Newburgh – Conspiracy theories have long haunted the Kennedy assassination. Now Abraham Bolden offers a new one in his book “The Echo from Dealey Plaza.”
Bolden was in Newburgh last Tuesday promoting his new book. He spoke to a standing room only audience in the auditorium of the Newburgh Free Library.
Bolden, who was the first African-American assigned to the presidential Secret Service detail, documents in his book, the price paid for his commitment to truth and justice. It is 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 to join the White House Secret Service detail. Becoming, in JFK’s words, the “Jackie Robinson of the Secret Service.” For Bolden, it was a dream come true – and an encouraging sign of the charismatic president’s vision for a new America. Upon his arrival in D.C. in 1961, the dream quickly turned sour when Bolden found himself regularly subjected to open hostility and blatant racism. He was taunted, mocked, and disparaged but he remained strong and didn’t allow himself to become discouraged. Bolden recalled one shocking outburst by his superior: “You a nigger. You will always be nothing but a nigger. So act like one!” 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. Bolden felt that if a crisis occurred, the agents would not be able to act swiftly to secure the president’s safety.
Both prior to and following JFK’s assassination, Bolden sought to expose and address the inappropriate behavior and negligence of these agents. When he discovered evidence was being kept from the Warren Commission he took action and found himself charged with “conspiracy to steal a secret government file.”
His first trial ended in a hung jury thanks to a lone black juror. The second, an all-white jury, found him guilty and he was sentenced to six years in federal prison. He spent a lot of time in solitary confinement and eventually, the psychiatric ward.
Joseph Spagnoli, a key witness for the prosecution, would later confess he lied to the jury to convict Bolden at the request, allegedly, of Prosecutor Richard Sikes.
Abraham Bolden continues to fight to have the conviction overturned and his name cleared. “I’m going to always stand up for truth and justice,” Bolden said.