Last updated on December 31, 2019
The workplace in a sense becomes a second home to the majority of us, and for some of us, they become even closer to us than those with whom we have a biological link. But what happens when you’re an agent in the Secret Service? There is no set eight-hour workday for agents assigned to the first family. Instead, their hours are often unpredictable, long and extremely fatiguing. Nevertheless, the agents do their jobs to the best of their abilities and in the process create bonds with the members of the first family that sometimes remain in place many years after their service has ended. Clint Hill, long retired from the Secret Service, is best remembered by many people from the Zapruder film, in which he is the sole agent that attempts to come to the aid of the president as jumps on the back of the motorcade as the Secret Service transports a mortally wounded John F. Kennedy to Parkland Memorial Hospital. He has written several books on his time as a Secret Service agent with several presidents and the events that took place during that fateful trip to Dallas, Texas. This is his memoir of his time with the former first lady and the relationship that developed.
The book begins as the JFK wins the election becoming the president-elect. Hill, who previously served Dwight Eisenhower is assigned to guard Mrs. Kennedy. At first, we see that he’s not thrilled with the assignment, but as we follow Mrs. Kennedy and Hill on their journey, we come to see that it was nothing short of incredible. And even years later, the news of her death proves to be as much of a devastating blow as JFK’s death decades earlier. As Hill admits himself, he never fully recovered from Dallas and other agents handed in their resignations, unable to cope with what now be classified as post-traumatic stress disorder. Cigarettes and alcohol become his sedatives of choice but remarkably, he was able to transform those dreadful memories into several well-written books about the personal lives of the first couple.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, later Onassis, is still recalled as one of the finest first ladies to have ever occupied the White House. Fluent in several languages, physically agile and highly intellectual, her poise has been unmatched by many with the possible exception of the current first lady who will depart the White House at the end of year. For year following JFK’s death, the press continued to follow her and her every move garnered attention from all over. In some places, it could be argued that she might have been even more popular than JFK himself. Through Hill’s memories, we are able to see her private side; fun-loving, cigarette smoking, thrill taking and highly personal, genuinely concerned about the privacy of her children. Attempting to live as close to a “normal” life as possible, she takes great strains and places upon Hill, great burdens to maintain the strictest levels of privacy throughout their tenure together. A monumental feat without question, but time and time again, Hill comes through earning the respect and permanent trust of the first lady.
True friendship is not easy to come by. But during his time as the protector of the first lady, he becomes one of her closest friends and confidants and the memories he shares are that of a man who truly enjoyed his job and lives with those moments, good and bad, every day of his life.