Protecting the President

As you travel on Highway 280W in southwest Georgia, you may catch a glimpse of a baseball field just outside of Plains. 

If you turn back the clock to one of the many early evenings between 1976 and 1980, you might notice a softball game underway. It wasn’t your typical high school roster of players but two teams consisting of the national press (this was before we referred to them as “media”) and the United States Secret Service – with one exception. The USSS team captain and pitcher was the President of the United States himself. James Earl Carter. Brother Billy captained the press team, but that’s another story in itself.

As if this lineup wasn’t extraordinary enough, there was a tall man who looked like he was positioned to be the second base coach for the Carter-USSS team. Curiously, this coach-like gent stood not behind the second base bag – but in front of it…way in front of it.

You’ve likely guessed by now that this was no coach but in fact a tall, athletic USSS agent named Charles “Chuck” Zboril.

USSS Agent Chuck Zboril watches over the President.
© 1977 Ken Hawkins for TIME Magazine ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

For a time, Agent Zboril was the protective detail leader for candidate – then president-elect and finally – President Carter.

At the softball games that Carter insisted on playing, there was literally no way to protect him from all threat exposure. 

Zboril could have assigned the “close protection” position to any of his detail. The close protection position – especially in a wide-open baseball field with exposure to an open US highway – is probably the most dangerous for an agent. If a threat arises, the agent has to immediately react and place him/herself between the protected and danger. 

Chuck took on the close protection position himself. He wasn’t about to lose a President.

The story goes deeper though… and there was something that many didn’t know about Chuck.

As a young agent Chuck was assigned to President John F. Kennedy’s protective detail on a bright November day in Dallas. He and a second agent were each detailed to one of the two rear steps on the rear of the young president’s black limousine. Also at that time, the Lincoln’s clear bubble top was to be installed to secure President Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connaly and their wives.

At the last minute before the Dallas motorcade got underway, the bubble top was removed along with Chuck and the second agent. It’s said that the decision was Kennedy’s due to political considerations.

The rest is history.

When Chuck Zboril retired from the Secret Service, he and his wife Jean moved to Chicago where he worked in corporate security before his final retirement. He passed away in 2019.

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