Abraham Bolden paid high price for trying to tell the truth
By Charles Hallman
After President John Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Abraham Bolden the following year wanted to testify before the Warren Commission. However, he never got the chance. Instead he was convicted of bribery and said he barely escaped being committed to a mental institution for the remainder of his life.
His book, The Echo from Dealey Plaza, fully discusses his experiences as the first Black Secret Service agent at the White House and his life after he left the agency.
“You will be shocked,” he advised in an excusive interview with the MSR. “There is a lot in there.”
Bolden was reassigned a few months before President Kennedy was killed, but he had previously warned officials that the president’s life might be in danger. Afterwards he learned from sources that what happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963 might have involved more than just one man.
“I wanted to go to the Warren Commission to let them know [that],” he recalled. “There were some investigations going on that weren’t being reported to the Warren Commission that I knew about myself.” This, he added, included an interception of a conversation in Miami “between two co-conspirators who were talking about assassinating the president. One of the conspirators said, ‘How do you think we can go about killing President Kennedy?’ And the other one answered, ‘We’ll use high-powered rifles from a tall building with a telescopic sight.’ This was exactly how the president was killed.
“Yet these people were not called to the Warren Commission, and I had knowledge of this,” continued Bolden, who called the group chairman and asked to testify. Bolden headed to the nation’s capitol and his scheduled appearance was on May 17, 1964, he pointed out. However, unknown to him at the time, the U.S. attorney general had instructed the commission in writing that “for the sake of the country, Lee Harvey Oswald had to be named the only assassin. I didn’t know that they were trying to make that government policy.”
As a result, his appearance put him “in big trouble” with “high administrators within the Secret Service,” admitted Bolden. “They came after me. I was going to give them information that might destroy that proposition” that Oswald was the lone assassin.
Bolden said before he was to testify, they “hustled me back on a jet back to Chicago, and kept me incognito for approximately 10 hours. I guess they were trying to figure out what to do with me because [the Secret Service] surely didn’t want me to testify to the Warren Commission.”
Later, Bolden said he was ordered by his supervisor to talk to Frank Jones, who was being investigated for counterfeiting. “I was told to talk to Frank Jones or resign. I didn’t want to talk to [him] because I had a case on him.
“Frank Jones said we discussed one thing, and I said we discussed another,” Bolden continued. “And my Secret Service boss said he never sent me over there [and] denied anything about Frank Jones.”
As a result, he was later accused of a federal crime of taking a bribe and convicted, noted Bolden. Two witnesses testified for the government, including Frank Jones. “The government dropped the case against [Jones], and he testified against me,” explained Bolden. “It was a clear set-up, and I knew what it was going to lead to.
“All they wanted was a conviction in order to try to destroy my credibility. I knew that once they convicted me, they were going to try to destroy me.”
He later served three years in federal prison, including a stint in a government psychiatric ward in an effort to declare Bolden insane — another attempt to keep him from talking, the former agent believes. While there, Bolden got into an argument with a patient.
“He was a big young European guy and he drew a 12-inch knife on me. I had a bucket of boiling hot water. When the supervisor came in, he told me to put the water down, and I told him, ‘Not before the young man puts down his knife.’ He wasn’t going to get to me with that butcher knife.”
He was subsequently held in solitary confinement and forced to take a psychotropic drug: “I told them I wasn’t taking any medication, and they said, ‘You are going to take the medication or we are going to shoot it in your as**’ They forced me to take these drugs for about 10 days.
“They had me scheduled to go before the psychologist committee,” said Bolden, but added that the center’s chief parole officer had taken his own life after attacking his wife. “He was going to sign a statement that would have committed me into the insane asylum for the rest of my life,” noted Bolden, who learned later that the officer “hung himself and committed suicide.
“I went before the committee, and it lasted about five minutes,” and then he was returned to the regular prison population.
His faith sustained him throughout the ordeal, said Bolden. “God doesn’t like ugly. That was His intervention. It really moved me to understand that I was under divine protection. I made a vow…that if He delivers me from this, I belong to Him for now on.”
Bolden was paroled in September 1969 and began a 35-year career in quality control supervisory positions. He has been honored over the years for his work in justice and equity. He says his phone has been tapped “a couple of times” over the years.
“I think they fear that I have some information that I haven’t divulged, which I probably do [have],” proclaimed Bolden, joking that this probably has kept him safe over the years. “I make them protect me, too. They don’t want me to stub my toe.”
Bolden lives a quiet life today, a widower and father of three children and grandfather of two. He simply advises everyone “to believe in the power and the mercy of God. I always pray for mercy. You can’t lose with good.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokes man-recorder.com.