Secret Service Code Names: Eagle, Renegade, Monarch and other Presidential Monikers
As many Americans already know, all United States Presidents, former presidents, First Ladies, other First Family members, and even presidential candidates are protected by the Secret Service. This highly trained group of security operatives are tasked with keeping eyes and ears open to threats at all times. What some may not know is that since the late-1940s, the people protected by the group have been given specific Secret Service code names to be used over radio channels and etc.
Some of these Secret Service code names came from very specific references to the presidents and their families, while others were picked seemingly at random. However all have become part of American history.
Harry Truman was the first U.S. President to receive a Secret Service code name, “General.” Oddly, Truman himself never attained the rank of general while in the military. Perhaps there was a bit was wish-fulfillment going on?
Dwight Eisenhower is an anomaly on our list, as he had not one, but two Secret Service code names. During his two terms in office, Ike was referred to as “Providence” by his security detail. Upon his retirement from public life, Eisenhower had his code name changed to “Scorecard.” Why “Scorecard”? Simply put, Eisenhower loved to play golf in his golden years.
For the 1036 days that John Kennedy was president, the Secret Service’s code name for him was “Lancer.” This became an unintentional but well-known part of the Kennedy legend after his assassination when Jackie Kennedy eulogized her husband in Look magazine using lyrics from the Broadway show Camelot. Camelot became a catch-all romanticized nickname for the whole Kennedy-era, and the similarity between “Lancer” and lead character Sir Lancelot was noticed by many.
In keeping with the Camelot theme that she helped develop, Jackie Kennedy herself was known as “Lace.” In addition, the code name is an appropriate one for the fashion icon Jackie ‘O.
Vice President-turned-President Lyndon Johnson was referred to as “Volunteer” by his Secret Service detail. The meaning of the name has never been revealed, but it was appropriate given the way Johnson became president – assuming the position after the assassination of JFK – and his emphasis on social volunteer programs.
There’s a bit of mystery as to how Richard Nixon came to be known by the code name “Searchlight” among the Secret Service, as there seems to be no symbolic or pithy meaning to it. However, the name did become famously ironic as Nixon’s downfall was predicated by a metaphorical light being shone on various misdeeds.
In step with her husband’s code name, First Lady Pat Nixon was referred t0 as “Starlight.” As we’ll see, the code names of First Ladies and First Family members are often thematically linked to the president’s.
Considering the fact that Jimmy Carter taught Sunday School before, during, and after his time as President of the United States, it’s perfectly fitting that his Secret Service code name was famously “Deacon.” To keep up the alliteration, First Lady Rosalynn Carter was given the code name “Dancer”, while their daughter Amy was “Dynamo.”
Prior to his political career, Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood actor, specifically well known for his work in Western films. Reagan would often reference his acting days on the campaign trail during the 1980 presidential election, making it an integral part of his image. When Reagan became president, he was given the code name “Rawhide” in reference to this cowboy image.
George H.W. Bush
George H.W. Bush had the incredibly cool code name “Timberwolf.” It’s not 100% confirmed where the name came from, but given Bush’s past as the director of the CIA, it seems quite appropriate that his moniker sounds like something out of a Cold War-era spy novel.
Upon his election in 1992, Bill Clinton was given the code name “Eagle.” This was partially due to the eagle’s importance as an American cultural symbol (the bald eagle, “The Eagle has landed”, etc.) as well as Clinton’s predilection to talking about his time as an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America while on the campaign trail.
As we’ve seen, the First Lady is almost always given a code name that begins with the same letter as her husband’s, which explains why Bill “Eagle” Clinton’s wife Hillary Clinton was given the moniker “Evergreen.” Little did anyone know how prescient it was, as Clinton kept the code name throughout her evergreen career in politics, through her 2016 presidential campaign.
George W. Bush
Like Dwight Eisenhower, George W. Bush had two Secret Service code names. While his father was president, the younger Bush was referred to as “Tumbler.” This was both a reference to his days as a cheerleader, as well as his well-chronicled drinking problem. By the time Bush was a candidate, then president, the “Tumbler” name was retired due to its drinking connotations and replaced with “Trailblazer.”
As opposed to her husband’s more aggressive code name, First Lady Barbara Bush was given the code name “Tranquility.” According to Agent Jonathan Wackrow, the name “exemplified her demeanor and its calming, humanizing and gentle effect on those around her.”
When Barack Obama first received a Secret Service detail, he – like most modern presidents – was given a pre-approved list of code names beginning with R to choose from. He decided to have the Secret Service refer to him as “Renegade,” a reference to the initial view of him as a candidate outside mainstream politics at the time.
In keeping with tradition, the Obama family also had code names that began with R: First Lady Michelle Obama chose the name “Renaissance” in reference to her numerous and varied initiatives. The Obama children were referred to as “Radiance” (Malia) and “Rosebud” (Sasha).
While on the campaign trail, Donald Trump joked that he would be going with “Humble” as his Secret Service code name. Instead, Trump goes with “Mogul“, a reference to his image as a successful businessman.
First Lady Melania Trump goes by “Muse.” The name begins with “M” as per tradition, and serves as a reference to Menalia’s longtime career as a fashion model.
Vide President Mike Pence uses the name “Hoosier” as his Secret Service code name. This should come as no surprise, as the former Indiana governor’s midwestern routes were a major part of his political appeal. Pence’s wife Karen goes by Hummingbird.
Vice President and multiple-time presidential candidate Joe Biden has used the code name “Celtic” each time he’s been under Secret Service protection. The name, as should be obvious, is a reference to Biden’s Irish heritage. Jill Biden goes by “Capri.”
2020 VP Nominee goes by “Pioneer” to her Secret Service detail. The reasoning here is pretty obvious: Harris is the first Black woman and the first Indian American woman to ever be part of a major party ticket for president.
Owing in part to Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 assignation while on the campaign trail, presidential candidates who move far ahead enough in the race are offered Secret Service protection. In 2016, Sanders accepted the protection and was given the code name “Intrepid.” He turned down offer in 2020, so we’re unsure if he would have stuck with the same moniker.
The Trump Children
The Trump children have been very different than any other previous first family, as all of them have taken on active roles in the Trump Administration. However, one tradition that remained the same: They all have Secret Service code names that share the same first letters as their parents. Donald Trump Jr. goes by “Mountaineer“, Eric Trump is“Marksman”, Ivanka Trump goes by “Marvel”, while her husband Jared Kushner is known as “Mechanic”.
2008 Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin went by “Denali” to the Secret Service. The name references the highest mountain peak in North America, which not so coincidently is located in Alaska, the state where Palin lived and served as governor from 2006 to 2009.
2012 presidential candidate senator Mitt Romney used the code name “Javelin” during his campaign. The reasons were two-fold: First, the Javelin was a model of car sold by Romney’s father’s company American Motors (and once driven by Romney himself), and secondly, it was a reference to Romney’s work with the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Former vice presidential candidate and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan used “Bowhunter” as his code name with the Secret Service, since he is an avid fan of the sport. He’s even appeared on the cover of Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine… yes, really.
Former VP Dick Cheney went by “Angler” through his years in the White House. Cheney biographer Barton Gellman explained, “Obviously, Cheney is an avid fisherman. I thought it was a metaphor for the way he works. He tends to approach the levers of power obliquely. He doesn’t like to… have an overt public role. He finds his way to the place where decisions are made and often doesn’t leave many signs of his presence.”
2016 Republican candidate Ben Carson went with the code name “Eli.” The moniker was both a nod to his college days, as a Yale University graduate is sometimes referred to as Eli after the founder, Elihu Yale, and also Eli the Biblical figure.
During Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, the candidate would often crack a joke that “Al Gore is so boring, his Secret Service code name is Al Gore.” However, in actuality, Gore had not one, but two code names. As Vice President, Gore was known as “Sawhorse” and “Sundance” during his presidential run.
2008 Republican nominee John McCain was dubbed “Phoenix“. While this was obviously a reference to the capital of McCain’s home state of Arizona, it was also a subtle reference to McCain’s history as a prisoner of war and previous failed attempt to win the Republican nomination.