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Abraham Bolden, The First Black Agent Assigned To The Prestigious White House Detail

Abraham Bolden

 

Abraham Bolden, often referred to incorrectly as the first black Secret Service Agent, was, in fact, the first black agent assigned to the prestigious White House Detail. Bolden was born on January 19, 1935 in East St. Louis, Illinois to Daniel and Ophelia Bolden. He graduated from Lincoln High School in East St. Louis in 1952 and went on to Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri on a music scholarship, graduating with honors in 1956. Bolden married his longtime friend and schoolmate, Barbara L. Hardy, after graduation. She died on December 27, 2005, after a 49-year marriage. The couple was the parents of three children.

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In 1956, Bolden became the Pinkerton National Detective Agency’s first African American detective. He later became an Illinois State Highway Patrolman. Bolden joined the US Secret Service in October 1960, becoming the agency’s second black agent (after Charles L. Gittens, who was hired in 1956). Bolden was tasked with investigating cases of counterfeiting.

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After a brief conversation with Bolden in Chicago on April 28, 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked him to join the White House Secret Service Presidential Protective Division. Bolden accompanied and protected President John F. Kennedy from June 6 to July 6, 1961. Bolden decided to return to Chicago after his probationary period as a field agent in the counterfeiting division.

Bolden’s career imploded after Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. He accused the Secret Service of misconduct in connection with the Dallas, Texas tragedy and threatened to reveal information about the President’s lack of proper security to the Warren Commission, which is investigating the President’s death. Agent Bolden was never called to testify before the Commission. Instead, in May 1964, Bolden was fired and then arrested by Secret Service agents who accused him of soliciting a $50,000 bribe from a counterfeiting ring he had helped to break.

Despite the admission by one of the main prosecution witnesses, counterfeiter Joseph Spagnoli, that he was encouraged to lie during the trial, Bolden was convicted and imprisoned at the Springfield, Illinois Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. During his confinement, prison officials unsuccessfully attempted to declare Bolden insane. He stayed in Springfield until September 1969, when he was released after serving three years and three months of a six-year sentence in federal prison. Bolden returned to Chicago and worked for a number of companies while attempting to clear his name for what he perceived to be an unjust conviction.

Bolden testified to two House Select Committee on Assassinations investigators in January 1978 about his experiences and allegations regarding the Kennedy assassination. The final report of the Committee, issued in March 1979, stated that the Secret Service failed to perform its duties in Dallas. This report vindicated Bolden’s position. Bolden wrote The Echo from Dealey Plaza in 2008, detailing his charges. The book describes the racism that existed in the Secret Service at the time, as well as his conflicts with colleagues and superiors during his six years with the agency. He also discussed how he failed to recognize the consequences of confronting this powerful agency in the 1960s, when whistleblowers were uncommon and frequently dismissed.

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Written by How Africa News

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