Eugene Allen was a butler for the White House who served under eight presidents. Allen was born on July 14, 1919, in the town of Scottsville, Virginia. He grew up in the south under the Jim Crow laws. In his adulthood, Allen found work as a waiter in Virginia, and he later moved to Washington, D.C., to work at a country club. He landed his job at the White House in the 1950s, working as a pantry worker and eventually was promoted to the position of butler. He served under John F. Kennedy, Harry S. Truman, and Ronald Reagan. Allen later married Helene in 1943, and together they had a son, Charles.
Allen was very knowledgeable about the inner goings inside the White House. He heard remarks concerning race and witness the growing staff of African Americans and their presence in the White House. Allen was held in the highest regard by many especially his colleagues. He was noted for rendering excellent services and having a humble spirit about him.
While working in the White House, Allen met famous people like civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and composer Duke Ellington. He flew to Europe with President Richard Nixon and traveled with President Jimmy Carter to Camp David. He and President Gerald Ford shared the same birthday, and Allen was celebrated at the official festivities as well.
Allen’s wife Helene died in the fall of 2008, she and Eugene were married for 65 years. She passed right before Barack Obama was elected president. Allen received a VIP invitation to Obama’s inauguration with a Marine guard escort. Eugene Allen’s life is the focus of the 2013 film The Butler, directed by Lee Daniels, and starring Forest Whitaker as the title character and Oprah Winfrey as his wife. Allen died March 31, 2010.