President John F. Kennedy’s trip to Dallas on November 22, 1963 was intended to boost support in Texas for his 1964 re-election campaign. But an assassin’s bullet ended his life, an event still shrouded in controversy. Since that time, Secret Service agents assigned to protect President Kennedy have spoken only rarely about that day. But in an interview with VOA, former agent Clint Hill explains how the day unfolded, and how it changed his life.
Former Secret Service agent Clint Hill said providing security for President John F. Kennedy was a challenge.
“With President Kennedy it was mix and mingle. He didn’t like anybody to be, come between he and the people,” said Hill.
November 22, 1963 began like most presidential visits... even though it was in a part of the country - Texas - that was not enthusiastic about the president.
“This was an extremely conservative area. Kennedy was not labeled as a conservative by any stretch of the imagination, so it was considered that there could be some problems that could develop. But we had no threats, no information that would lead us to believe that we would have a major problem,” said Hill.
As the president's motorcade made its way through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Hill was on a vehicle behind the presidential limousine.
“I heard an explosive noise to my right rear, the rear of the motorcade," said Hill. "I saw the president grab at his throat and move to his left and I knew something was wrong, so I jumped and ran toward the presidential car with the idea of getting up on top.
"By the time I just about got to the car, the third shot had been fired, hit the President in the head, caused a massive wound, which caused blood, brains and other material to be exploded out on to the car, onto me, onto Mrs. Kennedy. She was trying to retrieve some material that had come off from the president’s head and went to the right rear. I grabbed her and did the best I could to get her back in the seat.
"When I did that, the president fell to his left into her lap. I got up on top and lay on top behind both of them, and I turned and gave a thumbs down to the follow up car," said Hill.
That event lasted less than a minute, but it scarred Hill for life.
“I feel guilt, I feel responsibility. I was the only agent who was in a position to do anything that day,” said Hill.
The assassination shook the nation, and the Secret Service.
Clint Hill protected three more presidents, but in 1975, overcome by depression, he retired.
In 2009, author Lisa McCubbin requested an interview with Hill for a possible book.
“He did one interview in 1975 with 60 Minutes that’s a classic interview in which he had basically a nervous breakdown on television. Then he went into seclusion," said McCubbin.
Encouraged by friend, former agent and now author Gerald Blaine, Hill and other agents in Dallas on that day decided to talk, in part, to document how the assassination affected them.
Hill said the release last year of The Kennedy Detail has been therapeutic.
“...especially being able to go out and talk to people about the book and answer it, a lot of the questions that they have because there are still a lot of questions out there,” said Hill.
One question often asked is whether or not there was more than one assassin. Hill supports the findings of the Warren Commission, which concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman.