REMEMBERING JFK: Secret Service agent shares memories of the Kennedy assassination – Heritagewest – Heritage Newspapers

9 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on REMEMBERING JFK: Secret Service agent shares memories of the Kennedy assassination – Heritagewest – Heritage Newspapers
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REMEMBERING JFK: Secret Service agent shares memories of the Kennedy assassination

Secret Service agent Clint Hill leaped onto the rear of President John F. Kennedy’s limousine seconds after he was fatally shot Nov. 22, 1963. Hill shared his memories of the fateful day Tuesday at The Henry Ford museum, which counts the Lincoln Continental among its vast collection. Photo by Scott Held

DEARBORN Clint Hill wasn’t thrilled after the 1960 presidential election.

The young Secret Service agent, who’d been on the detail guarding President Dwight Eisenhower, learned after the election he and another agent drew the detail watching soon-to-be First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

“I wanted to be where the action was,” Hill said.

He had no way of knowing it, but he certainly would be.

Hill, who can be seen leaping onto the rear of President John F. Kennedy’s limousine minutes after he was shot in the final frames of the Zapruder film, shared his memories with a sold-out audience Tuesday night at Henry Ford Museum.

At first, Hill didn’t think he’d be going on the fateful trip to Texas. Jacqueline Kennedy was pregnant early in Kennedy’s term Hill paced the hallway when John F. Kennedy Jr. was born and didn’t travel often during campaign stops. This time, however, she expressed interest in helping her husband gain re-election.

SLIDESHOW: 50th Anniversary of the assassination of JFK

SLIDESHOW: JFK assassination historical documents

The trip began in San Antonio, then moved to Houston and, on the eve of the assassination, spent the night in Fort Worth.

The Kennedys flew to Dallas that morning and a motorcade took them through the city’s downtown en route to a speaking engagement. Continued.

As the Lincoln Continental limousine, the same one now housed in The Henry Ford’s collection, made the turn off Houston onto Elm Street, Hill, who was standing on the running board of a car directly behind the Kennedys and Texas Gov. John Connally, knew something was wrong.

“I heard an explosion over my right shoulder,” he said Tuesday night. “I ran to form a shield or barrier.”

Lee Harvey Oswald’s second shot, which wounded Kennedy and Connally, came while Hill was running to the president’s car. He heard and felt the third, fatal shot.

“It was so explosive,” he said. “It erupted onto Mrs. Kennedy and myself.”

He slipped before he could get a handhold on the trunk of the car. While he was pulling himself up, Jacqueline Kennedy crawled toward him.

“Mrs. Kennedy was trying to gather the material from the president’s head,” Hill said. “She didn’t even know I was there.”

He got a leg over the rear seat and placed himself between the couple and the shooter he’d be honored for his bravery a few days later. When he finally saw the president, he knew the wounds were grave.

“The president’s eyes were fixed and I could see through the hole in him and could tell there was no brain,” Hill said. “I gave a thumbs down to the following car.”

The limousine reached 80 mph as it sped to Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy soon was pronounced dead.

Hill, an octogenarian, delivered his remarks in a flat, matter-of-fact way throughout the evening. It was a far cry from his 1975 interview with Mike Wallace, during which he broke down as he expressed regret he could not get to the Kennedys sooner. Continued.

Author Lisa McCubbin, who worked with Hill on three books about the Kennedy assassination and presidency and moderated Tuesday’s discussion, asked the former agent why he waited so long to share his memories.

“It has been very cathartic to unload this information,” he replied. “It’s historic and it should be documented.”

Hill’s 90-minute retelling of his years in the White House included several notable anecdotes, including:

• It wasn’t until Hill placed his suit jacket over the president’s head that Jacqueline Kennedy allowed medical personnel to move his body.

“We pleaded with her,” Hill said, “then I realized what was wrong. She did not want anyone to see the condition he was in. It was horrible.”

• He was placed in contact with Attorney General Robert Kennedy while at Parkland. The president’s brother wanted to know what had happened, but Hill hesitated.

“I did not want to tell him his brother was dead,” Hill said. ‘I just said “It’s as bad as it can get.’ That’s how he found out about his brother.”

• After the autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital, Hill was asked to step in and view Kennedy’s body. “They needed me to observe the wounds,” he said. “If Mrs. Kennedy ever asked, someone could answer her questions.”

• John F. Kennedy Jr.’s famous salute as his father’s casket passed days later was several weeks in the making. The president’s son was to accompany his father to Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 11, 1963, for a wreath-laying ceremony and Jacqueline Kennedy had asked Hill and another agent to teach the boy how to return a salute.

A Marine sergeant, gave the younger Kennedy a refresher in the proper technique minutes before the funeral procession.

• The president had promised his son a birthday celebration when he returned from Dallas and, after the Kennedy family greeted dignitaries at the White House after Kennedy’s funeral, they adjourned upstairs to throw a small party for the 3-year-old boy. Continued.

• Around 11 p.m. that night, Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy sent word they wished to return to Arlington to view the president’s grave. Hill and another agent stood in the distance while the two prayed at the site.

One of the most astonishing things about Hill’s recollection of those five days was left unsaid given his account, one wondered if or when he found time to sleep between Nov. 22 and 26.

McCubbin closed the discussion by mentioning a poll that found 71 percent of Americans believe Oswald was not the only man responsible for Kennedy’s death.

“There is no evidence to indicate there was a conspiracy of any kind,” Hill said with the same, plain delivery. “All three shots came from the same location, fired by the same rifle by the same individual.”

Friday is the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death. Admission to Henry Ford Museum will be free.

DEARBORN Clint Hill wasn’t thrilled after the 1960 presidential election.

The young Secret Service agent, who’d been on the detail guarding President Dwight Eisenhower, learned after the election he and another agent drew the detail watching soon-to-be First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

“I wanted to be where the action was,” Hill said.

He had no way of knowing it, but he certainly would be.

Hill, who can be seen leaping onto the rear of President John F. Kennedy’s limousine minutes after he was shot in the final frames of the Zapruder film, shared his memories with a sold-out audience Tuesday night at Henry Ford Museum.

At first, Hill didn’t think he’d be going on the fateful trip to Texas. Jacqueline Kennedy was pregnant early in Kennedy’s term Hill paced the hallway when John F. Kennedy Jr. was born and didn’t travel often during campaign stops. This time, however, she expressed interest in helping her husband gain re-election.

SLIDESHOW: 50th Anniversary of the assassination of JFK

SLIDESHOW: JFK assassination historical documents

The trip began in San Antonio, then moved to Houston and, on the eve of the assassination, spent the night in Fort Worth.

The Kennedys flew to Dallas that morning and a motorcade took them through the city’s downtown en route to a speaking engagement.

As the Lincoln Continental limousine, the same one now housed in The Henry Ford’s collection, made the turn off Houston onto Elm Street, Hill, who was standing on the running board of a car directly behind the Kennedys and Texas Gov. John Connally, knew something was wrong.

“I heard an explosion over my right shoulder,” he said Tuesday night. “I ran to form a shield or barrier.”

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Lee Harvey Oswald’s second shot, which wounded Kennedy and Connally, came while Hill was running to the president’s car. He heard and felt the third, fatal shot.

“It was so explosive,” he said. “It erupted onto Mrs. Kennedy and myself.”

He slipped before he could get a handhold on the trunk of the car. While he was pulling himself up, Jacqueline Kennedy crawled toward him.

“Mrs. Kennedy was trying to gather the material from the president’s head,” Hill said. “She didn’t even know I was there.”

He got a leg over the rear seat and placed himself between the couple and the shooter he’d be honored for his bravery a few days later. When he finally saw the president, he knew the wounds were grave.

“The president’s eyes were fixed and I could see through the hole in him and could tell there was no brain,” Hill said. “I gave a thumbs down to the following car.”

The limousine reached 80 mph as it sped to Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy soon was pronounced dead.

Hill, an octogenarian, delivered his remarks in a flat, matter-of-fact way throughout the evening. It was a far cry from his 1975 interview with Mike Wallace, during which he broke down as he expressed regret he could not get to the Kennedys sooner.

Author Lisa McCubbin, who worked with Hill on three books about the Kennedy assassination and presidency and moderated Tuesday’s discussion, asked the former agent why he waited so long to share his memories.

“It has been very cathartic to unload this information,” he replied. “It’s historic and it should be documented.”

Hill’s 90-minute retelling of his years in the White House included several notable anecdotes, including:

• It wasn’t until Hill placed his suit jacket over the president’s head that Jacqueline Kennedy allowed medical personnel to move his body.

“We pleaded with her,” Hill said, “then I realized what was wrong. She did not want anyone to see the condition he was in. It was horrible.”

• He was placed in contact with Attorney General Robert Kennedy while at Parkland. The president’s brother wanted to know what had happened, but Hill hesitated.

“I did not want to tell him his brother was dead,” Hill said. ‘I just said “It’s as bad as it can get.’ That’s how he found out about his brother.”

• After the autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital, Hill was asked to step in and view Kennedy’s body. “They needed me to observe the wounds,” he said. “If Mrs. Kennedy ever asked, someone could answer her questions.”

• John F. Kennedy Jr.’s famous salute as his father’s casket passed days later was several weeks in the making. The president’s son was to accompany his father to Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 11, 1963, for a wreath-laying ceremony and Jacqueline Kennedy had asked Hill and another agent to teach the boy how to return a salute.

A Marine sergeant, gave the younger Kennedy a refresher in the proper technique minutes before the funeral procession.

• The president had promised his son a birthday celebration when he returned from Dallas and, after the Kennedy family greeted dignitaries at the White House after Kennedy’s funeral, they adjourned upstairs to throw a small party for the 3-year-old boy.

• Around 11 p.m. that night, Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy sent word they wished to return to Arlington to view the president’s grave. Hill and another agent stood in the distance while the two prayed at the site.

One of the most astonishing things about Hill’s recollection of those five days was left unsaid given his account, one wondered if or when he found time to sleep between Nov. 22 and 26.

McCubbin closed the discussion by mentioning a poll that found 71 percent of Americans believe Oswald was not the only man responsible for Kennedy’s death.

“There is no evidence to indicate there was a conspiracy of any kind,” Hill said with the same, plain delivery. “All three shots came from the same location, fired by the same rifle by the same individual.”

Friday is the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death. Admission to Henry Ford Museum will be free.

Contact Scott Held at 1-734-246-0865 or sheld@heritage.com. Follow him on Facebook and @ScottHeld45 on Twitter.

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