Patrick Webb’s 34-year career in the FBI spanned chapters of the agency’s history, from the Unabomber to domestic terrorism, from IRA fugitives to the white supremacist “The Order.” When he retired, he became involved with another icon of American culture – the entertainment business of moviemaker George Lucas.
Webb was proud of what he’d been involved in, but also modest – honed, no doubt from years of maintaining confidences. He was widely recognized as a mentor to FBI agents who went on to become special agent bomb technicians, high level supervisors and managers.
Webb died December 17 of cancer at age 73. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Florence, of Falls Church, VA, and two daughters, Sarah Webb Linden (Tate Linden), herself an FBI agent supervisor, and grandsons Teddy and Truman of Falls Church, and Eileen Webb (Aaron Parkening) of Buxton, ME, as well as stepdaughter Darcy (Jonathan Shapiro) and grandsons Henry and Alex of Ames Lake, WA. He is also survived by his twin brother Peter (Ginny Williams) of Littleton, CO and younger brother Francis (Margaret) of Renton, WA, along with five nephews and nieces.
A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at 11:30am on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019 at St. Anthony de Padua Catholic Church in Falls Church by Fr. Jeb Donelan, with a reception to follow. Inurnment will take place in the Spring at the family plot in Landaff, New Hampshire.
Webb joined the FBI in 1965 in Seattle, his hometown, in a clerical role, then served three years in U.S. Army Intelligence, stationed in Orleans, France and Berlin, Germany. Upon his return to the FBI in 1968, he took a position in the Anchorage, Alaska office while completing a college degree in political science at Alaska Methodist University.
He was appointed an agent in 1974, and following training in Quantico, VA, spent his entire career in the San Francisco office (a rarity in FBI culture), concentrating mostly on bombing matters and counterterrorism cases. He was among a special cadre of agents nationwide who received training as bomb technicians.
Webb’s first major bombing case was a California offshoot of the Emiliano Zapata Unit, a leftist counter-revolutionary group bombing Bay Area supermarkets. Ultimately nine co-conspirators were convicted.
In 1981 Webb tracked and arrested William Joseph Quinn, an Irish Republican Army (IRA) fugitive wanted for killing an English “bobbie” in London. Quinn returned to San Francisco, where he lived quietly. Quinn fought extradition to England for seven years and Webb eventually testified in the Old Bailey in London in 1988 about arresting Quinn. Four other IRA members were also apprehended in San Francisco. As a result of this case, Webb developed a lifelong friendship with Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Alec Edwards, establishing a tradition of speaking by phone every Super Bowl Sunday.
In addition to the Quinn case, Webb worked to identify a bomber named Coy Ray Phelps, who pursued his white supremacist leanings by bombing Bay Area synagogues, rabbis’ homes and political offices.
In 1984 the white supremacist group “The Order” robbed an armored car near Ukiah, California to finance its activities. Webb was part of an agent team in Idaho, Colorado and Montana that unmasked The Order and won convictions that led to life sentences. The case was recently profiled on CNN’s “Declassified” series in 2018, and Webb was interviewed extensively on the program.
The nationwide search for the Unabomber eclipsed 14 years of Webb’s life, starting in 1982. Webb was a Supervisory Special Agent whose case load included the investigation of the Unabomber. He continued working on the case when the Unabom Task Force was established to conduct the FBI’s most extensive manhunt to that time. Webb was personally involved in gathering evidence at many of the scenes where mailed bombs exploded, maiming innocent victims and killing a California computer store owner, a New Jersey advertising executive and a Sacramento trade association executive.
After the publication of the Unabomber’s so-called “manifesto,” leading to the identification of Theodore Kaczynski, Webb was on scene in Montana in April of 1996 when Kaczynski was arrested and pulled from his remote cabin. As the New York Times reported, Webb, first agent into the cabin, emerged with tears rolling down his face to announce, “This is the guy.” Kaczynski had stocked the cabin with dozens of containers of the home-made components from which he assembled deadly explosives.
Following Kaczynski’s guilty pleas and perpetual life sentence, Webb resumed supervision of a counterterrorism unit, and participated in creation of a Joint Terrorism Task Force for the Bay area. He then was assigned as Senior Supervisory Resident Agent in charge of three Bureau offices in San Rafael, Santa Rosa and Eureka.
Given his longevity in the San Francisco office, Webb was widely regarded as a “keeper of the flame” for office culture. He acclimated new agents to squad operations, created social events, and was an integral element in perpetuating office humor, particularly when it came to practical jokes, and with his natural beard, played Santa Claus in a red Tuxedo. He was blessed with a remarkable memory, and the ability to recall case details, names and dates without Google.
As he decided to retire in 1999, he learned of an opening at Lucasfilm Limited, and true to form, used his knowledge of the Lucasfilm internal systems to get his resume delivered by interoffice courier directly to the person doing the hiring at Lucasfilm. The ploy worked, and seven interviews later, Webb was hired as manager of security operations for Lucasfilm Limited with an office at the famed Skywalker Ranch. Over the next six years, Webb directed efforts to protect Lucasfilm’s trademarks and intellectual property, and had a role in designing the security systems at Lucasfilm’s corporate headquarters, including Industrial Light & Magic’s new Letterman Digital Arts Center at The Presidio in San Francisco. He left Lucasfilm in August of 2005 to move to his wife’s family property in Landaff, New Hampshire, 3,100 miles east.
In Landaff, a prototypical New England village, Webb immediately became immersed in community activities, serving as secretary-treasurer of the Landaff Volunteer Fire Department, and actually answered fire calls, driving fire apparatus. Webb also was chairman of the town planning board and the town’s emergency management director. He represented the Landaff department on the Twin State Mutual Aid Fire Association, a consortium of 29 fire agencies in New Hampshire and Vermont. Owing to Landaff’s agricultural history, he was a member of the Mt. Hope Grange #44.
Pat specifically asked memorials be directed to:
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Box 849168, Boston, MA 02284
Landaff Volunteer Fire Association, c/o Dale Locke, 64 Sym Noyes Road, Landaff, NH 03585.