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The Black Spy Who Broke Racial Barriers

The Black Spy Who Broke Racial Barriers

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Source: CIA /

George Hocker’s remarkable journey as a Black spy, amid the tumultuous civil rights era, remained largely untold until recently. In an exclusive interview with the CIA and NBC News, the 84-year-old recounted his daring exploits serving in the nation’s clandestine service, where he undertook high-stakes missions across the globe.


George Hocker’s upbringing.

Born in 1939 and raised in Washington, D.C., George grew up during a period of deep racial segregation. It wasn’t until 1953, under President Eisenhower, that the nation’s capital began desegregating, setting an example for other cities. As the eldest of five siblings, George was a natural role model, guided by his parents’ teachings of responding to prejudice with integrity and prioritizing education.

Enrolling at Howard University in 1956, George’s path took an unexpected turn when a close friend encouraged him to apply to the CIA. Despite being just 18 years old and lacking work experience, George listed family friends from church as references on his application. His bold move paid off when he joined the Agency in 1957, becoming one of the few Black officers at the time, alongside trailblazers like Don Cryer and Omego Ware.

Training to become a CIA spy was a rigorous ordeal for George, set against the backdrop of segregated America. Unable to attend certain establishments in Virginia due to racial segregation, specialized exercises had to be developed for his training.

“I had to have car meetings, whereas my classmates could go and have a nice meal in a restaurant,” he told NBC News during a recent interview.

Within a class of 75 recruits, George stood out as the lone Black participant. Despite these challenges, he successfully completed the training and went on to make history as one of the CIA’s earliest Black clandestine officers.


A look at his daring missions.

Upon entering the CIA, George confronted an organization predominantly composed of white officers from Ivy League backgrounds. Throughout his career, he faced obstacles such as being overlooked for sponsorships and promotions that often favored his white colleagues.

“There was this scuttlebutt going around the Agency that blacks could not be spies because they would stand out anywhere in the world,” George said during his interview with the CIA. “The lightbulb went off for me and a couple of my friends—if anybody were to stand out in the world, it’s going to be white guys because 90-plus percent of the world are people of color, some kind of color. I had decided that I was going to break this mold of people saying blacks couldn’t be spies—we can do this, and the world needs us.”

Nevertheless, George persevered and became the first Black officer to establish a CIA station abroad and to lead a branch within the Directorate of Operations.

George Hocker’s illustrious CIA career is marked by several groundbreaking achievements. He holds the distinction of being the first Black officer to establish a new CIA station and to serve as a branch chief within the Directorate of Operations (DO). Additionally, he was selected to serve as the special assistant for Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Stansfield Turner and DCI William Casey, and later as Senior Advisor to the Drug Enforcement Agency until his retirement in 1992.

Throughout his tenure, George undertook daring missions that underscored his expertise and resourcefulness in espionage. In one notable operation in Africa, he was tasked with retrieving a malfunctioning listening device from a foreign embassy, amid concerns that a U.S. adversary might have acquired it, NBC News noted. 

During a tense Cold War incident in the late 1970s, Hocker was called upon to orchestrate the emergency extraction of a valuable KGB informant with critical insights for U.S. intelligence. Following a failed dead drop, Hocker swiftly organized an urgent “exfiltration” operation. This involved arranging a cover flight and selecting a discreet landing strip in a West African nation—details of which remain classified.

Hocker’s story not only illuminates his personal resilience and trailblazing achievements but also shines a light on the broader struggle for racial equality within the intelligence community. His journey serves as a testament to the courage and determination required to overcome systemic barriers and pave the way for future generations of Black intelligence officers.

George is currently authoring a memoir chronicling his remarkable career. Recently, the CIA has inaugurated a dedicated exhibit in his honor at the CIA Museum, recognizing his exceptional contributions to the agency and global security.


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The post George Hocker: The Black Spy Who Broke Racial Barriers appeared first on NewsOne.

George Hocker: The Black Spy Who Broke Racial Barriers 
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