard Intercontinental Hotel—at the time a grand gem that was also a crossroads for spies. “In hotel management she managed to volunteer and be very helpful in the dealings of foreign agents who were prowling around in our city,” the judge says. “Lynda made her own contribution to the nation in her own way.”
After her stint at the Intercontinental, Lynda started her own marketing and events firm, The Webster Group, which has raised staggering amounts of money for nonprofits like Save the Children. Having lost a dear friend on September 11, 2001, she also helped raise the $22 million needed for the Pentagon memorial. Her firm was noted by Inc. magazine as one of the nation’s fastest growing companies in 2014. She says that in the beginning if she had known she would be producing events as large as 40,000 people, she “would have hid under the table.” Now on her bucket list is producing events for an Olympics or Super Bowl.
Lynda says that her job is “all about good intelligence.” “I like brokering relationships,” she says. “If a friend is passionate about something, I’m delighted to try to connect that friend to something that might fit. I won’t twist arms to get people to just give money to a cause.”
When asked what they do for fun, Mr. and Mrs. Webster say that they “live for Fridays…going to our weekend place [near the Inn at Little Washington] with two dogs and a cat and hiking and fishing, and sitting on the porch drinking wine.”
The DC super agents have a great life. But Judge Webster says, “I still get traffic tickets.” Without missing a beat, Mrs. Webster replies, “Because you don’t read the signs, dear....”
photography by abby greenawalt
June 8, 2017