BARACK OBAMA NEEDS TO HIRE THIS MAN
With the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination recently passed, the 40th anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s murder coming up in June, and all the resultant hysteria swirling around the issue of presidential candidate Barack Obama’s safety as of late, we would like to humbly remind Senator Obama what a real Secret Service agent looks like.
If Barack Obama wants to surround himself with a security staff that can be fully trusted to keep him safe from harm, we would recommend that he hire JFK’s former Secret Serviceman Abraham Bolden as the head of his personal security detail. And if elected to the presidency, we would further implore President Obama to restore Mr. Bolden’s former status on the White House detail of the United States Secret Service.
At age 73, we realize that Bolden would likely be unable to play a very active role in providing physical security for Obama, and that the appointment would be honorary. But we also believe that this brave and loyal public servant should be rewarded for his many years of courage in the face of intense persecution and suffering.
Bolden’s career was destroyed, his reputation sullied, he was thrown in prison on trumped-up charges, subjected to solitary confinement and drugged…all because he dared to protect the president of the United States and tell the truth of what he knew about John F. Kennedy’s murder.
Nearly 45 years later, Abraham Bolden (the first black man to serve on the presidential detail – at JFK’s personal request – and who successfully thwarted a plot to assassinate Kennedy in Chicago on Nov. 2, 1963) has come forward to tell his story in a new book “The Echo From Dealey Plaza“, which we hope that Senator Obama already has a copy of. We hope that Senator Obama reads it carefully and takes Bolden’s words as a cautionary tale. Lastly, we hope that Senator Obama will recognize the efforts of his fellow Chicagoan and do his part to give Mr. Bolden his just due at long last for a job well done. Courage such as this should be honored, especially when it comes to protecting the life of the President.
It’s a task every Secret Service agent is sworn to do, of course. But as we discovered that fateful day in Dallas, not every agent on President Kennedy’s detail was as loyal to that sacred oath as Abraham Bolden – a fact that President Kennedy himself was apparently aware of.
“Keep those Ivy League charlatans off the back of my car.”
— President John F. Kennedy to Secret Service Agent Floyd Boring in Tampa, November 18, 1963
(as reported in William Manchester’s Death of a President)
We present below a fascinating recent interview with Mr. Bolden from the Chicago Sun-Times, speaking about his new book. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is everything a Secret Service agent should be!
(Oh, and Mr. Kennedy – if you run for President, the same advice goes for you, too. Hire Mr. Bolden and put him in charge! Can you think of anyone with a greater motivation to keep you well protected?)
“I’VE ALWAYS HAD FAITH IN JUSTICE”
CONVICTED SECRET SERVICE AGENT FINALLY TELLS HIS SIDE
If a novelist set out to rewrite Franz Kafka’s The Trial as a modern-day horror tale, it might read much like Abraham Bolden’s The Echo From Dealey Plaza.
Kafka’s character Josef K. is tried by some faceless bureaucracy but never learns why he is on trial. He maintains his innocence.
The Chicago lawman forfeited a promising career, spending three years and nine months in prison. He felt the crushing weight of a bureaucracy fighting to save itself after JFK’s assassination.
Just 28 years old when Kennedy was killed in 1963, Bolden is now telling his story at age 73. Speaking by phone from his South Side home, Bolden shows no bitterness or disillusionment. That’s a testament to his unbending faith and indomitable spirit.
“I’ve always had faith in the American system of justice,” he explains. “I spent a great deal of time in police work, where I came to believe if a person sticks to the truth and continues to seek justice, somewhere along the line that justice is going to prevail.”
Bolden’s problems began the day he arrived in Washington in 1961 for his White House assignment. He describes a month of harassment and bigotry at the hands of the good old boys on Kennedy’s detail, some of whom he says drank heavily, chased women and were lax in following procedures. Although JFK showed him special kindness, he couldn’t wait to get back to Chicago and his family, and turned down any permanent Washington post.
Later, when Kennedy was assassinated, Bolden’s warnings to his superiors became a threat to the agency. He doesn’t believe his presence in Dallas would have prevented the slaying. But the Secret Service dropped the ball after learning of assassination plots in Chicago and Miami that might have led to beefed-up security in Dallas, he says.
“If I had stayed there [with Kennedy], my very life would have been in danger,” he says. “After my run-in with [senior agent] Harvey Henderson where he denigrated my race . . . we all carried guns, and accidents do happen — and yes, you could put ‘accidents’ in quotes.”
When the agency brought charges against Bolden, he was in Washington on a training assignment and was flown back to Chicago, where he says he was forced to take a Secret Service-administered polygraph exam. His superiors questioned him about a phone call he had placed to the White House switchboard in which he had asked about giving information to Warren Commission general counsel J. Lee Rankin.
The Bolden case made front-page news, and the next day he went public with his criticism of the agency’s Kennedy detail. That led to a more vigorous prosecution, he says, admitting he should have handled things differently.
“I would have done it in a different venue,” he says. “What I should have done was resign my position as a Secret Service agent. That would have been difficult to do because I was a family man and had no other job to go to. The best avenue would have been to resign and come to people like . . . newspaper reporters. Going to the chief and so-called bad-mouthing them at meetings was not the best way to do it. I became known as not a team player.”
If there’s a villain in Bolden’s story, it’s U.S. District Judge Joseph Sam Perry, who presided over both trials. Perry, Bolden writes, browbeat the holdout juror in an 11-1 vote for conviction at the first trial, telling her that Bolden was guilty. During the retrial, Perry seated an all-white jury, then closed the courtroom to the defense and media while he charged the jury. After Bolden was convicted, one of his two accusers admitted at his own counterfeiting trial, also before Perry, that the prosecutor had told him to lie at Bolden’s trial. Instead of causing a mistrial or a reversed verdict when the prosecutor took the Fifth Amendment about suborning perjury, higher courts ruled there was insufficient cause to retry Bolden. Still, the former agent lets Perry off the hook.
“What he was doing was making sure that the mandates from the higher-ups were carried out,” he explains. “He was influenced by people who were far above him who said, ‘Bolden’s got to go.’ The conspiracy was formulated in Washington, D.C., itself. After Oswald was assassinated, the sole purpose of the Secret Service was to save itself.”
When the prison bars slammed shut, Bolden’s real nightmare began. He landed in a psychiatric ward, kept in isolation and heavily drugged. Then he experienced two vivid, prophetic visions for which he has no explanation.
“I think about it even today,” he says. “It was not something I expected or conjured up by doing anything special. They just seemed to come. When I had the first one in [the psych ward], I thought I was going nuts. I became afraid that something had happened to me mentally. I was doing everything I could to maintain my mental balance while I was near those psychiatric patients who were screaming and being beaten. Had not that event of the fire [in an adjoining cell] freed me the next morning, I probably would have ignored it as a dream or something.”
He finally left prison in September 1969 as an unemployed parolee, then rebuilt his life. He worked for 15 years in quality control consulting with machining companies.
Now retired and widowed from Barbara, his tower of strength through the darkest hours, Bolden says he’s telling his story out of obligation to Kennedy — and because it’s what Barbara wanted.
“Right now today, I tell you, sometimes it’s difficult to relive the chapters in that book. They’re very emotional to me. It affects my life in that in taking my case to the public, I feel somewhat relieved. I’ve carried out my charge and my duty to President Kennedy, who entrusted me with his life. I owed that to President Kennedy to bring forth the facts I have surrounding his death. It helps to pay that debt.
“The American people deserve to know the truth about the tragic day of Nov. 22, 1963. I know it’s a very optimistic statement, but I really believe the truth is going to come out.”
By Abraham Bolden
Harmony, 320 pages, $25.95
Jeff Johnson is a copy editor in the Sun-Times features department.