Wednesday, November 22, marks the 60th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, an event still fresh in Clint Hill’s mind. Hill, a Secret Service agent, was behind the president’s car in the motorcade on that horrific day.
Hill, 91, still has moments of struggle and doubt about his efforts on the day of the JFK assassination. “Before Dallas, I was known as just Clint Hill,” Hill tells Radio Diaries, according to NPR. “After that, I’ve been known as the man who climbed onto the president’s car. That six-second period in Dallas, it’s not an easy thing to live with.”
Hill did receive his assigned to first lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1960. It was an assignment that he quickly realized was much more personable than previous ones.
“Eisenhower, when he would refer to us agents, that was just, ‘Hey, agent!’” Hill said. “With (John F.) Kennedy, he knew your first name. He knew if you were married. He knew if you had children. And he would stop, and he would talk to you. And so, we had the utmost respect for him.”
Clint Hill Recalls Day of JFK Assassination
The day of the assassination, John F. Kennedy was in Dallas as part of a campaigning trip for the upcoming 1964 election. Big crowds did meet the president and first lady at Dallas Love Field, where Air Force One landed. The number of onlookers only grew as the motorcade traveled through Dallas.
“By the time we got to Main [Street], the crowd was so large they could not be contained on the sidewalks,” Hill said. “People were hanging out of windows. They were on top of buildings. They were on fire escapes. Any place they could be to see the president and first lady.”
Hill moves on the running board of the follow-up car, just behind the presidential limousine. As the motorcade progressed through Dealey Plaza, however, excitement turned to horror as Hill heard a loud noise over his right shoulder. It gets plenty wil for President John F. Kennedy.
“I didn’t think at first it was a gunshot,” Hill said. “I thought it was a firecracker or something. But when I saw the president’s reaction, I knew that was not normal. I mean, he threw his hands to his throat and started to fall to his left.”
Agent Hill Attempted to Save the President
Hill immediately ran from the follow-up car and onto the back of the presidential limousine. A second shot hits Kennedy in the head. After this shot, the first lady climbed onto the trunk to meet Hill. He guided her back into the vehicle. Hill used his body as a shield as the presidential limousine sped toward the hospital. This was in the aftermath of the JFK assassination.
In his book Five Days in November, he recalls accompanying Jacqueline Kennedy, who was still wearing her bloodstained suit, to Johnson’s swearing-in aboard Air Force One.
“As I look at her face, streaked with tears, her eyes so hollow and lifeless, a wave of guilt and shame washes over me,” Hill recalls in the book. “How did I let this happen to her?” For Hill, that feeling would last for years. He deals with PTSE,’s dealt with PTSD throughout his life. Health issues eventually forced him years later to leave the Secret Service.
Hill’s memory of that day when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, in November 1963, remains fresh and vivid.
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