When President John F. Kennedy was shot to death Nov. 22, 1963, much of the United States came to a stop, so great was the shock at the assassination of an American president. Fifty-four years later, some of that shock remains.
Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent who leapt into the president’s Lincoln convertible to shield Jackie Kennedy after the shots were filed, never forgot the moment. It was years before he could talk to anyone about it without choking up, sometimes bursting into tears.
Even more shocking, though, was learning that the suspected assassin was a commie jerk who hated the United States and had even lived for a time in the Soviet Union. He was so undistinguished that nobody noticed when he snuck his rifle into the Texas Book Depository, where he worked, and from where he fired the shots that killed Kennedy.
We complain these days about all the extra security we have to deal with, but we could have used some on that fateful day.
Hill, who protected five presidents, starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower, was a principal witness in the Warren Commission investigation of Kennedy’s death, and the commission found he bore no fault in the assassination, and he even was hailed as a hero for his behavior in those fatal seconds. But it took him a long time to get over the experience.
Previously redacted parts of the Warren Commission report were recently released, and nothing was found that change, or would have changed, the commission’s conclusions.
Conspiracy theorists were disappointed, although few admitted they would change their minds, even though no evidence of a conspiracy was found.
A presumption that Kennedy would have been reelected has always predominated, but not all those who were alive and watching the campaign at the time were that sure. In fact, his challenge to send people to the moon was considered foolhardy by many. At the time, the Russians were pulling ahead in the space race. Though in retrospect it was that challenge that set the country on the long-term space program in which it attained dominance.
If nothing else, Kennedy’s untimely and sad death ushered in a period of not-always-welcome change from which the country still hasn’t quite recovered.