Now 83 years old, Clint Hill was the secret service agent that protected Jackie Kennedy in the moments following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Name: Clint Hill
Born: January 4th 1932
Occupation: Law Enforcement
Place of Birth: North Dakota
Clint Hill was born in North Dakota in 1932, and a few years after finishing his college education, in 1958 he joined the Secret Service. Following the appointment of John F. Kennedy in 1960, Hill was assigned as protector of the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.
President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas on 22nd November 1963, Hill’s first move was to get into the presidential limousine to protect the family from further gunfire.
Hill was born on 4th January 1932, in Larimore, North Dakota. He is the unexpected son of Alma Peterson – a hotel maid – who sent him to a children’s home just a few days after he was born. After some time in a children’s home, he was eventually adopted by a family from Washburn, North Dakota.
He later went on to say he,
“Had a great childhood, even though I never had my own room—I shared the porch with my grandfather and kept my belongings in one drawer of a dresser that was jammed next to the piano—I never went hungry and was always supported by my family.”
After high school, he went on to study history at Concordia College in Minnesota. Shortly after graduation he was called to serve in the US army, which resulted in a three-year stint of military service.
After serving in the army, in 1958 he joined the Secret Service and spent time in an investigative post in Colorado. In 1959 he was promoted and became part of the presidential protection unit intended to help guard the president – President Dwight D. Eisenhower, at the time.
After the election of President Kennedy in November 1960, Hill was disappointed to have been assigned to protect the first lady rather than the new president. However, he grew to admire Jackie Kennedy and was eventually promoted to protect her exclusively and was placed in charge of all other agents responsible for her protection.
The assassination of President Kennedy
On 22nd November 1963, President Kennedy was on an official visit to Dallas, Texas. Hill was assigned to walk alongside the vehicle procession as the presidential limo travelled through the city. After the first of Lee Harvey Oswald’s gunshots hit President Kennedy, Hill raced his way to the presidential limo to protect the rest of the family. As Hill got his footing on the back of the vehicle he pushed the first lady back down into her seat, after she’d begun climbing onto the boot of the car. President Kennedy lay, fatally wounded, across his wife’s lap, as Hill covered the pair to protect them from any further gun fire.
Hill himself, later described the scene as horrific. He was interviewed many times about the incident, for news crews all over the world. He told one interviewer:
“The [president’s] skull … it looked like somebody had taken an ice cream scoop and gone in there and just removed a whole portion of the brain and thrown it around the back of the car, the back of the car and she were covered in blood and brain.”
Hill was praised for his actions and bravery during the tragic event and was even cited at a public ceremony, by the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Despite working for Jackie Kennedy for another year following the assassination – and going on to serve in the Secret Service until his retirement in 1975 – Hill suffered from stress and was plagued with guilt over the president’s death as he believed he hadn’t done enough to save him:
“I completely failed in my responsibilities. The president was killed on my duty.”
After the assassination, Hill didn’t take any time off but struggled with his demons in silence. It has since been revealed, by co-author of his memoir Lisa McCubbin, that:
“His PTSD was never treated and he received no time off after the assassination, but instead was faced with protecting the widow for a full year following the assassination. He did this honorably, with dignity, and with steely courage, suffering silently.”