After 47 years, members of the Secret Service detail tasked with protecting President John F. Kennedy broke their silence in Gaston Hall last night.
At the Georgetown University Library and Lecture Fund co-sponsored event, former Secret Service agent Gerald Blaine shared his memories of the Kennedy security detail.
Blaine, along with journalist Lisa McCubbin, wrote The Kennedy Detail to provide the agents’ story of the Kennedy administration and of the assassination. The Discovery Channel plans to air a special—produced by Kenneth Atchity (COL ’65)—based on the book.
McCubbin moderated a panel discussion of Kennedy Secret Service agents that featured Blaine, Ron Pontius, Win Lawson, Tom Wells, and Clint Hill, who is known for jumping onto the back of Kennedy’s limousine after he was shot in Dallas.
Between clips from the upcoming special, the agents offered their insight about the Secret Service, the Kennedy family, and the assassination of the president. Blaine said that none of the agents ever talked to each other about the assassination during their time with the Secret Service.
“We had a responsibility to go to work. We had to work twice as hard because we had a new president and we had just lost a president,” he said.
Blaine felt compelled to write The Kennedy Detail because it was an opportunity to consider his role and reaction to the assassination. But, not all of the agents on the panel were in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Wells said that he was escorting Caroline Kennedy to her first sleepover that day and had to abruptly change plans in order to protect her.
As one of the two agents assigned to the First Lady’s detail, Hill was walking alongside of the back of the car when the first gunshot rang out. He told the audience of students, guests, and former agents that he turned and saw the president grasping his throat.
After two more shots were fired, Hill said that he climbed on to the car and covered the passengers with his body while Lawson, the advance agent for that trip, guided them to the hospital.
“There were blood and brains spewed about over myself and the car,” he added.
Later, Zach Matilsky (COL ’12) asked the panel about the oft-rumored theory about a fourth shot fired from a nearby grassy knoll. Lawson’s answer was vehement.
“There was no fourth shot. I was there and there were only three shots,” he said.
In response to a question regarding how they felt about the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, Wells responded that he knew he probably should not feel this way, but he was glad that it happened. Hill, on the other hand, felt remorseful.
“It was unfortunate because we could never truly interview [Oswald] and find out his motive.”
The Kennedy Detail will premiere on the Discovery Channel on Monday, November 22 Thursday, December 2 at 9 p.m.
Photo: The St. Petersburg Times