SKILLMAN, N.J. – Patricia Beckford Acheson graduated in 1972 from Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a Bachelor of Arts in Art. While at Queens College, she served as captain of her tennis team and Senior Class Vice-President.
During her senior year in college, Patsy (inspired by a close family friend who was an FBI agent) approached the FBI for a position, but she learned that the FBI (and Secret Service) did not have any female agents. A year after this encounter, the FBI and Secret Service changed this policy and began admitting women to their ranks. Acheson seized this opportunity to become a trailblazer and pursue a career with the Secret Service, where her athletic abilities (developed through her involvement in tennis) helped her to land a position.
In 1974, Ms. Acheson was hired as the seventh female agent of the U.S. Secret Service. She spent her 20-year career in Washington, D.C., and retired from the Secret Service in 1994. From 1974-1979, she was assigned to the Washington Field Office, where her duties were both protective and investigative. She conducted criminal investigations involving counterfeiting, check forgery and intelligence cases. Being one of only a few female agents, Acheson was frequently called to work in an undercover capacity.
In addition to investigations, approximately half of her time in the Secret Service was spent providing protection for the President of the United States, Vice President, and other protectees of the Secret Service. During the 1979-80 campaign year, she traveled extensively on assignment with various Presidential candidates.
In 1979, Acheson was the first female agent assigned to the Vice Presidential Protective Division. For four years, she provided protection for Vice President Mondale and then Vice President George Bush during the Reagan administration. Bush was one of the most traveled protectees that the Secret Service had encountered up to that time. Acheson was accompanying Bush on Air Force Two the day President Reagan was shot. The Bush Secret Service detail, including Acheson, was put on terrorist alert and summoned for an immediate return to Washington, D.C., during this national crisis. On the lighter side, Acheson often accompanied President and Mrs. Bush on their daily fitness runs.
In 1983, Acheson was assigned to the Liaison Division, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Branch of the Secret Service. In addition to her Liaison duties, much of her time was spent providing protection for the President, Vice President and visiting foreign dignitaries.
In 1992, Acheson returned to the Washington Field Office, where she was assigned to the Special Investigations Squad, and spent two years in this position before retiring in 1994—only the second female agent to do so.
Since retiring, Ms. Acheson has focused on her roles as a full-time wife and mother. She is a Past President of the Queens College Alumnae Association in the Washington, D.C., area; and an active member of the Falls Church Presbyterian Church, presently serving as a Deacon.
Ms. Acheson resides in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband and 2 children and still plays tennis recreationally. She served as Captain of her local tennis team this season. Her fourteen-year-old daughter is following her mother’s passion for tennis as a member of her middle school tennis team.