on April 4, 2012
I just finished reading Agent Clint Hill's book, Mrs. Kennedy and Me. As an ex-secret service agent and the first African American Agent to serve on the White House Detail under President Kennedy, I want to congratulate Agent Hill on a very well written and interesting memoir. I served on the detail with Agent Hill in 1961. When the terrible incident happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963 and the reports circulated that one agent had responded by trying to shield the occupants riding in the presidential limousine, I knew immediately that that agent was Clint Hill. The reader should know that, in my opinion, this book is the memoir of one of the most diligent, responsible, trustworthy, dutiful agents ever to serve on the White House Detail. This book is a must read for anyone endeavoring to obtain an insightful agent's view and understanding of the tragic occurrences of November 22, 1963.
Abraham W. Bolden, Sr.
on April 4, 2012
To my surprise this book is a love story. Not a salacious inappropriate smut filled account, but rather one with stories of growth, fun times, laughter, dedication, respect! A story of sorrow and sadness that is uplifting because of caring and friendship. This book is a warm modern portrait the Mr. and Mrs. John F. Kennedy and their children from someone who was close to them with no axe to grind. Even the sad events are presented with compassion. There's a lot of love in this book.
Secret Service Agent Clint Hill begins his association in late 1960 with the Kennedy administration in a fearful place. Fearful that after a couple of years of what he believed was success on President Eisenhower's detail, he's suddenly removed from the "main action" of protecting the president. Is this a demotion he bemoans? Like any macho Secret Service dude seeking to advance, Mr. Hill naturally dreads moving to the First Ladies detail with its potential daily doses of "fashion shows and the ballet." Yet, both loving his job and having a young family to support, Mr. Hill accepts his fate and reports to 3307 N Street, Georgetown, to meet (be approved by??!!) the young First Lady-elect (she's already rejected one perspective agent!!).
Disappoint quickly turns to beguilement, as Clint Hill is thoroughly charmed and enchanted by this beautiful, fun, witty, intelligent, adventurous, sporty, irreverent and yeah, a bit of a spoiled rich girl (who knows how to get her way). Heck, he even learns to not mind the occasional fashion show (so long as it features the First Lady!), ballet in New York and even personally shopping for ladies apparel in Ravello, Itally!!!! Who woulda thunk it.
No, I've not overdone it on the adjectives and yeah, this isn't your typical "Kennedy" bio. Mr. Hill doesn't criticize or attack, but showers his subject with affection. He and all the agents, because of the nature of their jobs, seemingly abandon their own lives and families in their service to the first family and all who they protect. One can see how the close private contact and the enormous amount of time spent away from the agent's loved ones can lead to feelings that are deeper and more personal towards the subject of their protection.
Mr. Hill (and she's "Mrs. Kennedy - she adheres to proper address at all times) not only loves the First Lady, but he also very much cares for her husband and their children too. He just plain loves the Kennedy first family period - and says that despite what's been written, they were a loving and playful family. He even is amused by the extended Kennedy clan and their friends!!
Mr. Hill doesn't portend to sell more books by detailing alleged unsavory dalliances and missteps. You will find no recollections or opinions about the first couple's sex life (apart from a remembrance about some suggestive art that the First Lady picks up in India...humorous not amorous). While Mr. Hill does mention a certain controversial birthday featuring a drunken female movie star and her singing, and he does hint at a certain rat pack crooners' rather inappropriate interest in Mrs. Kennedy's personal activities (this was new to me - and I've read at least 50 bios on the K's), Mr. Hill doesn't go further than what he truly knows to be true - which is that Mrs. Kennedy never shared her feelings about either.
I felt his writing in this way showed not only respect for his subjects, but a certain truth missing in most other biographies that serve rumor as fact, and seem to relish ripping their subjects apart. Well, there's no ripping here.
If one reads between the lines, here is a portrait of a woman who undoubtedly loves her place in life with her powerful, public servant, handsome husband (whatever his warts), and yet thrives on the one thing that is the antithesis of his job (and perhaps his entire being) - privacy. A lady who is tough and yet wears her vulnerabilities in "her espresso-colored eyes." A lady who claims to dislike the "fish bowl" existence inherent in the White House, yet secretly enjoys reading the gossip magazines featuring herself.
Topics that Mr. Hill offers an accounting:
Why Mrs. Kennedy spent so much time away from the White House (Mr. Hill says she spent about eight percent of her time AWAY from the White House during one time period in 1961).
Mrs. Kennedy's various vacations and partying amongst the creme de la creme of the European social set without her husband (according to Mr. Hill, usually with her SISTER - and nothing out of line - except for the time she jumps in the sports car of a very, very young Greek Count who engages Mr. Hill and his fellow agents on a high speed chase...but that was about fun - not illicit romance).
Onassis! I didn't know that President Kennedy felt so strongly about Mrs. Kennedy having nothing to do with Onassis as early as her visit to Greece in 1961!!! Mr. Hill felt very uneasy about the Greek tycoon.
Despite the fun and adventures, in the end, this is a story about great pain, loss and sorrow. Also, about one man's journey to learning to forgive himself. This book is a great success for no other reason than its finally allowed Mr. Hill peace of mind.
on April 7, 2012
I was thirteen the year that President Kennedy died. I sobbed as I walked home from school that day. I sobbed as I read this book and there were moments that I felt like I was reliving all of this with Agent Hill. The killing, the motorcade, the funeral ,the warren commission, all of it.
The compassion these men feel for the "First Family" is obvious, the sacrifices they make are phenomenal. Thank you would never be enough to repay them for their service to our country .
This book is indescribable and a must read. There are no words to describe the emotions I felt reading it nor the insight to the personal life of Mrs. Kennedy.
Thank you Agent Hill for sharing your heartfelt memories.
on April 5, 2012
I was five years old when President Kennedy was shot, so I never really understood the awe people had towards Jackie Kennedy. Now, I know. Reading "Mrs. Kennedy and Me" has taught me to respect this lovely woman. I cannot put the book down. Clint Hill, called Mr. Hill, by Jackie and the children, shares some wonderful memories. Jackie insisted that the children call him Mr. Hill as a sign of respect and, of course, good manners. This theme is played throughout the book.
Jackie comes across as a shy, warm, loving woman. She had the ability to make others feel comfortable. She also couldn't understand why people were so interested in seeing her. For example, Mr. Hill tried to take her shopping in Palm Beach, but as soon as people recognized her, she felt awkward and ill-at-ease. This happened everywhere she went all over the world. This was a woman who was better at one-on-one conversations. She spoke fluent French, was a fashion icon, an accomplished rider, a devoted mother, and, extremely well read and intelligent. (But, of course, you knew that.)
The 26 chapters are short and almost a little story of their own. Included are black and white photos that add so much to the book.
The inside-the-Secret-Service insight is fascinating. They protected the children and family without cell phones and the Internet. Each of the Kennedy's had a code name that began with the letter "L." Secret Service agents had code names, too. I am amazed at their dedication to their job. Mr. Hill spent many long days away from his wife and children living in hotels and getting little sleep while on duty.
This is not a smut, tell-all book. It is the story of Mrs. Kennedy and Mr. Hill. It is their story and what a wonderful opportunity for us!
As an adult, I, too, am in love with Jackie. What a class act! Read this book.
on April 13, 2012
This is a charming book that made me smile and made me weep as well. It was a beautiful book and the only BAD thing about it was that it ended!! I do hope Caroline reads this book. It is delightful. These two had a special friendship and relationship and "Mr. Hill" presents it in a very interesting manner. No one was like her and no one will ever be like her. No one looked like her, talked like her, no one even wrote like her...she was destined for her greatness. I could not put the book down but I rationed my reading time because I wanted it to last and last. Thank you Mr. Hill, for finally sharing a historic chapter of your life with all of us who are old enough to remember when...life was beautiful, people had manners and CLASS! Another era of Americana...gone with the wind.
on September 4, 2012
Having recently read the Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations book, I was intrigued by the perspective offered by this memoir from a Secret Service agent. Agent Clint Hill was assigned to the First Lady's detail and after first dreading it, eventually developed a strong relationship with her and her children. This is a very respectful book which creates a strong sense of the time in which it took place, as well as the sacrifices required by a Secret Service career (Hill basically spent the entire time of the Kennedy presidency away from his own family, not seeing his own kids grow up as he helped protect the young Kennedys).
This book paints an interesting portrait of the contrast between the privileged Jackie and the people who serve her at great sacrifice to themselves, such as all the effort that must go on behind the scenes when she decides she wants to do something unusual for a state dinner. I was also fascinated by how much time she spent away from the White House (unlike Historic Conversations, this book gave the impression she was barely ever in Washington, which makes it a little clearer how things like Marilyn Monroe could occur...).
I would have liked to learn a bit more about the life of a Secret Service agent and the personal life of Hill. It is not laid out in the book, but based on his age at retirement from the Service and some comments he makes, it seems that the death of President Kennedy drove him to drink and ruined his life in many ways. I was curious how the job affected his marriage as well, but this is barely touched on--in one scene, when his wife finally meets Jackie, the actual meeting is not even described!
Clearly, Hill is being his usual unobtrusive self in not focusing on his own story, but I think some details about how his life played out would have been welcome. I was invested in him and wanted to know what happened to him, and it wasn't there.
Even if you think most of this book is fluffy or aren't interested in Jackie Kennedy, the last part of the book--describing the events of Nov 22 1963 in Dallas--will have you glued to the page. Hill was with the President and First Lady as Kennedy was assassinated and his eyewitness account of not only the assassination, but the agonizing aftermath, can't fail to move you.
All in all, I'm glad I read this little piece of history, and I hope Clint Hill is doing well.
on November 4, 2013
If you recall the assasination and lived through the 1960's "Kennedy Era" you will enjoy this book as a memoir. Because I was 7 months pregnant with my 2nd child at that time, the 50th Anniversary coincides with her 50th Birthday. Also, my late father was working at the American Embassy in Mexico City when the Kennedys visited - and I have some wonderful memorabilia from that time - invitations, articles written by local newspapers, a special booklet written by the State Dept. for the occasion, a "rocking chair" with a realistic replica of the President (a doll) sitting in it.(ONLY given to Embassy Employees) A special award for Distinguished Service given to my father by the President. So....reading the book reminded me of my Mom & Dad's 1st hand comments about meeting President Kennedy & Mrs. Kennedy. As another review indicated, I was saddened to learn of the "working conditions" of the Secret Service personnel - they were on call 24/7. I was also saddened to learn that apparently no grief counseling or support was provided to Mr. Hill or any of the Agents who were there in Dallas on that tragic day. There were vague references at the end of the book regarding Mr Hill's "possible" alcohol issues - and divorce (???)Again, read this book ONLY if you are interested in the Kennedy Presidency.
on June 26, 2012
While I enjoyed this book immensely, I have to admit that very shortly into the book, I determined that the author had fallen in love with Jacqueline Kennedy. I don't believe that those feelings were reciprocated, but it was so obvious in his conversations about her eyes, and how much it hurt him to disappoint her in any way. I think his wife must have been EXTREMELY understanding -- or maybe not, as I don't see her mentioned at the end of his book at all.
on April 3, 2012
Saying this book is fantastic simply does not do it justice. I had previously read and enjoyed The Kennedy Detail, and was anxiously awaiting Mrs. Kennedy and Me. There have been hundreds of books written about The Kennedy Family, and about Jackie in particular, but nothing from this point of view. The stories Mr. Hill offers illustrate a unique bond they shared- from enduring the death of her child, to the horrific loss of her husband, they have been through so much together. Jackie Kennedy was, of course, such an amazing woman in her own right, but suffice to say, she was a very lucky woman to have Clint Hill as the man assigned to her Detail. This book is filled with so many wonderful stories, I could not put it down! I was laughing out loud one moment, crying the next. Very beautifully written. Bravo, Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin! And thank you, Mr. Hill for so generously sharing your stories with the rest of us. Well done.
on May 9, 2012
Clint Hill's memoir is sad (of course), and brimming with the unspoken, unrequited adoration of a steward for the lady of the manor. It's clear that the careless Kennedys never knew the depth of Hill's feelings, though Jackie seems to have played on them as she pursued her "whim of iron." His stoicism took a terrible toll on him and leaves us to read between the lines.
I was surprised, often appalled by the sacrifices Secret Service agents were routinely expected to make in those days. Hill seems literally to have been on call 24/7 for three years, on a $12/day stipend, watching and arranging while Jackie enjoyed a luxurious life aboard Onassis' yacht, in the Carlyle hotel, and in villas around the world. I'm not saying it was easy on her, as she and Jack subscribed to an aristocratic code that valued dash and courage above all, to a point of exhaustion and near-breakdown.
But it all seems to have created a sort of hypnosis for Hill, as Jack and Jackie's magnetism bent everyone around them to Kennedy needs, regardless of their own. The end result of Hill's service, including his heroism at the assassination? A brief medal ceremony, deep trauma that went unacknowledged and years of barely functioning seclusion.
And this telling detail: He could never bring himself to think of her as "Mrs. Onassis."