It’s long past time to finally clear first White House Black Secret Service agent’s name

Secret Service Agent Abraham Bolden, then 29, in 1964 as he prepared to appear before a judge after being suspended and charged with trying to sell prosecution documents to a counterfeiting defendant.

Secret Service Agent Abraham Bolden, then 29, in 1964 as he prepared to appear before a judge after being suspended and charged with trying to sell prosecution documents to a counterfeiting defendant. | Sun-Times file

South Side resident Abraham Bolden was the first African American to serve on the White House Secret Service detail, until he was charged with a crime after raising questions about the president’s security.

History has taught us that an innocent person can be battered into making false confessions.

And that some of the wrongfully convicted were cheated of their freedom because of official misconduct.

So it always seemed suspicious to me that Abraham Bolden’s plea for a presidential pardon and expungement for a crime he maintains he did not commit has garnered little support.

Bolden was the first African American Secret Service agent to serve on the White House detail.

But, after he complained about agents drinking on the job and showing up unfit for duty and after he threatened to reveal the agency’s shortcomings in protecting the president, he was charged with bribery in a case involving a counterfeiting defendant. After being tried twice, he was convicted in 1966 and was sentenced to six years in federal prison. He served three years and nine months behind bars.

While he could rebuild a quiet life on Chicago’s South Side, Bolden could not give up on seeking justice. He has asserted that his criticism of President John F. Kennedy’s security detail and complaints about omissions in the Warren Commission report on Kennedy’s assassination led to trumped-up charges against him.

He since has sought a pardon from three presidents — Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — and others have worked on his behalf as well.

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When I met him in 2016, Bolden spoke proudly of his service on Kennedy’s detail.

“I would rather die than say I did something I didn’t do,” Bolden told me rhen. “I’m 81 years old now. I think that there is enough proof of my innocence out there. Eventually, whether or not the president acts, my name will be cleared.”

That proved to be overly optimistic.

Mary Mitchell / Sun-Times
Abraham Bolden at his South Side home in 2016.

God willing, Bolden will turn 87 on Wednesday. And there is still no pardon in sight.

Meanwhile, thousands of falsely accused people have been exonerated and set free, with 2,737 exonerations nationwide from 1989 through the end of 2020, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at the University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law.

Roosevelt Wilson, who chairs the Abraham Bolden Project, has written about Bolden and reached out to elected officials, including Sen. Dick Durbin, on Bolden’s behalf.

While the nation’s leaders have focused on the shameful events that led …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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