Five Presidents: An Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford
By Clint Hill
Clint Hill is a member of the Secret Service, an elite and highly disciplined group who protects and guards the leaders of our country. Hill details his experiences with five presidents. This is both fascinating and horrifying to read as history unfolds on every page – history I have lived through! There is much to learn about our country, the five presidents and about the job of the Secret Service men. Their work demands long hours, careful preparation of every location the president visits or lives in and vigilant eyes while in crowds of people.
Hill tells his own story – how his service affects him throughout these decades. He is traumatized by the Kennedy assassination as he attempts to protect both the president and his wife. He rides on the back of the open vehicle as the shots ring out from the Book Depository in Dallas. Following this he is assigned to protect Mrs. Kennedy and remains with her for a year afterward. The book gives insights into the personality of each president and also details the many events of this tumultuous period including the Vietnam War with all the protests, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy and Watergate.
I am most impressed with the humility and dedication of the Secret Service. They work with world renowned leaders with daily exposure in the media yet remain in the background, silent observers true to their purpose.
Here are the five presidents:
Dwight Eisenhower – Republican –1958 - second year of his term
John Kennedy – Democrat 1961-1963
Lyndon Johnson – Democrat 1963-1968
Richard Nixon – Republican 1968-1974
Gerald Ford – Republican 1974-1978
In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect
By Ronald Kessler
In the President’s Secret Service the New York Times author, Ron Kessler, interviewed more than one hundred agents past and present. He gives much information about the Secret Service organization and the problems and frustrations of the men who guard our presidents and other dignitaries. Kessler offers a glimpse into the character and kindness or lack of it by many our presidents and president’s wives from Kennedy through Obama.
There is gripping detail about assassination attempts on the presidents, problems with preventing an attack and more. He details the ways in which the management of the Secret Service in recent years (2009 and before) has rigidly prevented agents from transferring to other areas and has added more and more work without additional agents or money to do the job. This, he believes puts our presidents at risk. The book borders on gossipy yet also gives much needed transparency to the office of President of the United States. A listing of Secret Service Dates and a complete index are helpful for referring back to specific people or events.
In reading both books it is obvious our culture has changed a great deal and many agents may have quit rather than sacrifice being with their family a reasonable amount of time. Both books are fascinating.