The Confession of Secret Service Agent Clint Hill

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kennedy bodyguard reflects on defending the White House

Kennedy bodyguard reflects on defending the White House
· Written by Andrew Wen

· Published Sep 13, 2011

Retired secret service agent Clint Hill, who ran and jumped onto President John F. Kennedy’s car when he was assassinated in 1963, spoke about his experience protecting and forging a friendship with former First Lady and American icon Jacqueline Kennedy, on Monday

Hill spoke to an audience of several hundred people about Jacqueline Kennedy’s life, character and the experience dealing with John F. Kennedy’s assassination at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

At first, he said, he was dismayed to find out he was responsible for protecting the first lady and said he wanted nothing to do with it, because the only thing that first ladies did at the time was attend fashion shows. Kennedy, he found out, was quite the opposite— she had an adventurous streak.

“She thought that it would be wonderful if I learned to water-ski,” Hill said. “At first it was an absolute disaster, and I spent more time underwater than above.”

Kennedy was a great mother, Hill said. She demanded her children to treat every adult, including the secret service, with respect.

“She wanted the children to be brought up as normal children,” he said. “The agents were to treat them as one of their own. When they fell down you didn’t help them.”

Hill said Kennedy was a woman who had a strong set of beliefs and morals— during the Cuban Missile Crisis, she refused to go down to the bunkers.

“She said, ‘I’m not going to let that dictator determine my future.’ She was determined not to give into the threats made by the Soviets,” Hill said.

When the conversation shifted to J.F.K.’s assassination, Hill said he could not cope with it for a long time, often visiting the shooting spot until he realized he did everything he could have done.

He recalled a conversation he had with Jacqueline Kennedy on a plane ride after the president was pronounced dead.

“She was so much more concerned about my well-being and [that of] the other agents, she wanted to make sure that we were okay… she was more concerned about us than herself,” Hill said.

Hill spoke of Kennedy as a playful woman, fond of playing practical jokes and seeking out adventure. With some prompt from the audience, Hill revealed that she was also a closet chain-smoker.

“I was her enabler. I was the guy with the cigarettes and the lighter, so blame me,” he said, amid laughter from the audience.

Participants said the forum was eye-opening.

“It was fascinating. I was around during the assassination, so this really hit home,” said Marshall Levy, a Boston resident. “It brought back a lot of memories.”

Bill Mullen, also of Boston, said he is amazed by how much is still unknown about the Kennedys.

“It was great, especially the idea about what he said about responsibility. It’s amazing we still don’t know so much about the Kennedys,” he said. “She was as much of a celebrity as President Kennedy was.”

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