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Former CIA employee Pamela Chase Hain lives in The Boardwalk in Moneta with husband and fellow ex-CIA officer, Peter.Photo by Elizabeth Hock
Auther Pamela Chase Hain's book about a former slave owner-turned-crusader was published in May. Photo by Elizabeth Hock
Friday, July 19, 2013
Intrigue, suspense, bribery, murder: Moneta author Pamela Chase Hain knows about such things. Her familiarity comes not from the time she spent working for the CIA, which coincided with the height of the Cold War, but from her own family tree.
Two of her ancestors are subjects of the historical biographies she’s written, the first penned about her great-grandfather, Dr. Thomas Wragg, when Hain was in her late 60s. The latest, “Murder in the State Capitol: The Biography of Lt. Col. Robert Augustus Alston (1832–1879),” was published in May.
If it’s possible to pass down a propensity for living an interesting life, Hain, 76, can thank her forebears — those two anyway.
An Army brat, Hain has lived all over the world and worked as a CIA officer at a time when few women held such a position. In addition to authoring two books, she is an accomplished musician and a member of Ladies of the Lake, a trio that performs Civil War-era, mountain, folk and traditional songs. Hain also is a sought-after speaker on the Civil War; she is scheduled to talk about her books at Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum on Sunday.
She and her husband, Peter, also an author and former CIA employee, have lived in The Boardwalk since 2006, when they moved to the lake.
The knowledge and skills she gained while working at the intelligence agency gave her the know-how and confidence to tackle writing a book, she said.
“I know how to research — it’s an investigative kind of thing — and I have a feeling for people. And, of course, the motivation,” she said.
A love for history and literature also contributed.
After graduating from Syracuse, where she studied international relations, Hain received a master’s degree in Russian literature and language from the Russian Institute at Columbia University.
“Then, the CIA came calling,” she recalled. She signed on, one of five women and 80 men in a junior officer training class.
“Because I had lived overse as and with my interest in international relations, it was a natural fit,” she said.
Her first job, in 1962, was at CIA headquarters, where she translated Russian documents into English and developed a system that took coded and classified information from card files and stored it in a computer. While there, she married Peter , who also worked for the CIA. Rarely did the CIA assign female operatives to overseas duty, but the agency didn’t want to lose her, she said, so the newlyweds both were assigned to duty in Germany.
Hain is not forthcoming about exactly what her job entailed, but she revealed that she was “interested in the Soviets” during her stint in the early 1960s.
In 1968, the couple’s son was born, and Hain retired. Peter Hain served several more tours of duty, including one in Denmark, where they adopted a baby girl, before the couple returned to the United States for good in 1979. Peter commuted from their home in Northern Virginia to CIA headquarters outside of Washington, D.C., for a year before he retired and the family settled in Charleston, S.C.
It was there that Hain, while visiting her aunt, found some old letters written by Wragg during the Civil War. Intrigued, she began oral and archival research on the Confederate Army officer, prisoner of war and physician. His life, which ended when he was murdered, is recounted in “A Confederate Chronicle,” published in 2005.
In the spring of 2006, Hain discovered a diary that her mother had saved. Internet research revealed that Hain was a direct descendent of its author, Robert Augustus Alston. He was a former slave owner who became an advocate for ex-convicts in post-Civil War Georgia.
Hain said Alston, a member of the state legislature, uncovered “shocking conditions” in the convict-leasing system, a form of cheap labor common in the post-war South, and the camps where the ex-cons lived.
“He found women chained to men, and people were dying,” said Hain, who described her forebear as a “very principled man.” He made a report to the legislature and SPOILER ALERT — was murdered shortly thereafter.
After three-and-a-half years of research and writing, Mercer University published the book. It is available for $35 at Amazon.com or by contacting Hain at 719-0522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hain said she’s not sure if she’ll write another book. It’s not for a lack of subjects.
Her father was one of the early teachers of paratroopers during World War II. She has his scrapbook.
An uncle, a prisoner of war in the Philippines during World War II, was among the POWs the Japanese transported by ship to Japan near the end of the war. The United States, believing the transport ships were supply ships, bombed them. The uncle was among the casualties — another family member killed too young. In Hain’s possession are the letters the man wrote to his wife.
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