Home » First Black female secret service agent, Zandra Flemister, dies at 71

First Black female secret service agent, Zandra Flemister, dies at 71

by The Grio

Zandra Flemister, America’s first Black female Secret Service agent, died Feb. 21 at 71.

Former CIA employee John Collinge confirmed his wife’s death and shared that she passed away from respiratory failure brought on by Alzheimer’s disease at a care facility in Kensington, Maryland, The Washington Post reported.

Flemister joined the Secret Service in 1974, more than 15 years after Charles L. Gittens, the first Black special agent, was hired in 1956. She experienced racist and discriminatory acts from the beginning of her employment, frequently being assigned unfavorable duties.

“I remained in the Secret Service because I wanted to be a trailblazer for other African-American women,” she wrote in an affidavit supporting a racial discrimination lawsuit against filed against the Secret Service in 2000, The Post reported.

Flemister was not a plaintiff in the suit, which focused on actions taken by the Secret Service in the 1990s and 2000s. More than 100 Black special agents joined the lawsuit. According to Collinge, Flemister provided her affidavit as proof of the agency’s long legacy of racism, which included Black agents commonly losing promotions to white coworkers with less expertise or lower performance evaluations.

Collinge said Flemister was proud of having protected Susan Ford, the daughter of President Gerald Ford, “without being obtrusive” when the teenager went out on dates. She also guarded Amy Carter, the daughter of President Jimmy Carter, who attended public school in Washington.

At one point, a superior reportedly informed her she would have to give up her Afro hairstyle to garner more prestigious, higher-paying security details. Although she did and was placed on protective duty, she said that she was rotated around to make the agency “appear racially diverse,” according to The Post.

Due to her race, Flemister performed a “disproportionate” quantity…

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