Born August 31, 1928, Charles Gittens was a Cambridge, Massachusetts native and son of Barbadian immigrants. He dropped out of high school and joined the U.S. Army to fight in the Korean War. During this time, he gained a GED. After the war, he attended North Carolina Central University. In three years, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude.
Secret Service Career
He would teach in North Carolina for a short period before taking the civil service exam. With his military background and scores on the exam, he was suggested for the U.S. Secret Service. As a result, he is recognized as the agency’s first Black agent.
The early portion of Charles Gittens’ career was in Charlotte. He would move New York City a few years later to work as an investigator with the Secret Service. Gittens would serve in this role for ten years as part of a team that specialized in counterfeiting and bank fraud.
He would later head to Puerto Rico in the mid-1960s. The highlight of his time in the Puerto Rico office was guarding New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1969. Following years of service with the Secret Service, he was promoted as D.C.’s chief over the agency. Gittens remained in the role until his retirement in 1979. Afterward, he joined the Department of Justice and headed up the Office of Special Investigations which looked into Nazi war criminals living in the U.S.
On July 27, 2011, Charles Gittens passed due to complications from a heart attack. At the time he was staying in a Mitchellville, Maryland assisted living center.