Born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, Doris Rogers dreamed of becoming a teacher. In 1958, she enrolled in St. Augustine’s University (formerly St. Augustine’s College), graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Education, then worked several years at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Rogers remains a trailblazer who launched an entirely different career as the first Black female special agent with the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).
It all began in 1969, when Rogers decided to pursue a career with the federal government in Washington, D.C., and joined the Department of State as a clerk typist. It was from that position that Rogers joined DSS, then called the Office of Security, and became the first female Black special agent. She served there for the remainder of her esteemed government career spanning a total of 33 years.
Rogers noted during a recent interview with DSS Public Affairs that “shortly after Patti Morton, the first female special agent was hired, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office George Spoth encouraged me to apply to be an agent as well.” She applied and earned the title of special agent as an 1811 (career Civil Service) working in an investigative role, primarily conducting personnel investigations.
“Back then training was very local,” said Rogers. “There were no indoor firing ranges, only outdoor ranges. We did our firearms training at Quantico,” referring to the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia. Special Agent Rogers later received training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Georgia.
Although her career did not involve overseas assignments like most current DSS special agents, she did travel throughout the United States on numerous protection details. During one memorable assignment, Special Agent Rogers protected one of President Jimmy Carter’s special guests, a woman from South America whom the president personally invited to attend a concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., during the president’s inauguration in 1977. Rogers fondly recalled some of her special assignments, including a unique detail to protect visiting dignitaries from China.
“I was selected to travel with the Chinese Delegation on a lengthy trip spanning eight or nine U.S. cities, including a visit to an oil rig in the Gulf outside of New Orleans. The trip ended in San Francisco,” Rogers stated.
Rogers also reflected upon her time working with Special Agent Patti Morton and remembered a photo that showed them holding their clutch purses, which held
their duty weapons while on assignment. Special Agent Morton’s purse is now part of the National Museum of American Diplomacy’s DSS collection of artifacts.
“Patti and I worked well together,” Rogers noted, reflecting on that period of her career when women in law enforcement were limited.
Special Agent Rogers rose steadily through the ranks of DSS, serving as a unit supervisor in the Washington Field Office, then as an evaluator. She eventually became an adverse-action adjudicator, a position she held until she retired in 2002, which meant she was working in the Washington, D.C., area during the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
“I was in SA-10 in Washington, D.C., then the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) headquarters, when the plane hit the Pentagon on September 11, 2001,” said Rogers. “It was rumored that the State Department could be the next target, so we evacuated the building.”
Rogers highlighted her interaction with colleagues, conducting investigations, and supervising her staff as the things she most enjoyed during her DSS career. Rogers fondly remarked that she always introduced herself to the new agents starting their careers with DSS and enjoyed watching those young agents mature and grow. One of them was a young special agent named Mark Danzig, who currently serves as the senior advisor for peer support and DS Peer Support Group Director.
“Special Agent Rogers always provided a lot of guidance to young agents when we were in the Washington Field Office,” said Danzig. “She went around, introduced herself to everybody, and made herself available if there were any questions—even if it wasn’t her unit.”
When asked what it was like being a young Black woman serving as a special agent in a White, male-dominated career field during the early 1970s, Rogers replied: “First of all, as a woman, I didn’t feel any differently, and I got the same assignments that everyone else received. I don’t think there was any difference in the types of assignments given—and the same thing was true my being a black woman. I felt I was supported by everyone who was there. They did everything to help me succeed.”
As the interview ended, Rogers was asked to recall one particular memory she had of her time with DSS. She reiterated that she did not encounter any negativity with any of her assignments nor the people with whom she worked. “DSS was an excellent place to work and there were good people throughout,” she concluded.