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A Review of Five Presidents

Five Presidents by Clint Hill

Thanks to “The Insatiable Reader” for this review.  Check out her link for more book reviews. I’m most pleased that Five Presidents gave her a new appreciation for the work that Secret Service agents do.  I’m a history buff. I’ve probably mentioned this before but if I haven’t, yeah, I’m a history super nerd. I was even (briefly) a history major in college. Then I realized it would leave me with zero real life job prospects so I switched majors. I still love it, though, and I’m a big fan of any book written by Clint Hill. Hill is a former Secret Service agent and his latest book, Five Presidents, is about his time spent serving and protecting Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. The chapters on Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson are the longest as Hill was on their protective detail. He was in more of an administrative role when Nixon and Ford were president and therefore had less one on one contact with them. The Kennedy chapter was the most fascinating. Out of the five presidents Hill writes about people probably know the most about the Kennedy administration. Even if somebody has never heard of The Cuban Missile Crisis or The Bay of Pigs they definitely know about the assassination and perhaps have (conspiracy theories) of their own. With this book we get a rare glimpse into the events of that day, as told by a man that was not only there, but put his life on the line to save the President and Mrs. Kennedy. The most interesting parts of the book, though, in my opinion, were not the Kennedy assassination or the Watergate scandal. It was the anecdotes about the presidents. Any high school student can tell you about Watergate or the Vietnam War. What they don’t, and can’t, teach in school is what the man behind the presidency looks like. There’s no test asking what Eisenhower’s favorite hobby was (golfing) or whether or not Kennedy had a good sense of humor (he did). These are the things I like to learn. Presidents are real men making extraordinary choices and it’s kind of nice to see that they’re quirky and funny and have legit personalities. I laughed every time Hill describes Johnson driving his guests all around LBJ Ranch, pointing out his birth home, his childhood home, his prized cattle, even if nobody cared. I also found it hilarious that he had a set of khaki ranch clothes commissioned for Hill and they ended up looking like twins. After reading Five Presidents I have a new appreciation for the work that Secret Service agents do. They do a job that most of us rarely think about and they put their lives on the line every single day. It’s not just walking beside the President and jumping on top of him if all hell breaks lose. It’s about being constantly vigilant and on their A-Game. They cannot get distracted or zone out for even a second. It must be a mentally taxing job as well as physically taxing. Hill described many scenarios where one of the presidents was in a foreign country, participating in some sort of parade and thousands upon thousands of people are crowded into the city streets. Imagine scanning a crowd of a hundred thousand for the one person who might be up to no good. Talk about stressful. Even more stressful if you’re doing that work after witnessing Kennedy’s assassination and knowing first hand how quickly things can happen. I can’t even imagine how stressful the job must be in this day and age; think of everything that has changed in technology, society, and the world in the last thirty years. I finished this book with not only a greater understanding of these five presidencies but a deep respect for Clint Hill. I think this book is a must read for history buffs and non-history buffs alike. I urge you to read it. I promise it won’t feel like a homework assignment!
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12 Comments

  1. Natalie Zaldua on September 13, 2016 at 8:53 am

    I can’t wait to see you again in Austin????????

  2. Susan Collins on September 16, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Have read and re-read all 3 books by Mr. Hill and Ms. McCubbin; fascinating! And as I’m old enough to remember all 5 Presidents, and lived most of my life in the DC area (where politics and the President are considered “local news”), these books also brought back a lot of memories to ME. I understand you were at the Newseum earlier this year; am very sorry to have missed your appearance as I would’ve loved to have met you and had you sign my books (or at least one of them!). After reading these books, while watching the news (esp. w/ the presidential candidates’ appearances) I find myself paying more attention to the agents around the President and the candidates and how they react to the crowds, etc. The general public knows SO little about the tremendous responsibility these agents carry. A big “thank you” to you and all other Secret Service agents, past, present, and future, for your service to the country.

  3. Kathy Purdy on September 23, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Mr. Hill,

    Thanks for sharing your career experiences with us. I was born in the early ’50’s and was not really paying too much attention to politics during those years (until, of course, the Vietnam era). My family was thrilled to see the first Roman Catholic president elected and being from MA, I grew up in a Kennedy-loving environment. I appreciate the way in which you handled the telling of your experiences without the tabloid view of things. It was a different era and you and your fellow agents (and wives and families) should be very proud for all you did during those years.

    I have been recommending this book to everyone — it’s a great read!

    • Clint Hill on September 26, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the book and we appreciate your recommendation.

  4. Sean Katkus on December 7, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    I just read Five Presidents and I wanted to say it was outstanding. I loved every page of it , and I just bought his other two books today. Mr. Hill is my hero. Thank you for your service to this country.

    • Clint Hill on May 23, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      Thank you. Hope you are enjoying the other books too.

  5. RAQUEL AUSTIN on May 23, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    I HAD TO DRAG MY HUSBAND TO THE BOOK FESTIVAL IN AUSTIN FROM SAN ANTONIO. THOUGHT I WOULD NEVER HEAR THE END OF IT, UNTIL WE LISTENED TO YOU AND LISA MCCUBBIN SPEAK…AND THEN WE READ FIVE PRESIDENTS, WHICH ONLY SOLIDIFIED THE IMPRESSION YOU GAVE AT YOUR BOOK PRESENTATION. GOD LOVE YOU FOR ALL THAT YOU SACRIFICED FOR OUR COUNTRY; AND GOD LOVE LISA FOR ENTERING YOUR LIFE AND ENCOURAGING YOU TO TELL YOUR STORY TOGETHER WITH THOSE WHO HAVE HAD THE HIGHEST OFFICE IN OUR COUNTRY. THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOURSELF AND YOUR KNOWLEDGE WITH THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

    • Clint Hill on May 23, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      Thank you. Lisa and I appreciate your kind words.

  6. Janice Dorris on June 19, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Just finished your book that I recommended it to my club. I am the discussion leader tonight, so am in the process of creating discussion questions since I cannot find a guide. I am impressed with the factual writing, your personal insight without being prejudicial & the running antidotes of the secret service. What a marvelous service they provide to our nbation! I loved the book & am anxiou to read the other two. Thank you for sharing your stories with the public.

    .

    • Clint Hill on June 19, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      Thank you! Good luck with your discussion tonight. Where are you located?

    • Jane Paulson on October 4, 2017 at 10:31 am

      Janice,
      We’re you able to locate discussion questions on line? Our book group is reading Five Presidents and will meet in 2 weeks.
      I enjoyed the book because it was an excellent review of many historic events from the late 50s through the 70s. It is unbelievable how prepared the secret service agents have to be! Clint Hill gives us a look from the agents’ point of view at history and the amazing amount of detail that is included suggests that he kept meticulous notes during his career.
      We are looking forward to our discussion.

  7. Jody on November 14, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Loved the book! Can I locate discussion questions anywhere? Or does any leader have a question that was especially stimulating? Thanks

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