Mullings: Cheating Death penned by Kenneth Valentine, a retired Secret Service agent with Todd County roots
By Carolyn L. Wells

Posted on May 6, 2024 11:55 AM

Guest columnist Carolyn L. Wells is a retired Todd County English teacher who is a leader in collecting Todd County history. She has written countless articles and columns for the Todd County Standard newspaper.

Visualize for a few minutes being the relative of a Todd Countian who served over 30 years as a Todd County magistrate. That gentleman, the late Joseph Newton “Papa Joe” Hadden, left his highly respected name on Hadden Mill Road, a testament to the impact Mr. Hadden and his farm had on north Todd County. Those who know more about Mr. Hadden will recall he was a dedicated member of Providence Methodist Church, typically loading up a horse and buggy on Sunday afternoons and providing flour and meat for those less fortunate, pulling the latter from his own two-story smokehouse to help those in need.

Visualize, too, a young man being the son of a now retired agent of the FBI, Walt Valentine of Franklin, Tenn., and having as his mother, Annette Hadden Valentine, author of a published trilogy honoring Mrs. Valentine family’s history. That individual with connections to all three is Kenneth Morris Valentine, the great-grandson of the late “Papa Joe” Hadden, and the only son of Walt and Annette Hadden Valentine.

Earning an undergraduate degree from Purdue University as well as a law degree from the Mississippi College School of Law, Ken Valentine worked 10 years as a Secret Service Special Agent in the Presidential Protective Division, shielding three sitting Presidents including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Retiring from his last position in 2020 after 24 total years in the Secret Service, Ken is now involved in corporate security and operational risk consulting.

On April 16, 2024, Ken debuted Cheating Death, a book described by his uncle, Dr. Hal Hadden of Brentwood, as pulling “‘together the most timely and necessary words of wisdom we need to hear right now—for such a time as this. This book is the one-stop shop for you to know how to ‘cheat death’ in your life beginning today.’”

Ken describes “cheating death” as a term used by agents to protect those whom others are likely wanting to “see dead.” Thus, through the extraordinary efforts of the Secret Service agents, attempts on the lives of those individuals under their watchful and ever-present guard are thwarted as their myriad talents and skills are used to complete the 24/7/365 mission of protecting those individuals.

Ken also shares with his audience a mixture of his life stories, revealing in one chapter how his wife of over thirty years also “cheated death,” as she has battled breast cancer and all that entails. Ken and Sandra, parents of three sons and two daughters, also understand the importance of relying upon God, His Word, and our faith in Him as we face, have faced, or will face hurdles in life that may seem unbearable.

In another chapter, Ken shares with the reader a letter he penned to his three sons, whom he has lovingly dubbed his three “Musketeers.” He also describes his five children as “amazing children who are in various stages of artistic, military, entrepreneurial, academic and athletic pursuits.” Again, as evident in all of his book, we detect the recurring strong faith and Bible knowledge so much a dominant force in the Valentine, Hadden, and Morris families, the latter two families still prominent names in Todd County.

A radio show host, a former law enforcement officer, and a now retired Secret Service agent, Dan Bongino shared, “‘Cheating Death is a masterpiece about leadership and perspective in a difficult world. His stories from his time in the Secret Service are overlayed with leadership and life lessons he learned, in a way readers will embrace and appreciate.’”

John Walsh, well-known as a television host and also co-founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, added, “Ken is a tenacious, seasoned advocate standing for all that is right and good. Cheating Death will give you a colorful look behind the scenes of his storybook career. He will challenge your assumptions and inspire you to step up.”

Anyone reading Cheating Death will point out Ken skillfully weaves together events from his years as a Secret Service agent as well as experiences in his personal life, presenting to the reader a unique blend of true-to-life events revealing the extraordinary resilience, reliance, and faith Ken, his wife Sandra, and their family have in God and in God’s Word. A reader will also note Ken’s perceptive abilities to glean events from his past to reinforce to others the interconnections that life presents as we meet hurdles in our own lives, relying strongly upon God, His Word, and those He places in our lives.

Unsurprisingly because of his unwavering faith, Ken reminds us early in his book, “You can cheat death without joining the Secret Service. The promise to the followers of Jesus Christ is that they will never taste death.” Those words reflect 1 Corinthians 15:55 – “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is your sting.” Those words are also reflective of the British poet John Donne in Donne’s sonnet, “Death Be Not Proud.” In that sonnet, Donne reminds us, “One short sleep past, we wake eternally And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”

Those words by both the apostle Paul and Donne are ones clearly embedded in the life story and beliefs of Ken Valentine and his family. Copies of Cheating Death are available on Amazon. Ken’s website at also provides additional information about his background and opportunities to book him for speaking events.



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