Cover image for The echo from Dealey Plaza : the true story of the first African American on the White House Secret Service detail and his quest for justice after the assassination of JFK


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From the first African American assigned to the presidential Secret Service detail comes a gripping and unforgettable true story of bravery and patriotism in the face of bitter hatred and unthinkable corruption.

Abraham Bolden was a young African American Secret Service agent in Chicago when he was asked by John F. Kennedy himself to join the White House Secret Service detail. For Bolden, it was a dream come true--and an encouraging sign of the charismatic president's vision for a new America.

But the dream quickly turned sour when Bolden found himself regularly subjected to open hostility and blatant racism. He was taunted, mocked, and disparaged but remained strong, and he did not allow himself to become discouraged.

More of a concern was the White House team's irresponsible approach to security. While on his tour of presidential duty, Bolden witnessed firsthand the White House agents' long-rumored lax approach to their job. Drinking on duty, abandoning key posts--this was not a team that appeared to take their responsibility to protect the life of the president particularly seriously. Both prior to and following JFK's assassination, Bolden sought to expose and address the inappropriate behavior and negligence of these agents, only to find himself the victim of a sinister conspiracy that resulted in his conviction and imprisonment on a trumped-up bribery charge.

A gripping memoir substantiated by recently declassified government documents, The Echo from Dealey Plaza is the story of the terrible price paid by one man for his commitment to truth and justice, as well as a shocking new perspective on the circumstances surrounding the death of a beloved president.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Conspiracy theories haunt the Kennedy assassination; Bolden offers a new one, concerning discrimination and evidence suppression. Becoming, in JFK's words, the "Jackie Robinson of the Secret Service," Bolden joined the White House detail in 1961. Already beset by racism (he once found a noose suspended over his desk), his idealism is further shattered by "the drinking and carousing" of other agents. Soon after the assassination, he receives orders that hint at "an effort to withhold, or at least to the color, the truth." He discovers that evidence is being kept from the Warren Commission and when he takes action, finds himself charged with "conspiracy to sell a secret government file" and sentenced to six years in prison, where both solitary confinement and the psychiatric ward await. That there was a conspiracy to silence him seems unarguable, but Bolden's prose is flat; so is his dialogue. This story is more enthralling than Bolden's telling of it, but the reader who sticks with it will enter a world of duplicitous charges and disappearing documents fit for a movie thriller. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

Heart-rending, longtime-coming defense of his record by a Chicago detective who paid dearly for blowing the whistle on JFK's Secret Service. A native of St. Louis, the author became a Pinkerton detective and then a Chicago Secret Service agent. In 1961 President Kennedy handpicked Bolden for his personal detail in Washington. A self-described "racial pioneer" at each step of his professional career, he was immensely proud to serve as the first black agent on the presidential detail, and grateful for JFK's sincere commitment to racial equality. However, Bolden soon collided with the "ol' boys network." He endured crude racist caricatures drawn in his service manual, separate accommodations in a "Negro Motel," casual slurs by other agents and a shockingly blatant outburst by his superior: "You will always be nothing but a nigger. So act like one!" In early November 1963, responding to uneasy intuition and visions that had plagued him since childhood, Bolden told superiors that drinking was rampant within the ranks and that if a crisis occurred, the service could not act swiftly or appropriately to secure the president's safety. He was in Chicago at the time of the assassination, and after that found the Secret Service wary of his outspokenness. Framed for his role in busting a Chicago counterfeiting bond gang, he was forced to take a lie-detector test and arrested by the feds in May 1964. His first trial ended in a hung jury thanks to a lone black juror; in the second, an all-white jury found him guilty. Bolden was imprisoned for more than five years, mostly in the psychiatric ward of the Springfield Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. In September 1969, after a short stint at a prison camp in Alabama, Bolden was granted parole. Many documents in the case have vanished, but the author tirelessly reconstructs the record in his compelling, if somewhat tedious and repetitious look at an attempt to silence an honorable man. An astonishing tale of aborted justice. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

As the first black Secret Service officer and an admirer of newly elected president John F. Kennedy, Bolden was excited when a chance meeting with the president in 1961 ended with a personal invitation for him to join the White House detail. Mindful of his pioneering status, he braved the racism he encountered from some agents, responding with dignified challenges. Bolden also challenged what he saw as shortcomings in the agency a culture of hard drinking, carousing, and inattention to duty. Though he was not on duty in Dallas when Kennedy was assassinated, he wondered how irresponsibility in the Secret Service might have factored into the president's death. When he began making inquiries, he found himself the object of an investigation that eventually led to his conviction and imprisonment on a trumped-up bribery charge. Drawing on declassified government documents, Bolden offers a compelling look at the price he paid for challenging the Secret Service and an interesting angle on the conspiracy theories surrounding the death of President Kennedy.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2008 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Forty-five years after the JFK assassination, the interest in his murder continues unabated, and these two excellent books show in different ways-one scholarly and one personal-the assassination's relentless grip. Kaiser (history, Naval War Coll.; American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War) presents a scrupulously researched account, which may be one of the best books yet on the assassination. Unlike David Talbot's Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, Kaiser posits that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman although he did not act alone: the murder plot was hatched by Mafia bosses Santo Trafficante, John Roselli, and Sam Giancana as revenge for Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's relentless pursuit of the mob and for the vast sums of money they lost when Castro closed Cuba's mob-controlled casinos. Other startling revelations are that Oswald might have been a CIA agent, even though he was promised a large sum of money by the mob to kill Kennedy, and that Jack Ruby killed Oswald on orders from the Mafia, to which Ruby was connected. This detailed, often chilling account stands out among the overwhelming number of assassination books. Highly recommended for most public and all academic libraries. Bolden's autobiography includes little mention of Kennedy's murder yet the assassination affected his life tragically. He was appointed personally by JFK as the first African American on the White House Secret Service detail (1960-64), and although he was a conscientious agent his role angered racist agents. Bolden was not on the Dallas detail but he was well aware of the lax security the agents provided because of their drinking and womanizing. He first blew the whistle in October 1963 and then again reported poor security after the assassination. In 1964 he was convicted on trumped up charges of selling a government file and spent six years in jail. Much of the book engrossingly describes the trials and his harrowing years in prison. Ultimately, Bolden was vindicated when the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in 1976 that the Secret Service's protection was inadequate. He has worked for the last decades in private industry. Recommended for all public libraries.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.