Former FBI director William S. Sessions, known primarily in arcade circles for the anti-drug campaign attributed to his name, passed away at age 90 due to the complications of a congestive heart ailment on June 12.
Serving as director from 1987 to 1993, his iconic slogan, “Winners don’t use drugs,” came as a collaborative effort between the FBI and AAMA to publicize the harm of drug use to youth.
The message, displayed during the attract modes of many arcade games released in the United States, was implemented in 1989 and far outlived Sessions’ tenure when it was eventually phased out in 2000.
Following Sessions’ departure, “Winners don’t use drugs” was henceforth credited to an unnamed “FBI Director”.
According to previous reporting by The Washington Post, Sessions fought to bring in more black, Hispanic and female FBI agents.
“Mr. Sessions bitterly fought a Justice Department report that accused him of abusing the perks of his job—avoiding taxes on his use of an FBI limousine and contriving work-related trips to meet relatives, among alleged violations,” wrote the Post’s Paul Valentine. “He refused to resign and ultimately was dismissed by President Bill Clinton in July 1993.”
As someone born in 2001, I know nothing about Sessions the person, but I’m certainly familiar with the initiative he was attached to due to its sheer prevalence in arcades.
My first encounter with the tagline was thanks to Sega’s The House of the Dead at the Roller Dome Fun Plex when I was in second grade. Somehow, I never forgot it.
Even if Sessions’ legacy has been tainted by financial controversy, I’m glad he—or at least someone acting on his behalf at the agency—did something to combat the use of drugs among young people in the United States. Drugs are horrible. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
Rest in peace, William Sessions. May your legacy live on in blue-tinted CRT monitors forever.