Courageous is the word that comes to mind when one thinks of Clint Hill. Maybe you don’t recognize the name right off – but it’s certain you know the man. Hill was the Secret Service agent who leaped onto the back of President and Mrs. Kennedy’s motorcade on that fateful November day in Dallas, 1963. He’s a memorable figure of bravery during a time of great grief.
Clint Hill, referred to by Mrs. Kennedy as “Mr. Hill,” was the Secret Service agent assigned to Jackie as she entered the White House as First Lady. In his memoir Mrs. Kennedy and Me, co-written with Lisa McCubbin, he recounts the days of Camelot and his role as one of her knights in shinning armor.
I caught up with Clint–or rather, Mr. Hill–for a brief Q&A just before he and co-author Lisa McCubbin make their way to Sarasota for Designing Women Boutique Ambassador’s Guild’s “Out to Lunch“ event on March 5. The luncheon is at 11:30 a.m. in Sarasota’s newest ballroom venue The Francis, 1289 N. Palm Avenue; Sarasota Magazine is a proud sponsor. Ticket pricing begins at $95/per person, call (941) 366-5293.
Tell us something we might not know about the woman behind the style icon, Jackie Kennedy?
I do not believe that people really know what a hands-on mother Mrs. Kennedy was. Yes, they had a nanny; however, Mrs. Kennedy directed everything the children did. She spent as much time as possible with Caroline and John. I also do not believe people realize how dedicated she was to her husband. She made every effort to give the President the opportunity to relax and spend some time away from the stress and strains of the office. For instance, arranging small, intimate dinner parties with close friends.
On a lighter style note, as her Secret Service agent I imagine you accompanied her to a store or two – share with us her favorite spots to shop.
Although she enjoyed going to antique stores in New York and clothing stores in Palm Beach, it became impossible to do so because of the crowds that gathered when she appeared. It became necessary to have vendors come to her. And I, on occasion, shopped for her myself.
Many photos were taken of the First Lady with you within a polite distance – do you have a favorite?
Yes, at the airport in Rome, where she is trying to decide about a gift to bring home to the President and is asking my advice. This photo is on the back cover of the book.
Do you have a favorite tender moment memory of Mrs. Kennedy with her children?
She loved to ride horses and shared that passion with John and Caroline. In Middleburg, she would ride her horse, holding John, while Caroline rode her pony, Macaroni, alongside them.
Where did she seem most at home?
She seemed to be at home whenever she and the children were together with the President—whether that was Hyannis Port, Palm Beach or Middleburg.
It’s clear in this memoir that you admire Mrs. Kennedy a great deal – what do you respect most about her?
Her determination to raise her children as unspoiled as possible, knowing that the entire world was, and always would be, watching.
Mrs. Kennedy was a tremendously high-profile figure, so much so that while in Paris in 1961, President Kennedy remarked that he would be remembered as “the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris.” What was it like protecting a woman of such popularity?
Like all protective assignments, the more popular the figure, the more difficult the job. Her desire for privacy and her continued spontaneity required me to be very creative.
During your four years as her Secret Service agent I’m sure you encountered some incredibly notable world influencers and celebrities – anyone that you remember fondly?
Gianni Agnelli, president of Fiat Corporation, and Princess Irena Galitzine, noted designer—both of whom I met in Italy.
In the book, you have many anecdotes about the family – would you share one with us here?
Some of my fondest memories are of being with Mrs. Kennedy, the President, and the children, while they enjoyed their deep love of the water activities off the coast of Cape Cod: sailing, water skiing, and swimming.
What’s next for you, Mr. Hill?
This process of writing and promoting Mrs. Kennedy and Me with Lisa McCubbin has been so enjoyable and beneficial to me, that we are now working on another project together—a new book, that is anticipated to be released in November 2013.