Being the first black Secret Service agent on a U.S. President detail would seem enough to lock Abraham Bolden's place in history. But what sets him apart is the conspiracy of silence he says took place within the Secret Service-- a conspiracy he claims contributed to President Kennedy's vulnerability on that day in Dallas, 50 years ago. Bolden believes the Secret Service was in no shape to stop an assassination.
"Now, for 50 years, Chuck, for 50 years, the United States Secret Service called me a liar," said Bolden.
It wasn't that way in 1963 when President Kennedy brought Bolden from Chicago to the White House. Promoting agent Bolden to an all-white arm of the Secret Service was a bold move by the President in those heated civil rights days. But it ended on November 22, 1963.
"It was as if I had been assassinated just like John F. Kennedy. The clean Abe was dead, now you've got another Abe to deal with," said Bolden.
Bolden had complained to his superiors about earlier plots against the President--including several in Chicago-- that were mishandled by the Secret Service and the dereliction of agents assigned to protect Kennedy.
"They stayed out all night on Rush Street drinking and celebrating, one agent got so drunk they had to take him back to the hotel," said Bolden.
In 1964, as Bolden was on his way to testify before the Warren Commission, he himself was arrested on federal charges that he had solicited a bribe from counterfeiters he had helped bust. It took two trials to convict him in a reportedly weak case and he did six years in prison that Bolden has long held was a set-up and payback for his allegations against the secret service.
"I don't think any citizen of the United States of America should have to endure what I had to endure simply because I wanted to tell the truth about what was going on surrounding the protection of a president of the United States. I'm not gonna stop until I take my last breath because I swore to uphold the Constitution. I went to prison-but that was my oath and that oath binds me for the rest of my life," said Bolden.
The 78-year-old Bolden says he has been vindicated recently by well-publicized misconduct of Service Service agents and officials surrounding presidential trips to South America-- the same kinds of misconduct that he complained about 50 years ago. It is a culture of carousing and covering up that Bolden says continues to this day. Not all, or even the majority, but enough, he says to be a danger to those they protect.
The U.S. Secret Service has never directly replied to any of Bolden's accusations.