He saw eight presidential administrations come and go, often working six days a week. "I never missed a day of work," he says. His is a story from the back pages of history. A figure in the tiniest of print; the man in the kitchen. He was there while America's racial history was being remade: the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations. When he started at the White House in 1952, he couldn't even use the public restrooms when he ventured back to his native Virginia. "We had never had anything," Mr. Allen, 89, recalled of black America at the time. "I was always hoping things would get better."

The Butler - movie about the life of Eugene Allen, starring Forest Whitaker

Before he landed his job at the White House, Mr. Allen worked as a waiter at a resort in Virginia, and then at a country club in Washington. In 1952, a lady told Mr. Allen of a job opening in the White House. "I wasn't even looking for a job," Allen says. "I was happy where I was, but she told me to go on over there and meet with a guy by the name of Alonzo Fields. Forest Whitaker (photo left) plays Eugene Allen in the movie The Butler (released in 2013). A remarkable movie indeed.