There has been much renewed interest in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the impact it had on the First Lady as the tragedy is set to be revisited once again in the new film Jackie, starring Natalie Portman.
In his 2016 book Five Presidents, Jackie’s Secret Service agent Clint Hill wrote about that horrible day in Dallas when President Kennedy was shot, and his wife’s demand two days later that she see her husband one last time in in his casket.
‘Weeping, Mrs. Kennedy turned to me, and asked if I would bring her a pair of scissors,’ wrote Hill.
‘I quickly found some in the drawer of the usher’s office across the hall, and after placing them in her hands, I turned away to give her some privacy.
‘With my back to the casket, I heard the sound of the scissors, beneath the painful cries, as she clipped a few locks of her husband’s hair.’
Jackie then rode the short distance with her children as the casket was delivered to the US Capitol, as tens of thousands lined the street in Washington DC.
Around this same time Hill learned that the man who assassinated President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, had been shot dead.
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Jackie Kennedy lays flowers on the grave of President Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery
Members of the Kennedy family at the funeral of President Kennedy (l t r: Senator Edward Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, Jackie, Attorney General Robert Kennedy and John John)
President Kennedy and Jackie riding through the streets of Dallas moments before he was shot
Hill was also the Secret Service agent who could be seen jumping on the back on the convertible carrying President Kennedy and the First Lady after he was shot.
Speaking on Today back in 2012, Hill, now 80, recounted his determination to throw himself between the Kennedys and the bullets as parts of the president’s brain and skull splattered over his shirt.
When a third bullet hit the president’s head and the motorcade sped to hospital, Hill said the First Lady refused to leave the car, fearful that onlookers would see her husband’s horrific injuries.
‘I recognized that the problem was she didn’t want anyone to see him,’ Hill told the Today show. ‘It was a gory situation. And so I took my jacket off and I covered his head and upper back. Then she let go.’
The heartbreaking scene came just minutes after President Kennedy was hit in the neck and head by accused gunman Lee Harvey Oswald while driving through Dallas, Texas in November 1963.
In his memoir, Mrs Kennedy and Me, Hill recalled the crowds cheering for the motorcade and the moment he heard an explosion. He looked around and saw the president grab his throat.
‘Somebody had fired a shot at the President, and I had to get myself between the shooter and the President and Mrs. Kennedy,’ he wrote. ‘Nothing else mattered.’
President Kennedy and his wife playing with their children Caroline and John John
Clint Hill was the Secret Service agent who jumped on the car after Kennedy was shot
As he moved towards Mrs Kennedy, he watched her reaction: ‘Her eyes were filled with terror,’ he wrote. ‘She was reaching for something. She was reaching for a piece of the President’s head.’
Before he could reach them, two more bullets were shot – the final one hitting the president in the head, just above his right ear.
‘The impact was like the sound of a melon shattering onto cement,’ he remembered, adding that the President’s blood and parts of his skull splattered over his clothes, face and hair.
Pulling Mrs Kennedy, as he always called her, into her seat, the president’s body fell into her arms with his eyes open. ‘Jack, Jack, what have they done to you?’ she wailed.
He added on Today: ‘That’s the one thing that I can’t get out of my mind – the picture of him lying in her lap with his head exposed to me, looking into the back of his head.’
Hill, who has previously said he could have taken the third bullet had he moved a second sooner, said he then had the thought: ‘How did I let this happen to her?’
He continued to work as Jackie Kennedy’s agent for a further year after the death. During his time working with the family, he had grown close to the former first lady, which he admits was unusual.
He recalled stories of sneaking cigarettes together in the back of the car during drives, and offering her advice ahead of the trip to Dallas after she expressed fears about their safety.
‘I admired her a great deal,’ he said. ‘We shared a lot of things together. We had a very deep, deep bond between the two of us.’
Hill detailed his time working with the Kennedys in his two books, Mrs. Kennedy and Me (left) and Five Presidents (right)
A year after the assassination, he went to work for Lyndon Johnson. But he quit in 1975 after guilt he felt from the shooting made him turn towards alcohol.
‘I had problems sleeping,’ he told Today. ‘I had nightmares, I went into a very deep depression, I cut myself off from friends and family.’
He kept in touch with Jackie Kennedy for a few years after he stopped working for her but when he heard about her struggle with cancer in 1994, he could not bring himself to lift the phone.
‘I knew that the mere sound of my voice would take her back to that day that changed everything,’ he wrote. ‘And the sound of her voice would do the same to me.’
Hill will be portrayed by David Caves in Jackie, which opens in limited release next week.