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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A witness to history

Former Secret Service agent talks about N.D. & Jacqueline Kennedy

By ELOISE OGDEN - Regional Editor (eogden@minotdailynews.com) , Minot Daily News


Eloise Ogden/MDN



Former Secret Service agent Clint Hill, third from left, shakes hands Monday with David Fuller, president of Minot State University, after Hill stepped off a plane at the Minot International Airport. David Reiten, president of the Norsk Hostfest Association, is at far left. At right are author Lisa McCubbin, who co-wrote with Hill the book, “Mrs. Kennedy and Me,” and Myron Thompson, Minot. Hill will be inducted in the Norsk Hostfest Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame Wednesday. Fuller is Hill’s host while in Minot.

This week, the North Dakota native is in Minot for Norsk Hostfest activities. He'll be inducted Wednesday into the Norsk Hostfest Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame.

Hill and Lisa McCubbin, who accompanied him to Minot, are the co-authors of the new book, "Mrs. Kennedy and Me."

Hill's parents homesteaded in the Roseglen area. Hill, 80, was born at Larimore and then placed in an orphanage in Fargo. He was adopted when he was 3 months old by Chris and Jennie Hill, who brought him to Washburn. There, he attended school, graduating from Washburn High School. He went to Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.

Hill has fond memories about his North Dakota upbringing, including visits to Minot.

He said his mother's birthday was July 4 and that month he remembers the family would come to Minot to the State Fair.

"All of her family all of her sisters and brothers whoever lived in the area would meet us here at a park near the fairgrounds. Everybody would bring something and we'd have a big picnic and then everybody would go to the State Fair," he said in an interview Monday afternoon.

After his father died, Hill said his mother moved to Minot. At the time of her death, she was living in a nursing home in Northwood because his sister lived on a farm near there. The funeral was held in Minot.

Hill's Secret Service career included working for several presidents.

Hill said when Vice President Spiro Agnew visited Minot he also visited Hill's mother here. He recalled it was during the campaign of 1972 when he was the assistant director for all protective forces for the Secret Service in Washington, D.C.

"One of the advance agents for the vice president was here in Minot setting up the trip and he called and said, 'Would it be OK if the vice president stopped by and saw your mother?' I knew the Agnews. I had been with the Agnews for awhile," Hill said. He told the agent that was fine if the vice president paid a visit to his mother.

"I arranged for my mother to be at my cousin's house, Paul and Olga Froemming, and vice president Agnew came here and met my mother there. It was on the front page of The Minot Daily News," Hill said.

He recalls being in North Dakota on official business once with Agnew to Fargo. Another time he did an advance trip through here for Lyndon Johnson but the decision then was made that Johnson wouldn't stop here. Hill recalls that trip was so secretive that Hill couldn't even go see his mother.

McCubbin said Hill talks about his boyhood in North Dakota in the book to show how different his upbringing was in contrast to Jacqueline Kennedy.

The book contains photographs of his family and his boyhood home, which was in the east end of the Washburn.

"There were 912 people living there at that time," he said.

McCubbin, who now lives in Alexandria, Va., where Hill has lived for many years, said they became acquainted when she was working on another book, "The Kennedy Detail." She said that book was with another Secret Service agent who had been with President Kennedy.

"We needed Clint's help for the book," McCubbin said. She said the other agent introduced her to Hill.

"Clint was very hesitant because he hadn't provided any information to any other books, but he trusted this other agent and then he slowly began to trust me. He revealed a lot of information for the other book. We became very close and then throughout the course of the next year we were together a lot promoting the other book. I'd asked him if he would ever consider writing a book and he said, 'No way, never, never.'" McCubbin said.

"I vowed I'd never write a book," Hill added.

"But then the publisher came to us and asked if we would do this book together," McCubbin said. "He decided it was historical information as long as we would do it in such a way that it was a tribute to Jacqueline nothing salacious, gossip or rumors but a tribute to the woman that he admired and respected, then he would agree to do it."

The book was released April 3 and was on the New York Times bestseller list for 14 weeks, McCubbin said.

"It's been very well received," she added.

Hill talked about Jacqueline Kennedy and how they addressed each other.

"Mrs. Kennedy and she called me Mr. Hill, with never any variation," he said.

"She was extremely intelligent, very athletic. She was an expert horsewoman, loved to play tennis and water ski. She was a hands-on mom, really dedicated to those two children, Caroline and John, and she was a devoted wife to her husband. (She) tried everything she could to give the president a relaxing atmosphere whenever possible so that he could get away a little bit from the stress and strains of the office. That was her goal and to really keep things private as much as possible. She emphasized that all the time," Hill said.

"She was just a wonderful lady. She had a wonderful sense of humor and she was a pleasure to be around to work with," he said. "She was a down-to-earth human being."

McCubbin said Hill also agreed to write the book because he realized that people didn't really know who Jacqueline Kennedy was.

"He knew her like nobody else did. There had been so many books written about her with lot of falsehoods," McCubbin said.

He said many people who wrote about Jacqueline Kennedy never knew her. "They were friends of friends of friends they got information from," he said.

Hill said he knew Jacqueline Kennedy from after the election of 1960 until after the election of 1964.

"He was with her constantly," McCubbin said.

From this book, Hill said he wants people "to understand who she was and what she was really like. That she was someone they could really relate to and be proud of."

"It's really his memoir of really happy times and tragic times that changed America, and he was right there in the middle of it," McCubbin said.

"One thing that I wanted to do in the book was give people a sense of who he is. He talks about how his North Dakota roots really contributed to everything he did in his life," McCubbin said.

"The values that I learned as a child, they're the ones that I still have today," Hill said.

In regard to Oswald, who shot President Kennedy, Hill said Oswald was a loner and loser "because he just couldn't get along with people, couldn't keep a job, couldn't even successfully defect to the Soviet Union. They didn't want him either. He was just someone trying to make a name for himself apparently, and that's want he did, but he didn't live to relish in his fame, so to speak."

Hill and McCubbin have been traveling since April on a book tour. They recently returned from Italy. They'll go to Australia in February.

"So it's international," Hill said of his book.

He said Jacqueline Kennedy always was international. He accompanied her to France, Greece, India, Pakistan and all over South America.

Will they write another book?

"Maybe," Hill replied, adding, "There's always more stories."

"We're really honored that Hostfest has invited us and is honoring Clint," McCubbin said. She said many North Dakota people have contacted them, asking him to return to North Dakota to speak. They said Norsk Hostfest is a great opportunity for them to be here.

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