Secret Service agent in iconic LBJ photos, Lem Johns, dies

Secret Service agent in iconic LBJ photos, Lem Johns, dies

Johns’ son, Jeff, and grandson Mike also have served in the Secret Service

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding and informative! May 21, 2013

By Vince Palamara


I was quite impressed with this movie/ dvd- great use of films and photos, many of which are previously unreleased, as well as the obvious love and care put into this production. This is an informative, moving tribute to the esteemed former Secret Service agent Thomas L “Lem” Johns. In addition to lengthy, thought-provoking interviews with the man himself, we are also treated to interviews with Lem’s wife of over 65 years, Nita, as well as former agents Joseph Novak and Terry Oden.

Known for his presence in Dealey Plaza on 11/22/63 when JFK was assassinated, Johns offers some surprising and interesting revelations about exactly where he thought the shots were coming from that day, as well as the notion that he was allegedly the “agent” of unknown repute on the knoll. In addition, we learn about Lem’s pre-agency career as an Alcohol and Tax (later known as the ATF) agent, as well as his illustrious Secret Service career protecting Ike, Nixon, JFK, and, of course, LBJ. There is much to learn and admire in this entertaining presentation, an obvious labor of love for the producer (s).

As well as his own legacy, Lem’s son Jeff served 20 years in the Secret Service and now works for the Department of Homeland Security, while Lem’s grandson Michael has been in the Secret Service for over 15 years now; impressive. I spoke to Lem on the phone in 2004 and I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the living legacy he has bestowed upon the agency. There have been Johns in the Secret Service since the 1950’s!

You can do no wrong in purchasing this extremely well done dvd. I am very glad I did!


Thomas Lemuel “Lem” Johns Obituary Guest Book “Nita and family, I’m so sorry for your loss!Thomas Lemuel “Lem” Johns, age 88, passed away peacefully the afternoon of Saturday, May 10, 2014. Lem was the son of Dr. Lemuel Jefferson Johns and Mattie Lucille Creel. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in Norwood and Roebuck . Lem attended Woodlawn High School, was a member of the Woodlawn Hall of Fame and graduated in 1943. He served in World War II as an Aviation Cadet with the U.S. Naval Air Corps from 1943 to 1947. Lem attended the University of Alabama where he studied law, was a member of the Delta Chi Fraternity, and met Nita Parker, the love of his life and eventual wife. He joined the City of Birmingham and served as a firefighter until 1950, when he returned to Howard College (now Samford University) where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree. After graduating from college, he joined the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as a criminal investigator in 1952, where he was a force to be reckoned with during the moonshine era. In 1954, Lem joined the U.S. Secret Service and served in the Birmingham, Atlanta, and Chicago offices. He served in the White House during the last two years of President Eisenhower’s term and then with President Nixon. He served as the Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge on Vice President’s Lyndon Johnson’s detail and was in Dallas on the fateful day in history when President Kennedy was shot. He is seen in the famous photo of President Johnson being sworn in on Air Force One, directly behind Mrs. Kennedy. In 1965, Lem became Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division, also known as the President’s Detail. In 1967, he became the Assistant Director of Protective Forces where he implemented and oversaw improvements to the Secret Service. Lem was known in the Secret Service for his “get things done” mentality. In 1969, Lem moved back to Birmingham, to be near family, where he became the Special Agent in Charge of the Birmingham Field Office. Lem remained in this position until he retired in 1976. He was a legend in Secret Service lore and was followed in the Service by his son Jeff, who protected President’s Ford, Carter and Reagan and now by his grandson, Michael, who has protected President’s Bush and Obama. After retiring from the USSS, Lem went on to serve as the Executive Officer and Special Assistant to Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Joseph Califano, from 1977-1980. Lem and Nita lived in the Inverness community where he was instrumental in spearheading the formation of the Shelby Co. Salvation Army. Lem was also active in the Veterans of WWII group and the Woodlawn High School Alumni group. He has received many awards over his career, both in the Secret Service and private sector. He was a much sought after speaker for many groups in both the Jefferson County and Shelby County areas. He was active in his Veterans of WWII group and always stood proudly on their Veterans Day float in the Birmingham parade. He and Nita were active in the Woodlawn High School Alumni group and never failed to miss a luncheon. All who met Lem would describe him as a true gentleman. He treated everyone with respect and dignity no matter their race, gender, occupation or education. He was kind, caring, loving, generous, and honorable to all. He stood boldly for what is just and right with the full shield of God’s grace at his side. He gave to those in need and felt that it was his privilege and honor to speak for those with no voice or resources. His sense of duty was deep, clear, and forthright. Lem is survived by his wife of 67 years, Nita Parker Johns, one son, Joseph Jefferson Johns, 3 grandchildren, Michael, Jill, and Brent, 5 great grandchildren, and a host of loving nieces and nephews. Visitation will be Tuesday, May 13 at Johns-Ridout’s Elmwood Chapel from 5:30 – 7:30PM. The memorial service will be Wednesday, May 14 at 11:00AM at the Elmwood Chapel followed by burial in Elmwood Cemetery. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Wounded Warrior Project. Donations can be mailed to Wounded Warrior Project , P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, Kansas 66675 or made online at – See more at:
His son, Jeff, was on President Ronald Reagan’s Secret Service detail, and his grandson Michael was on the detail for President George W. Bush and for President Obama until 2010.

When Mrs. Johnson died in Texas in July 2007, Mr. Johns represented President George W. Bush in paying respects as she lay in repose.

About vincepalamara

Vincent Palamara was born in Pittsburgh and graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in Sociology. Although not even born when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Vince brings fresh eyes to an old case. In fact, Vince would go on to study the largely overlooked actions - and inactions - of the United States Secret Service in unprecedented detail, as well as achieving a world's record in the process, having interviewed and corresponded with over 80 former agents (the House Select Committee on Assassinations had the old record of 46 with a 6 million dollar budget and subpoena power from Congress), not to mention many surviving family members, White House aides, and even quite a few Parkland and Bethesda medical witnesses for a corresponding project. The result was Survivor's Guilt: The Secret Service & The Failure To Protect President Kennedy. Vince is also the author of the books JFK: From Parkland To Bethesda, The Not-So-Secret Service, Who's Who in the Secret Service, and Honest Answers about the Murder of President John F. Kennedy: A New Look at the JFK Assassination. All told, Vince has been favorably mentioned in over 140 JFK and Secret Service related books to date (including two whole chapters in Murder in Dealey Plaza, The Secret Service: The Hidden History Of An Enigmatic Agency by Philip Melanson, and the Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board, among many others), often at length, in the bibliographies, and in the Secret Service - and even medical evidence - areas of these works. Vince has appeared on the History Channel's THE MEN WHO KILLED KENNEDY (VHS and DVD), C-SPAN, Newsmax TV, A COUP IN CAMELOT (DVD/BLU RAY), KING KILL '63, THE MAN BEHIND THE SUIT (DVD), National Geographic's JFK: THE FINAL HOURS (including on DVD), PCN, BPTV, local cable access television, YouTube, radio, newspapers, print journals, at national conferences, and all over the internet. Also, Vince's original research materials, or copies of said materials, are stored in the National Archives (by request under Deed Of Gift by the ARRB), the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Harvard University, the Assassination Archives and Research Center, and the Dallas Public Library. Vince Palamara has become known (as he was dubbed by the History Channel in 2003) "the Secret Service expert." As former JFK Secret Service agent Joe Paolella proclaimed: "You seem to know a lot about the Secret Service, maybe even more than I do!" Agent Dan Emmett calls Vince a Secret Service expert in his new book.
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