Mr. Tolbert was born in Buffalo, New York, where he received his early education in the Buffalo Public School System. Upon graduation from Lafayette High School, Mr. Tolbert attended the State University of New York at Buffalo where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in 1971 and a Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1973.Following a one year stint as a teacher at Bennett High School, Mr. Tolbert worked in several local human service agencies including five years as a program director at Child and Family Services, a private family-counseling agency.
Career in the FBI
In January 1980, he entered on duty as a Special Agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).Following sixteen weeks of training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, Mr. Tolbert served in the Buffalo and New York City Offices.In June 1985, he was transferred to FBI Headquarters, Washington, D.C., as a Supervisory Special Agent in the Intelligence Division.In March 1987, Mr. Tolbert was transferred back to the Buffalo Division, where he supervised all Foreign Counterintelligence, Counterterrorism and Civil Rights investigations in the Western New York area.
In November 1990, Mr. Tolbert was reassigned as Chief of the Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism Training Unit at FBI Headquarters until October 1992, when he was appointed to the position of Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Office.In January 1997, Mr. Tolbert was promoted and assigned as an Inspector in the Inspection Division at FBI Headquarters.On May 5, 1998, Mr. Tolbert was appointed as the Special Agent in Charge of the Buffalo Office which served the 17 counties of Western New York.He retired from the FBI in March 2001
Career in Security
From 2001, Bernie worked as a Security Manager for the Coca-Cola Company andthen as the Senior Vice President, Director of Corporate Security for HSBC Bank which is headquartered in Buffalo, New York.
In 2002, Bernie was hired as a Vice President in charge of Security by the National Basketball Association.In 2004 he was promoted to Senior Vice President.As the head of the NBA’s Security Department, he was responsible for the security of all League operations, including arenas, players, staff and fans as well as special events which included the All-Star Game, NBA Finals and foreign games including the U.S. Men’s and Women’s teams during the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
In addition the NBA had as many as 15 international offices during Tolbert’s tenure, and he was responsible for the physical security of those offices as well as the corporate offices in New York City and the NBA Entertainment facilities in Secaucus, New Jersey.He retired from the NBA at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season and returned to Buffalo where he hopes to continue and expand his involvement in the Buffalo community.
Awards & Honors
Mr. Tolbert has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Black Achievers in Industry Award (twice), the Heroes of Public Housing Award and the Ebony and Ivory Award and the More Than a Month (Black History) Award presented by HBO in Philadelphia. In June of 2001, Mr. Tolbert was the recipient of the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Achievement as one of the U.S. Government’s top Senior Executives, an honor bestowed upon him by the White House.
In 1988, he was elected to the SUNY at Buffalo Athletic Hall of Fame in recognition of his success as a track and field athlete. Mr. Tolbert enjoys a wide range of sporting activities.He is an avid Buffalo Bills fan and has been a season ticket holder for over 30 years.
Active in the Community
He has been active in local community organizations for many years including a 56 year association with Cradle Beach – a resident summer camp that serves over 800 campers in the Western New York area who have a broad range of physical, emotional and social developmental disabilities.
He has been a Little League baseball, basketball and soccer coach as well as an umpire and a referee.He has served on a number of local community boards, some of which include the United Way, Western New York Public Broadcasting, Erie County Youth Board, Medaille College, The Olmstead Conservancy, The 100 Club of Buffalo and Western New York and the University of Buffalo Alumni Association.He is currently on the board of Directors for Timon-St. Jude High School, The National Federation for Just Communities and is a Trustee of the Statler Foundation.
Mr. Tolbert is the father of three adult children, Eric, Nicole and Alex, all of whom live and work in Buffalo.He and his wife Malinda also reside in the City of Buffalo.