Abraham Bolden is most known for his title of the first African American Secret Service Agent, assigned to the White House Detail. Bolden was born on January 19th, 1935 in East St. Louis to Daniel and Ophelia Bolden. Abraham attended Lincoln University, located in Jefferson City, Missouri. Bolden was actually going there on a music scholarship, he graduated in 1959. Shortly after graduating Bolden married his friend of many years, Barbra L. Hardy and had three children. The two were married for 49 years before Ophelia’s passing on December 27th, 2005.
In 1956 Bolden became the first African American to be a detective by Pinkerton National Detective Agency, working as an Illinois State highway patrolman. In October of 1960, Bolden started working for the US Secret Service, assigned to work on counterfeiting cases. A year later in 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked Bolden in Chicago, to join the White House Secret Service Presidential Protective Division. Starting June 1961- July 1961 Bolden traveled with the President and protected Kennedy. In July of 1961 Bolden went back to Chicago as a field agent.
Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, Bolden accused the Secret Service of misconduct and also threatened to leak information concerning the lack of the Presidents security. Commissioners never called Bolden to testify in the investigation of the Presidents death, but later in May of 1964, Bolden was fired as a field agent and arrested by Secret Service. Bolden was charged with “Soliciting a $50,000 bribe from a counterfeiting ring that he helped to break.” Bolden was convicted and in prison at the Springfield, Illinois Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. The court tried to unsuccessfully declare Bolden insane; he remained in prison for 3 years and 3 months of a six year sentence.
Getting release, Bolden moved back to Chicago and tried to clear his name for what he thought was an “Unjust conviction.” January of 1978 Bolden gave a small testimony on his allegations and experiences with the Kennedy assassination to two White House investigators. The committee’s final report on the matter that was the “Secret Service was deficient in the performance of its duties in Dallas.” After this all came out Bolden decided to write a book titled “The Echo from Dealey Plaza” that talked about his 6 years of dealing with racism within the Secret Service and about the
charges he faced.
It took 40 years for Bolden to clear his name and bring light to the wrong doings and segregation in the Secret Service. Bolden was awarded the 2008 Scottish Hugo’s Companion Tankard Award for Courage and the 2008 African American Arts Alliance Award for Excellence. Bolden has also been cited by the National Urban League as being on of Americas Outstanding Black Men.
Abraham Bolden, The Echo from Dealey Plaza (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008); Del Quentin, “The First Black Secret Service Agent,” The Washington Post, August 10, 2011; interview with Abraham Bolden by the author, January 4, 2014; UNITED STATES v. BOLDEN 355 F.2d 453 (1965); “Admits Bolden Trial Perjury: Spagnoli Tells of Trying to Aid Self,” Chicago Tribune, January 21, 1965; “Blunders and Wonders of Nov. 22, 1963,” Flagpole Magazine, November 19, 2008.