Abraham Bolden is the first African-American U.S. Secret Service agent assigned to a presidential detail. Mr. Bolden was fired from his post for bribery in the 60s, and has worked in recent times to clear his name and expose misconduct within the department.
Bolden, an East Saint Louis, Ill. native, joined the agency in 1960 in Chicago. He was transferred to a temporary White House detail, guarding the movement and family of President John F. Kennedy. Bolden was a celebrated agent and was nationally recognized for busting two major counterfeit rings.
In 1964, Bolden was fired over accusations that he attempted to accept a $50,000 bribe from the leader of one of the counterfeit rings he took down. Prosecutors said that Bolden was attempting to sell a government file at the same Chicago field office he worked in.
As the case developed, Joseph Spagnoli Jr., the ring’s leader, later offered testimony that seemingly would have cleared Bolden’s name. Further, the funds Bolden allegedly took were never discovered on his person, but the file in question was never recovered. According to reports, Bolden, who held a bachelor’s degree in music composition, held piano recitals in and around Chicago to raise money for his legal fees.
Another man, Frank W. Jones, and 10 co-conspirators were the initial focus of the investigation. Once Spagnoli made claims that Bolden was the person who put Jones on to the bribe, the case against Jones was dropped.
During Bolden’s second trial in August 1964, he was sentenced to six years in prison on the bribery charges. The following January, Spagnoli was given 15 years on counterfeiting charges. Bolden was allowed to file an appeal based on somewhat shaky testimony by Spagnoli, but eventually began serving his sentence in June 1966.
Adding to Bolden’s predicament was word from his attorneys in 1967 that he was aware of an assassination plot against President Kennedy. Kennedy was scheduled to visit Chicago at some point when Bolden was on the job and that the trip was canceled based on his tip.
Since his 1964 firing and the 39 months he served in prison, Bolden has worked to clear his name of the charges. Bolden claims that he was set up by fellow agents as he was intending to go before the Warren Commission, a group established by Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the 1963 assassination of Kennedy, and tell of misconduct within the agency.
Bolden said that white agents resented President Kennedy over his efforts to racially integrate the agency. In his 2008 memoir, The Echo from Dealey Plaza, Bolden restated his position that agents were lax on the job as a result of President Kennedy’s policies.
(Photo: ABC News Screenshot)
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