The First Lady’s Detail

I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it.



Her husband had been Jacqueline Kennedy’s Secret Service agent for three years, and still Gwen Hill had never met the first lady.

“I just don’t understand it, Clint,” she said as she watched her husband pack his suitcase for another weekend in Atoka. He had the suitcase laid out on the bed and was pulling socks and undershirts from the dresser drawer. “Why couldn’t you have just waved us over and introduced us?”

Agent Clint Hill had gotten tickets for Gwen and their two sons, Corey and Chris, to see the Scottish Black Watch military brigade performance on the White House lawn two days earlier. Gwen had gone to the beauty shop to have her hair frosted, and had taken special care with her outfit and makeup, with the assumption that she’d be meeting the first lady and maybe the president, too.


President Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy, Caroline, and John look on as the Scottish Black Watch perform on the South Grounds of the White House. Five days later the Black Watch marched in JFK’s funeral procession, at the request of Mrs. Kennedy. (PHOTOGRAPH BY CECIL STOUGHTON, WHITE HOUSE, JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, BOSTON)

“I told you, I was working,” Clint said. “My job is to protect her. It just seemed inappropriate to introduce you while I was on duty.”

“Well, I think I’m the only Secret Service wife who hasn’t met her,” Gwen said. She was holding two-year-old Corey on one hip and shifted him to the other side. “Doesn’t that seem ironic?”

Clint closed the hard Samsonite suitcase and locked the clips next to the handle. He pulled the suitcase off the bed and walked over to Gwen. Several half-filled moving boxes were scattered around the room, and Clint pushed one to the side with his foot as he walked by. Now that their two boys were seven and two years old, Clint and Gwen had realized they needed more room, and a quieter location. Gwen had found a larger apartment in Alexandria for just a few dollars more a month. They could move in on December 1, although Clint still didn’t know when his schedule would allow him to take a day off to move everything to the new place.

“I guess I didn’t realize how important it was to you,” he said as he set the suitcase on the floor. “The next time there’s an opportunity, I promise I’ll make sure you get to meet her.”

At almost six feet tall, Clint was a good eight inches taller than his wife. He leaned over to give her a quick kiss and pulled her petite frame in close for a hug.

“Okay,” she said. She could never stay angry with him for long. “Promise?” she asked.

“Promise,” he said.

When Clint had come home from the meeting with Secret Service chief Baughman right after Kennedy’s election and told Gwen he’d been “demoted” to the First Lady’s Detail, she’d felt sorry for him. But as the months and years went on, the pity had eventually disappeared and—while she wouldn’t admit it—had turned to jealousy.

It was one thing when your husband was on the President’s Detail and traveling all the time. It was a whole different issue when your husband spent every weekend and holiday and nearly every day in between with the most idolized woman in the world. It had gotten to the point that when Gwen met someone new and they asked what her husband did for a living, she answered, “He works for the government—Treasury Department.” She didn’t want to have to explain that her husband was Jackie Kennedy’s Special Agent in Charge, but the closest she’d come to the first lady was watching her recent tour of the White House on television.

As for Clint Hill, it hadn’t taken long for him to get over the feeling that he was “second team.” From the moment he met Mrs. Kennedy, there had been a kind of quiet understanding between the two of them. Hill quickly realized that while being on Mrs. Kennedy’s detail wasn’t perhaps as rigorous or high profile as the President’s Detail, the job certainly had its own challenges. He also realized he was now responsible for what was most important to the president—his wife and children.

Jackie was eight months pregnant when Hill was first assigned as the number-two man on her detail in November 1960, and while her husband went to Palm Beach to plan his administration, she stayed at their home in Georgetown with daughter Caroline, to be close to her doctors. Barely two weeks after Agent Hill met Mrs. Kennedy, she went into early labor. It took President-elect Kennedy several hours to get back to Washington, leaving Clint Hill to pace outside the delivery room when John, Jr., was born on November 25, 1960. It was to be the first of many bonding experiences between the first lady and her trusted agent, Mr. Hill.

Clint had a quick yet subtle sense of humor that made Mrs. Kennedy laugh, and his gentle and confident manner made her feel comfortable and secure. Unlike her husband, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy didn’t need to be in the limelight. She had a great appreciation for the arts, a deep love for animals, and was intent on making sure her children grew up as unspoiled as possible, despite the fact that they had been born into one of the wealthiest families in America. Not to mention that they were the children of the President of the United States of America. Jackie had just a few close friends outside the family, and as she spent more time with Clint Hill than anyone else, she grew to rely on him for friendship as well as protection.

As Mrs. Kennedy settled into her role as first lady she realized she had certain obligations, as well as opportunities, to make a difference in the world. She’d always been fascinated by India and Pakistan, and when she proposed an ambassadorial trip to her husband, he was all for it. President Kennedy called on their good friend John Kenneth Galbraith—who happened to be the ambassador to India—to help with the arrangements.

In early February 1962, Clint Hill called Jerry Blaine. Even though their wives had become close friends and spent a lot of time together, because of the president’s and the first lady’s separate travel schedules, Blaine and Hill rarely had time to catch up outside of work.

“Hey, Jer. It’s Clint.”

“Clint, how are you? Where’ve you been?”

“Oh, you know, just living the good life at Glen Ora,” Clint said.

Blaine laughed. Glen Ora had been the Kennedys’ weekend retreat in Middleburg, Virginia, before Atoka was built. There was very little going on there other than Mrs. Kennedy’s daily horseback ride or a leisurely walk through the woods, and while Jackie loved the place, the Kennedy Detail agents thought of it as a professional rest stop to be used as a reprieve after working weeks on end without a break. Clint wound up spending considerable time there simply because Mrs. Kennedy did.

“Yeah, I heard Paolella has turned into quite the equestrian,” Blaine said with a chuckle.

Agent Joe Paolella had come back from a weekend on duty in Glen Ora and told the story of how he nearly paralyzed the first lady.

“Oh, geez,” Clint said. “What a disaster that was. Mrs. Kennedy wanted to go for a ride, so we’d gotten the saddle on the horse and next thing I know, she turns to Joe and says in her sweet little voice, ‘Agent Paolella, could you give me a hand?’”

On the other end of the phone Blaine was cracking up. Clint’s impression of Mrs. Kennedy’s voice was hilariously accurate.

“So she turns toward the horse and puts her foot in the air for Joe to cup his hands and give her a lift to the saddle,” Clint continued. “Well, you know Paolella. He’s got the big muscles, which he likes to show off, so what does he do? He grabs her by the waist and lifts her up over the saddle and then he lets her go. Literally throws her over the horse.”

Blaine had heard the story, but to hear Clint tell it was priceless. He was doubled over with laughter.

“So I see Mrs. Kennedy fall to the ground on the other side of the horse and rush over to make sure she hasn’t broken her neck. Thank God she was fine, but I was about to rip into Paolella when Mrs. Kennedy looks up at me and says, ‘Mr. Hill, perhaps we need to give Mr. Paolella instructions on how to give a lady a hand into the saddle.’”

“Oh God, Clint,” Blaine said through his laughter, “when Joe told me the story I said, ‘Well, that wasn’t the brightest way to get out of Glen Ora duty,’ but who knows, after that he may never have to go back again.”

On the other end of the phone Clint was shaking his head. “Yeah, well, I was just happy there weren’t any photographers around. I could just see the headlines: ‘Secret Service Agents Nearly Kill the First Lady.’”

Blaine was doubled over. It was only funny because it was so true.

“Anyway, Jerry, the reason I called . . .”


“I was wondering, are you up for some curry and chicken tandoori?”

“What? Sure,” Blaine replied. “Name the place.”

“How about New Delhi? Mrs. Kennedy’s planning a visit to India and Pakistan, so Jerry Behn told me to pick my team. I need advance people. Are you interested?”

“Sounds great. When do we leave?”

“I’m just now working out the details with the White House and State Department,” Clint said. “Ambassador Galbraith has got a crazy, ambitious schedule laid out, so I’m trying to rein it in a bit, but we’re looking at sometime in the next two weeks. She’s taking her sister Lee and the visit for now is off the record. Probably won’t be announced until after we’ve departed.”

“Count me in,” Blaine said.

The Islamists and Hindus of India had been in constant conflict during the British rule of India, and when India won her independence after World War II, the clash between the two ideological and religious groups escalated into massive violence that cost the lives of millions on both sides. The end result of the conflict was to partition the Muslims into Pakistan while leaving India largely Hindu. Both countries were vying for the attention of the United States, but it was their historically dynamic and grandiose cultures that enthralled Mrs. Kennedy.

The first lady’s four-day trip would cover New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, and Benares in India, along with a few stops in Pakistan. Every city would need to be advanced by the Secret Service, but since the First Lady’s Detail consisted only of two agents—Clint Hill and Special Agent in Charge Jim Jeffries—a bunch of agents needed to be pulled from the president’s and vice president’s details, as well as a number of field agents. Mrs. Kennedy’s jaunt to Southeast Asia with her sister, Lee Radziwill, was no minor undertaking.

On February 16, 1962, fourteen Secret Service agents—including Clint Hill, Jerry Blaine, Dave Grant, Bill Skiles, Paul Rundle, and Ron Pontius—set off for India on Pan American Airways. Two days later—after stops in London, Frankfurt, Munich, Istanbul, Beirut, and Tehran—they arrived in New Delhi.

Shortly after checking into the Ashoka Hotel, the Secret Service team received word that Mrs. Kennedy would have to delay her visit for a few days. Additionally, in the two days they’d been traveling, several more stops in Pakistan had been added to the agenda. The only sensible option was for the agents to stay in India, work the advances, and wait for Mrs. Kennedy’s arrival. The “few days” ended up being six weeks. Somebody in Washington calculated that it was cheaper to leave the agents in India for the six weeks rather than have them make the same trip twice. The Indian government was so eager to please that they invited the agents to stay as their guests and offered to pick up the cost of the hotel rooms. This left the fourteen agents with some things they weren’t used to: a bit of extra pocket money from their unused per diem allowance, and free time.

Not ones to remain idle, the Secret Service detail called upon their Indian government security hosts for suggestions of challenging adventures or travel agendas to fill up their newfound time. The agents had split up into seven two-man advance teams and the teams inevitably turned competitive as they tried to outdo each other with creative and diverse activities. The teams would take off on their separate adventures and each weekend meet back in New Delhi, where the Marines posted at the U.S. embassy would throw a party for the agents. The parties were great opportunities to unwind and embellish on their various escapades.

While working on the advance plans for Agra, Jerry Blaine and Forrest Guthrie were in a car with a chatty Indian driver when an enormous black cloud appeared out of nowhere. The driver slammed on the brakes and screamed to the agents to roll up their windows. An instant later, the inside of the car was pitch-black as the car was immersed in a swarm of locusts. Conversation was impossible over the roar of the buzzing wings and the sound of the large insects slamming into the car. Fifteen minutes later, the daylight began to reappear through the slimy brown juice that had coated the windows. When it was all over, the driver got outside, wiped the windows, and continued with the tour, leaving Blaine and Guthrie to wonder whether this was a normal, everyday occurrence.

This was nothing compared to the adventure story Agent Paul Rundle came back with that week. Rundle, an avid hunter, had learned from a Marine at the U.S. embassy that a hunt was on for a man-eating Bengal tiger that had been terrorizing villages, and he offered to help. Rundle and the Marine joined up with the Indian scout who was responsible for controlling the hunt, and were loath to discover that the guides were planning to use the remains of a human as bait, figuring the tiger would return to finish off the carcass. Instead, the two Americans suggested they kill a nilgai—a wild, grass-eating animal similar to an antelope, only much larger, sometimes reaching 1,500 pounds—and use that as bait. The Indian guide agreed, and they were successful in bagging a large nilgai on the first day. Now they had to set up a blind on the ground where they could wait out the tiger, which hunted at night.

For three nights, Agent Paul Rundle and the Marine waited in the blind with the Indian hunter, often thinking that a tall tree might be a better hiding spot. This was, after all, a man-eating tiger. Numerous smaller game came to sniff the dead nilgai, but the waiting hunters shooed them away. After three nights with no sign of the tiger, Rundle and the Marine returned to the embassy, exhausted and disappointed that they’d been unsuccessful.

The Marines had challenged the Secret Service agents to a softball game—which would become a weekly competition—and despite an error by Paul Rundle, who was suffering from lack of sleep, the Kennedy Detail agents squeaked out a one-run victory. The good fortune was that the Marine hunting companion, who was similarly exhausted, dropped a fly ball, which allowed the winning run. The agents also had a ringer in that Agent Larry Short was their pitcher. Unbeknownst to the Marines, Short had pitched AAA softball prior to joining the Secret Service.

Undaunted, Paul Rundle the next week set out to hunt ducks. There were numerous ducks and geese, which had flown south from the Russian grain fields. The ducks were larger than the American variety and because of concern over rumors of nuclear testing fallout, the locals wanted nothing to do with the potentially radioactive ducks. However, this did not deter Rundle. He set out with his Marine friend and they ended up at a lake encircled by a tramway system and noisy traffic. With no dog for a retriever, they knew that if they got one, finding the damn thing when it dropped—they’d need to bring it back to the embassy as proof of their success—was going to be an even bigger challenge. After a short while a flock of ducks flew over the lake and Paul shot a couple of them. Before he had time to blink, two boys in their underwear came running from behind and dove into the lake to retrieve the downed birds. Only in India.

The sights in India ranged from magnificent to indescribably wretched. At one end of the spectrum was extreme wealth, epitomized by the Taj Mahal, while at the other end was mind-numbing poverty, the likes of which the agents could never have even imagined. In some places, maimed children begged for food and lived in squalor while lepers roamed the streets threatening to grab you and share their disease if you didn’t give them a few rupees. Cows, monkeys, and other animals protected by the Hindu religion roamed freely on the highways, stalling traffic while the travelers seemed to take it all in stride. But perhaps the most stifling and unfamiliar sensation was the heavy, putrid haze that constantly filled the air—the result of elephant dung being burned for cooking fuel combined with the ash and smoke of the bodies being burned on funeral pyres during the traditional Hindu outdoor cremations. The oppressive smog seemed to level off around the sixth floor of the Ashoka Hotel. Fortunately, Clint Hill had arranged for all the agents’ rooms to be above that level.

Gordon Parks from the White House Communications Agency accompanied the agents on the trip, and his first task was to set up a radio connection to the White House in one of the hotel rooms. The agents tried to use the radio to call home, but the connection was so bad and so little was interpreted during the conversations that it seemed a worthless exercise. Finally, they all agreed to tell their wives and families that the radio broke down.

In the meantime, while the two-man teams of agents were finding unique ways to fill the time, Clint Hill, as the advance coordinator, was given the task of working with Ambassador Kenneth Galbraith. Galbraith was a brilliant economist who had been appointed by President Kennedy as the U.S. ambassador to India, and at six feet seven inches tall, he was an imposing character. He was thrilled that Jackie was coming to India and had an overwhelming desire to show her as much as possible. Every afternoon, Clint would meet Galbraith at the ambassador’s residence, and over a cup or two of tea, Galbraith would lay out his latest plan. One day he was adding Hyderabad, the next a jaunt to Bangalore. Clint could only stare in amazement at the ever-expanding itinerary. If the ambassador got his way, it would be another six weeks before the agents and Mrs. Kennedy would return back home.

Because of the thirteen-hour time difference, Clint would have to wait until midnight to call Washington with the latest updates. President Kennedy was reviewing the plans and was not at all in favor of Jackie extending the trip. With such sensitive negotiations going on behind the scenes, Clint didn’t want to use the embassy phone or radio since his communication would undoubtedly be passed back to the ambassador, and thus he had no choice but to use the shortwave radio phone in the hotel room. But just as when the agents called home, the transmission was terrible. Clint had to deal with echoes, delays, and often, total fade-out. By the time he delivered the latest plan and received the response, it was usually three in the morning before he got to bed. The next afternoon he would have to renegotiate the schedule with the ambassador.

When the Indian government heard that Jackie was following her trip to India with an equivalent trip through Pakistan, they rescinded their generous offer to pay for the agents’ hotel rooms. This created a big problem for a few of the guys who had already spent the per diem money on souvenirs and gifts. They were left with a meager budget for the rest of the trip.

Paul Rundle and Dave Grant were sent ahead to Pakistan to handle the advance in Lahore, and once again found themselves with a couple of extra days. There was no big-game hunting there, but somehow the Japanese government learned of the two American Secret Service agents’ presence, and Rundle and Grant were enlisted to work the follow-up car for the crown prince of Japan and his wife during their short visit to the city. Between the tiger hunt and his stint working for the Japanese, Rundle definitely won the prize for the most adventuresome schedule, while the rest of the agents shook their heads wondering what would have been the ramifications if there’d been an assassination attempt on the crown prince, or an unfortunate incident with the tiger.

There is a belief in India that certain noble people are closer to God, and if you can touch them, perhaps their holiness will rub off on you. Some of the agents had experienced the consequences of this when President Eisenhower had traveled to India and the police had had to break out truncheons to beat off the surging crowds as they attempted to touch the American president. Because of Jacqueline Kennedy’s extreme popularity, the agents were genuinely concerned with keeping the first lady’s visit as private as possible. She was extremely uncomfortable with crowds, and they knew she would be mortified if she witnessed anybody being beaten—especially if it was due to her presence.

By the time Special Agent in Charge Jim Jeffries arrived with the first lady and her sister, Clint and the advance agents had a good feeling for the Indian culture and had tried to plan for every foreseeable crisis. It was suggested that a suitcase be filled with Kraft macaroni and cheese dinners, processed cheese, and saltine crackers just in case the Indian cuisine didn’t agree with Mrs. Kennedy, and to give her the option of eating something familiar prior to the official dinners. One thing the Secret Service never anticipated, however, wound up becoming a problem for the White House Social Office and the State Department Office of the Chief of Protocol.

It’s customary for visiting dignitaries to present their hosts with gifts—something from the visitor’s home country. The gifts that had been selected by somebody in Protocol for Jackie Kennedy to hand out to her Indian hosts turned out to be a variety of picture frames covered in cowhide. Since cows are considered sacred in India, the frames were completely inappropriate—and could have potentially caused an international embarrassment. The U.S. embassy staff in New Delhi had to scurry around and find some other suitable gifts. The first lady wound up handing out sterling silver picture frames to her royal hosts that were made in India.


Jacqueline Kennedy and her sister, Lee, pose with the First Governor of Rajasthan and members of his family during the first lady’s historic trip to India and Pakistan in 1962. (PHOTOGRAPH BY CECIL STOUGHTON, WHITE HOUSE, JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, BOSTON)

Clint Hill had given the advance agents detailed instructions as to what Mrs. Kennedy and her sister wanted to do on the trip, along with specific directives as to what should be avoided. Unfortunately, Ambassador Galbraith and the Indian government officials had their own ideas, which made for strained relations during the four-day visit.

At the Taj Mahal, in Agra, one of the hosts convinced Jackie and Lee to take impromptu rides on an elephant and a camel, which had not been on the planned agenda. Mrs. Kennedy and her sister were laughing with delight as they bounced along, seated in a regal throne on top of the elephant, but the camel was a different story. As the Indian press photographers started snapping away at the image of the first lady and her sister seated sideways on the camel saddle, Agents Blaine and Guthrie suddenly realized the shots would be extremely embarrassing as the two sisters were both wearing dresses. The agents signaled, as discreetly as they could, for them to cross their legs.

Whether it was because of the camel ride or some other behind-the-scenes problem, halfway through the trip Mrs. Kennedy’s SAIC Jim Jeffries was called back to Washington for reassignment, and Clint Hill, who was in Karachi, Pakistan, at the time, suddenly became the Special Agent in Charge of the First Lady’s Detail.

In Pakistan, things were even more intriguing. One of the stops was Peshawar—a city adjacent to Afghanistan and the Khyber Pass that was home to various Pashtun tribes that operated under a warlord system. However, the rough, sinister-looking leaders with their long gray beards and unkempt hair took the agents under their protection and went out of their way to be good hosts. As was their custom, the Pashtuns insisted on slaughtering a goat to honor Mrs. Kennedy’s visit. It was a sight the agents knew would horrify the animal-loving first lady, and while it took a bit of wrangling, the agents negotiated to have the sacrificial slaughter occur as Mrs. Kennedy was departing. Clint Hill tried to distract the first lady so she wouldn’t notice the bleating cry of the poor goat as they sped away from the village.

One of the main reasons for traveling to Pakistan was for Jackie to visit Pakistan’s president, Ayub Khan, in Lahore. Khan had traveled to Washington the year before and he and Mrs. Kennedy had discovered their shared passion for horses. Jackie’s trip coincided with the International Horse Show in Lahore, and after attending the show together, Khan presented her with a magnificent dark chestnut-colored stallion named Sardar as a gift. She was thrilled with the thoughtful present, and it was left to the two governments to figure out how to get the animal back to the United States. Sardar spent several weeks in quarantine while Jerry Blaine and several of the other agents returned to Washington with a nasty intestinal bug that lingered for weeks.

Mrs. Kennedy had thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and one day upon their return, she was reminiscing with Clint about all the magnificent things they’d seen. When Clint didn’t offer an appropriately enthusiastic response to one of Mrs. Kennedy’s questions, she looked at him and asked, “Doesn’t anything ever impress you, Mr. Hill?”

• • •

Eventually Sardar from Pakistan ended up at Glen Ora, joining a menagerie that resided there or at the White House. There were the ponies: Macaroni, Caroline’s favorite, and Tex, a gift from Vice President Johnson. The dogs: Charlie, the family’s beloved Welsh terrier; Shannon, a cocker spaniel; Wolf, an Irish wolfhound; Pushinka, the puppy of Soviet space dog Strelka; and Clipper, a German shepherd that flunked obedience training class. There was also a variety of birds, a cat, and a rabbit. It was like the United Nations for animals.


Jacqueline, John, and Caroline ride Sardar and Macaroni at their Virginia farm. (PHOTOGRAPH BY CECIL STOUGHTON, WHITE HOUSE, JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, BOSTON)

At Glen Ora, whenever Jackie wanted to go anywhere, she just called Mr. Hill and they took off in the station wagon that was kept at the farm. One day they were on the way back to the house, driving down a dirt road, when the car came upon a turtle crossing the road. The turtle’s shell camouflaged into the brown dirt, and Clint saw it a moment too late. He cringed when he heard a crunch and a crack.

Mrs. Kennedy turned to him in horror, and exclaimed, “Mr. Hill! What have you done?”

Hill apologized profusely, but he could tell she was really upset. She never mentioned it again, but from then on, Agent Hill kept a close eye out for living creatures along the road.

With the reassignment of Jeffries, Agent Paul Landis was chosen to move from the President’s Detail to the First Lady’s Detail to assist Hill. Code-named “Debut” because he was “the young one” at just twenty-six years old and unmarried, Landis was slim and had a boyish look that women found irresistible. Originally from Ohio, his calm, even voice and gentle exterior disguised a quick sense of humor that often took people by surprise—a trait that endeared him immediately to Mrs. Kennedy and the children.



But even though Paul Landis blended seamlessly into his new role on the First Lady’s Detail, there was no mistaking the fact that Mrs. Kennedy relied on Clint Hill more than anybody. She trusted him to be her protector as well as her confidant, and the two had developed a close bond that came from spending great amounts of time with each other. One of the secrets Clint kept for Mrs. Kennedy was her enjoyment of a cigarette every now and then. Clint was a habitual smoker and always had a package of cigarettes in his pocket, along with a Zippo lighter. They’d be out somewhere—just the two of them—and Mrs. Kennedy would get a sly smile on her face and ask, “Mr. Hill, might I have one of your cigarettes?”

Clint would pull out a cigarette, stick it in his mouth, light it up, and then hand it to her. If, God forbid, anyone came into the area, Mrs. Kennedy would quickly hand the cigarette back to Clint as if he were the one smoking. She never had her own cigarettes, and never smoked in public. She didn’t smoke all that often—it was just one of their little secrets.

As Clint Hill drove to the White House that Friday morning in November, he realized that Gwen had a point. It wasn’t right that of all the Secret Service wives, she was one of the few who hadn’t met the president and first lady. Perhaps subconsciously he’d been keeping Gwen and Mrs. Kennedy apart. As soon as he got back from Texas, he’d find a way to introduce them.