Abraham Bolden, the first African American to serve on the White House detail guarding a president, has a secret to share July 29 in Washington, DC: Gross security lapses enabled President John F. Kennedy’s murder in 1963.
Bolden will break the persistent media silence about those security shortfalls at the annual Whistle Blowers Summit beginning July 29 on Capitol Hill. The free event, themed “Black Lives Matter,” is from July 29-31.
This editor will introduce Bolden and set the context of a media landscape that seeks, in general, to bury the facts of Kennedy’s murder with the transparently false claim that the president was killed by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, with no accomplices.
In 2008, Bolden published The Echo from Dealey Plaza, a memoir documenting major security lapses. Major newspapers and leading researchers favorably treated his book. But they have largely since ignored it and him even during the 50th anniversaries of the murder and Warren Commission investigation and Secret Service breakdown in the White House loomed so serious that the Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for covering them.
Part of the reason surely must be that Bolden’s recollections undercut conventional wisdom about JFK’s killing. As recently as July 18, a Washington Post news story drawn in relevant part from one in the Dallas Morning News flatly stated without any attribution that the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository “is the vantage point from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired at Kennedy.” That statement is open to expert challenge on several grounds. But the newspaper editors used a formulation that denied to readers any clue of controversy.
Similarly, Bolden challenges key elements of conventional accounts regarding security and follow-up investigations.
He raises, for example, the animosity some agents held for the president. “That bastard should be killed!” he quoted his boss, the Secret Service special agent in charge of its Chicago office, as blurting out after a news report of one of the president’s civil rights initiatives.
Bolden also told author Vincent Palamari that discovery of a likely assassination attempt deterred the president’s planned trip to Chicago on Nov. 2, 1963. The trip was cancelled the morning of his departure from Washington, ostensibly because the president had a cold and the distraction of the assassination of the president of South Vietnam. Bolden and Palamari describe, however, discovery of a suspected assassination via sniper fire along an 11-mile Chicago parade route, much like what occurred later at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.
Such points are necessarily fragmentary. More tellingly, Bolden documents the abusive frame-up he endured on corruption charges in 1964 after he made known to colleagues his plan to warn the Warren Commission in May of security problems among Secret Service colleagues, along with racist and anti-Kennedy attitudes some of them held.
Before he could talk with commission personnel, authorities arrested him on charges of seeking a bribe from an indicted counterfeiter.
Astonishing legal irregularities marred Bolden’s two trials, prison sentence and appeals. For example, his Alabama-born trial judge instructed a jury to convict Bolden.
The main prosecution witness soon recanted his testimony and testified that federal prosecutors threatened him unless he framed Bolden with a false claim that Bolden had sought a bribe.
Even so, Bolden failed to win either a new trial or new judge. As extra punishment, he was kept in solitary confinement two years, told he was crazy, and force-fed mind-altering drugs. It’s telling also that the Warren Commission failed to seek out his testimony, just as it neglected vast numbers of other inquiries that failed to sustain the pre-determined conclusion that Oswald killed Kennedy, acting alone.