"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Interview: Clarence B Jones on The Best Speeches of All Time


Speechwriter, counsel and friend to Martin Luther King Jr says that watching Dr King make the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech was like seeing lightning captured in a bottle

Roosevelt’s Inaugural Address is your first choice. Tell me about this speech.

This was made at a very critical period in our country’s history. It was a speech that every American who had a radio was listening to. I thought it gave the country a sense of hope, when all around them there seemed to be nothing but hopelessness. There were 25 million people out of work and the stock market had collapsed two or three years before, so this speech summoned the country to a sense of hope.

What is it about the actual speech, about the way it’s written, that is so brilliant?

Well, what impressed me about the speech was that, to me, the measure of or index of a good speech is not merely the words that are festooned together and spoken – presumably by someone who has a good delivery or even an exceptional delivery – but the extent to which the text of speech, the substance of the speech, is responsive and addresses the major issues of the time. I wasn’t so concerned about Roosevelt’s delivery, but I measured the text against the magnitude of the problem to which it was addressed.

The famous line is: ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’

The country was in great fear. The country was in great despair, so that phrase was trying to speak to the Everyperson, to address the issue that was on everyone’s mind.

Tell me about JFK’s inaugural address.

Well, JFK, as you know, or maybe you don’t know, won the presidential election by merely 120,000 popular votes over Richard Nixon. The country was clearly divided; we were in the apex of what one would now describe as the Cold War, the great competition between ourselves and the Soviet Union, and here this younger man had taken over from Eisenhower, a World War II hero. This young man, whose inauguration day was relatively cold, some would say freezing cold, gave the address with no hat on, no scarf on, signalling the health and vitality of the new younger generation. He enumerated the problems that the country was confronted with, and then, of course, came the classic line: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ Just recently we had the passing of Sargent Shriver, who was the architect of the Peace Corps, the most celebrated form of government volunteer service that this country has ever had. The Peace Corps came out of the Kennedy administration. What came out of the address was that we could indeed be competitive with the Soviet Union, that this was a new generation coming into power and he wanted to say to the people that this new generation was ready – professionally ready, managerially ready, morally ready, militarily ready. It was up to the task.

Who wrote it?

Well, Theodore Sorensen contributed to it.

Did he write most of JFK’s speeches or help write them?

Yes, he helped write most of them.

Tell me about Laurence Olivier’s Oscar acceptance speech (which I’ll quote for our readers, since it’s not very long).

“Mr President and governors of the Academy, committee members,
fellows, my very noble and approved good masters, my colleagues, my
friends, my fellow students: In the great wealth, the great firmament
of your nation's generosities this particular choice may perhaps be
found by future generations as a trifle eccentric, but the mere fact
of it – the prodigal, pure, human kindness of it – must be seen as a
beautiful star in that firmament which shines upon me at this moment
dazzling me a little, but filling me with the warmth of the
extraordinary elation, the euphoria that happens to so many of us at
the first breath of the majestic glow of a new tomorrow. From the top
of this moment, in the solace, in the kindly emotion that is charging
my soul and my heart at this moment, I thank you for this great gift
which lends me such a very splendid part in this, your glorious
occasion. Thank you.”

It was a very short speech, and its power was in its spontaneity and its erudition. I don’t have to tell you that he was one of the great actors of the 20th century. A number of people who get Academy Awards come up and read from a written text or they say something that is kind of banal, but Olivier quoted some Shakespeare. It was very eloquent. It really spoke about the fact that he was honoured and humble – but it was just the way he spoke to this group of actors and actresses, and an example of the magnificent use of language.

What did he win for?

I think it was a Lifetime Achievement Award.

So, now we're moving on to your speech. The Martin Luther King.

Well, the Martin Luther King speech, of course… To understand it, you have to see it within the historical context. It was made three months after a very successful and very searing campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, in April of 1963, when the country and the world saw pictures of young negro girls and boys being pummelled against a wall with fire hoses and police dogs nipping at their ankles as they were peacefully marching in opposition to racial segregation. So that was April 63, and then, in August, some four months later, King was speaking at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial to more than 250,000 people. He was speaking to celebrate and to validate the success of the civil rights movement at that point, but also speaking prophetically about his hope for a better America. The ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, the portion that is most talked about, was totally spontaneous and extemporaneous. It wasn’t written.

You didn’t write that bit?

No. The contribution I made was in the first nine paragraphs. What happened was that as he got through reading the first nine paragraphs of prepared texts to which I contributed some language and concepts, he was interrupted by his favourite gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, who was on the podium with him, and he paused in the middle of his speaking and she shouted: ‘Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream!’ At which point he put aside the written text. I was standing about 15 yards behind him, and I saw him, I read his body language and I said to the person standing next to me: ‘The people assembled here, they don’t know, it but they’re about ready to go to church.’ It appeared to me that he had gone into his preacher’s body mode.

What did that mean?

Well, before, he stood at the podium reading the text and looking up, but once he decided to speak extemporaneously he assumed a pose I had seen so many times when he was preaching a sermon from a pulpit, being a Baptist minister. He was no longer just a speaker at a public assembly, it was like he was speaking to a massive congregation in a church. And that’s when he went off into this extraordinary ‘I have a dream…’

What did you think? Did you think, ‘Oh no! What’s he doing to my speech?’

No! First of all, I didn’t consider it ‘my’ speech. I didn’t even know if he was going to incorporate and use the material in the first nine paragraphs. I didn’t know that until I heard it for the first time. I just thought it was rather bold and extraordinary for him to cast aside the written text, but Martin Luther King, Jr was a master orator. He didn’t need a written text to speak eloquently. Using contemporary parlance, I say to people that Martin Luther King, Jr was the only person I have ever observed or known – and I’ve never ever seen or heard anyone do it since – who could compose a speech extemporaneously in real time and while he was speaking. Like we use computer skills, he could cut and paste in his mind from previous speeches or writings and he could insert those excerpts into his real time speech. It was an extraordinary ability. It was a transcendental experience to be there. It was like watching lightning captured in a bottle.

I’m fascinated by what you say about him getting carried away and going into preacher mode, because I saw Bill Clinton speak at the London School of Economics, and he is a captivating speaker…

Yes, he is.

He got everyone in the room to fall in love with him, including an 80-year-old Republican oil magnate sitting next to me, but what he did was, he read slowly and falteringly for the first few paragraphs and then he put the speech aside and leant forward to go into preacher mode. He was probably trying to look like Martin Luther King.

That would be a very challenging task. I am frequently asked, since Dr King’s assassination on 4 April 1968: ‘Who today is most like Martin Luther King, Jr?’ I answer the question very quickly. I say: ‘Who today is most like Shakespeare, like Leonardo Da Vinci, like Michelangelo, like Beethoven, like Mozart? Who? No one.’

But they’re trying!

They try. Some people foolishly try, I believe.

I was just thinking about the wonderful oratorical techniques…

Well, Martin Luther King, Jr was a fourth-generation Baptist preacher, and I spent a good part of the 1960s not only around him but around a lot of other preachers. I would say during that period that there is a style, there is an inside way in which they talk about how they preach, and when you go and preach, they say, you have to be capable of telling them the story. You have to tell the story. The story is going to be whatever your text is going to be that day, but you have to tell it, in eloquent words, using various techniques, such as repetition. Some preachers will repeat a key phrase two or three times to make their point. Martin Luther King was the most gifted orator I had ever heard and that I can ever remember hearing in my lifetime. No one, no person I have ever heard, any place, any time, anywhere on this earth can speak as eloquently as Martin Luther King, Jr.

You sound as if you did know, while you were standing there, what kind of impact the speech was having. Do you think everybody did? Did it seem as momentous then as it does now, or did it seem more momentous then than it does now?

Well, when Dr King was introduced, he was the last speaker of the formal programme, and everyone had been waiting. So when A Philip Randolph said, in this deep sonorous voice, ‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, the man and the voice that we have been waiting for, the unquestioned moral leader of this nation – I am pleased to introduce the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Jr,’ the place exploded. The place was electrified; it was like he had dropped a match and more than 250,000 people exploded in public adulation and acclaim for the person who was about to address them. And then, while he was speaking, particularly when he began to speak extemporaneously in his Baptist preacher mode, it was transcendental. I had heard and seen Martin Luther King give many speeches, under many different circumstances, but this speech was extraordinary.

Tell me, lastly, about the Nelson Mandela. It’s not going to compare at all – I’m feeling sorry for Nelson now!

Well, you should not. Remember what I said earlier? In my judgment, the measure of a speech is not merely the text or words, or even the person who delivers the speech, but the context of the speech. And here the power of Nelson Mandela’s speech is not merely the words he has put together, but the power of the context. Here is a man who was in prison for 27 years, and now he is addressing the country on his inauguration as its president after a period of painful governance, a period of rigid, brutal apartheid. This former political prisoner is now president of the country, and he gives a speech in an effort to guide the country through a peaceful transition to a multiracial society. I mean, what a circumstance! The power, even the pomp and circumstance of the parliament and legislature, and you have President Nelson Mandela of South Africa addressing his country for the first time as president of the republic of South Africa. It’s the context! It’s the power of the moment!

Is it a good speech, though, in itself?

Yes. It’s a good speech. It’s a speech that is responsive and relevant to the particular historical moment in time. If you know anything about South Africa… When did he give the speech?


If you know anything about the preceding 25 years, that has to be an amazing speech. If I just say to you: ‘The former prisoner of Robin Island who was incarcerated for 27 years is now speaking as President of South Africa,’ that says it all.

It does. If you’re only allowed one of these speeches, I assume you’re taking Dr King’s?

If I’m only allowed one of the speeches…

Or you’re only allowed one line from one of the speeches.

Oh, then no question, Martin Luther King. There are two lines. First of all the beginning – and this is a paraphrase, it’s not exact: ‘We’ve come here to the foot of this great monument to redeem a promissory note that has been returned unpaid for insufficient funds.’ The promissory note is the guarantee of negroes’ freedom under the Declaration of Independence, and he says: ‘I refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the vaults of justice.’ That’s language that I crafted. And the other part I think is so moving if you know something about the history of the United States of America. ‘I have a dream that one day the great-great-grandsons of slaves and the great-great-grandsons and granddaughters of slave owners will sit down at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream, one day…’ Think about it. He dreams that the country will become one America, that it will become so reconciled that the descendents of former slave masters and former slaves will sit down at the table of brotherhood in our country. If you look at the speech or listen to it carefully, it’s all in the future tense. ‘One day I will…’ It’s always prophetic, always in the future. He reflected a more prophetic confidence in America than America had in itself.

Interview by
Anna Blundy

So to Speak | Joe Blundo commentary: Speech transcended notes as King recalled 'dream'


Clarence B. Jones helped write the part of the "I Have a Dream" speech that is rarely quoted.

And that's fine with him.

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. went off script midway through his address on Aug. 28, 1963, he uttered some of the most famous words in American history.

In doing so, King borrowed a theme from a previous speech, expanded on it and delivered it in a way that riveted his enormous audience.

Jones, 80, compares the improvised performance to that of a jazz virtuoso.

"It was like watching lightning in a bottle," he said in a phone interview.

Jones, a lawyer and confidant of King's in the 1960s, is a co-author of the book Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech That Transformed a Nation.

He will discuss it during a McCoy Lecture Series address on April 20 in New Albany.

Jones' book offers an inside view of the events leading up to King's speech at the 1963 March on Washington, which drew 250,000 people.

As just as their cause was, civil-rights leaders were not without ego in pursuing it.

Jones, a scholar in residence at Stanford University in California, recounts the jockeying over who would get to speak last at the march.

He eventually asked two questions, he said, that quelled the arguing. Referring to King, he said: "Have most of you heard him speak? Do you really want to follow him?"

The night before the speech, King, Jones and other organizers sat in a Washington hotel lobby to discuss what King should say. Jones took notes and, at King's request, retired to his room to write a draft incorporating the ideas.

He returned with a draft that compared the Declaration of Independence to a promissory note on which the nation had failed to deliver because it wasn't treating all citizens as equals. King took Jones' notes to his room.

When King began his speech the next day, he started with Jones' words.

"I was astounded when I heard him speak them," Jones said.

Then, a few minutes into the address, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted out, "Tell them about the dream, Martin."

She was referring to a speech that King gave a few months earlier in Detroit. Jones watched as King pushed his prepared remarks aside and seemed to gather himself.

Jones turned to someone beside him and said, "These people don't know it, but they're about to go to church."

The combination of the crowd's energy and King's unique ability to find - on the spur of the moment - the right combination of words added up to what is remembered today, Jones said.

"It was the most magical, extraordinary thing to see."

Joe Blundo is a Dispatch columnist.


Dr. Marshall of Street Soldiers Radio interviews Mr. Clarence Jones, Author of Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech

Dr. Joseph E. Marshall, Jr. is an author, lecturer, radio talk show host, and community activist. He is the founder of the Alive & Free Movement and the founder and president of the Street Soldiers National Consortium, an organization dedicated to fighting violence nationwide. He is also the co-founder and Executive Director of the Omega Boys Club/Street Soldiers, a youth development and violence prevention organization headquartered in San Francisco, CA that emphasizes academic achievement and non-involvement with drugs. This organization, founded in February of 1987, has produced 151 college graduates, all supported by the Omega Boys Club Scholarship Fund. Another 50 Omegas are currently enrolled in college.

Listne to Clarence and Dr. Joseph Marshall on his radio show Street Soldiers.

Forbes Reviews AEI Clients Clarence B. Jones and Stuart Connelly's Behind the Dream!

Nick Morgan

Nick Morgan

Persuasive Public Speaking

Go Behind The Dream: How Martin Luther King’s Great Speech Happened

One of the most remarkable books in recent years for students of public speaking is Clarence Jones’ Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech That Transformed a Nation. The book puts us in the moment when King raised his hand high in the air, stood on tiptoe, and said, “Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” The crowd erupted in a roar that has reverberated down the years and generations to the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president, but also to countless individual dreams realized in the slow march to racial equality.

Jones was Martin Luther King’s lawyer, and one of his inner circle of advisors. That put Jones in a very good position to witness the development of the idea for the march on Washington, the planning for it, and the event itself. He recaptures very convincingly the state of mind of King’s circle beforehand, not knowing whether or not the speech would be a success, worrying about harassment from the FBI, and struggling with the demands of all the groups that wanted to be involved and have their say in how the day worked.

In the end, of course, it worked very, very well. Jones moves on to talk about the development of the speech – he was also King’s speechwriter – and takes credit, essentially, for the first half of the speech. This section talks (in somewhat legalistic terms) about the promissory note still due American blacks because of the injustice meted out to them over the previous several hundred years.

Of course the magic happened in the second half of the speech, where King left his script and ad-libbed the incredible “I have a dream” sequence, as I’ve blogged about before. What Jones adds is that the impetus to ad-lib came from Mahalia Jackson, the great singer, who had treated the audience to a heartfelt rendition of a gospel number, “I’ve been ‘buked and I’ve been scorned,” just before King began to speak. She shouted to King, according to Jones, “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin, tell ‘em about the dream!” about midway through the speech.

Jones’ theory is that King heard those words, and in nanoseconds decided to throw away his script and begin ad-libbing.

It makes a great story, and of course it’s possible. But my hunch is that King must have realized that he wasn’t connecting with the audience several minutes before that. A decision like that comes from a growing sense that you need to shift gears because of the unconscious messages the audience sends you. Jackson’s urging might well have tipped the balance, but unless it was reinforced with King’s own feeling about the audience, I doubt one shouted comment alone would have had the effect Jones attributes to it. King’s speaking style, from his Baptist minister days, incorporated a good deal of ‘call and response’, so there was lots of shouting going on.

If you watch the filmed record of the event, all you see is the shift itself, with King mostly reading the script in the first half of the speech, to him directly addressing the crowd in the second half. Make a decision to go off script he clearly did, but what prompted the decision? We will never know for sure.

Nonetheless, Jones was there and I wasn’t, and his tale adds to the lore of what is one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century. The book is wonderful, and rewarding for students of public speaking as well as of the civil rights era. History is all too often written backward, with the certainty of future knowledge lending inevitability to the author’s insights. Jones is particularly skilled at giving us the contingent nature of events as the happen, and that is a great gift to anyone who wants to understand where we’ve really come from. Highly recommended.

For more detailed analysis of King’s speech, especially of the ad lib section, see my earlier blog, “What you don’t know about King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”


The Kennedy Detail Team Signs Books at Anderson's Book Store, Naperville, IL

By Marie Wilson

When conspiracy theories started to run rampant in the months and years after the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy, the Secret Service agents who protected him made very few statements about them.

But when former Secret Service agent Jerry Blaine retired, he began reading some of the theories online, and ideas claiming presidential drivers or agents had a hand in the murder “got personal,” he said.

“What the agents decided to do is set the record straight and make sure we at least had a say in history,” Blaine said Saturday while discussing his book “The Kennedy Detail” at Anderson’s Bookshop in downtown Naperville. “It was not until June of last year that we sat down and emotionally discussed the assassination.”

Blaine joined co-author and former Naperville resident Lisa McCubbin and former Secret Service agent Clint Hill for the discussion and book signing attended by about 200 people.

Blaine described the hectic routine of his job as one of less than 50 men assigned to protect Kennedy and his family.

And Hill, one of the agents closest to Kennedy when shots were fired, told the assassination story from his point of view.

On what was a warm November day in Dallas, windows were open at the high-rises surrounding the streets where the president’s vehicles proceeded to a campaign stop, Hill said. He was scanning a building to his left when he heard an “explosive noise” from his right, which turned out to be the first gunshot fired from a sixth-story window by Lee Harvey Oswald.

After the first shot:

“What I saw was the president grabbing at his throat and moving to the left,” Hill said, speaking quickly, as though his words were memorized and well-practiced. “I knew he was in trouble and something was wrong.”

After the second shot:

Hill said he tried to “cover and evacuate,” a Secret Service technique that would have allowed his body to block those of the president and Jackie Kennedy.

After the third shot:

Hill saw a “gaping hole” in Kennedy’s head as blood, brains and bone sprayed out from the gunshot wound, covering his clothing as well as Jackie Kennedy’s.

“I assumed the wound was fatal,” Hill said.

In an era of what Blaine called “pre-technology agents,” grief counseling wasn’t available after the assassination. Neither was time to discuss the tragedy and its emotional effects.

“One thing you never got on the detail was sleep,” Blaine said. “After you finished 20-hour days, all you could do to wind down was talk to the guys you worked with. . . . We became like brothers because we spent our entire lives together. We were traveling 80 percent of the time.”

Writing “The Kennedy Detail” helped Blaine, Hill and the other agents McCubbin interviewed finally to speak about Kennedy’s assassination and find a bit of an emotional release, McCubbin said.

“It turned out to be a real healing process for these men writing this book,” she said.

Read more: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110419/news/704199973/#ixzz1K2OeIy1U

The State News Reports - Eyewitnesses to Kennedy Assassination Speak


By Kyle Campbell

On Nov. 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas and echoed across the country. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the world was left to wonder why.

In the near half century since, a multitude of conspiracy theories have developed, but former Secret Service agents Clint Hill and Gerald Blaine, who were with Kennedy and his family from his election until his untimely death, have come forward to give their eyewitness views on the events of that day.

On Tuesday morning, Blaine, Hill and journalist and longtime friend Lisa McCubbin discussed the events of that day at the Union as part of a national tour.

Blaine, along with McCubbin, authored “The Kennedy Detail,” a recent book revealing a firsthand account of the Kennedy assassination from the view of Kennedy’s security team, including Hill — who is famous for jumping on Kennedy’s car after the shots to cover his body.

“My task was to research for about six years on this book to make sure that everything we put down in that book was fact,” Blaine said. “That’s when you find out that there are erroneous reports, there are conflicts. Some of the reports conflict with other reports. So we decided we better make sure we’re accurate.”

Blaine and Hill discussed their experiences as service members on the Kennedy detail, beginning with their first encounters — Blaine with the president and Hill with the first lady and family — all the way down to the disturbing details of Kennedy’s murder.

Hill said despite speculation about potential conspiracies, no significant evidence has pointed to any perpetrator other than Lee Harvey Oswald.

The event was sponsored by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research. The institute’s director, Doug Roberts, said it was a great opportunity because Kennedy’s Secret Service is relevant to MSU and to him personally.

Several members of the Secret Service at the time were MSU alumni, and one of the agents was Roberts’ father, Emory Roberts.

“My brother lives in Jacksonville, Fla., and he, by chance, found out that (Blaine, Hill and McCubbin) were doing a book tour down there,” Doug Roberts said. “He talked to them, and they of course mentioned that they knew our father. So I called them after and said, ‘Can I talk you into coming to East Lansing?’ And one thing led to another.”

Students, teachers and community members from the surrounding areas, such as Dennis Schwartz of Okemos, gathered to hear the personal stories about one of the country’s most beloved first families.

Schwartz said Kennedy has been one of his heroes since childhood, and he always has been interested in Kennedy’s legacy.

Schwartz expressed his appreciation for what Blaine and Hill have done with their book and speeches such as this.

“It’s important to put on the record people who were there, directly participated (and) directly observed so it’s preserved for future history what actually happened,” he said.

Criminal justice freshman Tyrone Bonds shares a similar fascination about Kennedy, but his interest is focused more specifically on the president’s death.

Bonds said he still believes there was a greater conspiracy behind the assassination after listening to Blaine and Hill’s accounts, but he found their stories to be gripping.

“When (Hill) said Jackie Kennedy held her husband in her arms after he was shot, that’s what really stood out,” he said. “The presentation was absolutely wonderful. I really enjoyed it.”

Photo Credit: Lauren Wood The State News Reprints

U.S. Secret Service Agent Clint Hill speaks about details of the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas, as he was present at the time, seen in the upper left hand of the projected photograph riding behind the president’s vehicle. Hill was speaking with the co-authors of The Kennedy Detail, U.S. Secret Service Agent Gerald Blaine and Lisa McCubbin, Tuesday morning in the Union.

JFK’s Secret Service opens up, say no conspiracy behind assassination


BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporter/drozek@suntimes.com

Story Image

Retired Secret Service agents (from left) Gerald Blaine and Clint Hill, with co-author Lisa McCubbin, signed copies of Blaine's book, “The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence” at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville Saturday. |

Within seconds of shots being fired at President John F. Kennedy, Secret Service Agent Clint Hill climbed onto the president’s still-moving, convertible limousine and saw Kennedy slumped over with a “gaping” wound in his head.

“I assumed the wound was fatal. I turned, I gave a thumb’s down to the follow-up car,” Hill said Saturday, as he recounted the traumatic Nov. 22, 1963 assassination in Dallas of the nation’s 35th president.

But later that day at Parkland Hospital, Hill couldn’t bring himself during a frantic phone call to tell then Attorney General Robert Kennedy that his brother was gone.

“He said, ‘How bad is it?’ Well, I did not want to tell him that his brother was dead,’ ” recalled Hill, now 79. “So, I simply said, ‘It’s as bad as it can get.’ With that, he just hung up the phone.”

Hill was one of nearly two dozen members of President Kennedy’s former Secret Service detail to share his memories of the assassination in a new book. The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence offers an inside, accurate look at both Kennedy and his slaying, said co-author Gerald Blaine during an appearance with Hill at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville.

“What the agents decided to do was to set the record straight, and make sure that we at least have a say-so in the history,” said Blaine, a 79-year-old retired Secret Service agent who with journalist Lisa McCubbin wrote the book.

The book largely backs the official Warren Commission report that concluded gunman Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he killed Kennedy from a sixth-floor sniper’s perch in the Texas School Book Depository.

Though conspiracy theories have swirled around the assassination for more than 45 years, the Secret Service agents who were there don’t accept those claims, said Blaine and Hill.

“For the most part, the Warren Commission got it right,” said Hill, whose recollections of the assassination — which he witnessed from the car directly behind Kennedy’s limousine — form a key part of the story. His own role was immortalized in the famous Zapruder film showing him leaping onto the limousine and pushing Jacqueline Kennedy down into the car to shield her after the shots erupted.

There were 34 agents on the White House detail at the time of Kennedy’s assassination and Blaine — who was also a member of the detail — interviewed all of the survivors when he began putting the book together more than five years ago. Some had never spoken publicly before about the killing, Blaine said.

“We wanted to make sure we were 100 percent accurate,” said Blaine, who also pored through archived documents, including the entire 27-volume Warren Commission report.

Some who heard the agents on Saturday describe the assassination said they don’t doubt their account of what happened that day.

“They’ve convinced me this is the real story,” said Naperville resident Carson Schuler, who was a 19-year-old college student when Kennedy was slain on a trip to Dallas in advance of his 1964 presidential re-election campaign.

Both Blaine and Hill were in Texas with the Kennedys when the president was slain. Hill — who was assigned to protect the First Lady — was barely a dozen feet away in the Secret Service follow-up car when the first shot rang out.

Hill described how he jumped off his car and ran toward the presidential limousine, reaching the vehicle just as a bullet struck Kennedy in the head.

As soon as he saw Kennedy’s injuries, he realized the president likely was dead.

“I could see that his eyes were fixed, there was a gaping hole in the upper right rear of his head about the size of my palm,” said Hill, struggling to hold his composure.

Doctors at Parkland Hospital worked feverishly to revive Kennedy, at one point even saying they believed he was breathing, but then pronounced the president dead, Hill said.

Agents had to quickly find a casket to carry Kennedy back to Washington, D.C., then break its handles off so it would fit inside Air Force One, he recalled.

Before the plane could take off, a federal judge had to be brought aboard to swear in Lyndon Johnson as Kennedy’s successor, while a devastated, blood-spattered Jacqueline Kennedy stood by his side. Then there was nothing to do but fly home.

“It was the longest, most quiet flight we’ve had in our lives,” Hill said softly.

The Kennedy Detail Book Signing April 19th

MSU Union

corner of Abbot and Grand River, East Lansing, MI 48824 Parlors B&C Second Floor Phone: 517-353-1731

Tuesday, April 19 10:20 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Add to my calendar
Ticket Pricing: free, reservations appreciated The authors of "The Kennedy Detail" will be on hand to relive the memories of one of America's most devastating times - the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Secret Service Agents Gerald Baine and Clint Hill, known for climbing aboard the Kennedy limo and shielding the president and first lady with his own body, plus co-author journalist Lisa McCubbin will speak.

AEI Client Larry Thompson's The Trail Reviewed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch


Fiction review: The Trial


You've seen the commercials: A prescription drug has caused death or serious illness. A body-part replacement has been shown to be defective. And what should you do? Why, call the law firm of Chasem and Suem, of course. The ads keep coming, and you're simultaneously amused and annoyed.

But what if the victim were you, or your spouse, or your child?

That's the premise of Houston lawyer and author Larry D. Thompson's "The Trial," a theme-park ride of a thriller.

At 40, Houston litigator Luke Vaughan suffers a perforated ulcer and decides to move himself and teen daughter Samantha (wife and mother Josie has run off to Nashville) to his hometown of San Marcos in the Texas Hill Country. Once there, he creates a quieter life for himself just as Samantha, upset with being uprooted, begins rebelling.

Flash-forward a few years, and Samantha, now a college student who needs some spending cash, signs up for a drug trial in which she's given Exxacia, a supposed wonder med for sinus problems. Drugmaker Cevanta already has received numerous reports of serious side effects in Europe, but Alfred Kingsbury, a physician and the head of Cevanta's North American unit, is determined to win the approval of the Food and Drug Administration.

And never mind the human cost, as Kingsbury, resolved to profit personally, stops at nothing: not perjury, not bribery, not kidnapping and especially not murder.

Samantha, of course (or there wouldn't be much of a plot), suffers liver failure, and Luke sues Cevanta in hopes of winning enough money to pay for a lifesaving transplant for his daughter. The trial that follows, presided over by the crafty and kindly Judge Chester A. Nimitz (a fictional nephew of the real-life admiral), packs all the emotional peaks and valleys that readers expect from a good thriller.

Too many thriller writers are content to showcase their plotting skills while creating cardboard characters, but not Thompson. You'll care about Luke and Samantha and their friends, you'll find Chuck Nimitz the epitome of what a judge should be, and you'll despise Alfred Kingsbury for the contemptible greedhead he is.

And "The Trial" raises serious issues about the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government's oversight (or is it it overlook?) of the meds we ingest for so many health problems. With this entertaining novel, Thompson has created a double whammy: a thief of sleep as you turn the pages and a fount of fear as you take your next prescription pill.


(804) 649-6698

the Richmond Times-Dispatch © Copyright 2011 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General company.

Beyond the bookstore - Advice From Five Star's Linda Radke

These are scary times. We need to keep thinking outside the box.

1. Speaking engagements

2. Gift stores

3. Catalogs

4. Start a book club

5. Specialty stores

6. Fundraisers

7. Lemonade stand - Why not? It worked when we were young. :)

8. School talks

9. Church or synagogue gift shop

10. Seminars

11. Workshops

12. Contest

13. Offer your book as a door prize

14. Library talks

15. Book walk - walk and talk books

16. Flea markets (don't laugh - I have one author who has a space in a Park N' Swap from November to March each year - www.SecretLifeofaSnowbird.com)

17. Encourage a Five Star Book Nook in a specialty store. We will provide the logo.

Story Merchant Client Joe Cervasio discusses his Novel Now or Never 11 Secrets of Arimathea on The Sky is the Limit with Jin Robertson

In the midst of the Great Recession of the 21st Century, many of us are fighting to regain our way to fulfilling our destinies. Unexpected setbacks, disappointments, mediocrity, and lost opportunities abound as we look for answers to achieving our goals. Leadership, Management, and Performance Development expert Joseph R. Cervasio will share the 11 Secrets of Arimathea as the necessary antidote. After 40 years in Corporate America as a sales and marketing executive, as well as a demanded motivational speaker and coach, Cervasio takes us back 2000 years to weave a mystery in his second novel, Now or Never: The 11 Secrets of Arimathea. Featuring didactic tenets which will assist us in replacing regret, disappointment, and fear with peace, prosperity, and progress, the author has gleaned these Secrets from his observation and participation in the lives of many. Join him as he weaves a story of fact, fiction, and tradition, introducing characters who teach lessons for a lifetime. And what a story he tells!

Purchase Now

Join Me April 13th - Key Speaker at the Book Publicists of Southern California

Waterfalls Room at the Sportsmens Lodge
12833 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA

Evening Program includes Cocktails & Networking, Buffet Dinner
5:30pm - 10:00pm

$29.00 /$10:00 (Program Only)

BPSC March April 2011

Join Me April 13th - Key Speaker at the Book Publicists of Southern California

Waterfalls Room at the Sportsmens Lodge
12833 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA

Evening Program includes Cocktails & Networking, Buffet Dinner
5:30pm - 10:00pm

$29.00 /$10:00 (Program Only)

BPSC March April 2011

Join Me April 13th Key Speaker Book Publicists of Southern California

Waterfalls Room at the Sportsmens Lodge

12833 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA

Evening Program includes Cocktails & Networking, Buffet Dinner
5:30pm - 10:00pm

$29.00 /$10:00 (Program Only)
PSC March April 2011

Scott West of DayBreak USA conducts an interview with Alex Cord

... who talks about Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis, Jr., The Rat Pack, the writing of "Feather in the Rain."

Alex Cord began writing a journal after the death of his son. He says that soon after he started writing, the story took on a life of its own. His many western acting roles, plus a lifetime spent as an accomplished horseman, enabled him to create a background of gripping reality for A Feather in the Rain -- a love story of heart and passion.

Alex Cord was stricken with polio at age 12, and confined to a hospital. He fought his way to recovery and at 13 was sent to a ranch in Wyoming to further his therapy and recovery. A few years later, he was on the rodeo circuit. When a rodeo mishap left him in the hospital for "too long," he returned to high school, obtained his diploma and went on to study literature at New York University.

Alex starred in more that 30 feature films including Stagecoach and The Brotherhood. He has also starred in more that 300 television shows, among them Airwolf, Mission Impossible and Walker Texas Ranger.

Ernest Borgnine, Academy Award-winning actor, says of A Feather in the Rain, "Alex has written one of the finest love stories I've ever read."

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