When Secret Service agent Clint Hill was initially assigned to guard First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, he envisioned tea parties and gray-haired matrons. But as soon as he met her, he was swept up in the whirlwind of her beauty, her grace, her intelligence, her coy humor, her magnificent composure, and her extraordinary spirit. For four years, Clint was by Jackie’s side-through the early days of JFK’s presidency; the birth of sons John and Patrick and Patrick’s sudden death; Kennedy-family holidays; her intriguing meeting with Aristotle Onassis; and the president’s assassination and the dark days that followed.
Filled with unforgettable details, startling revelations, and sparkling, intimate moments, this is the once-in-a-lifetime story of a man doing the most exciting job in the world, with a woman all the world loved, and the haunting tragedy that ended it all too soon.
(Synopsis from book cover)
Mrs. Kennedy and Me was the July pick for the Pi Beta Phi Book Club. I must say that I was hesitant to read this book because I’m not normally one for biographies or autobiographies. I was pleasantly surprised by and extremely happy with this choice by the Book Club for this month. I am finding that by being a part of even this virtual book club, I am expanding my literary appetite.
Mrs. Kennedy and Me is definitely a book that I would recommend to everybody, but especially to those who are interested in history. Clint Hill does a fantastic job of not only describing his job and what his responsibilities were to the reader, but of also expanding the reader’s understanding of what Mrs. Kennedy’s life was like being the First Lady. Mr. Hill is very candid about how he originally felt about his assignment to being on the First Lady’s protection detail. I found the point where Clint Hill first met Jackie Kennedy to be humorous as we come to realize the close relationship that they later develop.
Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin did an excellent job of developing a flow to the stories and memories that Mr. Hill was recounting during his time with Mrs. Kennedy. I feel privileged to have been able to share in the memories and the closeness of the relationship that was shared between Mr. Hill and Mrs. Kennedy. Clint Hill was able to fully capture the energy, the vibrancy and the spontaneity of the First Lady as she travelled around the world and met with various World Leaders, all while still being a loving and caring mother and wife to her family.
It’s amazing to think about the life that was led by both Mr. Hill and the Kennedys as they worked to bring together a nation during the struggle of civil rights and to keep the nation calm and prepared during the Cold War crisis. What interested me was how Clint Hill responded to all of the ongoing situations and knew how to best protect the First Lady while still allowing her as much freedom as possible to be herself and do what was best for her family. The language that was used to describe these different situations was beautiful and made me feel as though I was right there with them as they traveled from city to city and country to country. The emotions were raw and heart-felt. It was written in such a way that I felt the heartbreaking sadness of the loss of Patrick and the joy in watching John learn how to salute.
But I think the most painful and excellently written part of the novel was of course those life-altering moments in Texas. As a person who was not alive to witness or live through the assassination of the president, Clint Hill’s perspective is as real as it can get to have someone understand how quickly it happened and the shock that followed the tragic event. How Mr. Hill was able to maintain his composure and think about what needed to be done in the following moments and days is beyond my comprehension.
It is through reading this book that I have found a real-life hero in Clint Hill. He managed to write a book that was able to relate the relationship that is formed between the secret service and those that they serve and protect. It is a fascinating look into those lives, but Mr. Hill was able to do so without finding the need to reveal anything that could be considered embarrassing by the Kennedy family while still remaining truthful in his telling of his memories. Once again this is an amazing book and one that I feel everyone should read. Mrs. Kennedy and Me has certainly made me rethink how I feel about autobiographies and biographies. It is simply a great book!
(Clint Hill will forever be remembered as the Secret Service agent who courageously raced to the back of the presidential limousine in the midst of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Hill remained assigned to Mrs. Kennedy and the children until after the 1964 presidential election. Before retiring in 1975, Hill was promoted to the position of assistant director of the Secret Service, responsible for all protective forces.)