Blackford Oakes is an agent with the CIA.
He was the son of a highly successful aircraft salesman and a high society lady and, therefore, enjoyed quite a good childhood, although he did not see as much of his father as desired due to frequent and extended business trips. Undoubtedly this contributed largely to the divorce his parents had when he was just entering his teens. When his mother remarried a knighted member of British aristocracy, Blacky was forced to move to England with her and to attend a prominent prep school called Greyburn.
A prankish incident involving graffiti on a blackboard resulted in an extreme whipping by the headmaster, prompting Oakes to leave school. It also left a severe mark on the young man's attitude towards the upper crust of Britain, something that would have significant ramifications in his early missions.
Blackford Oakes is written as an incredibly handsome, virile man who is equally at home in the dining hall of Windsor Castle and in a back bedroom of a French burlesque house. In that regards he might sound like a twin to James Bond but in action and in thought he is worlds apart. While Bond is certainly an act-first kind of man, Oakes is far more cerebral and sedate.
During WWII, Oakes served in the Army Air Force flying fighters and shooting down enough to earn the designation of Ace. After the war, he attended Yale where he studied physics, among other subjects. It was near the end of his schooling that he was approached with the idea of joining the CIA which he did almost as a lark.