BRIAN LAMB: Clint Hill, author of ”Mrs. Kennedy and Me.” What would be the difference if you we’re a secret service agent today and a Mrs. Kennedy that you knew then would come along, how would you do things differently?
CLINT HILL: We’ll I know I have a great deal more assistance than I had in the past. Back in those days, there were only two of us assigned to Mrs. Kennedy. And today there are more than two other but a few more I don’t know exactly what the number is, but that’s very beneficial.
Also, today there are female agents that are available. We didn’t have that a luxury back in 1960, ’61, ’62, ’63. So it made a great deal of difference.
I believe she would have been as popular today as she was then which created problems because no matter where she went, it draw a crowd and that cause the problem. But we’d manage to deal with it and handle things the best we could and then she seemed pleased with what we did.
LAMB: You have a story in your book about the man named Roddy Mims.
HILL: Yes, Roddy Mims. Roddy was a photographer in Washington D.C. And he was somewhat of a harassment to me and to others and on one occasion, he did something that I was very upset about. I’d arranged for Mrs. Kennedy would arrive in Washington D.C. at national airport which on a military flight which was very unusual for her.
But to do so privately separate section of the airport National airport. We had arranged for the White House cars to be situated outside the fence awaiting our arrival. And when we get, the plane stopped the propeller stopped and ready to let Mrs. Kennedy get off, they open the gate to let the White House drivers, bring the cars in.
And as we walk down the ramp, I notice not only the cars were coming in, but there was a motorcycle coming in which was unknown to me or unscheduled. You know, there were two people on the motorcycle, the one in the back had a camera and it was shooting away and it was Roddy Mims. And he had penetrated the security.
So I ran and I grabbed them and I took his camera and I took all his film. And we went to the White House, he was very upset, I had to turn him over to the police because of his activities. They didn’t arrest him but they held them for a while.
When I got the White House the first thing that happened I got word the president wanted to see me. So I went in to the Oval Office and there was the president and he had Pierre Salinger, his press secretary with him. And they said that ”What happened out at national airport?” So I explained the situation to them. And the president looked at me and said ”Unfortunately, you’re going to be the scapegoat in this situation.”
We can afford to have the press anger at us for what happened there at national airport and so you are going to get the blame. And we’re going to return the film to the company that Roddy’s working for.
So I gave him the film and they gave it to the appropriate company and I answered to my supervisors and explained that I was just doing the best I could to try and maintain her privacy. They understood the president understood also but he said ”Unfortunately, I was going to have to take the blame for it.”
LAMB: You didn’t you use a word in your book about Roddy Mims former UPI photographer, did you accuse him of being obnoxious?
HILL: He was very obnoxious. One of the more obnoxious people that I ever dealt with as a matter of fact and I’ve heard that same story from other people, even other members of the press that Roddy Mims was in fact obnoxiouos.
LAMB: There’s a story in your book about Frank Sinatra and you taking a phone call?
HILL: I used to take a number of phone calls from Mr. Sinatra. He would call regularly. On one occasion he called and it was in December 1961 after Ambassador Kennedy had a stroke. And he wanted to talk to Mrs. Kennedy Jacqueline Kennedy. And I had informed that I had been instructed to inform the operators that when he called there were to channel the calls through me.
And so I talked to him and I explained to him that what was going on that we’re on Palm Beach at that time. And then we talked for 10, 15 minutes about various things and that was kind of common occurrence. Whenever he called, I ended up talking to him.
LAMB: Why didn’t Mrs. Kennedy take the call?
HILL: She just didn’t find it necessary to talk to him all the time. She’d inform me that when she did get around it, she’ll call him and say hello, visit with them for a while, but I don’t that she ever did perhaps so, but I’m not sure.
LAMB: Your book has already been on the best seller list and you’ve been on the book tour. How many different cities have you been to?
HILL: We’ll let see, New York, twice; Kansas City, San Diego, La Joya, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Chicago and Washington D.C. and we still have more to go.
LAMB: What if you found the public to be interested in when they’ve been questioning you?
HILL: They are just interested in the fact that this was a book that paints a portrait of Mrs. Kennedy tells her tells about her life what she was really like during that four years that I was with her.
There isn’t any gossip in there, no salacious information. It’s just what happened, what she was like, things that she liked to do, how humorous she was at times, how athletic she was at times and how intelligent she was and how to her kind of rambunctious she was. She tried to put me to the test many, many times and I did my best to meet that.
LAMB: I wrote down a quote, ”Whatever you do in Greece do not let Mrs. Kennedy cross paths with Aristotle Onassis,” who said that?
HILL: President Kennedy told me gave me that instruction in 1961 when Mrs. Kennedy went to Greece. The first time she went there alone. She went there alone, she had her sister, Lee, with her she went there, she wanted to see the open air theater with we were on our yacht name the North Wind, I believe it was.
And the instructions from the president before I left went on advance, I did the advance for the trip was not to let Mrs. Kennedy cross paths with Aristotle Onassis. And he gave me those instructions in the presence of his brother, the attorney general.
Now when I went back to my office, I tried to research, why because I didn’t know exactly why. And I found out that Onassis was in legal trouble with the United States government. And it appeared to me that the reason was for them not wanting that two to cross paths was it was going to be a political embarrassment for the President and for the party if she were seen in the company of Aristotle Onassis.
LAMB: So how much time did she spend around him?
HILL: Never saw him in 1961.
LAMB: In 1961?
HILL: Never saw him in 1961. She had met him with the President at one time previous in an island off the coast of Europe I’d have to think it was the Mediterranean. Because his yacht was in the harbor, they were there, Winston Churchill was on board the yacht and the then Senator Kennedy wanted to meet Winston Churchill and they arrangedthrough mutual friends the Johnny Angelliand to go aboard and meet Winston Churchill. So she had met him. She didn’t see him in 1961, she did see him in 1963.
LAMB: Three hundred and twenty five-foot yacht name, Cristina.
HILL: Very nice very nice yacht.
LAMB: How much time did you spend on it?
HILL: I was there from the time that Mrs. Kennedy got on until she got off. It was about 10 days, I believe, almost.
LAMB: And why was she there?
HILL: In August of 1963, she gave birth to little boy, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, up at Otis Air Force base in Massachusetts. And two days later young Patrick died and Mrs. Kennedy became very depressed.
And her sister, Lee, flew in from London to be with her. Lee and her husband the Prince Radziwill happen to be friends with Onassis. And Onassis had offered her yacht, made it available if they wanted to use it for Mrs. Kennedy’s use.
And they decided it would be good idea for her to get away for a while and that yacht would make an excellent platform to just to tour the area and get away from everything.
And President Kennedy wanted her to do it. Members of the staff were very concerned about here doing this because they because a political year of coming up 1964, they were concerned about how it would look.
But the President insisted that should be permitted to do it and so we went aboard, toured the Greek islands, when up then to Turkey, came back out and it was a very, very pleasant cruise.
LAMB: In your opinion why did she end up marrying him?
HILL: I believe it was after Robert Kennedy was killed. She was very distraught about that and she was very concerned about the security of the children and herself. Even though she had secret service protection at that time, up until she remarried, she was still concerned and he offered something that nobody else could offer.
Get on the private island, that’s where they lived. He had a private yacht, he had an airline, he had a great big apartment, different things in Paris, he had one in New York, he could offer her everything that she needed to guarantee her privacy and safety.
LAMB: How many Presidents have you work for?
HILL: Five Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson Nixon and Ford.
LAMB: When you think the back of Dwight Eisenhower, which I haven’t seeing you talk much about what you remember and how old were you?
HILL: When I first was assigned to Eisenhower, I was 27. And I know he was retired general, four star general, five star. And he was held in highest regard by everybody worldwide and for a young kid from North Dakota which is where I came from to be in the presence of the President was really special.
And he was a remarkable man, he was quite personable and so was Mrs. Eisenhower. They didn’t he didn’t call us by name. He just referred to us as ”Hey agent” whenever he wanted us to do something or wanted to address us but we respected him immensely. He was great man to be around. He loved to play golf as everybody knows. We spent a lot of time on a golf course and well we travelled a lot too.
We traveled all through Europe through Southeast Asia and then through Asia itself down we went to the Philippines and Taipei, Korea and we had just an enormous experience for me anyway.
LAMB: You mentioned North Dakota, what impact did it have on your life that you we’re adopted?
HILL: It really didn’t affect me too much. When is was told, I was about five or six years old, a little girl across the street told me that actually she was teasing me, I was adopted and I didn’t know what it meant.
So I went home to my mother to, you know, what was this adopted thing, what’s that? And so she was very concerned about the fact that I found out. She was afraid that I wouldn’t have the same kind of relationship that she and my adoptive father knowing that I really was somebody else’s child.
But I also had a sister who was adopted. We weren’t biological, she had been adopted before me. And we kind of formed a bond and we would never raise the issue with my mother because she was so concern and we never did until after she died in 1974.
LAMB: Jack Kennedy, the President called you Clint according to your book
and then other presidents call you ”Hey, agent”?
HILL: Only Eisenhower. President Johnson called me Clint and a few others thing.
LAMB: Did he ever swear at you?
HILL: In my presence, yes, at me I don’t think so.
LAMB: We’ve got some audio tape, you’ve probably heard this of Mrs. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson talking after the assassination near the Christmas time in December of 1963. Let’s listen.
(START OF AUDIO TAPE)
LYNDON JOHNSON: I hope that you are doing all right.
JACQUELINE KENNEDY: Oh I’m doing fine, thank you.
JOHNSON: This Congress is getting pretty rough up here and I may have to send for you before it gets through.
KENNEDY: I hope you get home for Christmas, will you?
JOHNSON: I don’t know, .
KENNEDY: . You’re so nice to call me Mr. President, because you must be out of your mind with work piled up
JOHNSON: I have a few things to do, but not anything that I enjoy more than what I’m doing now.
KENNEDY: You’re nice.
JOHNSON: How’s my little girl?
KENNEDY: She is fine and John just set off this jet plane, the noise you hear in the background.
JOHNSON: Well, tell him hello and I wish all of you a Merry Christmas, I wish I could do something to make it happier for you.
KENNEDY: No, you’re so nice and you’ve done everything you could.
JOHNSON: Yes, ma’am.
KENNEDY: Thank you so much.
KENNEDY: Thank you.
you know, how much we love you.
KENNEDY: Well, you’re really nice .
JOHNSON: You don’t know?
KENNEDY: No I don’t, what do you think?
JOHNSON: You better know.
JOHNSON: All the 180 million love you, dear.
KENNEDY: Oh thanks, .
JOHNSON: And all the world and I’ll see you after Christmas I hope and if you ever come back here again, don’t come to see me why there’s going to be trouble.
KENNEDY: All right, .
JOHNSON: You don’t realize I have the FBI at my disposal, do you?
KENNEDY: No, I promise, I will.
JOHNSON: I ’m gonna send for you, if you don’t come back.
JOHNSON: Or someday, they’re going to create a traffic jam out there in Georgetown.
KENNEDY: OK, well it’s been great.
JOHNSON: All right. You have a good Christmas dear.
KENNEDY: Thank you, the same to you.
KENNEDY: Goodnight. .
(END OF AUDIO TAPE)
LAMB: You spent a year with her after the assassination and I think I read that you said she never wanted to look at the White House again.
HILL: Yes, she had a difficult time. It was very emotional for her. We left on December 6, she moved out moved to Georgetown and from that point on, she just did not want to go by the White House.
LAMB: I gather she went back with Richard Nixon there.
HILL: Eventually, yes, when she went back there. I believe it was I can’t give you the year but I think it was when her portrait was unveiled, or something of that effect.
LAMB: I believe ’71 , I mean I could be wrong but let’s go back to your situation, you are 28 and she was 31?
LAMB: When you first met her. What are we hearing in this audio tape is it accurate about either one of there personalities?
HILL: I think it’s accurate for both of them sure. You know, that voice of hers, you know unmistakable. That’s her, that’s the way she talked, that’s the way she act. And that’s also President Johnson, that was all sweetness slight when he wanted to be, it was lot of different when he didn’t want to be but that was him, that’s the way he was.
LAMB: Who named this book Mrs. Kennedy and Me?
HILL: It was kind of joint effort, but mostly Lisa McCubbin had came up with the idea.
LAMB: Who is Lisa McCubbin?
HILL: She is the writer who actually should get credit for writing the book. She’s a fantastic writer. You should talk to her sometime.
LAMB: We had you here several months ago to talk about ”The Kennedy Detail,” the other book that you did with Gerald Blaine. How did you when did you decide to do this book?
HILL: Well during the process that I only contributed to that book and wrote the foreword for ”The Kennedy Detail. But Lisa McCubbin also wrote that book. She took she took the information that Gerald Blaine had put together and then wrote down that and went to great lengths to obtain information from all former agents she could contact and she put all had information together.
It was in that process that she asked for my help it because I was in Dallas and Gerry Blaine who wanted to write that book was not. And so they needed to talk to someone who had been there.
And I got to know Lisa and trusted her, ainedt confidence in her, in the process she convinced me that the information I had about Mrs. Kennedy was really historical and should be documented.
And over a period of time she convince that this is what I should do. And some former White House reporters came to me and said, ”You know, we covered the President and Mrs. Kennedy. We we’re never permitted to interview her. We never really knew her. You did, you owe it to the American people and the public to document that and put it down on paper.”
So after a while I thought well, I might just well do it because I’m not get any younger and so I decided to go ahead and do it.
LAMB: When was this book actually finished, the writing?
HILL: Well we had a deadline of September 1st which we didn’t make and we finished it on, I believe, it was November 1st of 2011.
LAMB: Since you were last here, the eight and a half hours of conversations between Arthur Schlesinger and Mrs. Kennedy have been released. Here is just a small excerpt from it, I want you to tell us again. This sounds like a different voice here a little bit then what you were saying.
(START OF AUDIO TAPE)
KENNEDY: It was so funny because Jack thinking of being Vice President and how awful it would be gave Lyndon so many things to do. But he never did them . I mean he could have made his council and human rights or whatever it was into some, you know, going ahead with it, equal opportunity, whatever it was, he could have done more with the space thing.
He just never wanted to make any decision or do anything that would put him in any position. So what he really liked to do was go on these trips and he never like Jack would say, you can never get the opinion out of him and then cabinet or national security meeting. He’d say, you know, that you agree with them whatever you wanted, just keep really quiet.
(END OF AUDIO TAPE)
LAMB: Were you there?
HILL: I was in the house. I talked Arthur Schlesinger before he went in to the room to interview her, on each occasion then after he came out, but I was not in the room during the interview.
LAMB: Recorded in 1964 between March and June.
between March and June. But I want to ask you Robert Harris’ book is out talking about the really just, you know, the distance between the Kennedy’s and the Johnson’s and the difficulty that Mr. Johnson supposedly had when he tried to come in to the presidency after the assassination. What did you see there? Did you see any of these?
HILL: Well there was there was certainly a difference between the two. And over a period of time, I saw it in fact it affected me in 1964. When I was transferred from Mrs. Kennedy back to the White House detail with President Johnson as President.
One of the first things that happened was we went to the LBJ Ranch for Thanksgiving. And he spotted me as I was going from one post to another down there and he put the word out to Rufus Youngblood and Lem Johns, who were the two agents probably closest to him that he didn’t want me around, that he knew I was had been with the Kennedy’s and he didn’t think that I should be there.
And they told me about it and then Youngblood went talked to Johnson and convinced him that I was there as a professional and I wasn’t there as political. And so he finally agreed to allow me to stay.
LAMB: When did you end up heading up his detail?
HILL: Two years later.
LAMB: And how did that go?
HILL: Well it was just one of those things where he there was going to be to change at the very top and they had their choice between myself and another gentleman. And apparently they talked to the president and I was selected for the job.
LAMB: What did you do with Gerald Ford?
HILL: I was assistant director for all protection at that time.
LAMB: So you weren’t on his detail?
HILL: But I was not his detail, I was responsible for the man that were there.
LAMB: How about Richard Nixon?
HILL: Same with him, I was I was during his term in office, I was promoted to assistant director.
LAMB: What have you found the people expected from you in this book. You say no gossip, none of that and people thought in the picture on the cover, some people say ”It implies that this two were very, very close, closer than just agent to protectee.”
HILL: We’re very close, very close friends. Very professional but close. I mean I knew a lot of her secrets and she knew a lot of mine. So you are accurate by saying, we were close. What I want people to get from the book is a better understanding of who she was, what she was like during that four year period because there’ve been a lot of books written and most of it is they’ve been written by people who have talk to friends of friends of friends, everybody don’t have the information themselves.
I happen to be there, I knew her and we had a direct relationship. And so I found and decided it was time to put it on paper and let people know what she was really like.
LAMB: Did she ever get mad at you and if she did when and why?
HILL: I think she got upset a few times because of certain things that either happened or but she wasn’t the kind that really got mad. I’m trying to remember anything that really upset her. I remember when she was thrown from a horse and she came off a horse because of the activity of the photographer, she was mad but not at me, she was mad at the photographer. I tried to get the film from him, I couldn’t get it.
LAMB: And who was the photographer and what was that I remember reading the book, what was the circumstances?
HILL: His name was Marshall Hawkins and it happened out in Middleburg. She was riding with a thing with the Orange County hat and I was surveilling her by vehicle. We didn’t ride with her on horses because the service thought it was too dangerous, too expensive and so we surveyed her from a vehicle.
And I noticed there is somebody down in the bush was near one of the fences that there were going up to jump and before I can do anything, he stood up Mrs. Kennedy and the horse approach the fence. The horse saw the photographer and just put its front hoofs into the ground, Mrs. Kennedy went right over the head of the horse.
Luckily over the fence with her hands and arms extended and get a roll, got right back up got right back in the horse and road off. She wasn’t hurt. But I was mad myself, I chased the photographer and finally got him and but I didn’t get the film.
LAMB: So you were between 28 and like 32 and she was between 31 and 34, 35
HILL: That’s right.
when you knew her the most.
HILL: That’s right. We were almost the same age. And she had there when I was there in 1960, when I started with her right after the election, Caroline was then three years of age at that time, I had a young boy who was four years of age.
And so we had that one child that were similar in age and then John was born in 1960 and I had another boy in 1961. So we had children almost the same age.
LAMB: I went back and the researched the years that the children were born and Caroline in 1957, a miscarriage in’55, still born child in ’56
were you there for that
LAMB: No, you wouldn’t have been. And John Jr. in ’60 and then of course, you mentioned, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, in ’63. What were what was it like for you to be around her when the children are born and was the President there?
HILL: When John was born in November 1960, you know, the President was not there because he had comeback to Georgetown to be with Mrs. Kennedy and Caroline for thanksgiving. But he left that evening and flew back to the Palm Beach. He was setting up his cabinet and everything.
And I, when he left that evening to go to Palm Beach, I found that Mrs. Kennedy was going to go to bed for that night, so I went to my home. Couple hours later, I get a phone call. She had been taken by ambulance to Georgetown hospital and so I rushed over there and John was born.
The President was on is way to Florida at that time, we couldn’t get in touch with him until he got on the ground in Florida. At that time, we were notifying him what was going on, he got on the press plane that was accompanying him because it was faster. It turned it around, I flew back to Washington, as soon as I was back, early in the morning and came to the hospital to see Mrs. Kennedy and the new baby.
LAMB: How did you remember all these?
HILL: Well, it’s just embedded in my mind.
LAMB: Did you did you keep notes?
HILL: I did, but I destroyed them a few years ago which really made it more difficult.
LAMB: Why did you destroy them?
HILL: I promised that I would never write a book. I vowed that I would never do so, never contribute to a book, never talk to anybody about it and so just to kind of make sure I would never get my self involve, I burned everything.
There are few mementos I kept, but for the most part, I burned all my notes and now when the opportunity presents itself and I decided to do it. I had to go back and talked to other agents who I work with, who did have still have some notes. And to check everything through newspaper archives for dates and times and places to make sure I was accurate and so it was very tedious to go through this and write the book.
LAMB: Do you remember the year you burned your notes?
HILL: It is 2012 it was after maybe 2005, something like that.
LAMB: So what changed your mind that you wanted to I mean what really changed your mind that you wanted to write a book?
HILL: Well really what Lisa McCubbin said that this was historical and what the White House former reporters told me. And also the fact that I had read a number of books written about Mrs. Kennedy. And for the most part, a lot of the information in there is not very true. And I thought it was time that somebody brought out the truth what she was really like. What kind of a person she was and that was one of the big reasons I wrote it.
LAMB: You said that she lived in seven different houses when you were guarding her?
HILL: Well let’s see was it seven. Cape Cod, Palm Beach, two in Palm Beach, well two in Cape Cod, that’s four, she spent lot of time in Hammersmith Farm up in Newport that’s five, Middleburg is six and they had another house at Middleburg is seven, Camp David, The White House, 3307 N Street in Georgetown,the Harriman House in Georgetown, another house across the street, a lot more than seven.
LAMB: Why did she need all those different places?
HILL: Well they left 3307 N Street in Georgetown to go to the White House and then they sold it. When she after the assassination and she had to leave the White House and she didn’t have a place to go.
Ambassador Herriman offered his house for she and the children to live in and they move there and then Herriman’s moved to a hotel. Then the house across the street became available and so she bought that house.
Then over a course of time, the local bus company owner decided this would be a great tourist attraction and he started running tourist buses by there and we couldn’t stop him. We tried. He refused to stop.
And so she finally decided it’s time to move from this area and she decided to move back to New York City. And so we went to New York and she found a place 1040 Fifth Avenue. So that was another residence I’ve forgotten to mention.
On the Cape, they owned a house within the Kennedy compound. But it got very congested there because of the business of the president. I mean with the all the press and everything else. So the first year they stayed in their own home but realizing how busy it was, they rent a place on Squaw Island the next two years, in fact two different places. One was Morton Downey’s house, the other house was another house, same in Palm Beach.
They originally stayed with Ambassador Kennedy in his house. But it just got to be too much for everybody. And so they were they had a friend who had a home and they leased the house for C. Michael Paul in Palm Beach.
Right, in Middleburg, they leased the place. The 400 acre place called Glendora. While she the owner of the Glendora finally terminated the lease, so they had to build a house and they build a house which she finally named Wexford. We called it Atoka but that was another house, she lived with.
LAMB: What kind of trouble did that cause for you?
HILL: Well it meant that in every place, there was a residence, we had to reestablish security and to set up new communications that would a lot of our communications agency had to do that. So, you know, it caused the problems.
When she built the house n Middleburg called Wexford, we built in that house some security devices. Well then they decided to rent the house for the first summer, that created a problem. But eventually they she did move into the house and she lived there very short period of time.
LAMB: You found yourself out there in Middleburg and places like that in Cape Cod just with her and your other protection group. But she would the president wouldn’t be there. How often were these two apart, it seemed like I read a lot?
HILL: They were separated a lot because of his business and traveling and everything else. And then she wanted to spend a lot of time away from the White House and she did.
She spent a lot of time in Middleburg. We go out there usually on Friday and stay until at least Monday sometimes till Tuesday. But further we come out either Saturday and sometimes Friday but usually Saturday and return to Washington at Sunday because of business.
LAMB: What did you think of their relationship?
HILL: From what I saw first hand, I was there. They were very loving couple and great deal of respect for each other, dependent on each other and supported each other. I saw nothing other than a very loving husband and wife and very devoted parents to two children.
LAMB: I’m sure you’ve seen these and I got to ask you about this because there’s nothing
about this in the book here’s an interview Meredith Vieira that was on NBC
a couple of months ago.
(Rock Center with Brian Williams video begins)
MIMI ALFORD: In most mornings, when I woke up I thought I don’t want to get up and write this book. I want to hide under the covers and
MEREDITH VIEIRA: So what made you then get out, you know, from under the cover.
yes, I think when you keep a secret and when you keep silent about something, you do it because you think it’s keeping you safe. But in fact it’s deadly.
VIERA: The secret claims Alford started in the summer of 1962 when the 19 year old debutant from a prominent New Jersey family began what she says was an 18-month affair with President John F. Kennedy.
The revelation was first revealed in 2003 when historian Robert Dallek wrote in his biography of JFK that a tall, slender, beautiful White House intern was rumored to be among the president’s many paramores.
At the time, Mimi declined to offer details. She issued a short statement and then disappeared. Now she is talking and says that her first close encounter with the president took place in this indoor heated pool at the White House. The invitation came from the president’s aid Dave Powers.
LAMB: Had you heard this before she published her book?
HILL: No, not really, no.
LAMB: Did you read the book?
HILL: Part of it.
LAMB: What do you think?
HILL: I question how she could get up in the morning, and look herself in mirror.
LAMB: Why do you think she wrote it?
LAMB: I mean I’ve quoted in your book that they had a close loving relationship basically what you just said here
but when you read this book, she went all over the country to be with him and either they were even you know, right in the middle of the Cuban missile crisis, she was supposedly somewhere in the White House and you couldn’t you never saw any evidence of this.
HILL: I never saw her, never met her, never knew about her, never knew of her. Now I was with Mrs. Kennedy and we were gone a lot. This allegedly happened in the ’62 area. In ’62, we were in, let’s see, in early spring we were in Pakistan and India. I was there for about six weeks. In the summer, we were either in Cape Cod or in Ravello, Italy.
So we weren’t at the White House a great deal all the time but I never knew this person, never saw her.
LAMB: But your book is without any controversy in it whatsoever and I wonder I mean you were upset. I know in last time we talked about Oliver Stone’s movie
and Gerald Blaine was what should we believe and what matters?
HILL: Well, I’m just telling it like it is that like showing you what she was like. I have no reason to do otherwise. So if people want to believe what they want to believe nothing I can do about that.
But this is Mrs. Kennedy as I knew here. This is the way our relationship how existed from 1960 to 1964 and beyond. And there’s just no reason to put anything in there that’s not true.
LAMB: If you go on Amazon.com, there are 50 some reviews at least and we’re recording this about your book and about 52 of them are five star positive. Have you read any of them?
HILL: A few but not very many. I’m not too great with the computer yet but I’m learning.
LAMB: The reason why I mentioned that I want to read one to you. And it’s full of nothing but praise about your book. And then it says ”I learned more than a few fascinating insights from this book. One, Jackie was more of an athlete than I thought. I wasn’t just Ethel and the other Kennedy’s who were the athletic gals.”
Two, she was incredibly self-centered. Stop there for a minute, was she?
HILL: Somewhat I would guess but not completely, not overwhelmingly, no.
LAMB: And then ”Three, I have a tad more empathy for President Kennedy and his hound dog ways, Jackie was missing in action a heck of a lot of time.”
HILL: Well we were going a lot but it was and I just don’t I don’t know what was transpiring, why we were gone, so I really can’t comment about anything that’s been alleged about him.
LAMB: All right, now this is about you. ”If Mr. Hill had opened up his personal life as he is telling the story, I think this could have been a much more powerful book. Last sentence, anyone know how Hill kids turned out. Did Clint’s wife divorce him, if not should she should get a medal.”
HILL: Well my wife and I are not together and haven’t been for sometime.
LAMB: She’s still alive?
HILL: Yes. I have two sons. They both live in the same, in this Virginia area. They’re both employed. They have children and so they are happy.
LAMB: Did you have any regrets, I mean that’s what they’re getting at
that you’re away 80 percent of the time.
HILL: Oh Sure. Because my sons grew up without me and for all intents and purposes, they never really knew. We’re closer now than we were then because of that fact. So I have that regret. It put a very big strain on my marriage, there’s no question about it. But it just it was my job. Something I really enjoyed and wanted to do and did.
LAMB: You say you left the service, the Secret Service when you’re 43 years old.
LAMB: And now if I if I gather right, you’re close to 80.
HILL: I am 80. Well that’s on the calendar, I’m 80.
LAMB: But not on the calendar, you’re what 60?
HILL: Fifty two.
LAMB: Fifty two. You had the bad period there. When was the bad period when you talk about living in the basement and drinking?
HILL: Seventy six to 82.
HILL: About six months after I retired. And then until a doctor finally told me that it was either quit what I was doing or die.
LAMB: And what was it like what were your days like?
HILL: I just get up in the morning and drink, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t we have friends would come and see me, I wouldn’t even respond to them. I mean I recall two of them coming. I was down the basement on the couch. I never even got up. I just I didn’t want anything to do with anybody. And didn’t have anything to do with anybody.
Finally I started to snap out of it when the doctor convinced me to, you know, I have to change. I went cold turkey. It wasn’t easy. I almost wore out the shirt pockets trying to get at the cigarettes that weren’t there anymore.
But over a period of time, I just got better and better until 1990, I was good enough, I went back to Dallas and that helped a lot.
LAMB: And what did the doctor tell you that got you out of it in ’81?
HILL: He told me I was either going to die, I was going to die if kept on what I was doing because I was damaging every part of my body I could damage. And that apparently scared me enough to make the change. And so I did.
LAMB: In the book though, you also talk about pain. Can you describe the pain you’re talking about although this.
HILL: That’s emotional pain. And some agents that I worked with still are going through that pain. And they will not even talk about the assassination. I was reminded everyday about what had happened in some way or another. Whether it was a news article, a TV show, a song or anything else. It was something there that reminded me and it really pained me because we had failed and nobody wants to be a failure. But I had failed in attempt in trying to protect the president and I knew that and it just killed me.
LAMB: Well the day were talking in May, here’s your picture in the paper today in the Washington Post.
HILL: I know that and it’s always there, it’s a reminder and I’m reminded all the time. But I’ve now because of my contributing to the Kennedy Detail book and now writing this book myself have been able to emotionally kind of climb the ladder. Thanks to Lisa McCubbin, who helped me get out of that dungeon that I was in. If it hadn’t been for that, I probably still be there.
LAMB: What is your reaction to this this is a Post piece and it’s just the looking at the secret service and the problems it came from Columbia? What’s your reaction to that?
HILL: Well I was shocked when I heard about it. I’m very glad that the director took immediate action and without prior to the time, anybody knew about it. They knew about it and they took immediate action before any press inquiries or anything else, he took action.
But I’m really saddened to know that the entire agency is being painted with the same brush. And so that everybody has that sense that they don’t trust them anymore probably. And yet, you know, they continue to work day in and day out and right in the midst of all this, they secretly take the president to Afghanistan in the middle of the night and he has a successful trip there and back. And that’s what they do on a day to day basis.
They shouldn’t be blamed for something that nine or whatever the number is other people did which was really wrong or irresponsible, extremely poor adjustment, stupid is a better word for it all and that’s what they were.
LAMB: Who’s James Rowley?
HILL: He was the director from 1961 until 1973.
LAMB: Of the Secret Service?
HILL: Of the Secret Service.
LAMB: I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this tape or not but here’s Lyndon Johnson and Jim Rowley talking on the phone.
(START OF AUDIO TAPE)
JOHNSON: Don’t make any request in my name unless I approve of it.
JAMES ROWLEY: Yes, sir.
JOHNSON: I just think it’s outrageous. Another thing here, you’re damn Secret Service cars stays up right behind me every trip and you’re going to kill more people than you see, that doesn’t do any good to be right close to me and all you do is running over little children and you run over a man’s foot here, I’m writing and apologizing for breaking his foot.
JOHNSON: And some of your men’s guns are going to go off and cause more danger than anything else. I wish you’d tell him to stay a little bit behind me so that they won’t run over the people that try and shake hands with me.
ROWLEY: Yes, sir.
JOHNSON: I’m writing this fellow in Georgia. His name is Charles B. Wheeler, he’s assistant chief of police
ROWLEY: Charles B. Wheeler.
Secret Service car ran over him at College Park broke his foot it’s now in a cast.
ROWLEY: All right, sir.
JOHNSON: So that’s what I’ve been telling them about. They won’t they like to stay right in one foot of me I don’t know why
ROWLEY: Yes, sir.
if they stayed 30 yards, it’d be so much safer. And when I’m driving and I stop in hurry, they’re liable to hit my bumper and break my neck but they won’t be instructed to do it.
ROWLEY: Right, sir.
JOHNSON: and then Walter I think told you about all those to range what I did
ROWLEY: Yes sir, you did, sir. We got a memorandum
JOHNSON: We got 46 Mercury automobiles according to Ford Motor Company and they think it’s outrageous and Republicans are going to be writing stories on it. You’ve had them at Fredericksburg for months
and we couldn’t use them if we’re down there.
ROWLEY: I see, yes, sir.
JOHNSON: And you might need one or two when we’re go and pick them up in Austin but I sure wouldn’t have Ford stationing 26 there
ROWLEY: , sir.
because I haven’t been home since before Easter.
ROWLEY: That’s right, sir.
ROWLEY: Thank you, sir.
(END OF AUDIO TAPE)
LAMB: So what are you hearing?
HILL: Well at least Mr. Rowley had the and probably only talk to my phone, he would talk to me in that same way and he would poke in the chest at the same time because that was about two feet from him and it was painful. But that was Lyndon Johnson and that’s the way he treated myself and everybody else that.
But understood, you know, he was just venting. That’s what he would do, vent, and then he’s fine, he’d get it off his chest.
LAMB: I’m also looking at a obituary on this day that we’re taping of the former Dallas medical examiner. A fellow by the name of Earl Rose who examined everybody at the assassination the whole around it. JD Tippett, the police officer
Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby and all the people that are involved in that day. But the secret service didn’t allow him to do an autopsy on President Kennedy, why?
HILL: Because it’s going to take too long. We want first of all, Vice President Johnson was in Dallas as well and we wanted him to leave. He would not leave until Mrs. Kennedy was ready to go.
Mrs. Kennedy wouldn’t leave without the president’s body. So we wanted to get the president’s body back to Washington. We thought since he’s president of all the people, the autopsy should be done in Washington at one of the military facilities. Either Walter Reed or Bethesda.
So they said in Dallas, the medical examiner Dr. Rose and others that the law said they had to do the autopsy there in Dallas since the homicide had occurred in Dallas. We understood the law and a judge came in and he told us, this was a law and there’s nothing you can do about it.
We’ve finally just said we’re going to have to go anyway. And so they finally acquiesced they said OK, then you have to have a medical professional, go with the bodies, stay with it all the time and we did.
Now I understand the article indicates that they let us go because Mrs. Kennedy wanted to leave. Well yes, she wanted to leave but Mrs. Kennedy even had a conversation with Dr. Rose or with any but really any conversation regarding leaving.
LAMB: In this obit, it says Dr. Rose believed many of those theories wouldn’t have gained traction meaning the conspiracy theories if he had been able to do his job.
HILL: Well I don’t know if that’s true. I mean sure there’s theories that speculate everything from our changing, removing the body and putting a different body in the casket and all other kinds of things which are absolutely stupid, ridiculous and dumb.
Nothing was done that in anyway change the outcome. The body was taken to Bethesda in Maryland, the autopsy was performed under the observation of FBI agents and Secret Service agents and the results are known.
LAMB: As aside by the way, the fellow we talked about in the last interview, Vince Palomar .
LAMB: You’ve seen his letter to the about your book?
HILL: I have not read it, no.
LAMB: I’m sure you probably know that he said that ”Mrs. Kennedy and Me” is highly recommended to everyone for its honesty and rich body of truth. He actually fully endorsed your book even though he’s been critical of
HILL: I’ll accept hispraise thank you.
are you worried that he’s not being
HILL: Maybe he has some secret agenda, I don’t know. But I accept his praise, thank you.
LAMB: In your book you say that you and Mrs. Kennedy never talked about the assassination, why not?
HILL: Yeah, well, I was not going to bring it up and she never did. It was like something that she just didn’t talked to about with anyone. Even today, if you go to the Kennedy library in Boston, you’ll find that the assassination, there is only one reference to it.
So that the very end of a tour that people take, there is simply the Walter Cronkite statement. Other than that there is no reference to assassination whatsoever. The entire library is based on his life and his legacy.
LAMB: You say that when she slept, you slept.
HILL: Yes. Which wasn’t much.
LAMB: How did you do this if there only a couple of you taking care of her, how would if you were asleep and she was asleep, who was protecting her?
HILL: Well we use the field agents as supplements for the midnight shift. For example, in New York, in New York agents would be there to work when we didn’t work. But when we when she moved, we were with her.
And we had field office agents supplementing us even then. I mean to drive us around and we didn’t know New York City that well and New York field office agents did. They knew where to go, they had great contacts. If we wanted to go to a certain restaurant, they could get in touch with that restaurant and set it up for us. So they did a lot of our work for us. But we accompanied her all the time.
LAMB: So after the assassination and you were there in Dallas, how did you approach the next 48 to 72 hours? What was your life like?
HILL: I was completely devoted to making sure that she was OK, that whatever she needed, we were going to make sure she had. That I didn’t get hardly any sleep. The morning of the 23rd, I went home about 6:00 in the morning just showered, shaved, ate something, came right back to work. And worked until like midnight that night and finally went home, got a few hours sleep, same way for the rest of that week.
And on Thanksgiving day that following Thursday, we flew to Massachusetts so that she could talk to his father. So I mean it was something we had to do because there weren’t any other people to take our place and we knew that she would want us with her and we wanted to be with her.
LAMB: And so where were you during that time period? Where exactly did you go with her?
HILL: Every place she went.
LAMB: Where did she go, what was her life like in those
HILL: Well, we left Bethesda Hospital with the body at about 4 o’clock in the morning on the 23rd, went back to the White House. The body was placed and stayed in the East Room. She and some members of family were there. She then went to the second floor. I went to my office which was in the ground floor.
And when I found out that she was had gone to sleep because she was in for awhile, I went home and showered changed clothes, and ate something, came back. Then during the day that day on the 23rd, she began to set plans for the funeral. And she had Sargent Shriver, her brother-in-law set up an office in the White House and work with other people. And she wanted it done a certain way and they did it that way.
Right that afternoon, I took her over to Arlington National Cemetery with and we met the Secretary of Defense there, McNamara, and they walked around that area looking where they wanted the president to be buried and he picked out the spot and we went back to the White House.
The next morning was the day or Sunday, the 24th, the body was to take there would be service in the East Room for the family and staff then the body was to be taken to the Capitol.
President, Mr. Johnson, would come over to White House because they were living at The Elms, his personal residence and he would pick she and the children up and accompany President Kennedy’s body to this U.S. Capitol placed in state .
But before that happened, I was over in the East Ring of the White House conferring with my boss, Gerald Blaine and the phone rang and it was General McHugh the Air Force aid to President Kennedy, saying Mrs. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy were on the we informed the White House they wanted to see the president’s body.
So I ran over, and McHugh and I opened the casket to make sure everything was OK and allowed them to go see the president.
In the process, she asked me to get her a pair of scissors and I got the scissors and she did what she wanted to do and then she and
LAMB: Did she cut a piece of his hair off?
HILL: Yes, she did.
LAMB: What did she do with that, do you know?
HILL: I do not know. She had it but I don’t what she did with it.
LAMB: And also that the guards that were around the casket, what was what was the instructions to them?
HILL: Well at first we General McHugh asked the officer in charge to have the guards move out of their office move out of the room, the East Room and she said ”Oh, no.” Just have them turn around so that we can have some privacy.
And so that’s what they did. They took three steps back and faced away from the casket and that’s when she and Bobby Kennedy went up and looked at the president in the casket.
LAMB: Why did she decide to walk to St. Matthew’s which is how far would you say that’s away from the White House?
HILL: It’s less than a mile, I suppose. But she wanted to walk the entire route.
LAMB: Since the Capitol or?
HILL: All the way. Capitol down from the White House to the Capitol back to the House White to St. Matthew’s to Arlington. But finding out that all these heads of state were going to be there. Some were in their 80’s. She finally and said OK, she’d only walk from the White House to St. Matthew’s. So even then that was a problem but you couldn’t talk her out of it. I tried, but I couldn’t.
LAMB: There’s more of a story to those salute from John Kennedy Jr. that he would he had been talk to salute before that day, what was it?
HILL: Well back in early November, Mrs. Kennedy came to me and said, you know, President Kennedy is going to go to out in National Cemetery on November 11th to pay tribute to the troops.
And I would want John to go with him and I want him to salute his father like to all the military will. But he doesn’t know how. Can you guys teach him. I said, sure. So the agents that were working with him, Bob Foster, Lynn Meredith, Tommy Wells. They started to work with him. And they gotten him to go on pretty good. I mean he saluted quite well. Most of times he was using his left hand.
LAMB: Was he three?
HILL: He was then, three, yes. Not quite three. And so he went with his father and he did very well. So then during the process of the funeral, we were up in the Capitol and he got a little rambunctious and the agents took him down the hall to a side office. And they tried to figure out what to do to keep him busy, so they had him practice his salute. And he always did it with his left hand.
There was a marine colonel standing in the doorway watching this, just shook his head, Colonel walked in apparently, I wasn’t there. This is what the agents told me. came walking in and said ”John, you’ve got it all wrong.” And he showed him how to salute. And that stuck with him. He did learn how with his right hand.
It took the agents forever trying to teach him to do it and he just didn’t quite get it. And this marine colonel taught him about two minutes maybe and he taught him how to salute.
And the day of the funeral, as the president’s body was removed from the church, placed on the case on to go back to Arlington to go to Arlington, Mrs. Kennedy just bowed down and said then to John’s ear, salute your father and he did.
LAMB: We’re about out of time. When you were working on Ford detail, President Ford was either shot at twice or there are two women in prison because of what they did. Did they actually shoot at him both of them?
HILL: That happen one month after I retired.
LAMB: It did.
HILL: And but one of them did actually shoot at him, the bullet went over his head and other one the gun didn’t go off because an agent jammed his thumb between the hammer and the cylinder.
LAMB: The reason I bring that up is that we only have about a minute left or so. Knowing what you’ve been through, living the bad years when, you know, the drinking and all that stuff, what would you recommend God forbid this ever happened again, what would you recommend to somebody that is doing what you did to avoid this kind of personal difficulty?
HILL: Willingly seek counsel, that’s the first thing. See a psychiatrist. Talk to people about what you’ve gone through. Get it out because what holding it in is what caused me the problem. I didn’t talk to anybody. Other agents, my family, anyone. I kept everything inside and that’s what really got me.
LAMB: The end of the book before the epilogue, you write, I mean the last couple sentences, ”We had been through so much together, Mrs. Kennedy and me, more than anyone can imagine,” and then you end it by saying ”More than anyone can ever know.” Is there a lot that we don’t know, a lot kept out of this book?
HILL: Well not a lot kept out of the book. Yes, we, she and I, had secrets, they’re not in book because that’s what they are secrets. A few of my revealed about her smoking mostly we didn’t know that.
LAMB: Three and a half packs a day.
HILL: Well I don’t know if it was that much. My smoking perhaps, yes, but her no, not that much. Also that she loved to read tabloids.
LAMB: And you had to go get them.
HILL: I was the one that had to buy them but there was a lot of little secrets that she and I had. They’ll always remain secret.
LAMB: You’re not going to put them somewhere in a bottle and hide them until 50 years from now?
HILL: No, I don’t plan to do that.
LAMB: Clink Hill is the author, Special Agent, United States Secret Service with Lisa McCubbin. The book is called ”Mrs. Kennedy and Me.” Thank you very much.
HILL: Thank you.