Eugene Allen was a staple in the White House, serving as a butler for eight presidential administrations for over 34 years.
Eugene Allen was born in a log cabin in Virginia in 1919 under segregation. In 1952, he was hired as a "pantry man," washing dishes, stocking cabinets and shining silverware for $2,400 a year. In those days, blacks considered positions as maids and butlers in the nation’s capitol prominent and prestigious. But Allen was more than an employee. Promoted to Maitre D’, he was the first butler to attend a State House dinner as a guest, at the invitation of Nancy Reagan.
Some presidents would ask Allen his view about certain issues concerning the black community. After President Kennedy died, the first lady gave Allen one of his ties, which he had framed. Allen has served White House guests Sammy Davis Jr., Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey and Elvis Presley. He’s enjoyed a beverage at Camp David with Jimmy Carter and shared a birthday party with President Gerald Ford.PLAY AUDIO