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 ’60’s, 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.