First Black Secret Service agent assigned to a president speaks out in new book

A former Secret Service agent said he knew of a plot to kill President John F. Kennedy in Chicago a few weeks before he was assassinated in Dallas and went to the authorities, but the information held back.

A former Secret Service agent said he knew of a plot to kill President John F. Kennedy in Chicago a few weeks before he was assassinated in Dallas and went to the authorities, but the information held back.

It was a conspiracy, Abraham Bolden, the first African American agent assigned to protect the president, told the Defender.

Bolden gives details in his book, The Echo from Dealey Plaza: The true story of the first African American on the White House Secret Service detail and his quest for justice after the assassination of JFK, about his time as a member of the White House Secret Service, and how the government allegedly framed him to keep quiet about the information he had about the conspiracies to kill Kennedy.

Bolden, an East St. Louis, Ill. native, was an Illinois state trooper for four years before President Dwight Eisenhower appointed him to the United States Secret Service in 1959.

When he came aboard, racism slapped him in the face each time he walked in the Chicago office. The agents saw him as another Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, all troublemakers in their eyes. They had no plans on giving him a chance, he said.

“Oh it was bad. At the beginning of our meetings, the agents would tell negro jokes while I sat there in the meeting. They didn’t care one bit that I was in the room. They thought it was funny. I had to let them know I wasn’t the one to mess with. I demanded the same respect I gave them,” a spirited Bolden said.

The taunts eventually died down and the agents displayed meager tolerance of him. He would hear the snickers every now and then and tried his best to ignore it. But that didn’t last long.

He reached his boiling point when he arrived to work one day and found a hangman’s noose over his workstation.

His heart nearly sank, Bolden said with a sigh. “Again, they thought it was a joke. I asked each agent that was in the room who did it. I even went to my supervisors and demanded they get to the bottom of it. Of course no one admitted to doing it. Instead, they said someone on the cleaning crew must have put it there as a joke,” he said angrily.

Bolden didn’t buy the “cleaning crew” story. “There was absolutely nothing funny about a noose, especially during those times, and why in the world would someone who comes to the office to clean when we’re gone put it up there? They wouldn’t even know I sat there,” the now-73-year-old said.

He knew his time was limited in the Chicago office but didn’t know what was in his future with the organization.

When Kennedy made a trip to Chicago in the early 1960s, he handpicked Bolden to join his White House detail, in an attempt to diversify the team, Bolden said.

Always dedicating his life to protecting and serving, Bolden jumped at the chance. He was the youngest agent assigned to protect Kennedy.

“He asked me if I wanted to be the first African American secret service agent at the White House, and I immediately said yes. He was a good man. But he wasn’t well-liked, just as I wasn’t, for obvious reasons,” he said.

Bolden said Kennedy was getting flack for embracing the Civil Rights Movement, and with Bolden’s addition to the detail, the backlash heightened.

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