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Buckley resident relives years with Secret Service
“I never owned a pair of sunglasses in my life,” joked retired United States Secret Service agent and Buckley resident Michael Endicott as he relaxed on his backyard deck, stroking a calico cat and discussing the stereotypes associated with the cloak and dagger world of the U.S. Secret Service.
Endicott now collects a pension from the United States government following 30 years of devotion that spanned the tempestuous 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s – and maintains that he is almost busier now than during his days of government work.
Now, however, his hours aren’t spent protecting and organizing the lives of U.S. presidents. Rather, he keeps hopping due to the hours of volunteer work that keep him active. He and longtime friend Tony Anderson, the former president of the Tacoma Athletic Club, sell five-course gourmet dinners for eight at charity auctions and then donate the money to the charity hosting the auction.
“Anything to help kids, churches and schools,” Endicott said. “Tony knows everybody and since he and I went into this cooking operation together we have raised over $75,000 for numerous charities.”
The 65-year-old Endicott spent much of his childhood at the South End Boys and Girls Club in Tacoma, where his parents were solely responsible for coming up with the money to get the pool built.
Perhaps as a result of his being around sports, Endicott became quite an athlete as a teen. He paved his way to becoming a Secret Service man when he was an all-county basketball star at Lincoln High School in 1961 and was given a full scholarship to St. Martin’s College (now University) in Lacey.
Endicott, a big believer in fate, believes he was born to be a Secret Service agent because of his eye for detail, knack for planning and ability to make quick and accurate decisions.
When the Secret Service doubled in size in 1965, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Endicott’s father-in-law suggested that he give it a try. Endicott and a career as a Secret Service agent fit together like a hand and glove, as for three decades he traveled the world offering protection to those who needed it.
Endicott slowed down after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, as several friends and acquaintances perished during that nightmarish chapter in American history. He moved to the Plateau to take care of his ailing mother, Flora (Giorgetti) Endicott, who resides in the Prairie Ridge area.
It was at about this time that Endicott became determined to write his personal account of a life dedicated to protecting presidents, vice presidents and other high-profile political figures.
In his recently published book, “Walking With Presidents – Stories From Inside The Perimeter,” Endicott reveals what it was like to be part of the “inner circle” during historical events like the 1974 resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.
Endicott recalls the surreal atmosphere of the occasion as though it was yesterday.
At the time, he was in charge of watching over Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who earned the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating what Nixon referred to as a “Peace With Honor,” removing the American presence from Vietnam.
“The press couldn’t stand Nixon,” Endicott said, “but Kissinger was the darling of the media and it was Kissinger that had the big ego, not Nixon.
“Little did the press realize that Nixon and Kissinger were a great strategic team behind closed doors and were probably two of the greatest global strategists of that time,” he said. “A lot of the elements of those negotiations were Nixon-driven, but very few people realized it because Nixon and Kissinger communicated through back channels and rarely shared their combined ideas and findings with the State Department.
Endicott remembers Nixon’s theory that the president should be responsible for formulating foreign policy and the State Department’s job should be to carry out the policies.
“At that time, Nixon felt as though the State Department was full of a bunch of Georgetown University graduates who only thought that they knew all about foreign policy. That was why he trusted and chose Kissinger to be both the National Security Advisor and the Secretary of State,” Endicott said.
“The night before Nixon’s resignation, Kissinger walked past a contingent of people who were holding a peaceful candlelight demonstration outside the White House on the lawn,” he recalls. “I’ll never forget how strangely quiet it was.
“After Kissinger’s private meeting with Nixon, I accompanied Kissinger and his wife to dinner. After dinner I did my pre-exit sweep and notified Secretary of State Kissinger that there were about 300 people milling around outside the restaurant because word had spread that he was eating dinner there. He was popular with people so he was completely unruffled by this news. As he was heading toward his car, we suddenly heard this weird rhythmic clapping that broke out - no yelling or anything, just an appreciative and almost robotic applause.
“Kissinger raised his hand to acknowledge the crowd and when he got into the limo his wife asked him what that had been all about. Well, Henry told his wife that he thought that perhaps the throng of people was just trying to exhibit their gratitude for what he had been able to accomplish amidst all the madness. Which was precisely correct.”
Endicott earned his keep during troubled times in America and a period of global unrest, bolstered by the birth of terrorism in the Middle East. Through all his trials and tribulations, his philosophy never changed about one thing.
“The crazies will always be out there,” he said, “but a good agent will spot them almost immediately because we were trained to sweep the entire perimeter visually and pick up on the whackos who often stand out like a beacon because of their quirky mannerisms, dress, demeanor or gait.
“It is almost like they are saying with their eyes and body language, ‘Here I am - I’m going to do something pretty dramatic or stupid now and you just try to stop me.’
Endicott explains that no one was hurt or killed on his watch. But there were times when danger wasn’t too far away.
“I do remember coming very close one time when I was given the responsibility of protecting then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, when he was slowly making the transition of being the bovernor of California and running for president,” Endicott said.
“He wasn’t living in the governor’s mansion, because it had fallen into disrepair and was being renovated, so he was living in Sacramento in a nice home. One night we got an anonymous tip that there might be some type of terrorist activity about to go down, courtesy of the Black Panther Party. As it turned out, they tried to firebomb Reagan’s home with all manner of weapons.
“I’ll never forget it,” Endicott said. “I was on the point and I saw one of the attackers in the car lighting a Molotov cocktail and then tossing it toward the house. Those were the kind of times that we lived in and lived through.”