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Nov. 22, 1963, Dallas
Lee Harvey Oswald, Dallas and Nov. 22, 1963, would never have become etched into the minds of millions of Americans if a plot – revealed by an ex-Secret Service agent – to kill President John F. Kennedy in Chicago three weeks earlier had been successful.
Former agent Abraham Bolden, 72, told Chicago ABC affiliate, WLS-TV, Kennedy was waved off from a much-publicized visit to Chicago on Nov. 2, 1963, to attend the Army-Air Force football game at Soldier Field and ride in a parade after the Secret Service received a report from a motel manager who told of seeing several automatic weapons with telescopic sights on the bed of a room rented to several Cuban nationals. They had an outline of the route Kennedy was to follow from O’Hare airport that would take his motorcade past the motel. The route had been printed in Chicago newspapers.
Bolden, a former Illinois state trooper, was the first black agent to protect a president.
The Secret Service was already uneasy about the presidential visit because an outspoken critic of the president, Thomas Vallee, had arranged to take off work for Kennedy’s visit. Vallee was arrested before the planned visit with an M1 rifle, a handgun and 3,000 rounds of ammunition in his possession.
News of the Cuban nationals triggered an investigation but, Bolden charges, the surveillance was mishandled and the Cuban suspects disappeared and were never identified.
“No one was sent to the room to fingerprint it or get an ID. The case was lost and that was the end of it,” he said.
The day of the planned flight from Washington, D.C., with a suspected Cuban hit team somewhere in Chicago, the Secret Service urged a change of plans.
“The morning of the game, the special agent in charge of the Chicago office called the White House and recommended the president cancel his trip to Chicago,” Bolden said.
News reports at the time blamed the change in plans on illness and a diplomatic crisis. South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated in Saigon on that same day.
But Bolden told WLS-TV neither illness nor crisis were the reason plans were changed – JFK stayed away from Chicago because of the suspected assassination plot.
Following Kennedy’s murder in Dallas three weeks later, Bolden said he tried to inform the Warren Commission of the Chicago plot and misconduct by Secret Service agents, including on-duty drunkenness, but his efforts were thwarted when he was arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to prison for soliciting a bribe from a counterfeiter.
Bolden, who served six years, claims he was set up to silence his criticism of agents’ behavior and is hoping to clear his name after the main witness against him recanted his testimony.
The Chicago assassination plot was first discussed in the book “Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK” by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann. Also, a History Channel series titled “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” also discussed plots prior to JFK’s trip to Dallas, emphasizing the Miami plot.