One day in 1950, the work of a North Adams-born Secret Service agent became much less secret | Columnists


North Adams native Frank J. Murray, Secret Service agent and White House Fleet Chief, holds an umbrella for President Harry S. Truman as the two walk through Washington National Airport in November 1948.

How close do Secret Service bodyguards get to the presidents they protect? Many have wondered following the dropped text messages of the January 6, 2021 mob invasion of the US Capitol.

Security guards can become at least casual friends, we learn from a local man who worked for six general managers from 1913 to 1953. It was Frank J. Murray, originally from North Adams.

This story begins in 1950, when Puerto Rican nationalists charged the grounds of Blair House, the temporary living quarters of President Harry S. Truman and his family, on November 1 while renovations were underway at the White House. The assailants killed a White House policeman; a Secret Service agent killed one of the invaders.

A reporter from North Adams Transcript found a local angle, noting that Secret Service Agent Murray was from North Adams. However, none of the Murray families in town claimed to be relatives.

The transcript story appeared on November 6 and was noticed by Blanche (Mrs. James F.) Horn (d. 1951) of East Main Street, who informed the newspaper that Constable Murray was her brother and “is one of President Truman’s closest companions”. , and as such traveled all over the country with the General Manager.

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Murray was the primary driver of the presidential automobile, and also responsible for determining travel routes and arranging for municipal and state police protection, as well as hotel and other reservations means of transport.

He fell on hard times in 1947 when Eleanor Roosevelt and her son Elliott and their children and entourage of 13, returning from Campobello, New Brunswick, had to spend the night in Portland, Maine. Murray had to book the Lafayette Hotel for them because the previous year’s accommodations didn’t allow dog Fala to stay, according to a Boston Globe article.

It turns out that Murray’s name did not appear in local records because he was born Francis J. Morand, son of carpenter Alphonse (1859-1952), originally from Canada, and Hedgwidge “Agnes” (Roy or King ) (died 1941) Morand. The father was still alive in 1950, living with Mrs. Horn. She explained in a follow-up transcript story on Nov. 7 that when she and Frank were young, they “somehow decided” to change their last name to Murray.

“We were just kids and didn’t realize the complications that could arise from taking on a new name just because it sounded good,” Horn said. But they persevered. Other siblings kept the Morand name or, in one case, dropped the “d”.

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Frank attended Notre Dame Parish School. He skipped the Berkshire Hotel and the Richmond Hotel. After a stint at Arnold Print Works, he moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut to work for an auto parts manufacturer. From there, he secured a position in the White House garage, “where he is now a vehicle maintenance supervisor as well as the president’s primary driver and personal bodyguard,” according to the Transcript story. Murray, Horn said, was not in danger during the Blair House episode, having not been on call.

Murray’s name attracted attention in November 1948 when The Associated Press circulated a photo of him holding an umbrella over Truman as the two walked through Washington National Airport to meet Secretary George C Marshall, who was returning from a foreign mission.

American presidents haven’t always had bodyguards. President Theodore Roosevelt (serving 1901–1909) created the agency, a unit of the Treasury Department. Shortly after, Roosevelt was bruised, his delivery man injured, other riders grazed when his horse-drawn landau collided with a Berkshire Street Railway car racing from Pittsfield to Lenox to beat the entourage of DC. Roosevelt had visited Governor Winthrop Murray Crane at Dalton. Secret Service officer William Craig was killed – the first of the new service to perish in the line of duty.

The first presidential limousines were a White steamer and a Pierce-Arrow Brougham, both 1909 models, followed over the years by a 1912 Baker Electric, a 1916 Cadillac, a 1919 Pierce-Arrow and a 1921 Packard Murray became an official driver during the administration of President Woodrow Wilson. He reportedly handled 1928 and 1932 Cadillacs and later two 1938 Cadillac V-16s, nicknamed “Queen Mary” and “Queen Elizabeth” by FDR. They cost $20,000 each. In 1939, a $30,000 Lincoln “Sunshine Special” joined the fleet, followed by a 1942 Lincoln Custom.

In 1950, a seven-passenger, bulletproof and bombproof Lincoln Cosmopolitan with a 145-inch wheelbase and a 12-cylinder engine drove into the garage. It had special running boards for the guards as well as hydraulically operated windows and an intercom between driver and passengers. It had a top speed of 100 mph. It was the garage’s first armored vehicle.

Frank Murray demonstrated some of the car’s features to the press in March 1950.

I was unable to trace the last years of the agent through electronic resources. He and his wife lived in Alexandria, Virginia. They had no children. One Frank J. Murray I found was probably 96 in 1984. Was that him? It remains a secret.

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