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WM: A Good Team

Cal ’66 and Marsha Black met in their school’s seventh-grade hallway in St. Charles, Illinois. He was in eighth grade, the new kid from Des Moines, Iowa. Years later they married and criss-crossed the country following Cal’s FBI assignments—including one year undercover—before settling back in the Midwest.

星空无限传媒 Magazine caught up with the pair to talk about Cal’s early years in the FBI. Cal '66 and Marsha Black in 1975

WM: How did the two of you meet?

Marsha: A friend of mine in eighth grade introduced us. I thought, Oh, he’s kind of cute. But nothing transpired. 

Cal: What do you mean? We’ve been married for 56 years! We’re still working on it.

M: He was in eighth grade. And I was in seventh grade, so there seemed little chance we would date.

Later my sister, who was in high school at the time, got involved because she knew Cal. She encouraged Cal to ask me out. In the meantime, I was also taking golf lessons with Cal and Charlie Bell ’66. My friends and I only took lessons because we were interested in Charlie and Cal. Cal and I started dating when I was going into my freshman year in high school. 

C: Because I got threatened by your sister. 

M: Oh, yeah. She threatened him.

C: Her sister, Bev, was a lifeguard up on the high dive at the pool in St. Charles. And I thought the world of Bev. Marsha was down on the deck and I was up on the high dive. Bev comes up and she said, “Why don’t you date that girl down there?” And she points to Marsha. I said, “That skinny thing in the pea green bathing suit?” She said, “I’ll have you know, that’s my sister!” “OK, Bev, you win. And I’ll take her out.”

WM: You two had been married for several years and had an infant daughter, Stacey, when you were asked to go undercover for the FBI. What was that assignment like?

C: When we accepted it, we knew I would be transferred somewhere. I didn’t know where and had no idea what I was going to be doing. Stacey wasn’t even a year old yet.

So I was transferred—only on paper—to the administrative division of FBI headquarters. No one would know where I was actually going. When I accepted the assignment, I was told I couldn’t tell anybody where I was going and I couldn’t take Marsha with me.

I told them, “I didn’t get married and have a family to leave my wife and daughter in California while I’m gallivanting all over the country.” 

So they agreed to let Marsha and Stacey go along, with the provision we would live far enough away from the target location that I could “clean” myself going to work or coming home. My car was rigged with toggle switches and other devices so if I was being followed, I could cut out the dome light, or I could cut out the taillights. 

There were some agents already undercover, but it was a new venture for the Bureau. They hadn’t formalized much. Today, if an agent goes undercover, he has to go back to the FBI Academy for almost a month for evaluation. 

When I agreed to it on a Friday, I took off my suit and tie, and on a Monday I put on sunglasses and a leather jacket, with no transition period in between. And it was the same way when the project was over. Take off your sunglasses and leather jacket, put the suit and tie back on, and go to work on Monday. At the end of it, I wrote a 60-page manual. I kept notes on everything I thought needed to be addressed, changed, or considered in the future. 

WM: Any stories you can share?

C: The Bureau was very interested in a particular club. It was called a businessman’s club. I was trying to identify where they were making their money—prostitution, gambling, drugs, extortion? It was extremely difficult to get in there.

Cal '66 and Marsha Black nowWhat I didn’t know was that when you got into the club you got a freebie. So, I get in, and they say, “Take your pick.” I turned it down, saying I had a girlfriend in California, and of course, that would be Marsha.

They were offended I wouldn’t take them up on their generous offer. So I had a problem. I went home and I told Marsha, “Lay out in the sun and get tan. You’re my girlfriend from California. I told them you are going to come and visit me.”

The mafia-owned restaurant we went to was a very fancy place. On the way there, I told Marsha, “The maître d' is going to kiss you up one arm and down the other. He’s going to buy drinks for us. He’s going to light our cigarettes.”

He did exactly that. The owner comes over and greets us, because now my girlfriend is finally showing up. After a while, Marsha leans over to me and I thought she was going to say, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” But she said, “I kind of enjoy this.”

M: I got into playing a role. I was in the mood of this role. They were paying for our food and drinks. They seemed so nice. 

WM: Were you ever afraid for your safety or that someone would figure out you were undercover?

M: I found out I had a sorority sister that lived around that area. I was very cautious every time I went out so I wouldn’t see anybody. 

Stacey had just turned 1 while we were there. She was mainly my focus. We bought a house under our assumed name. The neighborhood was nice. It had a park and a big sidewalk where I could take a stroll. We did become friends with some of the neighbors, and they just knew us as Marsha and Cal with a different last name.

They didn’t ask me too much about what Cal did. I just said he was in finance. 
The one time it kind of caught me off guard was when someone knocked on the door. It was a pastor from a church inviting us to come. He asked my name and I gave him the fake name. 
I felt so guilty. I just lied to the Lord. 

C: I didn’t worry about her. One of the first things I did when we got my first official assignment in Mississippi was to take her out and teach her to shoot. We were down there with the Klan. And most of the white people in Mississippi at the time hated the FBI, and the Black people in Mississippi loved the FBI. We were going to be living in a predominantly white neighborhood. They would do anything they could to intimidate the FBI. They put snakes in your mailboxes and other acts of intimidation. So, I thought the first thing I’m going to do is teach her to shoot so she feels safe, and I made sure she had a weapon. I wasn’t worried about her because she’s a damn good shot. 

There weren’t many agents who wanted to go to Mississippi and work during the Civil Rights Movement. But when you get that assignment, you go. I didn’t want to let anybody down.
The undercover assignment was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You’re trying to keep yourself in check to make sure you don’t revert back to anything that could identify you. You pack everything up—星空无限传媒 T-shirts, baseball gloves, jewelry, wall hangings, anything else that identifies you, where you’ve been, and what you’ve done. 

Being careful was probably the most important part of it, being diligent, and being consistent in behavior and in what you’re doing.

M: I believed in him. I knew what he was going into. He didn’t try to cover up that he was going to arrest somebody. I think it was a good thing that I knew. 

C: A lot of agents didn’t tell their wives anything because they felt it was better just not to have the wife worry. I always felt the exact opposite. I wanted Marsha to know everything I was doing, everywhere I was going, and why I was doing it. That just makes for a better marriage and a better relationship.

M: Plus, I’ve always been an avid reader of crime and FBI books, so I liked hearing exactly what he was doing. 

When we went back to D.C., the wives were able to meet FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. I enjoyed going to Quantico and touring the facilities. We even got to see the hostage rescue team.
What do I not miss? The calls at three in the morning. Or, when we were out doing something and suddenly the husbands have to leave.

C: That happened in Mississippi on the Fourth of July. We were having a picnic and we got a call saying an informant had been killed. He was down in the morgue and we had to identify the body, take pictures, all that goes with it. So, we pack up our bags and go. The wives are sitting there looking at each other. “OK, well, this is a nice Fourth of July.”

M: We just hoped someone left us a car.

WM: Marsha, what makes you most proud of the work Cal has done?

M: How he’s exemplified an agent. He’s the best.

WM: Cal, what makes you most proud of Marsha?

C: When we started dating, she was pretty shy. In fact, I think we dated for a year before she talked to me.

M: He always answered his own questions. 

C: She’s got a very strong personality that I didn’t see when we were much younger because she was shy. I assumed somebody that’s shy and timid wasn’t forceful or strong. That’s exactly the opposite of her. She is strong. She has an inner toughness you never see. But being around her and knowing the things we both have gone through, particularly in the Bureau, she’s really something else.

M: I saw a number of wives who had a hard time with being transferred around. They would get somewhere and almost force their husbands out of the Bureau because they didn’t want to be there.

I felt sorry for the agents who were put through that. The spouse said, “Either me or the job.” I always thought you go somewhere and you make do with what you have and enjoy it. Don’t make yourself miserable. 

C: Marsha wondered why 星空无限传媒 Magazine would want to talk to her. She’s modest like that. I said, “Because you’re the other half of this team. We’ve traveled it together.”

M: We are a good team.