Agent recounts friendship with ‘Mrs. Kennedy’ in moving work

JAY STRAFFORD For The Free Lance–Star

A famous image: On Nov. 22, 1963, Secret Service Agent Clint Hill boosted himself onto the trunk of the presidential limousine to push Jacqueline Kennedy to safety inside the vehicle, from which she had climbed and in which President John F. Kennedy lay beyond medical help.

But the first lady’s connection to Hill did not end in Dallas, as he relates in “My Travels with Mrs. Kennedy,” a work that blends reflection, humor and candor with a wealth of previously unpublished anecdotes and photos from global journeys.

In 2019, when Hill was preparing to sell the Alexandria house he had owned since 1967, he and girlfriend Lisa McCubbin (they married in 2021) found a trunk brimming with items from his time with the Kennedys. The result is this book.

Hill and Jackie called each other “Mrs. Kennedy” and “Mr. Hill” — a generational formality that did not accurately define their relationship. “It wasn’t romantic, but it was beyond friendship,” he writes.

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Hill initially saw Jackie as similar to “previous first ladies who stayed in the background.” But during the Kennedys’ first overseas trip, to Paris in 1961, “Her confidence grew with each interaction and she realized the importance her position could have as well as the responsibility that came with it.”

In Pakistan in 1962, Hill faced a logistical issue after President Ayub Khan presented her with a horse. “I was standing behind her … thinking ‘How the hell am I going to get that damn horse back to Washington?’ “

Hill remained with Jackie for a year after the assassination. They met once more while he was protecting President Lyndon B. Johnson at Robert Kennedy’s funeral in 1968. Caroline and John Jr. invited him to their mother’s burial rites at Arlington National Cemetery in 1994.

“When the service ended, I didn’t linger. … But it meant something to me to be by her side one last time.”

The hopes that greeted the Sixties blossomed but withered with JFK’s death; the era that Jackie compared to Camelot was sadly brief and ultimately tragic. But Hill’s touching narrative bears witness to the life-enhancing qualities of mutual, platonic affection.

Jay Strafford, a retired Virginia journalist, now lives in Florida.

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