Charles L. Gittens was an American Secret Service agent. He joined the Secret Service in 1956, becoming the agencys first African American agent. An Army veteran, Gittens began his career at the agencys office in Charlotte, North Carolina. However, he was soon posted to its New York field office, where he was part of an elite “special detail” that targeted counterfeiters and other criminals across the country.
Gittens was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 31, 1928, one of seven children. His father, a contractor, immigrated to the United States from Barbados. Gittens enlisted in the United States Army before finishing high school. He was promoted to lieutenant in the Army and was stationed in Japan during the Korean War. Gittens earned his GED while serving in the Army. After his discharge, Gittens earned a bachelors degree from present-day North Carolina Central University. He completed the four-year academic program in three years, and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Spanish.
While teaching school in North Carolina, he was encouraged to take the Civil Service examination for Federal law enforcement agents. After passing the exam, he was recruited into the United States Secret Service. His career assignments included North Carolina, New York, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C.
His first marriage was to Ruth Hamme; the marriage ended in divorce after 28 years. His 10-year marriage to Maureen Petersen also ended in divorce. Survivors include a daughter from his first marriage (Sharon Quick of Washington, D.C.), and two stepdaughters.
Gittens spoke Spanish fluently and was assigned to Puerto Rico from 1968 to 1970 as the islands senior agent. In 1969 he accompanied New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller on his visit as presidential emissary to Latin America and the Caribbean republics.
In 1971, Gittens was appointed special agent in charge of the Washington, D.C. field office, a prestigious posting in which he supervised approximately 120 agents.