Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent who leapt onto the back of John F. Kennedy’s limousine 50 years ago, says these days, warring politicians in Congress are “hurting the country more than they’re helping.”
Noting how the country united following the assassination of the commander in chief, we asked Hill if there’s anything that could bring a famously fractured Washington together.
“They need to understand that there’s only one way to make it work [and that] is to cooperate with each other,” Hill, who was one of two agents assigned to protect first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, said of lawmakers. “They’re not going to get everything they want, but at least they’ll get something. And the way it’s going right now, nobody’s getting anything.”
He added, “Really I think they’re hurting the country more than they’re helping.”
ITK caught up with the former agent as he was feted Sunday by Café Milano owner Franco Nuschese at an intimate brunch at the Georgetown eatery. A VIP crowd — including CNN's Wolf Blitzer, PBS's Jim Lehrer, Tammy Haddad, and Washingtonian magazine’s Garrett Graff, among others — was on hand to celebrate Hill’s new book with Lisa McCubbin, Five Days in November.
Hill called the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s killing “difficult” and emotional” but said the passing of the actual date offered a sort of closure.
“No question I am a very reluctant witness to history,” Hill said of his role on that fateful day in Dallas. “You know, I certainly didn’t ask for all the attention I’ve been getting. It’s just one of those things; I just happened to be there at the time, and there’s nothing I can do about that — just trying to do my job.”
He bristles at the notion that his actions were heroic, saying, “I don’t look at myself that way at all.” He says the true heroes are folks who jump at the chance to save someone without any kind of preparation: “I was trained. I had a job to do, and I was trying to do my job.”
At 81, Hill might long be remembered for the pivotal part he played 50 years ago. But the only surviving member on the limo that made its way to Parkland Hospital says he also shared plenty of lighter moments with the Kennedys.
He remembers a trip to the first family’s Virginia country house in 1963, “They were sitting there on the patio, and one of the ponies walked up and started to nuzzle the president,” Hill recalls.
“I mean it was just hilarious. And everybody there was having a great laugh and a wonderful time,” he says with a smile.
So were even the Secret Service agents allowed to join in on the round of chuckles?
“Oh sure,” he says warmly. “We do have a sense of humor.”