One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read more non-fiction so I was delighted when one of my book clubs picked “Mrs. Kennedy and Me” by Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin. I have to admit I thought it would be a scandalous, tell-all book which isn’t necessarily my style so I was doubly delighted when after about 3 paragraphs I realized that Mr. Hill was a total gentlemen: this book would be revealing while at the same time being discreet.
The book opens with Mr. Hill, a Secret Service agent being told of his new orders. Coming off of assignment with Dwight D. Eisenhower, he was disappointed to learn that he was not being assigned to the new president but rather to the very private First Lady, Jackie Kennedy.
In the 1960’s there were only 40 men assigned to the White House Secret Service detail whose sole mission was to protect the President around the clock. Their job was to protect while allowing the President and his family the ability to maintain their private life as much as possible. This privacy was especially true for Mrs. Kennedy as Mr. Hill remarks, “She was the most idolized woman in the world, and she could have anything she wanted, but what she craved most was privacy.”
Their relationship was always respectful and proper but throughout the course of his 4 years of protecting Mrs. Kennedy a close and admiring friendship was developed. In the book Mr. Hill tells of sharing cigarettes, tennis games and extensive travels with Mrs. Kennedy. His telling of the story is never to exploit. It is through this honesty and respect that you learn the nature of his admiration for her. Even in telling of the advance work he must do to protect her throughout her travels you get the feeling that she has no idea how much work it is for the agents to protect her while still allowing her the lavious and adventuring lifestyle she is accustomed to.
Mr. Hill was on duty in Dallas on that fateful day that President Kennedy was killed and he describes in great length the preparations and details of the day. I wasn’t aware that this was the first domestic political trip that Mrs. Kennedy made with her husband and that it was shortly after the death of their third child but those and other details were intruiging to me. In many photos from that day you see a man on the back of the car who appears to be climbing inside, that, was Mr. Hill.
He swore he would never write a book about his experience because he felt incredibly guilty that he wasn’t able to do more to save the life of the President. Following his retirement, he went into seclusion and a deep depression and it wasn’t until he met Lisa McCubbin and learned to trust and respect that she would properly honor his memories did he agree to write about his experiences.
I am so glad he did. I really liked both Mr. Hill and Mrs. Kennedy. It was worth the 50 year wait.