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Monday, April 1, 2013

Radford Jones

Retired Secret Service member speaks about experiences

Published: Friday, March 29, 2013


Former Secret Service member Radford Jones, right, talks with an audience member following his presentation at the Mount Clemens Public Library on March 26.

A retired member of the United States Secret Service spoke to a packed room at the Mount Clemens Public Library on March 26.

Hillsdale native Radford Jones discussed the history of the Secret Service and also shared stories regarding his time in the service.

"President Kennedy was a lot of fun to work with," he said.

Jones said he always had a passion for the law enforcement field and pursued it at an early age. "I was interested in law enforcement when I was in high school," he said. "I focused on the Secret Service after writing them a letter and receiving information for a paper I was working on."

After graduating, he attended Michigan State University where he pursued a degree in criminal justice. He later continued his graduate studies at American University in Washington, D.C.

Jones went on to have a 21-year career in the Secret Service and headed several offices, including in Seattle, Alaska and Detroit. He retired in 1983 as the special agent in charge of the Detroit office.

"The Secret Service is a family," he said. "Even though I'm retired, I still feel like I'm a part it."

Jones began his presentation with a brief history of the service and talked about some presidential campaigns in which he was involved.

"The Secret Service was created in 1865 because one-third of the money in circulation was counterfeit," said Jones. "Before this time there was no standard for money."

In 1901, following the assassination of three presidents in 36 years (Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley and James Garfield), Congress requested that the Secret Service protect the president full time. That protection included family members, and the vice president and his family as well. Continued...

"It wasn't until 1968, after Sen. Rob Kennedy was assassinated, that the Secret Service became responsible for protecting presidential candidates," said Jones.

Jones was one of the agents who worked during the John F. Kennedy administration. He was in charge of security during the 1963 election and was supposed to be on detail that fateful day when JFK was assassinated, however he stayed behind in Washington, D.C.

"My wife was expecting at the time and I had switched with another agent," he said. "I stayed behind and watched his (JFK's) kids."

Following the assassination of JFK, Jones was assigned to several presidential, vice presidential and foreign dignitary protective details. That included being part of the inauguration of the United States' 39th president, Jimmy Carter, and helping guard the Queen of England during a Head of State visit in 1976.

"You always had to be ready," said Jones. "You always wanted to concentrate on people's hands, not their eyes because the eyes lie."

Jones eventually got out of the protection side of the job and focused more on the investigative part.

He said one of his best memories in the Secret Service was when JFK was being interviewed by Walter Cronkite. "The president was doing an interview outside, and in between takes he turned to me and asked if I had a comb," said Jones. "Of course, I had a flattop at the time and he knew I didn't have one, but every time after that I made sure I had a comb on me."

He retired in 1983 and soon after took a position as the manager of security and fire protection at Ford Motor Company. He spent 14 years with the automaker before moving into the academic arena.

Jones is currently an academic specialist in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. He is the director of the school's Masters of Science Criminal Justice online degree program.

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