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First black Secret Service agent dies

Aug. 11, 2011 at 8:15 AM

MITCHELLVILLE, Md., Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Charles L. Gittens, the first African-American agent in the U.S. Secret Service, has died from a heart attack, officials said.

Gittens, who went on to provide security to American presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy, was 82, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

"He was a great agent," said Mark Sullivan, director of the Secret Service. "When you talk to people who worked with him, the one thing I hear is that he was just a regular guy … a lot of agents, black and white, have benefited from the things he has done. He led by example, and he set the standards for all of us to follow."

Gittens died July 27 at an assisted living center in Mitchellville, Md., following a heart attack.

Charles Leroy Gittens was born Aug. 31, 1928, in Cambridge, Mass. He quit high school to join the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of lieutenant. He obtained a GED while in the military; he later earned a college diploma and became a teacher.

Friends encouraged him to seek work in federal law enforcement and he joined the Secret Service in 1956. He was appointed special agent in charge of the Washington field office in 1971.

Gittens was a founding member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. He is credited with helping boost the recruitment of minority and female agents.

Survivors include a daughter, Sharon Quick, and two stepdaughters.

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