Clint Hill had been newly assigned to Jackie Kennedy’s protection detail and it became the worst first day in any job imaginable.
Editor's note: Throughout November, IrishCentral is commemorating Kennedy month, in honor of the famed Irish American political dynasty and their legacy. In the week surrounding the anniversary of JFK's assassination on November 22, 1963, we look at the events surrounding his death.
The last surviving Secret Service agent from JFK’s assassination has spoken of his relief after sharing his memories of that fateful day in Dallas.
Clint Hill testified before the Warren Committee into the assassination and also gave an interview to 60 Minutes in 1975, but other than that he never talked about what he witnessed until 2010. Not even to his wife and kids.
Author Lisa McCubbin convinced him to speak to her for her book, ‘The Kennedy Detail’ and he found relieved after doing so.
“I never talked about it with other agents,” he admitted. “It has been cathartic for me to do that - to talk about it and to write about what happened."
The 85-year-old had only been assigned to work on First Lady Jackie Kennedy’s detail that day and spent years wracked with grief about whether he could have saved her husband.
Speaking at a memorial to honor former First Lady Betty Ford - who he came to know whilst working for her husband - Hill recalled, "I was working on the follow-up car immediately behind the presidential vehicle. I heard the first shot fired. I jumped from my position on the follow-up car [and] ran to the presidential vehicle.
"[I had] the intent of getting up on top of the back to form a shield there. But, unfortunately, just as I arrived a third shot hit.
"At that time, Mrs. Kennedy came up on the trunk and I grabbed her and put her in the back seat and then I laid on top."
He did not move again until the Presidential motorcade swept into Parkland Memorial Hospital where doctors battled in vain to stop JFK’s life ebbing away.
"You more or less just react," Hill said. "You see what's happening and you just go into protective mode."
"[I was] trying to cover them up and yelled at the driver to get us out of there as quick as they could.
"You don't have much time to think. Things happen so fast, you just have to react."
Hill remained on Jackie Kennedy’s detailed for a further year before moving back to Washington to work at the White House under Lyndon Johnson.
“After the assassination, she was really strong. [She] stood tall and I think that helped the American people to withstand what did happen that day in Dallas,” he added.
After decades of silence, Hill wrote a book about his lengthy career “Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford” was published last year and chronicles his life walking a few steps behind the leaders of the Free World.
Here is Hill’s 1975 interview:
* Originally published in April 2017.