tv Five Presidents CSPAN November 5, 2016 2:00pm-2:51pm EDT
the books are available in the sales tent, and we'll be signing in the main author tent just around the corner here. now, before we begin, clint, did you want to say something? >> hello, austin! [cheers and applause] it's great to be back near the hill country where i spent a great deal of time. >> a great deal of time with lbj. and we're going to tell you, we're going to give you a glimpse into our book, "five presidents," now as much as we can for about 35 minutes, and then we'll open it up to questions and answers for the last portion. first, i have to figure out how to make this thing work. [inaudible conversations] >> he said it takes a bit. >> all right. takes a minute. clint hill was born in 1932, the middle of the great depression, and his mother realized she couldn't care for him. so she had him baptized and
dropped him off at the north dakota children's home in fargo, north dakota. fortunately, when he was about three months old, he was adopted by a wonderful family, chris and jenny hill and their daughter, janice. he grew up in this home in washburn, north dakota, population 912. clint, growing up in that tiny town in north dakota, did you always want to be a secret service agent, or how did that come about? [laughter] >> no, not at all. my intention when i went away to college was to become a history teacher and to coach athletics. but the korean war interceded, and i had to go into the military. i went through basic training for the u.s. army, and they selected me out and sent me to the army intelligence center where they trained me to be a special agent in counterintelligence. and i did that for the united states government for a number of years. and when it was time to get out, i looked around to find what i
wanted to do the rest of my life, and i wanted to continue that same type of activity. i found that the secret service was an extremely small organization, had a great history of investigations, and so i applied. unfortunately, there were only 269 agents in the entire organization at that time. worldwide. be -- so it was almost impossible to get in unless somebody died or retired. and in my case, a gentleman retired, and i got his slot. and that's how i became a secret service agent. >> so that was in 1958. dwight d. eisenhower was president. that's clint hill standing in the doorway there. within a year of entering the secret service, he was promoted to the elite white house detail and, clint, what was it like working for president eisenhower? what kind of a man was he? >> he was a wonderful, personable individual, but he had spent almost his entire life in the military, and he brought
into that into the oval office, including some members of his former staff who were military officers. he was one of those individuals who, if we told him we had to leave at 9:30 in the morning, at 9:29.30, he was in the car ready to go. [laughter] we never had to worry about a schedule with eisenhower. he referred to us mostly as his troops. he didn't call us by name, he'd just say, hey, agent, and we would respond. one of the very nice things about it is he loved to play golf. and that gave us a chance to be on the golf course with him. we'd be, have agents parallelling him, i'd be one of them out in the trees alongside the fairway carrying my bag with about three golf clubs in it and a .30 caliber caribbean rifle and -- carbine rifle, and down the fairway we'd go. we had the opportunity to see some of the best golf players in the world including arnie palmer, who got to be a friend, and he was a joy to watch.
the ball would go down about 200 yards, 3 feet off the ground and zoom skyward and were right on the green almost every time. so it was really a pleasure to work with president eisenhower. >> and in december of 1959, clint, you got to go on a fantastic journey with president eisenhower visiting 11 countries in 19 days. >> yes. the air force had acquired three big commercial-type 707s and made them available to the white house. president eisenhower took advantage of it, and we took off one day, and we flew to rome. from rome to ankara, then to karachi, up to kabul, down to new delhi, a little side transcribe to see the taj taj m. then went back to new delhi, then to tehran to meet with the shah, down to athens to see the king. got onboard a big ship out in the mediterranean, it was the uss des moines, and we took that over to tunis and tunisia, and
then we got back on the ship, took it to france, got on an express train to paris, met with de gaulle, went down to ma rid to see -- madrid to see franco, flew to casablanca to meet with the king, and then finally we got to come home. [laughter] >> and that was your first trip outside of the u.s. >> my first overseas trip. >> not bad for a kid from north dakota. [laughter] >> no, pretty special. >> and you can see the crowd, this is a photo in new delhi, the crowds that surrounded president eisenhower. he was tremendously popular around the world. and, clint, you were also involved then in the election of 1960 during the campaign. >> yes. president eisenhower hadn't done much to help vice president nixon in that election in 1960, but he finally decided he would, and and we went to new york and went to, outside of new york to long island and up to westchester county. but then we came back into manhattan, and my job was to
secure the parade route down through what we call the can johns of new york city up to -- canyons of new york city up to harold square. and i had both the president and the vice president in an open car, and there were millions of people on the street and looking out of windows, hanging out of windows. it was a very dangerous situation. >> but in 1960 john f. kennedy won the election, and there was a transition now from 70-year-old general to this young, this young man from massachusetts. what was that transition like for you? >> well, we went from a 70-year-old grandfather to a 43-year-old father of a, i guess he was 3 years old at the time and a wife who was only 31 who was pregnant from at the time. so we knew it was going to be a real different activity level once the kennedys moved into the white house. >> but now you weren't assigned to president kennedy as you had thought you were going to be. what happened?
>> well, i was down on the golf course with eisenhower in augusta, georgia, the day after the election in 1960, and kennedy won. and i finally got a call from my boss tell thing me to get on the first plane back to washington. went into his office, was met there by the chief, the deputy chief, two inspectors. they began to interrogate me, and they did so for about 90 minutes, asked me guess. i knew they already had the answers because of my background investigation. do you speak languages, can you swim, do you play tennis, all kinds of things. finally, they went over to a corner and conferred and came back, we made a decision, you're assigned to mrs. john f. kennedy. >> and how did you feel about that? >> i was devastated, anger ored. [laughter] i didn't want that job. i knew what the agents did with bess truman and mamie eisenhower. they went to tea parties, fashion shows -- [laughter]
they watched canasta games. that was about it. [laughter] >> you didn't want any part of that, huh? >> no, thank you. i wanted to be where the action was. >> but as it turned out, clint hill had the best job in the secret service, protecting jacqueline kennedy. and one of the things that you found immediately was that she was so popular that just the people surrounded her all the time, wanted to get close to her. >> that was one of our biggest problems, was crowd control because everybody wanted to touch them or see them, get an autograph or something. so it became a very difficult situation. >> now, you spent a lot of time with them up in hyannis ported. what was that like? >> they'd go to hyannis port for the summer and through labor day, and then they'd go back there on thanksgiving. and then christmas, new year's and easter said be at palm beach. but up on the cape, they were almost all the time out on the water. the president would come up on fridays from the white house on
air force one, get into a helicopter and and they'd fly him over to the kennedy compound. we set a cough course out there -- golf court for him to use, he's yell out anybody for ice cream, and that was the signal for all of his nephews, his nieces, caroline and john to come running, get on that golf cart with him, and he was going to take them two blocks away to the ice cream store, and then he'd have to foot the bill. [laughter] >> now when he was thereupon, people would -- up there, people would think he was on vacation, but really a president is never on vacation as you saw up close. >> there's no such thing as a presidential vacation, believe me. the press says there is, but there's not. this photo is rather indicative. this is mrs. be kennedy and the children and their dogs, but you see the president's back in the corner. he's on the telephone. and that's what went on constantly. a president is either on the phone, being briefed by an aide, going over material that has to be acted on immediately or
having, trying to solve some problem in some foreign country that has just developed. it's 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. there is no down time. >> now, it's because you were assigned to mrs. be kennedy that you ended up going on that trip to texas. >> yes. mrs. kennedy came to me and told me she was going to make this trip to texas in 1963. she said that she, in 1960, was not able to do as much as she should have to help president kennedy get elected because she was pregnant at the time. and so this time she said she was going to do everything possible to help him get reelected. >> and so this is a great photo of clint with president and mrs. kennedy x this was taken on the morning of november 32nd, 1963 -- 22nd, 1963. >> well, the trip began on the 21st, and we flew down to san antonio for the president to make a speech and dedicate a hospital. then we flew over to houston for
a meeting with a group of hispanic people and then to pay tribute to congressman albert thomas there in houston who'd brought the space center there. then we went over to fort worth to spend the night, got up the next morning. president had a breakfast to go to. we finally got in the cars and went out to air force one at carswell air force base and flew over from fort worth to dallas. now, that sounds kind of ridiculous, i'm sure, to everybody in this entire audience. [laughter] because you just don't fly from dallas to fort worth or fort worth to dallas. you drive. well, we would have preferred driving, but the political people wanted a photograph of president and mrs. kennedy coming off the rear of air force one in dallas at love field, and so that's what they got. >> and tell us what we're seeing in this photo here. >> well, this is at love field just after we got everybody in the car ready to begin the motorcade going to the trade mart in dallas where the president was going to make a speech.
so we started out in love field and went down through the town of dallas down toward main street. the crowds began to build, became larger and larger. we went down to main street, they were so large that the driver of the car was keeping the car to the left-hand side of the street to keep the president, who was in the right rear, away from the crowd on the right side. but that put mrs. kennedy right up next to the crowd on the left-hand side of the street. so i would get up on the back of the car periodically to be as close to her as i could so that nothing could happen to her. we got down to the end of main street, we had to turn right on houston in order to get over to elm street and go underneath a triple underpass to get on the 7 freeway going toward the trade mart. as we made the left turn on elm, we were about, oh, maybe 150 feet down elm street. i was scanning the area to my left, the grassy area in the
dealey plaza area and then the trade -- or the triple underpass is right in front of us. and all of a sudden i heard this explosive noise over my right shoulder. came from the rear. so i started to turn toward that noise. but i only got as farah as the back of the presidential -- as far as the back of the presidential vehicle because i saw how the president responded. i saw him grab at his throat like this, and then he started to fall to his left. i realized then this had been a gunshot, and i jumped from my position on the follow-up car immediately behind the president's car and started to run toward the presidential vehicle with the intent of getting up on the back to form a barrier or a shield there to protect president and mrs. kennedy and all the occupants in the car. when i jumped, i had to get between a motorcycle officer who was on the left-hand side and the car i was riding on. they both were making considerable noise, engine noise. they told me later that there was a shot that came during that
running time of mine -- i didn't even hear that. but as i approached the presidential vehicle, just as about i got there i heard and i felt a third shot. be the president was, at that point, with husband head way down to his left. something like that. and the shot hit the president in the back of the head here, and it exited right out here above the right ear. it took with it the scalp and the bones from the skull and they just flapped forward, but out of the wound erupted blood and brain matter, bone fragments all over mrs. kennedy and all over myself. as i got up on the back of the car, mrs. kennedy came up on the trunk. she was trying to grab some of that material that came out of the president's head, and she did manage to get hold of some of it. i got her, and i put her in the backseat. when i got her in the backseat, the president's body fell to its
left with his head in her lap. i could see his eyes fixed. there was a hole in the skull. i could see there wasn't any more brain material in that swire area, so i -- entire area, so i assumed it was a fatal wound. i turned and gave a thumbs down to the follow-up car crew, turned and screamed at the driver to get us to a hospital, and we raced down the freeway being led by chief curry from dallas police department. >> and you were on the back of the car for about four minutes racing to parkland hospital.÷÷ what was going through your mind at that time? >> all i could think about was can we get there fast enough to do any good. i was quite sure that that the wound was fatal. i couldn't see how he could survive. so it was just a matter of getting there in case. >> and you can see the position clint is on the back of the car here. they were going at speeds up to 80 miles per hour. now, there were only three shots fired that day, but he didn't know that only three shots were
coming. he fully expected more, and he was in that position to protect the occupants of the car. so, clint, you were then there when the transition took place to the new president aboard air force one. >> yes. i was onboard air force one as vice president johnson took the oath of office. he asked mrs. kennedy to stand beside him while he did so, and she willingly did that. she thought it was important that people see that there was an orderly transfer of government, but also that she refused to clean up or change clothes because she wanted the people to see what they, what had been done. and so we took off from love field, and we flew directly to andrews air force base in maryland and then transferred the body out to bethesda naval hospital where an autopsy was performed. >> and so you were assigned to stay with mrs. kennedy for one more year. >> they decided that they should have somebody with her.
they asked her who she wanted, and she asked that some of the agents who had been with the children stay with the children, and she asked if i could stay with her for that year, and i did. >> and so this is a photo taken in october of 1964. it actually was a photo that we found in clint's collection and was not published before our latest book came out. what was going on here that day? >> well, johnson has -- was running for the presidency for the first time in his own right, and and it was 1964. bobby kennedy was running for the senate seat in new york. and so mrs. kennedy had moved to new york, and i was living up there myself in the carlyle hotel, and be president johnson wanted to see mrs. kennedy while he was campaigning in new york, so he came to her residence at 1040 fifth avenue to pay his respects to her, and that's what you see in this photo as they're saying bye. it's mrs. kennedy, president johnson, robert kennedy and myself. >> so then in november of 1964,
clint was transferred back to the white house detail under president johnson. what was that transition like going from jacqueline kennedy to lbj? [laughter] >> well, it was quite a transition, going -- [laughter] going from the banks of cape cod to the banks of the ferdinalis -- [laughter] from clam chowder to chili. but it was one of those things. it's just a part of the job. >> and from what you've told me, president johnson was not nearly as predictable as president eisenhower had been or kennedy. >> he was not predictable at all. he had the opinion that if he didn't tell anybody what his plans were, nobody could do him harm, and that included us. [laughter] and so often times what we'd see is we'd be on post, and we'd see the valet come out of the kitchen door with a little satchel and a hang-up bag. now, we knew the valet wasn't going anywhere, but we -- that
meant the president was. [laughter] we didn't know where. he'd get in a golf cart and head for the parking zone where we had jet star and a helicopter, and then we had cars. so he had one choice out of three, he was either going to fly to st. louis or detroit or houston, take a helicopter into austin or get in a car and go over to a neighboring ran are. we didn't know until he got there, and then we'd have to quickly respond and react and let everybody know. >> but he loved that ranch, and you spent a lot of time down there. the president would bring all kinds of people there. >> he brought heads of state, members of congress, members of the cabinet. this photograph is a group of the joint chiefs of staff, the secretary of defense and the assistant secretary. they're sitting on the front lawn of the lbj ranch. they're deciding the budge for the defense department the next year and how best to do things in vietnam. [laughter]
>> so then you were there for the inauguration of 1964. >> yes, i was. i was succeeded in the stands -- seated in the stands -- >> this is in, i'm sorry, 1965. >> yeah. >> happened to use the same car. >> yes, we did. the car that was used in dallas was the secret service car 100x. that was the car that president are kennedy was assassinated in. it was specially fabricated prior to that event, but it was not armored, didn't have any armor on it at all. it did have a plastic top we could use, we called it a bubble. but immediately after the assassination, the car was taken back by ford motor company and reconfigured completely. it was completely enclosed and completely armored. and so in 1965 when the inauguration took place for president johnson, that's me on the right rear fender as we went
down pennsylvania avenue in the the inaugust parade. >> the same -- inaugural parade. >> same car, same position as he had been on november 22nd, 1963. so now you have an armored car though, but president johnson found ways around that. >> yes. he'd stop the motorcade, and he'd get out of the car and either crawl up on top or get up high enough so everybody could see him. made really a wonderful target if anybody wanted to take a shot. [laughter] we really didn't like it, but there was not much we could do. >> so this was during the time of the vietnam war, and you had a real hard time with protesters that entire administration. >> no matter where we went, they were there, the protesters, the demonstrators. there they are on the sidewalk outside the north portion of the white house. across the street in lafayette square, down around the reflecting pool at, between the lincoln memorial and the washington monument. or over at at the pentagon.
they were everywhere. no matter where we went, we had to contend with large demonstrations, anti-war, anti-johnson. >> now, by the end of 1967 it was, you were -- had risen through the ranks, still working under president johnson, and now you were the special agent in charge of presidential protection. you were the number one guy in charge of protecting him. >> yes, and it was rather strange because in 1964 when i first appeared at the ranch having left mrs. kennedy, he spotted me, and he knew that i had been with the kennedys. he called my supervisor and said he didn't want me there because he didn't think he could trust me. he didn't think i could be loyal. three years later he had -- they made me the agent in charge. so there was quite a transformation. >> and this is a photo on air force one. this actually was during an impromptu around the world trip that happened about a month
after you got this signment. tell us what happened. -- assignment. >> prime minister holt in australia had drowned. it was december, 1967. so he wanted to go to the funeral because they'd become pretty good friends. so he flew down to australia to attend the funeral thinking that immediately upon completion of the funeral, we'd return to washington. but when we took off, we didn't head to washington, we headed for thailand. we were going to the air force base. from there we flew over to vietnam. he wanted to be with the troops. and there you see me right behind him in amongst the troops. from there we flew over to karachi, pakistan, because he wanted to meet with the president. from karachi we flew to rome, italy. he wanted to meet with the president of italy, and he wanted to pop in on the pope. [laughter] so that's what we did. and so now we get him back on the airplane, we're in rome,
we're going to head for washington, but we have to stop in the be asores to refuel. it's christmas eve, 1967. johnson gets on the plane, he puts on his pajamas, he gets into his suite and he goes to bed, and he gets sound to sleep. nobody on the airplane had had a chance to buy anything for any of their family for christmas. we were going to have to refuel, so he radioed ahead to their commanding officer and asked him to keep the px open so that the people on the plane could at least buy something for their family members. so we arrive, and all the people start getting off the plane, and i tell 'em you guys go on, i'll stay here with johnson, he's sound asleep, don't worry. so i'm going walking back and forth down by the foot of the ramp, and i turn around and i hear, hey, clint! where the hell is everybody? [laughter] i turn around, i said, mr. president, they've all gone to
the post exchange, you know, it is christmas eve. they want to do some christmas shopping. they haven't had a chance to do that. he says, hell, i haven't had a chance to do it either, let's go! [laughter] now, he's standing there in his pajamas. [laughter] he's at the foottop of the ramp. he reaches in the closet, pulls out a trench coat, puts it on -- [laughter] down the ramp -- the stairs he comes. i grab an air force car, put him in the backseat, we take off. we go to the post exchange. open the door, he walks in, and the place just absolutely froze. [laughter] nobody in there could believe that the commander in chief, the leader of the free world was walking around in his pajamas in the middle of the night in the azores. [laughter] [applause] >> unfortunately, the press had taken a different route, so there was no one there to take a photo of that. [laughter] so now we go to 1968.
and that was quite a year. >> yeah. it was kind of a bad year. it just started out wrong. on march 31st, 1968, president johnson decided he was going to address the people of the country, talk about the vietnam war. and so i was sitting at home like everybody else, i had gone home knowing that's what he was going to do, wasn't going to leave the white house. and i was watching television. i knew pretty much what he was going to say. until he got to the last line of the speech, and he said and i will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president. i just about passed out. i almost fell off the chair. i couldn't believe, here this man who had been a leader in the senate, he'd been the vice president of the united states, he had now obtained that high office of president, and he was going to give it all up.
but what people didn't realize was vietnam had a taken its toll. usually about 2:00 in the morning he would get up from his bedroom, walk down the hall, go to the lincoln bedroom and pick up the phone. he'd call the situation room. he wanted to know what the casualty figures were for that day. and they'd tell him how many were killed, how many were wounded. then he'd go back to his bedroom. or he'd call us, and we'd take him down to a little church down off of maine avenue in washington, d.c. where he would sit down with some priests and talk and release some of that emotional baggage knowing they would never say anything. it was really taking an emotion old toll on president johnson, and he just decided he couldn't resolve the situation, and so he let the presidency go. >> so that was march 31st.
then four days later martin luther king was assassinated, and then, clint, you were with him at the memorial service the very next morning. and then just a few months after that, bobby kennedy was assassinated. what did it feel like as all of that was going on? >> well, it just, it got more tense as time went by. it was very hard to predict any of this from happening. things were just kind of gone awry, and we just had to do the best we could with the limited number of people that we had. and that was one of our biggest problems. there were only 40 of us at the white house at that time. three of the agents were with the two children with the kennedys, and two of us were with mrs. kennedy. when the johnsons came in, it was almost exactly the same with the girls, two girls and with mrs. johnson, and then the rest of us were with the president, president johnson.
so it was extremely limited as to the number of people we had, and and it made it very difficult for us during that period of time. >> so in august richard m. nixon got his party's nomination, and president johnson invited him and his staff down to the ranch. and, clint, you were there that day when they all came down. >> yes. he decided to have them down at the ranch to brief them on the presidency, and so they came down. there you see in this particular photo vice president agnew, director of cia, dick helms, ron zigler, nixon, johnson, assistant secretary cyrus vance, bob haldeman, one of nixon's top staff, jim jones, tom johnson and secretary of state dean rusk. they were there to confer about the presidency. >> and this is kind of like, if you can imagine, president obama inviting donald trump over to have a little chat -- [laughter] to brief him in case he won the presidency.
so they spent some time together, but i want you to notice what president johnson is wearing. those were his ranch clothes, right, clint? >> that's what we called them, his ranch clothes. that morning as i came to work and went into the security trailer, the agents on duty said, hey, clint, there's a package here for you from the president. so i took the package into the back room, i opened it up, and it was a set of ranch clothes like his. [laughter] so i put 'em back in the package and went through the day not thinking too much about it. after nixon and agnew left, i went back to the security trailer, and pretty soon the phone rang, and it was president johnson. he wanted me to put on those ran are. clothes, come out by the swimming pool where he was at swimming because he wanted me to show him they fit. he wanted me to model them for him. [laughter] so i did. as you see here.÷÷
you'll notice that was ken gaddis, his valet in the yellow shirt, laughing at me. >> i understand you still have those ranch choats. >> i still have them. they're a memory of the 1960s with the johnsons here down at the lbj ranch. they don't -- i couldn't get into them if i wanted to -- [laughter] but i still have them. >> so in 1968 richard m. nixon won the election, but once again you were not assigned to the president. they came to me after the election in 1968 and said, clint, we've got a problem. you know, nixon has won the presidency. he didn't like johnson, and he didn't like kennedy. and you were with both of them, and he knows it. we don't think you and he are going to get along. i said, you've probably got that right. [laughter] so he said, we'd like to make a switch. we want to make a change.÷÷
we'll make you the special agent in charge of vice presidential protection, and we'll move bob taylor into the saic of presidential protection. so they made some promises to me about personnel staffing and equipment, and i agreed. and so that change was made. >> and so you were there witnessing yet another presidential transition, and then once again in the inaugural parade you were with that same car. >> but this time we were using the same car, ss100x, but this time it was being used for the vice president. but this time i'm inside the car in the right front seat, and the other agents you see there because of their positions, they're ducking things that have been thrown at the motorcade from the crowd on inaugural day -- [laughter] rocks, bottles and cans. >> what kind of president was richard nixon, what kind of man was he from your perspective? >> well, he was a different type of individual. we knew him as the vice
president. he seemed to change a lot when he came into the presidency. he had become much more of an introvert. so much so that he had the oval office like everybody else, and that's where everybody really wanted to go, but he established a separate office over in the executive office building, and that's where he spent a considerable amount of his time. alone, requesting people to come there on occasion. but he was really much more of an introvert than most people realized. >> and then came a phone call one middle of the night you received. >> yeah. i was home in my bed and sound asleep, and i had a phone right next to my bed, direct line to the white house. and it rang. and it was the intelligence division, telling me that there'd been a break-in at democratic national committee headquarters, somebody had broken into larry o'brien's office. so i said, well, what's that got to do with the secret service? he said, well, we're not so
sure, but let me give you the names of the five men who have been arrested. and so they listed the five guys, and one, two, three, four, and they got to the fifth name, james mccord. i thought i recognized it. i wasn't sure. so i wrote 'em down and i thought, well, i'd better call my boss. he's really in tight with the nixon staff. so i called him, and i told him what had happened, and i started reading the names, and i got down to jim mccord's name and all i could hear on the other end of the phone was a whole bunch of swearing. boy, i knew i had really struck a chord. then i realized and remembered i did know jim mccord. he was a retired cia agent. he was a specialist in eavesdropping, bugging, listening devices. and that's what he was doing at democratic national committee headquarters. but he also at the time was employed by an organization that we called creep, the committee
to reelect the president. president nixon. and so we knew there was a direct line between what had happened at the democratic national committee headquarters and the white house staff. >> so at the same time as watergate was unfolding, there was an investigation into vice president agnew. and eventually, vice president agnew ended up resigning. >> yes, he did. he resigned. agents took him over to baltimore, and he gave up the office of vice president. >> and so nixon had to appoint a vice president. he appointed gerald ford who was sworn in then in december of 1973. >> which was a big surprise to not only gerald ford, but to his wife, betty, and their four children. [laughter] because they had planned to retire in 1976 and go back to michigan where he was going to practice law. and now that had all been interrupted. >> and then just a few months
later, nixon resigned, and gerald ford became president, becoming the fifth president clint had worked for in less than 17 years. and, clint, you were there that day that nixon resigned. >> yes, i was there out on the south grounds as nixon that morning had briefed or talked to his staff and to many, many friends in the east room, and then he and his wife pat, accompanied by then-vice president gerry ford and and his wife betty, walked out of the south portico with julie and trisha, the two nixon daughters and their husbands. the nixons were boarding a helicopter to fly to the andrews air force base to get on an aircraft to fly to california. and pat got on the helicopter, and then nixon turned and walked up the steps of the to helicopter. but at the top, he turned and he faced the audience of people that were his close friends, staff, allies, and they were
mostly weeping. and he threw his arms forward in that v for victory sign like he used to do. and i stood there saying to myself, what the hell does he think he's won? [laughter] leaving in disgrace. so it was kind of a mystery to me why he reacted the way he did. >> so clint was there when gerald ford took office. >> and he made that famous speech where he declared that the national -- >> national nightmare -- >> -- nightmare is over. and for most intents and purposes, it was. it was a relief to have someone there that most people trusted. most people liked. but it was a big change from what had been. >> and so clint was there during the ford administration for one year, and then he retired in 197 are 5 at -- 1975 at the age of 43. clint, you told us that when you
were a young boy growing up in washburn, north dakota, that you always wanted to be a history teacher. well, i think you've turned out to be a very good history teacher. [applause] >> thank you. that's very nice. thank you. [applause] thank you, ladies and gentlemen. [applause] thank you, thank you. we want to give you a chance to ask some questions. we would like to give you -- >> just a few minutes for some questions if anybody has them. there's a microphone there. >> hi, good afternoon, mr. hill. very nice to meet you. my question is being that john f. kennedy spent so much time away from his children, can you tell me how did that affect them and mrs. kennedy especially after the president's death? >> well, the children were
extremely close to kennedy. i could show you some photographs of caroline sitting on his lap on the back of a yacht. they used to go out on the honey pits, and he'd get out into the ocean to swim, and then she'd dive off the boat into his arms. they were just really close. and that was when he really appeared to be the happiest i'd ever seen him, was when he was around mrs. kennedy and the children. she was very dedicated to to the children and to her husband. she tried her best to give him some relaxing times. in the evening she would have small dinner parties in the white house with just friends. and so for maybe an hour and a half or two hours, he could get away from the oval office and the pressures. so it was after the assassination, of course, mrs. kennedy went into a tate of deep depression -- a state of deep depression. john was a little bit too young to really realize what had happened, although taking him to
a park one day a photographer tried to take his picture, and he said why are you taking my picture? my daddy's dead. and so it was really difficult for the agents that worked with him to try and bolster their spirits and try to keep them up. it was a difficult time. >> mr. hill, based on your comments a while ago about the day of the assassination in dallas, that in their memoir, johnny, we hardly knew you, dave powers and kenny o'donnell said they saw an assassin firing from the grassy knoll ahead of the motor candidate, and you indicated you felt a shot from behind you. did you see anyone firing from the grassy knoll that day? >> i did not see it because nobody did. [applause] there were only three shots fired. all three came from the sixth floor window of the section school book depository. no other shots were fired. that's a fact.
>> there are feature films which will soon be released, lbj and jackie. have you had any input on them or gotten a chance to see them? because they feature, center around the assassination time. >> i have not seen them, but i'm looking forward to seeing both of them. thank you. >> what would you say about the situation that gerald ford came into, vice president, then-president getting ready to retire, does he get enough credit for coming in and doing what he did such as it was? >> no, he doesn't. he needs a great deal more credit than he gets. he was a wonderful man placed into an extremely difficult position, and he did the best he could. [applause] >> and one of the things you like to point out about gerry ford is chevy chase made a lot of fun of him, and it really wasn't accurate. >> not at all. you know, at one point president ford stumbled coming down the
front steps of air force one. and saturday night live and chevy chase grabbed that and ran with it. and they made him appear like a stumbling, bumbling idiot. well, gerry ford was captain of the michigan university football team, he was really a good snow skier, he was a really great swimmer, he had been a lifeguard since he was just a kid. he was an eagle scout, he had a law degree from yale, he had practiced law, he played tennis, he played golf, he was just exactly the opposite of what chevy chase and the people on saturday night live tried to depict him as being. >> do you have any more firsthand -- given your firsthand experience with presidents and seeing the temperament needed for the job, i was wondering if you had any thoughts on the upcoming election and the two options that we're facing. [laughter] >> well, i know where you're going with the question, but -- [laughter]
if you think i'm going to answer it, you're crazy! [laughter] ms. -- [applause] >> this is our last questioner. >> who is your favorite of the presidents to work with and for? >> you know, i didn't have a favorite president. they all were so different in some ways. the only thing they really had similar was a large ego. some larger than others. [laughter] like gerry ford didn't have a real large ego, but he had enough of an ego to cause him to run for the house of representatives in the state of michigan, and he wanted to be the speaker of the house. but all of them, they had so many things that were different that i just really couldn't have picked a favorite. >> did you have a favorite first lady? >> they're all favorites. [laughter] [applause] he'll never say it, but we know. [laughter] [applause]
>> and now while we wait for the texas book festival to resume, we want to show you a little bit from an interview we did with a university of texas professor on a recent visit to austin. >> host: professor levinson, do americans have too much faith in the constitution, in your view? >> guest: yes. i think that one of the exceptional aspects about the united states is the great deal of discussion these days about exceptionalism, is the veneration directed at the united states constitution. there is no other country in the world i'm aware of that has such veneration of its national constitution. and it's also interesting to compare the united states
constitution with the 50 state constitutions. that most americans really aren't aware that they live under a state constitution as well as the national constitution, and except maybe in massachusetts because john adams drafted the 1780 massachusetts constitution, and it is, in fact, the oldest constitution in the united states. but otherwise there's no sense of veneration or faith in state constitutions. most states have had around three constitutions. georgia and louisiana have had 21 constitutions between the two of them. and there's a much more instrumental what has the constitution done for us lately view at the states. they're amended all the time. some people use that as a criticism of state constitutions. i actually think that might be a strength. the united states constitution,
partly because it is the most difficult to amend constitution in the entire world and partly because of this degree of veneration, has been amended extraordinarily rarely. i mean, if you put the bill of rights to one side because that's really part of the politics of the original ratification process, since 1791 there have been 17 amendments. and and that's extraordinarily few. this leads to all sorts of consequences. from my perspective, one of the consequences is that the constitution is tremendously out of date with regard to some of our basic structures which are very, very much the ones that were given us in 1787.