Marissa Gugala- 1851 Staff
Professor Paul DeBole hosted a Skype call from Secret Service Agent, Clint Hill on February 28. Hill, an agent during the presidency of John F. Kennedy, was present at the time of Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963.
Hill described the events that occurred during the presidential parade, as he perceived them. He was the first to react when shots were fired at the President and First Lady. He saw the president grab his skull and started to fall. “At that time, I had realized it was a gunshot,” Hill said. Just before he made it to the vehicle to attempt to cover the president and his wife with his body, Hill heard a third gunshot. He said, “I not only heard it. I felt it…”
Hill observed Mrs. Kennedy grab at the brain matter that was expelled after President Kennedy was shot. She was leaning over the trunk of the car to do so. When he got her back into the car he saw “The President’s body fell to the left…The right side of his face was up. I could see his eyes were fixed. There was a hole in his skull. I could see in that hole, there was no brain matter left whatsoever.” At this point, he assumed it was a fatal wound and turned around to give a thumbs down to the car behind him.
On the way to the hospital, Hill remained laying on the top of the back of the car to ensure no further harm came to the President and his wife. They had removed Governor Connally from the vehicle, who had also been shot. Hill said to Mrs. Kennedy, who had hold of her husband, “Mrs. Kennedy, please let us help the President.” He got no response from her. Hill realized she did not want anyone to see the condition the President was in. It wasn’t until he put his suit coat over the President’s head and upper back, did Mrs. Kennedy let go.
“Medical personnel arrived from all over the hospital. At one point I counted 17 doctors.” Hill continued, “The doctor’s continued to work to revive the President. One o’clock, the head doctor came out and said, ‘I’m sorry but the President is dead.’”
Hill was directed to arrange for a casket that the President would be transported back in. Before he could be transported, the coroner came in and told Hill they could not fly back to Washington with the President’s body. Hill said, “He [the coroner] said, ‘There’s a state law in Texas that says the deceased of a homicide must be autopsied before it can leave the medical facility.’”
The autopsy could have taken a few hours or a day. Hill said, “That is completely unacceptable. We are going to go anyway.” A medical professional was to remain with the body until the moment of autopsy. Mrs. Kennedy rode in the back of the hearse with the casket along with Clint Hill and Admiral George Berkeley. To fit the casket into Air Force One, the handles had to be ripped off. “It was a very different flight back to Washington than it had been the previous day when we decided to come here.”
Upon arrival in Washington, President Kennedy’s body was autopsied. Hill explained that he received a call around 2:00 a.m. from his supervisor. His supervisor said, “Clint, sorry to have to ask you to do this but, they are suggesting we have somebody who Mrs. Kennedy really trusts and who she might ask questions of the condition of the President’s body, to come down and look at his body…if need be to explain it to Mrs. Kennedy” Hill said, “She [Mrs. Kennedy], never did ask me any question and I never had to explain it to her.”
A new casket was brought in for the President and it was placed in an Eastern room of the White House. This all occurred from November 22 to November 23.
After Hill finished, students were given time to ask questions. In response to one student’s question about the conspiracies surrounding President Kennedy’s assassination he said, “As far as I’m concerned, Lee Harvey Oswald has been proven to be the lone assassin. He acted alone. He only fired three shots. That’s all that was fired that day, just three shots. It all came out of the sixth-floor window of the Texas School Bank Depository.”
Hill also said in response to a student question, “I was brought up to be patriotic. It didn’t matter who the president was. It wasn’t the President, it was the office of the President that we [Secret Service] tried to protect. The individual who occupied the office could be a man could be a woman. It didn’t matter…”