Special agent shares Secret Service experiences, fateful day
Posted July 5, 2012on:
Former United States Secret Service special agent Clint Hill with the help of Lisa McCubbin recounts in his book, “Mrs. Kennedy and Me,” his time protecting Mrs. John F. Kennedy from 1960 through 1964, the sacrifices made by agents and their daily lifestyle and the tragic events of Nov. 22, 1963 and the days following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Hill made the transition from his assignment as a Secret Service agent to President Dwight Eisenhower to that of the assistant with the new First Lady’s Detail. He met Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy when she was eight months pregnant and prior to the president elect’s inauguration. He said she made it clear that she wanted as much privacy as possible without someone following her and her children at close quarters.
The book describes not only how Hill wins the First Lady’s trust, but also the lifestyle of the Secret Service agents as they sacrifice time with their families to guard the president and his family. It describes to what lengths the agents went to grant requests made by the family. It also presents many photos throughout the book.
Wherever the First Family went, agents needed to secure accommodations that fit within their per diem allowance of $12 per day. Prior to the inauguration, Hill writes they journeyed to Palm Beach where the agents stayed at Woody’s Motel. Their negotiated rate at Woody’s covered “hotel, meals, dry cleaning, laundry, and miscellaneous expenses while traveling. My annual $6,995 salary didn’t stretch very far, and like the rest of the agents, I was very frugal and careful with expenditures.”
During his time with Mrs. Kennedy, Hill made many shopping excursions to protect her privacy. He took water skiing lessons with limited success, so he could more effectively protect her. He accompanied her on trips all over the world, arranged accommodations to fulfill her desires, found ingenious ways to get her personal mail to her faster and gained her trust and friendship.
He was present at the joyous birth of her son John, and he also stood by as she delivered and eventually lost her son Patrick. He, along with the other agents, became an extension of the family and celebrated their good fortunes and suffered with them through their tragedies.
Hill describes the trip to Texas in which Mrs. Kennedy decided to accompany the president. He writes in detail about the events leading up to the shooting of the president, the graphic details and images as the president is shot and wounded in the back of the presidential vehicle, Hill’s proximity to the vehicle and his mad dash to protect both the president and Mrs. Kennedy and the reactions of Mrs. Kennedy as the car speeds up and heads to the hospital.
Prior to his father’s funeral procession, Hill writes that John finally learned how to properly salute using his right hand instead of his left hand when a Marine colonel saw him practicing and said, “John, you are doing it all wrong, this is the way you salute.”
Hill writes that later, “He thrust his tiny shoulders back, raised his right hand to his brow, and in an emphatic gesture never to be forgotten by anyone who saw it, just as the Marine colonel had instructed, three-year-old John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. saluted his father.”
This book answers many of the questions related to that fateful day in Dallas. It also gives the reader an inside look at how the Secret Service goes about protecting the president and his family and the sacrifices the agents make to perform their duties and the attachments they develop to the family.
Clint Hill wrote a wonderful book, and he should be thanked and commended for his service to this country. I recommend this book to anyone interested in this country’s history and anyone who wants a view of what it means to serve our country.
Photo by Janice Semmel