Following Lloyd Painter’s several tours of duties with the Navy, he was happy to have returned to his native California in 1970. With his beautiful wife Ingrid in tow, the Painter’s were excited to begin a new life. “I had grown up in California, and hadn’t been anywhere except with the Navy. I still had no concept of a federal agency, so I figured I’d work with the state. I went into the Post Office in Fresno in 1970 and in there was a picture of Nixon and a uniformed officer. The sign told me that the officers were making 7000 dollars a year. So I filled out the questionnaire and sure enough, they called. They called and said, ‘do you know you are qualified to become an agent because of your degree’? I went in and spent 4 hours with him and they basically told me that if everything checked out ok, I would have the job.”
“In those days there was no internet, so they had to do all the background checks the old fashioned way – it took 18 months. I was working as a probation officer and I was quite happy. I really enjoyed my job. All of a sudden I started getting information that they were finishing up my background check. They wanted me to go get a physical, but I was unsure if I wanted to do it. Eventually I did it, and sent it in. Then they wanted to talk to my supervisor. This made me very nervous and I told them that if they talked to my supervisor, they had to hire me. They wouldn’t guarantee me this, so we eventually settled on the name of a guy who was all of two weeks more senior than me to get a reference,” Painter laughs. “I was still really unsure about making the move, but I finally figured that you could be a probation officer anytime, but it wasn’t everyday that you had the opportunity to be a Secret Service officer.” With that, Painter began his illustrious career.
An unceremonious start to what would become almost 30 years in the Secret Service, Lloyd and his wife Ingrid would enjoy adventures that would take them around the globe. After meeting her in the officer’s club during one of his tours of duties, Lloyd knew that he had met his match. “Ingrid was working in the personnel office and came to the club as a guest of another officer, and as soon as I saw her, I knew she was for me.” Following their return to the States and Lloyd’s induction into the Secret Service, it was obvious they were destined for the adventure of their lives.
Painter continues, “They hired me, and within 6 weeks, following Secret Service training, I was guarding Nixon. It was pretty surreal. Bobby Kennedy had been shot, and they decided that candidates needed protection, so there I was, standing next to Richard Nixon. No sooner than I had started, we were guarding Nixon at the National Guard Armory in North Carolina and one of Nixon’s aides told us to arrest the dozens of Vietnam War protestors. We did, and the lawsuits continued for something like 10 years. It was a real eye-opener.”
Following his duty to Nixon, Painter was sent to protect then Presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972. Painter continues, “Governor Wallace was a Segregationist. You can imagine how politically explosive that assignment was. One night in Fort Wayne Indiana, Governor Wallace was giving a speech at the National Guard Armory. Thousands of shouting folks were in attendance. All of a sudden the crowd decided to come up on stage. They surged over us and all I remember is going down, grabbing my weapon and my radio, and hearing the call over the radio to evacuate the “Protectee”. As we were leaving, bricks and stones were hurled at the Governor’s limousine. We made it out in one piece that night. Governor Wallace was either idolized or hated, nothing in between. One night in Maryland, one of those who hated him attempted to assassinate him. Governor Wallace was shot in the back while on stage. He never walked again.”
In 1975, Painter was assigned to Gerald Ford. While he has many memories of Ford, Painter laughs about the most memorable part of protecting him. “I was assigned to President Gerald Ford, who was appointed after the Nixon Watergate Scandal. President Ford would tell the same jokes at breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and late night affairs. He was fond of saying that ‘If I tell that joke one more time, the Secret Service Agents will ‘stroke’ out’. He was correct. To say that his jokes and their delivery were terrible is an understatement! We endured the torture every day for weeks on end.”
In ’76, Painter was assigned to Ronald Reagan as he began his run to the presidency. Looking back, Painter identifies Reagan as one of his favorite “protectees”. “I really enjoyed my time with Reagan. He was such a respectful, amicable guy; all of us really enjoyed just being around him. While Ronald Reagan campaigned around the nation, my assignment was to secure the perimeter of his primary residence; control access; and, x-ray all mail and packages sent to his Pacific Palisades CA home. The USSS placed a mobile office in Reagan’s front drive. This assignment lasted almost nine months. When Ronald & Nancy Reagan would return to their home, they would always spend time in our “office trailer”. The future President would tell us stories of his previous life as a movie star. He had played a Secret Service Agent in the Code of the Secret Service (1939). Most people don’t know this, but Ronald Reagan always slept with a pistol under his pillow, just in case someone was able to penetrate our security. He would laugh and say that even if someone got through all of the security, they weren’t going to get past him. Needless to say, he was very popular with the Secret Service Agents.”
There were times that Painter also had to worry about himself in the course of performing his duties. Sometimes he was forced to face his fears, and other times, he was able to luckily avoid the situations altogether. “In 1978, I was assigned to Protect President Jimmie Carter during his highly publicized visit to the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Middletown PA. Radiation had leaked from the damaged unit, and I was concerned about my own personal safety. I dreaded visiting that site. Just before I arrived at the Nuclear Power Plant, some “crazy” in nearby Harrisburg threatened the President’s life and I had to divert into the city and interview him. It may well have been my longest interview of record. I made that interview so long that President Carter had come and gone from Three Mile Island by the time I had finished. I have always felt good about missing that assignment!”
His ability to travel abroad had a profound effect on Painter. Both the travels internationally and domestically, all of them left an indelible mark on him. “In 1982, I was assigned to President Ronald Reagan on his trip to Korea and Japan. We flew in a C-141 Cargo Plane and were re-fueled in mid- air. The C-141s were used to transport the motorcade, fuel truck, electrical generating equipment, telecommunications gear and Secret Service Personnel. The President takes everything with him when he travels abroad. Re-fueling in mid- air was a bumpy, heart stopping experience. Upon arrival in Korea, the Korean Government had positioned thousands of school children along the route from the airport to the hotel, all waving American and Korean Flags. All buildings along the route had been evacuated; folks had been removed with threat of imprisonment. I couldn’t help thinking how much easier our job would be in the USA if our routes could be cleared like this.” And as Painter returned to the States, the world that they operated was a stark contrast to other parts of the country. “What I noticed overall is that I would be traveling with the President one week in the best hotels in the world. Then next week I’m working the slums on a counterfeit case. The disparity between the top and the bottom was so profound. These people live the lives of kings and queens and it’s hard for them to relate to us. I noticed that a lot. The rich and the poor; it was astounding.”
As one might imagine, the travel and adventure were one part of the job; and the boredom was yet another. Countless hours standing around simply watching people or investigating threats that go nowhere are a side of the industry that, while necessary, can wear an agent down. Ingrid begins, “During the whole time that he traveled Lloyd and I couldn’t plan anything. We never knew when he would have to take off again. Later on when they got sophisticated, if it was a big enough of a threat, you went.” Lloyd adds, “At Christmastime, I remember going to the airport and watching all these families going on vacation and then I’d realize that I’m going to work. It got hard. We had Jana (the Painter’s only daughter) in ‘72. I would travel for 3 weeks and then be in the office for 3 weeks. It became very hard. Presidents would go on vacation for months and that would mean I was gone for months.”
That time spent with the families also enabled a lot of interaction. Some good, and some bad interactions. While Painter couldn’t go into great detail about the identity of some of the subjects of his stories, he could still tell us a few. “During the first 20 years, I was assigned, at various times, to protect the family members of all of our Protectees. Family member protection is a very delicate operation. If the family member has a problem with the Secret Service Agent, he or she will go directly to “daddy” and complain. Some of the family members were extremely hard to deal with. While protecting the young teenage daughter of a former President at an exclusive summer tennis camp, the “First Teenager” was fond of sneaking out of the dorm and hiding from the agents. Not a good situation to be in. I certainly didn’t want to be the agent that lost the First Teenager! Other “First Children” would do things that their parents would not approve of, but the Secret Service Agents had to look the other way. The daughter of a former President was fond of using language only heard at truck stops, sometimes just to embarrass the Secret Service Agents. Needless to say, it was fun a lot of the time, and other times, it was exhausting.”
One of the more intriguing aspects of Painter’s responsibilities was that of “threat investigation.” Every threat every day is investigated. Every single one. As one might imagine, that caseload is staggering for the Secret Service. “The investigations into the threats were the biggest part of our job. Every single threat must be investigated, and then they’re forever in a file. Even the ones that were deemed harmless. If that person ever shows up at an event, they are declined entrance. In the 90’s I had a convicted murderer who got out on parole. He was strong as an ox and dumb as a tree. He threatened a president. He was in one of our categories where we watched him all the time. The president was coming to his town, so a few days before he arrived I showed up and made contact with the subject. I would take him to steakhouses, football games, anywhere. It was a nice way to keep them occupied. It was just part of the job. So much goes on that the public never sees and is necessary for the safety.”
As Painter progressed in his career, he was given the opportunity to perform in some different capacities. “The Secret Service is a premier Federal Law Enforcement Agency. As such, its agents are issued handguns, automatic weapons, shotguns, and other weapons. Agents must be proficient in all issued weapons and so training is of paramount concern. I had the great opportunity of being trained as a Secret Service Firearms Instructor and for many years, I ran the Secret Service Weapons Re-Qualification program at the field office. From 1992 to 1997, I was assigned to the San Francisco Field Office. During that time frame, I was selected to be one of five Regional Recruiters that focused on Minority Recruiting for the entire USSS. My territory included the ten Western States. My assignment was to locate qualified minority applicants, interview them, and make them aware of career opportunities with the USSS. I would then begin the screening process. To accomplish this, I attended Minority Job Fairs throughout the Western US; I frequented College and University campuses; I guest lectured at College and University Criminal Justice Classes; I volunteered to speak at Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, etc. All in all, it was a very rewarding assignment and a great way to end my 28 year career in the USSS.”
The Painter’s daughter Jana had since moved to the San Antonio area and, while the Painters had always assumed they would retire in California, they were open to the idea of moving to the Hill Country to be closer to her. “We had been coming here since about 2000 visiting the area. We decided it would be nice to live closer. Tara found Comanche Trace on the internet and they were having a tour of homes. We came and looked around and really liked it. We actually bought this lot that weekend from Leslie Spencer.” Since transplanted here, the Painters couldn’t be happier. “We are so happy to be here. We love the views and the entire community. We planned to retire in California, but we were going back and forth. In 06 we began construction and moved to San Antonio as we got the house going. Kelli and Glinn White of White Construction built our home and they did the most amazing job. We are best friends with the Whites now. Kelli is a builder but a decorator too, and that was just great to have. We trusted their opinion so much. We aren’t huge golfers, but we have made so many wonderful friends. Ingrid is on the board of the League of Woman Voters and we have become involved in so many things in the community. Trevor (Hyde) is a magnificent administrator, and the entire community is going in the right direction. From my career to retiring here, I know we just couldn’t be happier.”