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Secret Service Honors Its First Black Secret Service Agent Charles L. Gittens on 65th Anniversary

Charles L. Gittens, first black special agent for the Secret Service.

By Steve Neavling

Monday marked the 65th anniversary of Charles L. Gittens becoming the first black special agent for the Secret Service. 

“February 1 carries special meaning to the men and women of the United States Secret Service,” the agency wrote in a tribute to Gittens.

Gittens spent 23 years rising through the ranks of the Secret Service, first serving in Charlotte, N.C., before moving on to posts in New York City, San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Washington D.C. Field Office, where he became special agent in charge in 1971.

Gittens continued to break racial barriers. In 1977, Gittens became the first African American to serve as the agency’s deputy assistant director of the Office of Inspection, a position he held until he retired in 1979. 

During his career, he protected Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B .Johnson, in addition to Vice President Hubert Humphrey. He also participated in notable undercover investigations and was a member of “The Special Detail,” which was tasked with curtailing counterfeiting actives in the U.S. and abroad. 

“Looking back, when I enlisted in the Service, I knew everybody,” Gittens later said. “Knew every agent personally. It is a lot different now. We have steadily expanded, both in size itself or in the area of our responsibility. But the Service is a lot like home, even now. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Gittens died on July 27, 2011 at the age of 82. 

At the time of his death, then-Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said, “The passing of Deputy Assistant Director Gittens represents a sad day for the Secret Service family. Mr. Gittens’ legacy of accomplishments will live on with all those who knew him, as well as all of us who benefitted from the path he created and standards he set as the first African American agent in the Secret Service. His contributions to this agency and this country cannot be overstated.” 


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