His code name was “Dazzle” – a Secret Service agent charged with protecting first lady Jackie Kennedy.
For Clint Hill, the job meant being present for some of the most painful and poignant moments of the Kennedy family’s life. Now Hill has broken a 50-year silence, sharing his experiences in a memoir, “Mrs. Kennedy and Me.” He sat down with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie to discuss the deep bond he shared with the iconic first lady.
“You write about her with such admiration and affection and almost, dare I say it, love for her,” Guthrie said.
“I’ve been accused of that,” Hill said. “I think that’s a little bit too strong an emotion. Yes, I admired her a great deal. I really respected her. I don’t think you could really say that I loved her.”
‘Oh Jack, what have they done?’
Nonetheless, Hill's friendship with the first lady was genuine and close. He was there on Nov. 22, 1963, when a bullet pierced President John F. Kennedy’s skull, splattering both the Secret Service agent and the stunned first lady with blood and gore.
The memory haunts him still. “There was some material from the president's head that had gone off to the right rear,” Hill told Guthrie. “And she had got – come up on the back of the car, trying to retrieve that material. She didn't know I was there. And so when she came up in the car, I finally got a hold of her and helped her get it into the backseat. When I did that, the president's body fell to its left into her lap.”
Hill said he’ll never forget the words the first lady said then: "They shot his head off. Oh Jack, what have they done?"
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In the days that followed, Hill witnessed the public heartbreak Americans felt at Kennedy’s assassination, as well as the family's personal grief. During a private viewing of the fallen president, the first lady and Bobby Kennedy “approached the casket and stood there. About that time, she turned to me and she said, 'Mr. Hill, will you get me a pair of scissors, please?' So I ran back to the usher's office and got a pair of scissors. And I stood there and I could hear, you know, clip-clip-clip. I knew what was going on.”
Hill believes the first lady cut a piece of her husband’s hair. Later he stood nearby as the family wept and witnessed “great remorse, great — very sad. It was just — no words were spoken.”Slideshow: Kennedy's legacy (on this page)
Hill was also there when President Kennedy’s son was born — and on the day John F. Kennedy Jr., then 3 years old, saluted his father’s coffin. The image of the tot saying goodbye to his father is emblazoned on his memory.
“That must have broken your heart,” Guthrie said.
“It still does,” Hill said sobbing.
TODAY.com political contributor Halimah Abdullah is TODAY.com’s woman in Washington.
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