Abraham Bolden

Abraham Bolden

Abraham Bolden was born into a poor family in East St. Louis, Illinois. After graduating from Lincoln University he spent four years as an Illinois State Trooper. His record was so outstanding that in 1959 President Dwight Eisenhower appointed him to the United States Secret Service. Based in Chicago, he won "two commendations for cracking counterfeiting rings".

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy appointed Bolden as part of the Secret Service White House detail. According to Jim Marrs (Crossfire: The Plt That Killed Kennedy), Bolden was personally selected by Kennedy "in an attempt to integrate the previously all-white Secret Service detail".

Bolden spent only three months working for Kennedy. He complained about the "separate housing facilities for black agents on southern trips". At a meeting with James J. Rowley, the head of the Secret Service, Bolden criticized the "general laxity and the heavy drinking among the agents who were assigned to protect the President". As a result of these complaints, Bolden claims he was was sent back to the Chicago office and assigned to routine anti-counterfeiting duties.

Bolden claimed that in October, 1963, the Chicago Secret Service office received a teletype from the Federal Bureau of Investigation warning that an attempt would be made to kill President John F. Kennedy by a four-man Cuban hit squad when he visited the city on 2nd November. Armed with high-powered rifles, the men from "a dissident Cuban group". According to investigative journalist Edwin Black, the Secret Service arrested two suspects, however, they were eventually released.

Abraham Bolden later discovered that this information was being kept from the Warren Commission. When he complained about this he was warned "to keep his mouth shut". Bolden decided to travel to Washington where he telephoned Warren Commission Counsel J. Lee Rankin. Bolden was arrested and taken back to Chicago where he was charged with discussing a bribe with two known counterfeiters. He was eventually found guilty of accepting a bribe and spent six years in prison. When he tried to draw attention to his case, he was placed in solitary confinement.

Sam DeStefano, one of the men who accused Bolden of this crime, was murdered in 1973. DeStefano was close to Sam Giancana, Charles Nicoletti and Richard Cain. It is believed that Cain murdered DeStefano. Soon afterwards, Cain himself was murdered.

Lamar Waldron claims in his book, Ultimate Sacrifice, that according to a Central Intelligence Agency memo, mobsters in Chicago were involved in framing Bolden on the bribery charges.

In 2008 Abraham Bolden published his book, The Echo from Dealey Plaza, an account of his time as a member of the White House Secret Service.

Primary Sources

(1) Jim Marrs, Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy (1989)

An ex-Marine named Thomas Arthur Vallee, who was a member of the right-wing John Birch Society and a vocal Kennedy critic, was arrested by the Secret Service in Chicago. Vallee was discovered to have an M-1 rifle, a handgun, and three thousand rounds of ammunition in his car. It was also learned that Vallee had asked for time off from his job on November 2, the date Kennedy was to visit Chicago. Despite the weapons found, Vallee was released from custody on the evening of November 2 and was still considered a threat. Yet no word of the Vallee matter was transmitted to Dallas.

One of the strangest stories to come out of the Secret Service at this time, however, concerned the first black man to serve on the Service's White House detail. Abraham Bolden was personally selected by Kennedy, apparently in an attempt to integrate the previously all-white Secret Service detail.

Born in poverty, Bolden had been a police officer with an outstanding record before joining the Service. However, Bolden criticized the White House detail for laxity and was transferred to the Chicago office.

According to Bolden, the Chicago Secret Service office received a teletype from the FBI shortly before Kennedy's November 2 visit warning that an assassination attempt would be carried out in that city by a four-man Cuban hit squad armed with high-powered rifles. Bolden said the entire office was involved in this matter, but that it was kept top secret.

Years later, Bolden could not identify Vallee as a participant in this threat, and the belief among researchers is that Vallee played no part in the second assassination plan.

Kennedy's Chicago trip was canceled, although the House Select Committee on Assassinations could not determine the cause of the cancellation.

Three weeks after Kennedy's death, Bolden discovered that information on the Chicago threat was to be kept from the Warren Commission and he made a trip to Washington to tell what he knew. However, he was quickly taken back to Chicago, where he was later charged with discussing a bribe with two known counterfeiters. Brought to trial, Bolden was convicted of accepting a bribe-even after one of the two counterfeiters admitted perjury-and was sentenced to a lengthy prison term after his motion for a retrial was denied.

While the Secret Service had admitted the Chicago threat occurred, it has repeatedly refused to clarify the matter. Bolden, who had since been released from prison, claimed he was framed and convicted to silence him regarding the Kennedy threat. Whether the Chicago threat was real or not, the information again was not passed along to Dallas.

(2) Robert J. Groden & Harrison Edward Livingstone, High Treason (1980)

In Chicago, Bolden stated that he received an FBI teletype shortly before November 1, 1963 detailing a plot by four men to shoot the President in Chicago with high-powered rifles. The FBI denies that there ever was such a teletype, and there seems to be no record of it. Bolden says that two of the subjects were arrested and detained in the Secret Service office in Chicago on November 1. Bolden was shortly indicted, tried, and imprisoned for a long time on trumped-up charges of accepting a bribe.

Bolden said that word had reached the Secret Service that Kennedy was to be assassinated by four Cuban gunmen. All of the agents in the Chicago office were involved in the investigation, but no records remain, and no-one seems to remember anything about it. Bolden claims that he was framed because he tried to tell the story of the plot he knew about to Warren Commission Counsel Lee Rankin.39 He made the call from a White House telephone, which he says was a fatal error. He was immediately detained, taken to Chicago within 24 hours, and criminal charges were placed against him at once.

It has been difficult to confirm from Chicago Secret Service officials the threat about which Bolden tried to inform the Warren Commission, and they have refused to comment.

(3) Lamar Waldron, Ultimate Sacrifice (2005)

Richard Cain's role in the Chicago attempt can be judged based on his actions in relation to Dallas, where CIA files confirm that "in 1963" Cain "became deeply involved in the President Kennedy assassination case." Only a handful of those documents have been released, but they show Richard Cain spreading disinformation about Oswald. This includes Cain planting reports to the CIA and Chicago media that "the Cook County Sheriff's Office... had strong suspicions that Oswald was in Chicago in April" and that "the assassination of President Kennedy" had been discussed "at a secret meeting of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee held in Chicago in February 1963." The memo said that "Cain" even "inferred he might be able to get the information to the FBI 'off the record"' about those matters. If the FBI had been slow to get the mail-order records of Oswald's rifle from the Chicago firm that sold it, Cain was in a position to make sure that that carefully laid paper trail wasn't overlooked. Cain was in position to do everything he did after Dallas for the earlier Chicago assassination attempt, and more. As the story of the Chicago attempt unfolds, it's important to keep in mind Cain's role and his true loyalty to the Mafia.

Much information about Cain is missing or still classified by the CIA and FBI. But one CIA document that has been released also talks about Chicago Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden. Much of what is known about the Chicago assassination attempt is due to the efforts of Bolden, who "was prevented from testifying for the Warren Commission that the Secret Service knew of a plot to assassinate Kennedy in Chicago by members of a dissident Cuban group." This 1967 CIA memo then says that "an unsavory character known as Richard S. Cain... who was in touch with the CIAs contact office in Chicago in 1963 passed information of a similar import to the CIAs Chicago office." The CIA memo briefly mentions that Bolden is in prison, but doesn't mention that Bolden was framed by a Chicago mobster on the eve of his attempt to tell the Warren Commission about the Chicago and Tampa assassination attempts. As detailed in later chapters, the mobster who framed Bolden was a close associate of Richard Cain.

(4) Bernard Fensterwald, Assassination of JFK (1977)

In October, 1963, an emergency occurred in the Chicago Secret Service office. JFK was scheduled to attend an Army-Air Force football game and parade on November 2nd, and word had reached the Secret Service that an attempt would be made upon his life by four Cuban gunmen. According to Bolden, the investigation which was top-secret, involved all of the Chicago Secret Service squad; inexplicably few, if any, records were kept. However, the gunmen could not be located, and JFK was persuaded to cancel his trip.

Three weeks later, when JFK was killed, Bolden assumed the Secret Service would give the Warren Commission all the details about the recent plot in Chicago. According to Bolden, he discovered that nothing was to be revealed, and though he was warned to keep his mouth shut, he attempted to impart the information to Lee Rankin. Bolden's fatal error was placing the call from a White House telephone.

According to Bolden, he was bundled back to Chicago within twenty-four hours, held incommunicado, and charged with discussing a bribe with a counterfeiter." He was convicted on the testimony of two witnesses. Both were counterfeiters: one had been convicted in a case "made" by Bolden; the other was awaiting trial. Though, one of the witnesses admitted that he had perjured himself, Bolden was refused a re-trial and was forced to serve a long term in federal penitentiary.

Several documented aspects to Bolden's case merit further investigation. In recent years, documentation regarding this reported Chicago threat has become available. Though Chicago Secret Service officials have confirmed the threat and the ensuing probe of possible Cuban exile involvement in it, they have refused further comment on the incident.

(5) Matthew Smith, JFK: The Second Plot (1992)

One of the outstanding examples of a witness being frustrated in his attempt to speak out when he had something important to say is to be found in the story of Abraham Bolden. Abraham Bolden was a member of theWhite House detail of the Secret Service, and was the first negro to be appointed to that body. Bolden had heard of a Chicago plot to kill the President and was anxious to tell what he knew. He was also critical of the personnel appointed to guard the President, claiming they were lax in their duties. It was believed that an attempt on Kennedy's life had been foiled on 1st November in Chicago, but three weeks before he was killed in Dallas, and it would have been extremely embarrassing to the Warren Commission, heavily involved in establishing their 'lone killer - no conspiracy' theory, to have had Bolden telling of a Chicago plot. Bolden's superior officers blocked his request. A few months later Abraham Bolden was charged with soliciting a huge bribe for disclosing secret information on a counterfeiter, Joseph Spagnoli, and he was jailed for six years. Spagnoli later confessed he had lied about Bolden, at the request of Prosecutor Richard Sikes, he claimed. In spite of this Bolden was made to serve his full sentence.