Remembering JFK's Last Birthday
<![CDATA[As a Secret Service agent, I had the privilege of witnessing history unfold. JFK's last birthday was one of those memorable events. [caption id="attachment_5625" align="alignright" width="300"] 29 May 1963 [/caption] Of course I am best known for that one day in Dallas, the day of JFK’s assassination, but in my book Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, I have recounted many of the lesser known events I witnessed during my career as well. In commemoration of John F. Kennedy’s birthday, here is a brief excerpt:
May 29, 1963, was President Kennedy’s forty-sixth birthday—and it is one of those days that has remained vivid in my memory. At the end of the workday, at around 5:45, President Kennedy walked down to the Navy Mess, where a small group of his staff and Mrs. Kennedy were waiting with a cake. When the president walked in, we yelled, “Surprise!” and as soon as somebody handed him a glass of champagne, we all started singing “Happy Birthday.” He broke into a big smile and played along like he really was surprised, as he was presented with an array of gag gifts. There was a miniature rocking chair, boxing gloves to deal with Congress, “Debate Rules” supposedly from Richard M. Nixon. But he got the biggest kick when Mrs. Kennedy gave him her present—a basket of dead grass. “Mr. President,” she deadpanned, “on behalf of the White House Historical Society, it is with great honor and with the utmost respect that I present to you genuine antique grass from the antique rose garden.” [caption id="attachment_5626" align="alignright" width="296"] Ron Pontius, Floyd Boring, Clint Hill aboard USS Sequoia. May 29, 1963[/caption] The president loved it. That evening, Mrs. Kennedy had planned an intimate cruise for twenty-four guests aboard the presidential yacht, the USS Sequoia. None of President Kennedy’s political advisors had been invited—the guest list included only family members and his closest friends–and while we had Secret Service agents on a couple of security boats, there were just three agents aboard the Sequoia—Floyd Boring and Ron Pontius from the president’s detail, and myself.The rest of the evening, which turned out to be JFK’s last birthday, is detailed in Five Presidents, now a New York Times bestseller, along with additional photos. [caption id="attachment_5627" align="alignnone" width="1009"] JFK and guests aboard USS Sequoia. May 29, 1963[/caption]]]>
I have wanted to say to you for the longest time, Mr. Hill, that you did the job you were meant to do on that horrendous day in Dallas. You got Mrs Kennedy safely back in the car before she could be thrown off and grievously injured or even killed. There was no saving the President; but you saved Mrs. Kennedy and in the process kept those two precious little children from becoming orphans. And that, Mr. Hill, would have meant everything in the world to President Kennedy.
Exactly. Apart from all the womanizing, JFK did sincerely love Jackie with all that he had been taught (by example from Joe), and his life did begin and end in she and those children. He would have been grateful for your protection of her over these years.
Thank you Mr Hill, I love your book! I spent a large part of JFK’s Birthday reading your book. God bless you sir.
There never has been – nor will there ever be another Jack and Jackie! God rest their precious souls.
I now own the sweater that Jackie gave to JFK. It was a gift from the children….Dave Powers wrote a providence letter about the sweater. It has JFK on the front….is white with blue trim.
you mean provenance
Clint you looked so spunky, happy and healthy when we saw you again at the Carter Center book signing. Thank you for giving Lisa your phone number and subsequently sharing the ‘insider’ view of Presidential history as you witnessed it. You’ve done it with such style, dignity and respect. Ultimately it is a great public service.
As a former USSS member (1978-2000) , I remember your pix in our academy classroom, (1978). A few years later, I would be responding as a SS detail member to another day in history, but now in Wash DC (1981). Your efforts had shown what our training prepares us for… and then some. Thank you for your service. Perhaps there’s a chance to meet you at our May 2017 NPC 50 Challenge (JJRTC – MD).
Thank you for taking the time to comment and for your service.
Let me just add that Mr. Hill wrote this book with the utmost respect and class. He told us what we should know about ALL the presidents. I cant even imagine what he knew and never uttered to anyone. Total class sir.
Thank you for your kind words.
I am still reading 5 Presidents and it is fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and for the work that you performed while in the Secret Service. It took tremendous dedication and a great deal of personal sacrifice of your own family life. It’s truly an impossible job and you gave it your all, day after day. Thank you!
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m glad you are enjoying Five Presidents.
Thank you Mr. Hill….spent most of the day (29 May 2016) the 99th anniversary of JFK’s birth reading Five Presidents. Enjoying every page-every detail. Looking forward to celebrating his life next May 29th, his centennial year, with visits to the JFK Museum and the homestead in Brookline,Mass. Hope to see you there. did you enjoy the crystal “Honey Fitz” box ?? Thank you again for your unwavering service to our country…from your days in the Army to the Secret Service-your life keenly defines “stalwart dedication”. PS…would love to speak with you about the President’s visit to my hometown, McKeesport, Pa. on October 13,1962…..just days before the Cuban Missile Crisis
Thank you very much for the crystal Honey Fitz box. It is a wonderful memento and brings back fond memories.
I just found your web page. As a fellow North Dakotan I have always been very proud of your your actions on that day. It is the way we grew up in the northland, always do your job the best you can. You were a hero that day. Thank you. I hope to meet you on Aug. 13th in Houston.
Mr. Hill, thank you for all of the memories you’ve shared of JFK oner the years. They are very much appreciated. I wonder if you might have been with him and family members in West Palm Beach in the summer or early fall of 62 or 62, when they were in a convertible and ended up dropping for ice cream. At the time I was in the Strategic Air Command and stationed in South Florida. I had been at Cape Canerval and was looking around WPB on my way back to Homestead AFB. I was stopped at a stop sign in my 58 Corvette convertible when they drove turned the corner in my direction. I have no idea why I hollered out, “Hey, swabbie” and then saluted him, but h e seemed to read the situation very quickly and smiled and waved; I think he saw the military base pass on my car. The ice cream shop was directly across the street from where I was stopped. He hollered out and ask if I wanted some ice cream. I waved “no”, not wanting to intrude on what was obviously a family (with SS) outing. He told me to wait, and he had someone bring me a cone of ice cream as they piled back into their convertible. I saluted him again from inside my car, took the ice cream and then continued on my way.
Mr. Hill It is an an honor privilege to write to you. I’ve purchased and read The Kennedy Detail, Mrs Kennedy And Me, Five Days In November and Five Presidents and found these books extremely informative from a unique perspective. I also read the late Jerry Parr’s great book, In The Secret Service, and found that the life of a Secret Service agent is a hyper vigilant one that takes extraordinary courage and dedication to perform. To say I’ve have a newfound respect for the Secret Service, would be a huge understatement. I must also commend you for a man of total class that didn’t write anything salacious about your subjects. I’m so sorry for the many years of anguish you’ve suffered because of what happened on Nov.22,1963, but that just confirms the dedication to your profession that you and your fellow agents have.Does your schedule for 2017 include a vist to Chicago, Illinois during 2017 so I can meet you and get my books autographed by you?
Currently we do not have any visits to Chicago planned. We did a book signing in Chicago in May 2016 when Five Presidents was released. Sorry we missed you. Our schedule does change frequently, so sty tuned to my website and Facebook page for updates.