Colonel Hiram C. Whitley (August 6, 1834 – April 19, 1919) was the second Chief of the United States Secret Service.

Hiram C. Whitley
Hiram C. Whitley.jpg
2nd Chief of the U.S. Secret Service
In office
1869 (1869) – 1875 (1875)
PresidentUlysses S. Grant
Preceded byWilliam P. Wood
Succeeded byElmer Washburn
Personal details
Born(1834-08-06)August 6, 1834
Camden, Maine, U.S.
DiedApril 19, 1919(1919-04-19) (aged 84)
Emporia, Kansas, U.S.

Early lifeEdit

Whitley was born in Camden, Maine on August 6, 1834 to Dr William Whitley, a Glasgow-born doctor and surgeon, and Hannah D. McCoombs, a Maine local. In 1840, his family moved to Lake County, Ohio, where he became a pupil at the Western Reserve Teachers' Seminary,[1] a Mormon teaching school in Kirtland.[2]

Leaving school at the age of fifteen, he became a drover for two years, after which he moved to Massachusetts where he worked for his uncle in the fishing industry at Gloucester. In 1856, Whitley married Catherine Webster (Katie) Bates of Cambridge; they subsequently had two daughters, Katie and Sabra. The following year, the Whitleys moved to the recently founded Lawrence, Kansas, where he worked in the grocery trade. In 1859, being drawn to Pike's Peak Gold Rush, Whitley sold out of his grocery business and moved to Colorado, where he failed to strike gold. Moving on, the Whitleys settled in New Orleans, with Whitley working the Red River as a steamboatman.[1][3][4]

Civil WarEdit

In the year from April 1861, when the Civil War commenced, through to April 1862, Whitley continued to work the Red River. He professed some sympathy for the Confederacy, and drilled with local companies without seeing active service. He was on the Starlight at Shreveport, 700 miles (1,100 km) from New Orleans when it was seized by a Confederate committee, who aimed to use it to blockade the river against Yankee forces. Having heard of the Union Army's April 25 capture of New Orleans,[1][3][4] Whitley, the "mulatto" second cook, and another "liberty loving African", stole the steamer's yawl. Travelling mainly by night, they reached New Orleans in seven days.[1],[5]:25–26

There, Whitley reported to Major General B.F. Butler. Butler referred him to the provost-marshal of the Department of the Gulf, Colonel Jonas H. French, who employed Whitley as a detective.[6]:21

Whitley declined an offer of a captaincy in the Fifth Louisiana Regiment by the General in charge of New Orleans's defence, William H. Emory. Instead, he was appointed as a Major in the Seventh Louisiana Regiment.[1][3][4]

U.S. Secret ServiceEdit

Whitley was appointed Director of the United States Secret Service by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1869, four years after its inception. Under Whitley, the Secret Service introduced criminal files, a written Code of Conduct, and an official badge for its agents.[7][8] Whitley, whose successful arrest of 12 Klansmen in Georgia for the murder of a leading local Republican official had led to his appointment by Grant, used talented detectives who infiltrated and broke up KKK units in North Carolina and Alabama. However they could not penetrate the main hotbed of KKK activity in upstate South Carolina. Grant sent in Army troops but Whitley's agents learned that KKK members were lying low until the troops were withdrawn. Informed of this by Whitley, Grant's Attorney General Amos T. Akerman convinced Grant to declare martial law and send in US marshals backed by federal troops to arrest 500 Klansmen; hundred more fled the state, and hundreds of others surrendered in return for leniency.[9][10]

Whitley was allegedly part of the so-called 1874 safe burglary conspiracy. He resigned as Director (being succeeded by Elmer Washburn) and faced trial for conspiracy, which ended with a hung jury.[8][11][12] The DC Supreme Court subsequently found the grand jury which indited Whitley and others to have been illegally drawn, and the Attorney-General ordered nolle prosequi for the case.[13]

Later lifeEdit

He retired to Emporia, Kansas where he became a leading businessman.

Whitley died aged 84 in Emporia on April 19, 1919, from an "inflammation of the bladder".[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  2. ^ Annals of Cleveland 1818-1835. 25. 1842. pp. 117–18. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Cutler, William G. (1883). History of the State of Kansas. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Frank W. Blackmar, ed. (1912). Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  5. ^ Whitley, Hiram C. In It.
  6. ^ Memoirs of the United States Secret Service.
  7. ^ Jeffreys-Jones, Rhodri. The FBI: A History. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  8. ^ a b "In the 19th century, a different Secret Service, but not without controversy". Washington Post. October 1, 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  9. ^ Charles Lane, Freedom's Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan and the Man Who Masterminded America's First War on Terror (2019) pp 181-84.
  10. ^ Jerry West, The Reconstruction Ku Klux Klan in York County, South Carolina, 1865-1877 (2002).
  11. ^ "The Safe-Burglary". April 10, 1876. Retrieved 29 January 2016.[dead link]
  12. ^ "Journal of the bar association of the District of Columbia B". 1938: 280. Retrieved 21 April 2019. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ "The American Law Review". Little, Brown, and Company. 1875: 359. Retrieved 21 April 2019. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ "The Emporia State Research Studies". 1969. Retrieved 29 January 2016. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)


Government offices
Preceded by
William P. Wood
Chief, United States Secret Service
Succeeded by
Elmer Washburn