First Black Woman to Serve as Secret Service Special Agent Has Died

By Steve Neavling

Zandra Flemister, a trailblazer who made history as the first Black woman to serve as a Secret Service special agent, died last week. 

She was 71. 

Flemister served for four years before leaving the agency because of racial discrimination.

“The level of accomplishments that my wife managed … under the conditions that she lived, that to me says a hell of a lot about the woman,” Flemister’s husband, John Collinge, told NPR.

Flemister died from Alzheimer’s complications.  

“I’ve gotten an incredible outpouring from Black women Secret Service agents past and present, and they are looking to her now as, I guess I would say, a forgotten pioneer who has been rescued from oblivion,” Collinge said of the emails and calls he has received in recent days.

Flemister joined the Secret Service in August 1974, a week before President Richard Nixon resigned. 

But her stint with the agency was plagued by discrimination. 

She left the Secret Service in 1978 for a lower-paying job at the State Department. 

Flemister received a degree in political science from Northeastern University. 

Not long after, a Secret Service recruiter at a job fair encouraged her to apply to be a special agent. 

“That was the point at which she discovered she was a racial pioneer,” Collinge said. “No one said anything to her. I do not believe there was any preparation for her as a racial pioneer and there certainly was no effort to provide her with any level of support.”

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