Sunday, November 22, 2009

List XIX: Abraham Bolden

1. Abraham Bolden, the first African American Secret Service Agent in U.S. history, served briefly with the Kennedy administration. He was arrested on bogus counterfeiting charges in 1964, the day before he tried to speak to Warren Commission counsel J. Lee Rankin about the Secret Service's poor record of protecting President Kennedy prior to and during November 22, 1963.

2. He also planned to explain to the Warren Commission the plots to assassinate President Kennedy in Chicago (November 2, 1963) and Tampa (November 18, 1963), both of which resembled the successful assassination in Dallas on November 22. In Chicago, for instance, the assassination was to be carried out by a four-man Cuban exile hit squad, using high-powered rifles as the limousine was forced to slow down to make a hairpin left turn on the Jackson exit of the Northwest Expressway (now the Kennedy Expressway).

3. "The president's life was in grave danger because of the inefficiency of security around him, too many weaknesses. When that bullet struck the head of the president, it struck me, too, because I saw it coming," Bolden said to Chuck Goudie of WLS-TV, Chicago. In his book The Echo From Dealey Plaza, Bolden writes: "I suspected that the responsible parties [the killers in Dallas] set up the agents on the president's protection detail by exploiting their reputed weaknesses for women and booze" (73).

4. Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann report in Legacy of Secrecy that as recently as 2008, "sixty black Secret Service agents were supporting discrimination suits, and the Associated Press reported a black 'employee found a noose in one of the Secret Service's training centers,' resulting in the suspension of a white agent" (508).

5. "One morning, I was sitting at my desk when the phone rang," Bolden writes in The Echo from Dealey Plaza. "I picked it up and leaned back in my chair to have a conversation. Looking up I saw, tied to the ceiling light above me, a rope . . . a hangman's noose" (58). When confronted with the noose, Bolden's supervisor, Maurce Martineau, said, "Aw, someone's just joking around. I'll call maintenance and have it removed [. . . ] Don't be so thin-skinned" (58-59).

6. Before the jurors in Bolden's trial deliberated, the judge in the case, J. Sam Perry, told the jurors that Bolden was guilty.

7. Bolden was convicted of counterfeiting "based only on the testimony of two criminals: one of whom Bolden had previously arrested [Frank Jones], and one who later admitted committing perjury against Bolden [Joseph Spagnoli]" (Waldron and Hartmann, Ultimate Sacrifice 280).

8. Despite Bolden's exemplary reputation and stellar record of service, he spent six years in prison. He was placed in solitary confinement when he would try to draw attention to his case.

9. At one point during his imprisonment, Bolden was transferred to the prison psychiatric ward, where, if labeled mentally ill, he could be held indefinitely -- long after his six-year sentence expired.

10. The prison psychiatrist, Dr. Kinsel, told Bolden he suffered from a persecution complex: "'And you're very defensive,' Kinsel continued. 'You are going to have to learn to control your compulsions. They are the cause of what I see as antigovernment and sociopathic behavior'" (The Echo from Dealey Plaza 264).

11. Bolden was paroled in 1969. To this day, he continues to try to clear his name.

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