As he seeks a presidential pardon for his friend and former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., Congressman Bobby Rush remains silent on why he hasn’t done the same for Abraham Bolden, the nation’s first White House Secret Service agent who was pardoned nearly 60 years after he was framed by federal officials.
Bolden, now 87, lived in Rush’s First Congressional District when he made history six decades ago. Today, Bolden still lives in the same house in Auburn Gresham, where FBI agents ransacked his home as part of a smear campaign after he spoke out against misconduct among white Secret Service agents.
It took 58 years for Bolden to receive a presidential pardon when President Joe Biden issued an official forgiveness on April 26, thanks to Bolden’s friend and activist, Roosevelt Wilson. For four decades, Wilson fought to get Bolden a pardon, believing he was an innocent victim of racist federal officials who sought to punish him for being an outspoken Black man in a lily-white Secret Service detail.
As part of his efforts to get Bolden a presidential pardon, Wilson sent letters and made phone calls to Congressman Rush and at least 55 members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Only Congressman Danny K. Davis of the 7th Congressional District responded and used his influence to reach President Biden’s top officials.
And when Bolden finally received a presidential pardon, Congressman Rush never sent a congratulatory statement and has yet to contact Bolden, who lives in his district.
“I never heard from him,” Bolden told the Crusader.
The Crusader emailed Rush’s office with a letter Wilson sent to him on January 7, 2015. In another letter dated August 3, 2016, Wilson said he and Bolden spoke to Congressman Rush “but with no results.” Since then, Wilson said he made several phone calls to Congressman Rush but never heard back from him.
This publication emailed Rush’s office with the above-mentioned letters and Wilson’s comments; Rush’s office did not respond by Crusader press time Wednesday, August 10, for its print edition.
However, Rush is determined to get a presidential pardon for Jesse Jackson Jr., whom he had a longtime friendship with, along with his prominent father and the Jackson family.
On July 19, Rush sent a letter to President Biden asking him to pardon Jesse Jackson, Jr., and his ex-wife, former 7th Ward Alderman Sandi Jackson, who served time in jail after pleading guilty to filing false income tax returns.
On the Perri Small Show on WVON 1690, some callers were against Rush’s efforts to get Jesse Jackson, Jr., pardoned, saying he is another privileged political name who committed a crime and should pay for it like everyone else. One male caller asked why Rush did not seek a presidential pardon for Bolden, who’s more deserving because of his uncompromising values against a racist Secret Service detail.
Born in East St. Louis, IL, Bolden became a member of the United States Secret Service in 1960. The next year President John F. Kennedy tapped him as his Secret Service agent whose responsibility was to protect the Commander-in-Chief.
President Kennedy on April 28, 1961, invited Bolden to join his White House detail as the first Black Secret Service agent to protect the president.
But on May 12, 1964, Bolden was accused of and charged with attempting to sell a secret government file to Joseph Spagnoli, Jr., in exchange for $50,000. Spagnoli was named as the head of a counterfeiting ring.
During a hearing with the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President Kennedy, Bolden testified that the president’s agents drank heavily before and after tours of his summer home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Bolden also accused the White House and Secret Service of not doing enough to protect President Kennedy before he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.
In July, 1964 Bolden’s first trial ended in a hung jury after the only Black female juror refused to find him guilty. Prosecutors tried Bolden again in a second trial the following month. On August 12, 1964, he was found guilty of accepting a bribe and sentenced to six years in prison. He was also fired from the Secret Service that same month.
In 2008, Bolden talked about his experience in his memoir, 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.
Though Bolden has been pardoned by President Biden, there is still time for Congressman Rush to help him. Wilson, Congressman Davis and other officials are trying to get Bolden’s record fully expunged, which a presidential pardon or a president cannot do.