I am fascinated with the past. History was always my favorite subject growing up and I always had a love of the magical and complicated, but short 1,000 days that was dubbed Camelot by former first lady, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.
I happened to be home on November 22nd – the 50th anniversary of President John Fitzgerald’s assassination in Dallas, and was sucked into the endless specials being shown on the History Channel and CNN among others. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, the Zapruder footage of the actual shot hitting the president is horrific and the sight of Jackie Kennedy reaching over the trunk to pick up a piece of her husband’s skull, while a secret service agent is jumping on the car is forever etched in my mind.
It wasn’t until watching all the specials on television, that I found out that the secret service agent leaping onto the car, Clint Hill, had written a book in 2012 about his life with the enigmatic Mrs. Kennedy as he called her. Mr. Hill as she called him, delivers a poignant memoir about his years with perhaps the most iconic first lady in history.
It’s essentially a love story, an ode to the soft voiced lady behind the glamorous facade. It brings to life an icon in way that has never been done before, which is saying a lot considering there have been so many that have tried. It’s never salacious or scandalous, instead it paints a portrait of life with a demanding lady, who intensely valued her privacy after being thrust into such a visible role.
While it is very clear just how much Mr. Hill loved (and most likely still loves) both President and Mrs. Kennedy, the dialogues he writes about with the first lady and president were always professional and respectful. However, it’s his personal thoughts behind certain occurrences that are a joy to read. His reactions to the Mrs. Kennedy’s requests that went beyond his job requirements are laughable – like shopping for her clothes in Europe, or his reaction to the gift of a horse from Pakistan’s president, Ayub Khan and numerous other requests from Mrs. Kennedy that always began with, “Oh Mr. Hill!” Yet, he stays incredibly discrete, never discussing the contents of numerous private chats he had with the first lady.
His details of the assassination are heartbreaking, especially when discussing little Caroline and John. It’s evident (and has been stated by him numerous times) that he has not gotten over that fateful day in Dallas, and still blames himself to some extent.
Mrs. Kennedy and Me, will make you smile, laugh and tear up throughout the course of your reading adventure. While the prose may not be elegant, the story and the message are beautiful.
“We had been through so much together, Mrs. Kennedy and me. More than anyone can imagine. More than anyone can ever know.” – Clint Hill
*There are wonderful pictures throughout the book and below are a few of my favorite pictures of the iconic First couple.
The beautiful dedication.