Clinton J. Hill (Clint Hill)

Clinton J. Hill (Clint Hill)

Clinton J. Hill was born in 1932. He attended Concordia College, Minnesota, where he studied history. After graduating in 1954 he joined the US Army. He left in 1957 and found work with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.

Hill entered the Secret Service in September 1958. Hill did investigative and protection work in Denver until 1959 when he was assigned to the staff of the White House where he helped to protect Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.

In November 1963 Hill went on the presidential trip to Texas. His special duty was to protect Jackie Kennedy. On the motorcade tour of Dallas on 22nd November, 1963, Hill rode on the running board of the Secret Service car immediately behind the presidential car. After the first shot was fired Hill ran forward: "I jumped onto the left rear step of the Presidential automobile. Mrs. Kennedy shouted, "They've shot his head off," then turned and raised out of her seat as if she were reaching to her right rear toward the back of the car for something that had blown out. I forced her back into her seat and placed my body above President and Mrs. Kennedy."

At the Warren Commission Hill claimed he only heard two shots. He also thought the second shot sounded very different from the first shot. Some researchers have claimed that this indicated that it had been fired from a different gun. Another explanation is that the second and third shots were fired at virtually the same time.

Hill was praised for his bravery. He was the only Secret Service agent who attempted to cover the president's body with his own. Rufus Youngblood had done the same thing to protect Lyndon B. Johnson in his car.

Primary Sources

(1) Clinton J. Hill, statement dated 30th November, 1963.

President and Mrs. Kennedy entered the automobile with the President getting into the right rear seat and Mrs. Kennedy into the left rear seat. Mrs. Connally got into the left jump seat and Governor Connally into the right jump seat. SA William Greer was driving the automobile with ASAIC Roy H. Kellerman in the right front seat. I went to the left rear side of the Presidential automobile and stood on the airport ramp along side where Mrs. Kennedy was sitting.

As the Presidential automobile began to move forward at 11:55 a.m. I walked along side of the left rear of the automobile for about 150 feet, and since there were no people at all on the airport ramp I went back to the automobile immediately behind the Presidential Automobile and mounted the forward portion of the left running board.

SA Sam Kinney was driving this Secret Service Follow-up car which was a 1955 Cadillac 9-passenger convertible specifically outfitted for use by the Secret Service. ATSAIC Emory Roberts was sitting in the right front seat and operating the two way radio. SA John Ready was on the forward portion of the right hand running board; SA William McIntyre on the rear portion of the left hand running board; SA Paul E. Landis on the rear portion of the right hand running board; Mr. Kenneth O'Donnell, Presidential Appointment Secretary, was seated on the left side of the second seat; Mr. Dave Powers, Presidential Receptionist, was seated on the right side of the second seat; SA George Hickey was seated on the left side of the third seat- and SA Glen Bennett was seated on the right side of the third seat.

The Presidential Follow-up car was followed by a 1964 Lincoln 4-door convertible occupied by Vice-President and Mrs. Lyndon Johnson, Senator Ralph Yarborough, with ASAIC Rufus Youngblood in the right front seat. This automobile was followed by a Secret Service follow-up car for the Vice President, and then came automobiles occupied by photographers, correspondents, Senators and Congressmen.

Preceding the Presidential automobile was a Dallas Police Department Lead car in which SA Winston Lawson of the Secret Service was riding. Police motorcycles preceded and flanked the motorcade. There were two police motorcycles on the left side of the President's Secret Service follow-up car running abreast of one another between the automobile and the crowd of people.

My instructions for Dallas were to work the left rear of the Presidential automobile and remain in close proximity to Mrs. John F. Kennedy at all times. The agent assigned to work the left rear of the Presidential automobile rides on the forward portion of the left hand running board of the Secret Service follow-up car and only moves forward to walk alongside the Presidential automobile when it slows to such a pace that people can readily approach the auto on foot. If the crowd is very heavy, but the automobile is running at a rather rapid speed, the agent rides on the left rear of the Presidential automobile on a step specifically designed for that purpose.

As the motorcade moved from Love Field through downtown Dallas toward the Trade Mart, there were four (4) occasions before we reached the end of Main Street where I moved from the forward portion of the left running board of the follow-up car to the rear step of the Presidential automobile. I did this because the motorcycles that were along the left hand side of the follow-up car were unable to move up alongside the President's car due to the crowd surging into the street. The motorcycles were forced to drop back and so I jumped from the Follow-up car and mounted the President's car. I remained in this position until the crowd thinned and was away from the President's automobile, allowing the motorcycles to once again move up alongside of the automobile. When we approached the end of Main Street the crowd was noticeably less dense than had been the case prior to that point.

The motorcade made a right hand turn onto Elm Street. I was on the forward portion of the left running board of the follow-up car. The motorcade made a left hand turn from Elm Street toward an underpass. We were traveling about 12 to 15 miles per hour. On the left hand side was a grass area with a few people scattered along it observing the motorcade passing, and I was visually scanning these people when I heard a noise similar to a firecracker. The sound came from my right rear and I immediately moved my head in that direction. In so doing, my eyes had to cross the Presidential automobile and I saw the President hunch forward and then slump to his left. I jumped from the Follow-up car and ran toward the Presidential automobile. I heard a second firecracker type noise but it had a different sound-- like the sound of shooting a revolver into something hard. I saw the President slump more toward his left.

I jumped onto the left rear step of the Presidential automobile. Mrs. Kennedy shouted, "They've shot his head off," then turned and raised out of her seat as if she were reaching to her right rear toward the back of the car for something that had blown out. I forced her back into her seat and placed my body above President and Mrs. Kennedy. SA Greer had, as I jumped onto the Presidential automobile, accelerated the Presidential automobile forward. I heard ASAIC Kellerman call SA Lawson on the two-way radio and say, "To the nearest hospital, quick." I shouted as loud as I could at the Lead car, "To the hospital, to the hospital."

As I lay over the top of the back seat I noticed a portion of the President's head on the right rear side was missing and he was bleeding profusely. Part of his brain was gone. I saw a part of his skull with hair on it lying in the seat. The time of the shooting was approximately 12:30 p.m., Dallas time. I looked forward to the jump seats and noticed Governor Connally's chest was covered with blood and he was slumped to his left and partially covered up by his wife. I had not realized until this point that the Governor had been shot.

When we arrived at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas, I jumped off the Presidential automobile, removed my suit coat and covered the President's head and upper chest with it. I assisted in lifting the President from the rear seat of the automobile onto a wheel type stretcher and accompanied the President and Mrs. Kennedy into the Emergency Room. Governor Connally had been placed in an Emergency Room across the hall.

(2) William Manchester, The Death of a President (1967)

There was a sudden, sharp, shattering sound. Various individuals heard it differently. Jacqueline Kennedy believed it was a motorcycle noise. Curry was under the impression that someone had fired a railroad torpedo. Ronald Fischer and Bob Edwards, assuming that it was a backfire, chuckled. Most of the hunters in the motorcade - Sorrels, Connally, Yarborough, Gonzalez, Albert Thomas - instinctively identified it as rifle fire.

But the White House Detail was confused. Their experience in outdoor shooting was limited to two qualification courses a year on a range in Washington's National Arboretum. There they heard only their own weapons, and they were unaccustomed to the bizarre effects that are created when small-arms fire echoes among unfamiliar structures - in this case, the buildings of Dealey Plaza. Emory Roberts recognized Oswald's first shot as a shot. So did Youngblood, whose alert response may have saved Lyndon Johnson's life. They were exceptions. The men in Halfback were bewildered. They glanced around uncertainly. Lawson, Kellerman, Greer, Ready, and Hill all thought that a firecracker had been exploded. The fact that this was a common reaction is no mitigation. It was the responsibility of James J. Rowley, Chief of the Secret Service, and Jerry Behn, Head of the White House Detail, to see that their agents were trained to cope with precisely this sort of emergency. They were supposed to be picked men, honed to a matchless edge. It was comprehensible that Roy Truly should dismiss the first shot as a cherry bomb. It was even fathomable that Patrolman James M. Chaney, mounted on a motorcycle six feet from the Lincoln, should think that another machine had backfired. Chaney was an ordinary policeman, not a Presidential bodyguard. The protection of the Chief Executive, on the other hand, was the profession of Secret Service agents. They existed for no other reason. Apart from Clint Hill - and perhaps Jack Ready, who started to step off the right running board and was ordered back by Roberts - the behaviour of the men in the follow-up car was unresponsive. Even more tragic was the perplexity of Roy Kellerman, the ranking agent in Dallas, and Bill Greer, who was under Kellerman's supervision. Kellerman and Greer were in a position to take swift evasive action, and for five terrible seconds they were immobilized.

Hill, though mistaken about the noise, saw Kennedy lurch forward and grab his neck. That was enough for Clint. With his extraordinary reflexes he leaped into Elm Street and charged forward.

(3) Kenneth O'Donnell was interviewed by Arlen Specter on behalf of the Warren Commission (1964)

Arlen Specter: Would you outline the origin of that trip to Texas, please?

Kenneth O'Donnell: It came from a conversation between the President and Vice President Johnson, and myself. It concerned President Kennedy's desire, and President Johnson's desire that he came to Texas...

Arlen Specter: In a general way, what was the purpose of the President's trip to Texas in November of 1963?

Kenneth O'Donnell: Well, he hadn't conducted any political activities in Texas. There were great controversies existing. There was a party problem in Texas that the President and the Vice President felt he could be helpful, as both sides of the controversy were supporting President Kennedy, and they felt he could be a bridge between these two groups, and this would be helpful in the election of 1964. I think that is the major reason for the trip.

(4) Clinton Hill was interviewed by Arlen Specter on behalf of the Warren Commission (9th March, 1964)

Arlen Specter: Did you have any occasion to leave the President's follow-up car at any time?

Clinton Hill: When we finally did reach Main Street, the crowds had built up to a point where they were surging into the street. We had motorcycles running adjacent to both the Presidential automobile and the follow car, as well as in front of the Presidential automobile, and because of the crowds in the street, the President's driver, Special Agent Greer, was running the car more to the left-hand side of the street more than he was to the right to keep the President as far away from the crowd as possible, and because of this the motorcycles on the left-hand side could not get past the crowd and alongside the car, and they were forced to drop back. I jumped from the follow car, ran up and got on top of the rear portion of the Presidential automobile to be close to Mrs. Kennedy in the event that someone attempted to grab her from the crowd or throw something in the car.

(5) Clinton Hill was interviewed by Arlen Specter and Thomas H. Boggs on behalf of the Warren Commission (9th March, 1964)

Arlen Specter: All right. What was the condition of the crowd as the motorcade made a right-hand turn off of Main Street onto Houston?

Clinton Hill: The crowd was very large on Main Street, and it was thinning down considerably when we reached the end of it, and turned right on Houston Street. Noticeably on my side of the car, which was the left-hand side of the street.

Arlen Specter: And what is your best estimate as to the speed of the President's car at the time it made the right-and turn onto Houston Street?

Clinton Hill: In the curve?

Arlen Specter: The speed - in the curve itself; yes.

Clinton Hill: We were running generally 12 to 15 miles per hour. I would say that in the curve we perhaps slowed to maybe 10 miles per hour.

Arlen Specter: And how far behind the President's car was the Presidential follow-up car as the turn was made onto Houston Street?

Clinton Hill: Four to five feet, at the most.

Arlen Specter: I show you a photograph of a building which has already been marked as Commission Exhibit No. 348, and ask you if at this time you can identify what that building is.

Clinton Hill: I believe I can, sir; yes.

Arlen Specter: And what building is it?

Clinton Hill: It is the Texas School Book Depository.

Arlen Specter: Now, does that building appear on the Commission Exhibit No. 354?

Clinton Hill: Yes, sir; it does.

Arlen Specter: Did you have any occasion to notice the Texas School Book Depository Building as you proceeded in a generally northerly direction on Houston Street?

Clinton Hill: Yes, sir. It was immediately in front of us and to our left.

Arlen Specter: Did you notice anything unusual about it?

Clinton Hill: Nothing more unusual than any other building along the way.

Arlen Specter: What is your general practice, if any, in observing such buildings along the route of a Presidential motorcade?

Clinton Hill: We scan the buildings and look specifically for open windows, for people hanging out, and there had been, on almost every building along the way, people hanging out, windows open.

Arlen Specter: And did you observe, as you recollect at this moment, any open windows in the Texas School Depository Building?

Clinton Hill: Yes, sir; there were.

Arlen Specter: Are you able to recollect specifically which windows were open at this time?

Clinton Hill: No, sir; I cannot.

Arlen Specter: What was the condition of the crowd along the streets, if any, along Elm Street, in front of the Texas School Book Depository Building?

Clinton Hill: On the left-hand side of the street, which is the side I was on, the crowd was very thin. And it was a general park area. There were people scattered throughout the entire park.

Arlen Specter: Now, what is your best estimate of the speed of the President's automobile as it turned left off of Houston onto Elm Street?

Clinton Hill: We were running still 12 to 15 miles per hour, but in the curve I believe we slowed down maybe to 10, maybe to 9.

Arlen Specter: How far back of the President's automobile was the Presidential car when the President's follow-up car had just straightened out on Elm Street?

Clinton Hill: Approximately 5 feet.

Arlen Specter: Now, as the motorcade proceeded at that point, tell us what happened.

Clinton Hill: Well, as we came out of the curve, and began to straighten up, I was viewing the area which looked to be a park. There were people scattered throughout the entire park. And I heard a noise from my right rear, which to me seemed to be a firecracker. I immediately looked to my right and, in so doing, my eyes had to cross the Presidential limousine and I saw President Kennedy grab at himself and lurch forward and to the left.

Arlen Specter: Why don't you just proceed, in narrative form, to tell us?

Thomas Boggs: This was the first shot?

Clinton Hill: This is the first sound that I heard; yes, sir. I jumped from the car, realizing that something was wrong, ran to the Presidential limousine. Just about as I reached it, there was another sound, which was different than the first sound. I think I described it in my statement as though someone was shooting a revolver into a hard object - it seemed to have some type of an echo. I put my right foot, I believe it was, on the left rear step of the automobile, and I had a hold of the handgrip with my hand, when the car lurched forward. I lost my footing and I had to run about three or four more steps before I could get back up in the car. Between the time I originally grabbed the handhold and until I was up on the car, Mrs. Kennedy - the second noise that I heard had removed a portion of the President's head, and he had slumped noticeably to his left. Mrs. Kennedy had jumped up from the seat and was, it appeared to me, reaching for something coming off the right rear bumper of the car, the right rear tail, when she noticed that I was trying to climb on the car. She turned toward me and I grabbed her and put her back in the back seat, crawled up on top of the back seat and lay there...

Arlen Specter: What is your best estimate of the speed of the President's car at the precise time of the first shot, Mr. Hill?

Clinton Hill: We were running between 12 to 15 miles per hour, but no faster than 15 miles per hour...

Arlen Specter: Now, what is your best estimate on the timespan between the first firecracker-type noise you heard and the second shot which you have described?

Clinton Hill: Approximately 5 seconds...

Arlen Specter: Did Mrs. Kennedy say anything as you were proceeding from the time of the shooting to Parkland Hospital?

Clinton Hill: At the time of the shooting, when I got into the rear of the car, she said, "My God, they have shot his head off." Between there and the hospital she just said, "Jack, Jack, what have they done to you," and sobbed.

Arlen Specter: What did you observe as to President Kennedy's condition on arrival at the hospital?

Clinton Hill: The right rear portion of his head was missing. It was lying in the rear seat of the car. His brain was exposed. There was blood and bits of brain all over the entire rear portion of the car. Mrs. Kennedy was completely covered with blood. There was so much blood you could not tell if there had been any other wound or not, except for the one large gaping wound in the right rear portion of the head.

Arlen Specter: Did you have any opportunity to observe the front part of his body, to see whether there was any tear or rip in the clothing on the front?

Clinton Hill: I saw him lying there in the back of the car, when I was immediately above him. I cannot recall noticing anything that was ripped in the forward portion of his body.

Arlen Specter: What action, if any, did you take to shield the President's body?

Clinton Hill: I kept myself above the President and Mrs. Kennedy on the trip to Parkland...

Arlen Specter: I believe you testified as to the impression you had as to the source of the first shot. To be sure that the record is complete, what was your reaction as to where the first shot came from, Mr. Hill?

Clinton Hill: Right rear.

Arlen Specter: And did you have a reaction or impression as to the source of point of origin of the second shot that you described?

Clinton Hill: It was right, but I cannot say for sure that it was rear, because when I mounted the car it was - it had a different sound, first of all, than the first sound that I heard. The second one had almost a double sound - as though you were standing against something metal and firing into it, and you hear both the sound of a gun going off and the sound of the cartridge hitting the metal place, which could have been caused probably by the hard surface of the head. But I am not sure that that is what caused it.