Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill

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Mrs. Kennedy and Me is a very intimate portrayal from Clint Hill who was the secret service agent to Jackie Kennedy for 4 years, from before the 1960 election until 1 year after JFK’s assassination in 1964.

He goes through the evolution of his relationship with Jackie, who he always called Mrs. Kennedy. She referred to him as Mr. Hill. They had a very professional relationship but a very close one.

Clint goes through his life as a secret service agent. He gives an inside look at the demands of being a part of the security detail  and protecting the first family. He talked about his relationship with the Kennedy family. The Kennedys are known for the competitive nature and their football games they’d always play. When they were running short on players they would call Clint in to play with them and they treated him as one of the family. JFK was so personable and knew all of the agents by their first names.

But being with the Kennedys all the time meant time away from his own family, his wife and two young boys. Wherever Mrs. Kennedy went, Clint went. Luckily the wives of the agents stuck together and supported each other while their husbands were away. Jackie liked to be away  from Washington so she frequently made trips. When they would drive in the car Clint and Jackie would smoke cigarettes together in the back seat. She was a closeted smoker which was revealed in the book.  They would talk about life and share secrets.

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Being an agent on the Kennedy detail meant getting to experience the luxurious digs of the family, from the beach front house in Palm Beach, the compound in Hyannis Port, and Jackie’s family home Hammersmith farm in Rhode Island. Along with this descriptions of the houses he also has pictures of them in the book too.

The Kennedys leased an estate in Middleburg, Virginia where Jackie spent many weekends  riding horses and playing with the kids. JFK would come on the weekends and leave on Monday to get back to work in DC. Clint said Jackie was happiest riding horses on the farm in private, away from the public eye.

Clint recalls the many trips abroad she took, with her sister Lee Radziwill as well as with JFK and the kids. Jackie was a very popular first lady and brought out the crowds wherever she went.

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Being an agent during the Kennedy administration meant a front row seat to historic events, such as the Cuban missile crisis. Clint talks about how everyone reacted to those tense days and how they had emergency plans in place.

For every event in the lives of Jackie in those years Clint was there, including the birth of John Jr, losing baby Patrick from a lung condition, moving in and out of the White House, and that horrific day in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Clint recalls in detail that day in Dallas. He was the agent who ran onto the trunk of the car after the bullets were shot. He had to push Jackie back into the car to protect her, while she was trying to retrieve brain matter of her husband’s.  Clint looked down at the president and said it looked as if someone had taken a scoop out of JFK’s head.

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He also reveals what happens at Parkland Hospital and the chaos of it all. He talked to Bobby Kennedy who wanted to know what was going on. Clint talks about how everyone was in shock and couldn’t believe what had happened. They tried to remember they had a job to do and kept their minds busy so they wouldn’t have to deal emotionally with the pain and trauma.

Once JFK’s body had been removed from the hospital and taken aboard Air Force Once, the agents couldn’t believe that hours before JFK had been a vibrant, youthful man in his prime, and now he was coming onto the airplane in a coffin. Clint speaks of Jackie’s stoicism during this impossibly difficult time. When she returned to Washington DC she had to start planning the funeral, which fell on John John’s 3rd birthday. He remembers how to just tried to stay busy planning so he didn’t have to replay over and over what happened. But he lost if a few times during the funeral.

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Clint talks about the guilt he felt when he saw the Kennedy family members and feeling helpless. He couldn’t believe that he had let this happen. He should have been able to prevent it. It was his job and he had failed.

After the state funeral, Jackie took a few days and moved out of the White House with the children. Christmas always meant the family gathered in Palm Beach, but this year the light and laughter had gone without JFK’s presence. Clint said it was so painful and surreal.

Clint stayed on as Jackie’s protection for a year after the assassination. He was with her when she moved to Georgetown and later to New York City. He said that everyday he saw the family he couldn’t help but feel sadness and guilt seeing the young children without their father. There were  memories of the day everywhere he looked.

After a year Clint and Jackie both agreed it was time for him to move on. Jackie threw him a going away party and made a book filled with pictures of their time together, including all their travels to places like Greece, Italy, and India. Jackie also made sure that she wrote nice letters of recommendations for all of the secret service men who had protected her family.

After retiring from the secret service Clint talks about how he fell into a depression and wasted years of his life in his basement drinking and smoking cigarettes. But he said that writing this book was very therapeutic for him to release all of these emotions that he had suppressed for so many years. Because after the tragedy the agents didn’t talk about it and they didn’t have any grief counseling, they just went right back to work. I am amazed at the amount of detail Clint is able to recall so many events, from 50 years ago. It was one of the best books I have ever read about the Kennedys because it is so intimate and honest.

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