Did Abe Bolden save JFK’s life?

Abe Bolden

Monday’s story about the two still-unidentified young black people who witnessed JFK’s assassination is not the only African-American connection to the murder of the 35th president.

The story of Abraham Bolden is another instance of how black Americans were marginalized in the history of JFK’s assassination.

Bolden, the first African-American in the Secret Service (appointed by JFK), attempted to tell the Warren Commission about a plot to assassinate Kennedy in Chicago on Nov. 2, 1963, and about general laxity of Secret Service protection. Some people say Bolden’s actions prevented the assassination of JFK in Chicago.

Not long after JFK was killed, Bolden was fired from the Secret Service. In 1964 he was charged with accepting a bribe from a Chicago counterfeiter who was the target of an investigation Bolden was working on. He was ultimately sentenced to six years in prison, despite the fact that one of the counterfeiters admitted at his own trial that he had perjured himself at the request of the prosecutor.

Bolden, who served three years in prison, says he was framed for the crime in order to discredit what he had to say about the Secret Service and Kennedy’s assassination.

Bolden’s story about the Nov. 2 plot was later corroborated by journalist Edwin Black in an article, “The Chicago Plot to Kill JFK,” published in the Chicago Independent in 1975.

Bolden’s description of Secret Service laxity around JFK has been confirmed in extensive interviews of JFK’s Secret Service agents conducted by author Vince Palamara. 

Bolden told his story in his 2011 book, “The Echo From Dealey Plaza.”

Watch:

39 comments

  1. No, Abraham Bolden did NOT save JFK’s life. His recent memoir is so filled with errors that his story needs to pass a serious credibility test. Those credibility concerns are addressed in the “JFK Chronology,” a 32,000 page compendium of JFK’s life, his murder, and the seriously flawed investigations into that murder. Bolden’s problems are cited.

    • Walt,

      Most people are not going to read your 32,000 page compendium just for Bolden, but if you have written a moderate-length essay on him, that would be an excellent source to have available.

      P.S. I just looked up your Chronology on Amazon. It is massive. I’ll have the Marquette library buy it if they can handle e-books.

    • James Feldman says:

      Walt Brown claims that Mr. Bolden’s “recent memoir is so filled with errors that his story needs to pass a serious credibility test.” I assume that Mr. Brown is referring to Mr. Bolden’s book “The Echo from Dealey Plaza” (Harmony Books 2008),though he does not specifically say what he’s referring to. But Mr. Brown notably and tellingly does not identify even so much as a single fact here to support his claim, let alone a series of facts that would be necessary to justify his attempt to attack Mr. Bolden’s credibility in some meaningful way.

      • James Feldman says:

        The case of Edwin Paul Wilson is instructive for anyone who doubts that the US Government would knowingly use false evidence to obtain a conviction and that a Court of Appeals would affirm such a conviction based on those lies. To summarize Wilson’s case, Wilson was a CIA operative whom the CIA used in 1977 to sell then Libyan dictator Quadaffy some 20 tons of the plastic explosive C-4 and to provide US experts to train the Libyans to conceal the explosives as such things as lamps, radios, and ashtrays. To put 20 tons of C-4 into perspective, that amount could be used to bring down at least 20,000 jumbo jets.

        Unfortunately for Wilson, he got caught in these US Government sponsored illegal acts and his case went to trial. Wilson’s defense was that he was only carrying out the orders of the CIA. A critical part of the trial is that the prosecution obtained and introduced an affidavit signed by CIA Director Briggs and certified by CIA chief counsel Stanley Sporkin, who would go on to become a US district court judge. That affidavit effectively stated that Wilson was not directly or indirectly connected to the CIA at the time the crimes were committed. But the affidavit was a lie, and the jury specifically relied on that affidavit to find Wilson guilty. Wilson was convicted in 1983 and was sentenced to jail. Wilson appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but Wilson’s conviction was affirmed even though the Court knew that the defendant presented evidence indicating that affidavit consisted of lies and the US Government refused to provide evidence confirming the truth of the defendant’s pleas.

        About 20 years after Wilson’s conviction, the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas overturned his conviction in 2003, based on additional evidence that Wilson’s legal team managed to obtain. Judge Lynn Hughes’ opinion is worth reading if only to gain some insight into the CIA’s operations and how the US Government can and does lie. Judge Hughes puts it more mildly: “This opinion refers only to the part of the record that the government has reluctantly agreed may be made public. It does not attempt to recount even that limited range of data in its entirety; the governmental deceit mentioned here is illustrative—not exhaustive.”

        https://www.fas.org/sgp/jud/wilson102703.pdf

        As a final note to Wilson’s case, after he successfully overturned his conviction, he filed a civil lawsuit against Charles Briggs and seven former prosecutors, two of whom were then district court judges. As you might guess, Wilson’s civil lawsuit was dismissed — on the grounds that all eight defendants had immunity governing their otherwise illegal actions.

        Incidentally, former CIA director Charles Briggs was the liaison to the creation of the Sixth Floor Museum, which largely promulgates the official lies about the JFK assassination. (However, in more recent years, the Sixth Floor Museum maintains a library of books related to or concerning the assassination that contradict or expose those official lies. I don’t know whether or not the Museum’s gift shop now also offers such books for sale, or whether only materials espousing the official lies are made available.)

  2. The HSCA investigated Bolden’s account of a Chicago conspiracy, and found it “of questionable authenticity.”

    http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=800&relPageId=261

    • Alex Foyle says:

      John, we had long exchanges about this and Bolden at AAJFK in 2008 and the HSCA “conclusion” about the Chicago plot(s) is haphazard and half-baked, mildly put.

      Fact remains that the Secret Service destroyed its files relating to the plot(s) in Chicago in January of 1995 shortly before the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) requested access to them, contrary to the JFK Records Act of 1992. See:

      http://www.fas.org/sgp/advisory/arrb98/part11.htm

      and here:

      http://www.foreffectivegov.org/node/851

      Scroll down to the Secret Service sections at both pages.

      The Secret Service also never submitted its Final Declaration of
      Compliance under oath to the ARRB.

      So thanks to the SS nobody will ever know for sure what happened in Chicago in the beginning of November of 1963, unless somebody finds documents that survived the intentional destruction by the SS.

    • James Feldman says:

      The HSCA has about the same level of credibility as the Warren Commission and its so-called “investigation” was of highly dubious value. Although the HSCA did “not preclude the possibility of two gunmen firing at the President,” the HSCA also reached the conclusion — without performing a thorough investigation of the facts — that the JFK assassination did not involve any organized crime group, anti-Castro group, nor the FBI, CIA, or Secret Service. The HSCA, for example, never really looked into the Chicago plot or Joseph Milteer, who not only knew of an assassination plot against JFK but even said that the plan included a patsy who would be picked within hours by the police. The HSCA never examined the Secret Service records of the Chicago plot before the Secret Service deliberately destroyed them. The HSCA also failed to look into the CIA and never investigated Maurice “David Atlee Phillips” Bishop. I could go on, but in the end, the HSCA was just another government cover up.

  3. Neil says:

    I recommend that anyone who doubts the credibility of Bolden read Edwin Black’s article

  4. Bill Simpich says:

    I’m not an expert on Bolden, but I used him in my book State Secret primarily because of the work done by Edwin Black, the author of the Chicago story that Jeff relies on.

    Black is a careful and precise analyst, best known as for his research found in his book IBM and the Holocaust. Abraham Bolden was one of Black’s sources. He passed the polygraph he was given. Bolden knew facts that have been documented by others since the article was published in 1975.

    I respect Walt Brown’s work and would like to know what his observations were about Bolden’s story

    • Photon says:

      Polygraphs mean nothing. 1975 was 12 years after the assassination . Why accept the word of a convicted felon?

      • RJ says:

        Why should we accept this conviction when a key witness admitted lying under oath at the behest of the prosecution?

      • TLR says:

        Wait, wait…Don’t WC defenders usually point to Jack Ruby’s polygraph test?

        • Gerry Simone says:

          (Sometimes, they’ll accept controversial evidence if it serves their storyline. If the paraffin cheek test was positive, they’d argue for its validity too).

      • James Feldman says:

        Photon asks: “Why accept the word of a convicted felon [i.e., Abraham W. Bolden]?”

        Well, for starters, Abraham Bolden was convicted based on the testimonies of two convicted felons, Joseph Spagnoli and Frank Jones, both of whom were facing charges against them of their own. Spagnoli also admitted that he lied on the stand and was directed to do so by Asst. US Attorney Richard T. Sikes. When Richard Sikes was questioned about this under oath, he pled the Fifth Amendment. And immediately after Abraham Bolden’s conviction, US Attorney Edward Hanrahan dismissed all charges against Frank Jones, thanks to his false testimony against Abraham Bolden, one of the very few Secret Service agents who was actually doing his job, and a good one at that. When Abraham Bolden was a Secret Service agent, he won two commendations for cracking counterfeiting rings and ranked second in the nation in solving counterfeit and check forging cases in 1962.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Wow. I guess there was no Chicago plot. Thomas Vallee is a figment of one’s imgination. JFK’s cancellation of a trip to Chicago was weather-related.

    I wouldn’t know Abe Bohlen from a stone. But that means nothing. Other than that I’ve not studied him.

    If Walt Brown and John McAdams agree his claims are specious, I’ll ask why.

  6. bogman says:

    Bolden’s story is included in JFK and the Unspeakable (Douglass spoke to he and his wife personally) and I’ve read the Black article and other articles featuring Bolden. I also bought his book but have only read the Chicago plot portion and skimmed through the rest.

    All seemed real to me. Especially the incredible coincidence (how many of those have we seen in the JFK case?) of being charged with bribery upon his return from DC where he tried to contact Warren Commission lawyers about the Chicago plot and Secret Service negligence.

    There’s also horrible tales of racism and intimidation among the Secret Service elite in his book, including having a noose tied over his desk when he came to work one morning.

    Bolden comes across as a true American hero to me who has yet to see his due. Would like to see the evidence to the contrary.

  7. Mball says:

    As memory serves, I believe that Black said that Mr. Bolden took a polygraph test that was inconclusive and that Mr. Bolden declined to retake the test, on the advice of family and friends. I tend to believe the Chicago plot story. As to Mr. Bolden’s contention that he was set up, I’ve read the appellate court opinion on his case. It doesn’t look to good for his set up allegation.

  8. Mball says:

    Not to belabor comment about Mr. Bolden, but my understanding is that the perjury was commited during the first trial, which ended in a hung jury. The appeal on the conviction at retrial in re the testimony from the person who perjured himself was cast aside by the appellate court because the perjury was in regard to a tangential matter, not the issue at hand.

  9. Mike Chesser says:

    I would also like to know more specifically why the above authors consider Mr. Bolden to be a poor witness to this history. What strikes me about him is that he survived an ordeal which would have destroyed most men, and he appears to have a great strength of character.

  10. Neil says:

    Can anyone who has doubts about the Chicago plot tell us what parts are untrue? Did Thomas Arthur Valee ever come forward to set the record straight about his arrest in November of 63′?

  11. Kennedy63 says:

    Despite what Bolden says about his role in the Chicago Plot to assassinate President Kennedy on November 2, 1963, I came across this Altgens photo of the motorcade just as JFK took first bullet in the throat. If one simply uses Microsoft Office (2010)Picture Manager and focus on the Dal-Tex building open window (to the left of the window containing people) behind the fire escape in the lower right window frame, one can actually see the figure of a man aiming a rifle with a telescopic sight and a silencer. Sophisticated photo processing equipment can clean up this area and magnify the darker areas much more to highlight the figure there. The window has a “perfect aim” straight to JFK over the top of the “Queen Mary” Secret Service (SS) follow-up car. This photograph still sends shivers down my spine knowing that the act of murder – a coup d’etat – was actually in progress and the Presidents protectors, for the most part, look oblivious to the unfolding drama. Stories being foisted upon the American people by former SS agents is nothing more than “spin” on a tragic failure. http://willyloman.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/altgens-6-ue-large-best-proc1.jpg.

    • Gerry Simone says:

      Your Altgens photo link is great!

      I don’t know what’s so important about the road sign but the traffic light which Max Holland says was hit doesn’t look like it has any holes in it.

      If you zoom in on where LBJ should be sitting, he seems to be MIA but he may be in the shadows and obstructed by Rufus Youngblood sitting in the front seat who could be turning (I recall seeing LBJ in an earlier photo sitting against the right side of his limo with his right arm overhanging, so he may have indeed be out of view and/or obstructed by Youngblood).

    • I do believe that either the shot to JFK’s back, or to the back of his head(or perhaps both)came from that DalTex bldg. A much easier target than that of the TSBD.

  12. Can anyone who has doubts about the Chicago plot tell us what parts are untrue?

    Without going back and researching this, my understanding is that Valee was a real person who looked dangerous. But the visit was cancelled for other reasons, and the part about the “plot” has no evidence to support it.

    • Neil says:

      “Without going back and researching this, my understanding is that Valee was a real person who looked dangerous. But the visit was cancelled for other reasons”

      That’s not a reason to doubt Bolden’s account. At best, the issue should be investigated further due to the lack of information. Vallee was interviewed by Edwin Black. Why wasn’t he asked to testify during the HSCA investigation of the plot?

      “the part about the “plot” has no evidence to support it.”

      Thanks in part to the Secret Service

    • TLR says:

      Maybe you should go back and research this some more, John.

      So, are you saying that no group ANYWHERE was plotting against JFK? I think even Bugliosi wouldn’t agree with that.

    • David Regan says:

      John, I’m afraid ABC News disagrees: JFK – The Omen in Chicago http://abc7chicago.com/archive/9315215/

  13. Ed McCarthy says:

    If you take the time to go to The national Archives there are quite a few documents that corroborate Abraham Bolden’s claims and more. Abraham is a true American Hero. BTW a group of Black Secret Service agents a few years ago sued the Govt. In their suit they refer to Abrahams claims of racism and said nothing has changed.

    • Jean Davison says:

      Ed,

      Could you please be more specific about what documents you are referring to that corroborate Abraham Bolden’s story? There are Archives documents on the Mary Ferrell site that dispute his claims about an assassination plot in Chicago. For instance:

      https://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=62432&relPageId=92

      https://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=62432&relPageId=95

      • James Feldman says:

        Those archive documents don’t dispute what Abraham Bolden has been saying for 52 years in the slightest. Those documents only point to the result of the successful framing of Mr. Bolden, who served with honor, integrity, and distinction, winning two commendations for cracking counterfeiting rings and ranking second in the entire nation in 1962 for solving counterfeit and check forging cases.

        The only denial of Mr. Bolden’s information about the Chicago plot against JFK’s life in those documents comes from Secret Service spokesperson, John “Jack” Warner, who has about the same level of reliability as that of the late Enron CEO Ken Lay’s spokesperson, Kelly Kimberly. So those documents are less than worthless. However, the vital documents pertaining to the Chicago plot that the Secret Service deliberately destroyed in violation of the law would have obviously been very informative and revealing. Otherwise, they would not have been destroyed. (The individuals at the Secret Service responsible for authorizing the destruction were, no doubt, promoted. This happens all of the time, unfortunately, when corruption is rampant in government.)

        For another example of Secret Service hack Jack Warner’s uselessness, see this excerpt referring to him after John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan, as described in the New York Daily News, March 31, 1981:

        ————-
        The Secret Service was at a loss to describe how Hinckley had managed to work his way to the front of the crowd of reporters outside the Hilton, especially since all of the newsmen wore, in full view, necklaces of special cards and credentials. “The onus is on our shoulders,” said Secret Service spokesman John Warner.
        ———–

        Errrr, well, thanks, John Warner. That’s mighty big of you.

  14. Charles R. Drago says:

    When Underwood told JFK about these disturbing reports,
    the President merely said, “Marty, you worry about me too much”
    (indeed, JFK told San Antonio Congressman Henry Gonzalez on 11/21/63:
    “The Secret Service told me that they have taken care of everything.
    There’s nothing to worry about”).

    http://www.acorn.net/jfkplace/03/VP/0025-VP.TXT

  15. David Regan says:

    ABC News – JFK Murder Plots: The Omen in Chicago http://abc7chicago.com/archive/9315215/

  16. joe says:

    thomas vallee White Male
    Work at Photo Lithographer IPP Printing co.
    625 West Jackson ( blvd) Chicago IL.
    Thomas Vallee residence
    4614 North Paulina Chicago IL
    in the old chicago Neighborhood .
    Taylor street -wilson – Kedzie ave -Ashland Ave
    could it be possible that Vallee knew mafia ?
    Giancana had his bar on roosevelt rd near this area?

    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      Possible? Yes. Probable ??? Provable, probably not. Interesting question though. I’m sure Giancana could have provided a “Ruby” if needed. Maybe the old Files mentor. What was his name, you know the suggested Dal-Tex shooter?

  17. Milyn says:

    I have read these comments with great interest. While I may not be as well versed in the JFK assassination as many of you, I have spent much time and effort to study his murder. I am familiar with Mr. Bolden’s tragic story- most notably in JFK Unspeakable- Douglas. Nothing I have ever come
    across has made me doubt his integrity and his unfortunate story.

    As a matter of fact, I was so moved by the tragic fate he endured, I called him. I got his number from 411 information- yes the old fashioned way. I wasn’t sure if he would speak with me – I had no prior connection with him. But, he was gracious and receptive- and I had an enlightening conversation with him.

    After speaking with him, I have no doubt that he is telling the truth. And, for you naysayers, no one has cited any evidence to the contrary.

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