Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

October 20, 2013

Secret Service agent sets facts straight on Kennedys

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

ALTAMONT — Many books have been written and many films have been produced about the life of President John F. Kennedy.

But a retired Secret Service agent who witnessed the president's assassination told a group of more than several hundred people at the Altamont Community Banquet Saturday that the repeated historical inaccuracies, particularly in films about the Kennedys, led him to write his own account of life with the First Family.

Special Agent Clint Hill is the author of "Mrs. Kennedy and Me," an account of the three years he spent providing Secret Service protection to the First Family, primarily First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Hill told the group that he was particularly disappointed in "JFK," the Oliver Stone film of the early 1990s.

"The Oliver Stone movie was a travesty," Hill said. "It gave the people the wrong idea about what happened in Dallas.

"It was phony."

Hill wrote the book with the help of co-author Lisa McCubbin, who also assisted with Hill's presentation Saturday.

"It was kind of interesting to watch these films with Clint because he'd scream at the TV," McCubbin said. "He wanted people to know the truth."

Saturday's presentation was conducted with the help of a slideshow shown on a large screen behind the podium and a unique dual-speaker format where McCubbin would ask Hill a question and then give the mic to the agent for elaboration.

Hill was born in North Dakota, but given to an orphanage when he was 17 days old because his mother knew she couldn't care for him during the depths of the Great Depression. Soon afterward, he was adopted by Chris and Jennie Hill and raised in Washburn, N.D. He later graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.

Hill was no rookie agent when Kennedy took office on Jan. 20, 1961, with has first assignment having been protecting President Eisenhower.

"We had a wonderful time working with him," Hill said. "He was a very congenial man."

Hill spent much of his presentation talking about how different Mrs. Kennedy was from previous first ladies.

"Mrs. Kennedy wasn't like the other First Ladies," Hill said, adding that the First Lady was an accomplished horsewoman who also served as a goodwill ambassador for her husband on overseas trips.

"Mrs. Kennedy was very adventurous," he said, recalling the time when she and her sister, Princess Lee Radziwill, hopped aboard a camel on a trip to Pakistan.

"First, they got on the camel. Secondly, they got to riding it. Then, she takes the reins and swats him on the rump and they move on.

"The Pakistan officials were scared to death."

After sharing more anecdotal information, Hill talked about that fateful Texas trip that ended with Kennedy's assassination. All went well, he said, until the motorcade through downtown Dallas.

"There was a very sharp angle between Houston and Elm Streets where you really had to slow down," he said. "I was in the first car behind the President and First Lady.

"I heard this explosive noise over my right shoulder," he said. "I saw the president had grabbed his throat, so I jumped off the running board to get on top of the rear of their car.

"As I ran, I heard a second shot. As I approached, there was a third shot."

Hill recalled that President Kennedy couldn't duck out of the line of fire because of the back brace he was wearing, putting him in position for the fatal third shot, which destroyed the right side of his head.

The presidential car quickly traveled to nearby Parkland Hospital, where the president was pronounced dead.

Hill recounted the aftermath of Kennedy's assassination and his service under President Lyndon Johnson. He continued to work for the Secret Service until his retirement.

McCubbin had one final question for the old agent.

"It's been almost 50 years. Many people say there was a conspiracy. What is the truth?"

Hill said there was no evidence of a conspiracy to kill Kennedy.

"Only three shots were fired in Dealey Plaza," Hill said. "All three shots came from the same direction and were fired by the same rifle, by the same individual.

"All credible evidence shows that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."