Mrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir
By Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin Publisher: Gallery Comments B005GG0M0G
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USA TODAY Review
‘Mrs. Kennedy’: A relationship of respect, protection, love
By Don Oldenburg, USA TODAY
April 02, 2012
If you’re a Kennedy vulture looking for scandalous scraps of hushed-up affairs, look elsewhere. Retired Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill’s charming insider’s chronicle of the Kennedy years is more of a Driving Miss Daisy tale that contains lots of Secret Service logistical stories and daily-life anecdotes but few startling revelations.
Not that Hill drove Mrs. Kennedy much. His job was to protect her. But this account by the Secret Service agent seen in the Zapruder film frantically climbing onto the back of the presidential limo to shield JFK and the first lady on that fateful day in Dallas is more about how a relationship between two strikingly different people in close contact evolves into genuine intimacy.
When Hill, now 80, first met Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in November 1960, JFK had just been elected president and “Jackie” was pregnant with their son, John Jr. Jackie was a rich girl, Miss Porter’s School, Vassar, the Sorbonne, equestrian, married to the junior U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Clint Hill was an adopted small-town North Dakota boy, normal ’50s childhood, Concordia College in Minnesota.
Hill had served on President Eisenhower’s Secret Service detail and figured this reassignment to protect the next first lady was a demotion — the “Kiddie Detail.” Little did he know he’d soon be accompanying Mrs. Kennedy on trips worldwide as she redefined the role of the modern first lady.
While Mrs. Kennedy’s beauty, grace, intelligence and spirit quickly captivated Hill, her insistence on privacy and trying to raise her children normally are what earned his respect. He writes that he “wasn’t there to be her friend,” but he became one of her most trusted friends. He never uses the word, but not only did he adore her, it’s clear from his book that Hill (who was married) loved her.
Yet they never ventured beyond formality. He was always “Mr. Hill,” she was always “Mrs. Kennedy.”
What makes this memoir memorable is that Hill was always there as the Kennedy legend evolved. He was there for Caroline’s first snowman, and John-John’s birth, for Thanksgivings at Hyannis Port and Christmases at Palm Beach. When Jackie’s horse threw her headfirst, he raced to her side. As more than a 100,000 people lined the streets in New Delhi waving miniature American flags and cheering her, he was scanning the crowd for potential dangers. When she needed a tennis opponent, he did the best he could in his dark suit and Florsheim wingtips. While many of the book’s anecdotes have previously been reported, Hill owns the point-of-view advantage.
At times, it’s easy to tell where Hill’s voice ends and co-author Lisa McCubbin’s voice begins, such as when describing what Jackie was wearing: “an ice-blue long-sleeved silk coat with a matching whimsical beret.” But McCubbin, an award-winning journalist, undoubtedly helped Hill sustain the storytelling quality of the narrative.
Nowhere in the book does that quality become more intense and dramatic than the 25 pages describing the day of the assassination and the disturbing details of Hill’s eyewitness account as he climbed across the back of the limousine after hearing the first shot and seeing the president reach for his throat. What Hill saw in those seconds would haunt him forever.
As for JFK’s infidelities, Hill upholds the “secret” side of his service and never even mentions any scandals. Still, the book conveys a sense of honesty and proves to be an insightful and lovingly penetrating portrait of the Jacqueline Kennedy that Hill came to know.
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By Vince (The United States) — 5 of 5 stars — Mar 31, 12 OUTSTANDING: SECOND ONLY TO “WITHIN ARM’S LENGTH”!
I so wanted to dislike this book. As the leading civilian literary expert on the Secret Service, I had previously—-and rightfully—lambasted Lisa McCubbin’s prior effort entitled “The Kennedy Detail” for its rewriting of history, …more#
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Vince Palamara’s review
Mar 31, 12
OUTSTANDING: SECOND ONLY TO “WITHIN ARM’S LENGTH”!
I so wanted to dislike this book. As the leading civilian literary expert on the Secret Service, I had previously—-and rightfully—lambasted Lisa McCubbin’s prior effort entitled “The Kennedy Detail” for its rewriting of history, blaming JFK for his own death and putting words in the late president’s mouth that he never once uttered, as verified by the prior accounts of numerous top agents and White House aides, many of whom WERE there in Dallas (unlike former agent Gerald Blaine). As previously stated, it was my 22-page letter to former agent Clint Hill that angered him and his best friend to whom I had also spoken to, the aforementioned Blaine, that directly led to the writing of “The Kennedy Detail” and, by extension, the need to write a follow-up tome, “Mrs. Kennedy & Me” (whenever a book is even a mild best-seller, which their first effort was, it is almost a guarantee that, if there is any gas left in the tank, so to speak, a further literary work will be forthcoming). In fact, both agents Blaine and Hill debated the merits of my research on television and, if that weren’t enough, I was mentioned on pages 359-360 of “The Kennedy Detail” (without naming me, of course). One could argue several other pages refer to my work, directly or indirectly, but I digress from the matter at hand.
Simply put, “Mrs. Kennedy & Me” is stupendous: a literary home run, second only to another brand new work, the outstanding 2012 book “Within Arm’s Length” by former agent Dan Emmett, as attaining the mantle of being the greatest book on the Secret Service by a former agent ever to date (1865-2012 and counting). I almost cannot believe I am writing this but, alas, honesty prevails: Mr. Hill and Ms. McCubbin have alot to be proud of for this book—it is consistently everything “The Kennedy Detail” is not: truthful, honest, no axe to grind, not dry or boring, well written, and coming from the perspective of a brave and dedicated public servant who WAS truly there (to be fair, even “The Kennedy Detail”, and certainly the documentary it was based on, had its moments, although my judgment is rightfully clouded by what I and others feel are the purposeful untruths and propaganda contained throughout, as well as the exasperating third-person narrative interwoven throughout the book, making it hard to pin down exactly WHO was responsible for specific passages. President Kennedy did NOT order the agents off his limousine in Tampa, in Dallas, or anywhere else, for that matter- SAIC Behn, ASAIC Boring, ATSAIC Godfrey, many of their colleagues, and several prominent White House aides said so).
Do I still have misgivings about some of the agents on the Kennedy Detail? Sure; that will never change. Am I also an ardent admirer of the Secret Service? You bet: the agency has a whole lot to be proud of. Clint Hill at least TRIED to do something that fateful day inDallasand carried much guilt and depression over the sad events of that time and place. That is a whole lot more than several of his colleagues can lay claim to.
That aside, “Mrs. Kennedy & Me” is highly recommended to everyone for its honesty and rich body of true, first-hand accounts of guarding First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Too bad this book wasn’t even longer and “The Kennedy Detail” did not exist, but one cannot ask for everything. Please purchase this fine book as soon as possible!