Remembering Charles L. Gittens, Who Had the Heart To Go First

And the love to bring others along with him.

By Shani O. Hilton Aug 12, 2011

Even though we’re working toward a day where "the first black [insert profession here]" is no longer an issue, it’s important to remember those who came before–people like Charles Leroy Gittens, the first black Secret Service agent, who joined the organization in 1956. Gittens died late last month at the age of 82. He was in the Secret Service for more than 20 years before moving on to the Office of Special Investigations. A look through Ebony magazine’s archives (decades’ worth are on Google Books) shows a November 1974 story featuring Gittens, called "Washington’s Secret Service Boss." In it, the author details Gittens’ struggle with getting other black agents and women into the service: >In 1971, when Gittens was promoted to manager of the office he immediately encouraged the enlistment of black agents. He traveled about the country with teams of recruiters visiting universities and other likely institutions. Of the Secret Services’s more than 1,200 agents (serving in 65 districts in the U.S. and Puerto Rico), only 37 are black. Five of these people–two women are among them–are in Gittens’s own office. Where women are concerned it is bleaker by far: only seven are enlisted with the Secret Service nationally, five of whom are assigned to the District. "We’re serious about the hiring of minorities," says Gittens. "But problems have arisen. Blacks have not responded in quite the way we had hoped. Also, many of the counselors in black universities do not seem to be aware of this career opportunity. > >"Maybe I’m biased, but I just can’t imagine a young guy out of college who wouldn’t want to be an agent. In my own case, it has been a very rewarding life." One has to wonder if he ever thought the African Americans he recruited would be serving a black president, too. In any case, here’s to not just going first, but having the heart to bring others up behind you. +++ We’re ending the day as often as possible by celebrating love. We welcome your ideas for posts. Send suggestions to [](, and be sure to put Celebrate Love in the subject line. You can send links to videos, graphics, photos, quotes, whatever. Or just chime in to the comments below and we’ll find you. Be sure to let us know you’ve got the rights to share any media you send. To see other Love posts visit our [Celebrate Love]( page.