Jackie wouldn't let go of JFK, first agent to reach president says

(CBS News) DALLAS -- As the limousine carrying the wounded President Kennedy sped on to Parkland Hospital following the shooting, his body was shielded by the Secret Service agent who jumped onto the back of the car.

His name is Clint Hill. Now 82, CBS News spoke to him about what happened when they reached the hospital.


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Clint Hill
CBS News
CLINT HILL: We got the governor out and put him on a gurney. Mrs. Connally went with him into the emergency room -- trauma room two. And then we were gonna try and help the president. I asked Mrs. Kennedy, I said, "Please let us help the president." No response. She had a hold of him and she wouldn't let go. So I pleaded with her again and still no response.  … And I realized the problem was she didn't want anybody to see the condition he was in 'cause it was horrible. So I took off my suit coat, I covered up his head, his upper back. As soon as I did that, she let go. 

SCOTT PELLEY: Once the president is wheeled into the trauma room at Parkland Hospital, what happens after that?

CLINT HILL: The senior supervisor on the trip asked me to open a phone line to the White House in Washington. So I did.  I got in touch with my senior supervisor. … As I was talking to him, the operator cut into the phone line. He said, "Mr. Hill, the attorney general wants to talk to you." 

SCOTT PELLEY: This is the president's brother.

CLINT HILL: The president's brother, Robert Kennedy. … He said, "Clint," he said, "What's going on down there?" … So I explained to him that both the president and the governor had been shot and that we were in the emergency room at Parkland Hospital. So then he said, "Well, how bad is it?" Well, I didn't want to tell him his brother was dead. I didn't think it was my place. So I said, "It's as bad as it can get." And when I said that he hung up the phone.


Hill says at one o'clock, a doctor announced the president's death, and someone asked Hill to find a casket.

SCOTT PELLEY: When you called the mortuary, what did you tell them?

CLINT HILL: I identified myself. I told them that there had been a shooting and that we needed a casket … immediately. And best one that they had and that it was for the president.

SCOTT PELLEY: When you sat down with Mike Wallace for "60 Minutes" in 1975, you told Mike that you felt that you were in some way responsible, that you could have saved the president from that final shot. I wonder after reflecting on all these years if you still feel that way?

CLINT HILL: Well, after that interview in 1975 with Mr. Wallace, then in 1990 I came back here to Dallas.  I walked the area of Dealey Plaza, and I came up inside the Texas Schoolbook Depository. And after a couple hours I came away knowing that I did everything I could that day. … But I still had that sense of guilt and responsibility because I was the only one who had a chance and I was unable to do anything. 


Hill helped carry the casket onto Air Force One. And before the new president was sworn in, the first lady asked to see her longtime bodyguard.

CLINT HILL: She grabbed my hand and said, "Oh Mr. Hill, what's going to happen to you now?" I said, "I'll be okay Mrs. Kennedy. I'll be okay." 

SCOTT PELLEY: That must have been the most unbelievable moment for you.

CLINT HILL: It was. It was very--

SCOTT PELLEY: The first lady, with her husband just assassinated, was concerned about your welfare.

CLINT HILL: It was very emotional. And I was very surprised that, you know, she said what she said.


Air Force One then took off for Washington, for the first time carrying two presidents.

Clint Hill has recorded his memories in a new book, "Five Days in November," published by Simon and Schuster, part of the CBS Corporation.

  • Scott Pelley

    Anchor and Managing Editor, "CBS Evening News;" Correspondent, "60 Minutes"

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