Born in North Dakota in 1932, Clint Hill joined the Secret Service in 1958, just a few years out of college. Following the election of President John F. Kennedy in 1960, Hill was assigned to protect the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. When the president was shot in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, Hill jumped into the presidential limo and shielded the Kennedys from any further gunfire.
Clint J. Hill was born on January 4, 1932, in Larimore, North Dakota. The unexpected son of a hotel maid by the name of Alma Peterson, Hill was sent to a children's home when he was just a few days old, and was eventually adopted by a family in Washburn, North Dakota.
"I had a great childhood," Hill later recalled. "Even though I never had my own room—I shared the porch with my grandfather and kept my belongings in one drawer of a dresser that was jammed next to the piano—I never went hungry and was always supported by my family."
Hill graduated high school in 1950 and, in the fall of that year, enrolled at Concordia College in Minnesota, where he studied history. Shortly after earning his college degree, Hill was drafted into the U.S. Army for what would turn out to be a three-year military stint.
In 1958, Hill joined the U.S. Secret Service and was immediately assigned a post in Denver, Colorado, where he did investigative work. In 1959, he was promoted to the Secret Service's presidential protection unit to help guard President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Following the election of John F. Kennedy in November 1960, Hill was excited to work for the new president, but later admitted that he was disappointed to learn he'd been assigned to protect the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, not the president-elect. Hill came to admire Jackie, however, and within time and at the urging of the first lady, he was promoted to protect her exclusively and put in charge of the other agents who protected her.
For the president's Dallas, Texas, visit on November 22, 1963, Hill was assigned to walk alongside the motorcade as the presidential limo made its way through the city.
As he would later recall, Hill immediately raced to the presidential limo right after the first of Lee Harvey Oswald's three gunshots hit President Kennedy. When Hill finally got his footing on the back of the car, he pushed the first lady, who'd begun climbing onto the trunk of the vehicle, into her seat. Her husband had been fatally shot, and a wound, about the size of a hand's palm, was on the right side of his head. While the dying president lay slumped over in his wife's lap, Hill covered the Kennedys in an effort to protect them from any further fire. The scene, as Hill later described, was horrific.
"The [president's] skull ... it looked like somebody had taken an ice cream scoop and gone in there and just removed a whole portion of the brain and thrown it around the back of the car," Hill told one interviewer. "The back of the car and she were covered in blood and brain."
For his actions during the tragic event, Clint Hill was lauded for his bravery—even cited by the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson at a public ceremony—but he was afflicted with turmoil over what had happened, plagued with guilt that he hadn't done enough to save the president. He worked for Jackie Kennedy for another year, and managed to continue on with the Secret Service until his retirement in 1975.
Over the next several years, Hill struggled with stress-related health issues in the aftermath of the assassination. “He was suffering from what is currently known as PTSD from the horrific tragedy he witnessed," said Lisa McCubbin, co-author of his memoir, Mrs. Kennedy and Me, which was published in April 2012 and became a New York Times best seller. "His PTSD was never treated and he received no time off after the assassination, but instead was faced with protecting the widow for a full year following the assassination. He did this honorably, with dignity, and with steely courage, suffering silently. “
In November 2013, Hill published a second critically acclaimed book, Five Days In November, which also became a best seller.
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