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Chamber to host American hero as first speaker

September 23, 2012
By DAVE GOSSETT (Special to The Review) , The Review

STEUBENVILLE - The Secret Service agent who scrambled to protect Jacqueline Kennedy the day her husband was assassinated in Dallas will be the inaugural speaker for the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Concert and Lecture Series.

Clint Hill will always be remembered as the agent who ran after the presidential limousine while attempting to shield the first lady from gunshots on Nov. 22, 1963.

Hill, who was the Secret Service agent in charge of the first lady's security detail, collaborated with journalist Lisa McCubbin to write the best-selling book "Mrs. Kennedy and Me" about the four years he was assigned by the Secret Service to protect Jackie Kennedy.

The book was published in April and immediately climbed to the top of the New York Times best-seller list.

Hill and McCubbin will be the featured speakers at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 as the chamber's lecture series begins in the 1,300-seat Steubenville High School auditorium.

Tickets will go on sale Monday at the Herald-Star, 401 Herald Square, and the county chamber office, 630 Market St. According to Chamber President Sue Hershey, reserved seat tickets are $20 while general admission seats are $15.

Fact Box

Speaker's story lives on in book

Review Staff Reports

STEUBENVILLE - Clint Hill forever will be remembered as the courageous Secret Service agent who jumped onto the back of the presidential limousine in the midst of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

According to a biography from the Premiere Speakers Bureau, his primary responsibility was the protection of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and for his actions that day, Hill received the nation's highest civilian award for bravery.

In "Mrs. Kennedy and Me," Hill tells the story of how a Secret Service agent who started life in a North Dakota orphanage became the most trusted man in the life of the most captivating first lady of our time. Hill's story of courage, integrity and resilience is told with humorous anecdotes about life with the Kennedy family, as well as his moment-by-moment account of what really happened that day in Dallas.

Hill rose through the ranks of the Secret Service to become the assistant director, responsible for all protective forces, and served five administrations - Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. Even though the world viewed him as a hero, he lived with overwhelming feelings of guilt and responsibility for being unable to save President Kennedy and suffered from what is now known as traumatic stress disorder. He spiraled into a deep depression, and at the age of 43, no longer physically or mentally capable to serve as an agent, he retired from the job he loved.

After languishing for decades in what he calls his "emotional prison," secluded from friends and family, dependent on cigarettes and alcohol, it wasn't until he faced the demons that continued to haunt him that he finally came to the conclusion that he had done all he could that day.

He remains in contact with the current U.S. Secret Service and is actively involved in training activities at the Federal Law Training Center. In April, Hill collaborated with journalist Lisa McCubbin, to write "Mrs. Kennedy and Me," a memoir of the four years he spent with Jacqueline Kennedy. Published in April 2012, the book immediately became a No. 1 New York Times best seller. Hill credits McCubbin with helping him "find a reason to live, not just exist."

McCubbin is an award-winning journalist who has been a television news anchor and reporter for NBC, ABC and CBS, hosted her own talk radio show and spent more than five years in the Middle East as a freelance writer.

She met Hill while writing the New York Times best seller, "The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence" (with Gerald Blaine) in 2009. She convinced Hill that the information and memories he had buried for nearly 50 years were of historic value and should be documented. McCubbin collaborated closely with Hill for "Mrs. Kennedy and Me."

The chemistry between McCubbin and Hill is evident in their unique joint presentation in which history comes to life as McCubbin draws out the poignant and painful memories from Hill, in an unforgettable hour filled with humor and drama, with the backdrop of rarely seen photos and videos. Audiences leave with an insight into the workings of the Secret Service, answers to the conspiracy theories and inspired by the powerful message of an unlikely hero.

"And, persons interested in purchasing a V.I.P. ticket, which will include a private reception with Hill and McCubbin and an autographed copy of the book, can contact me at the chamber offices at (740) 282-6226," said Hershey.

"We have tried to make this initial lecture as affordable as possible for the public. There really isn't a bad seat in the high school auditorium," Hershey said.

"We have hosted a couple of very successful summer concerts and we have been working on finding the right person to kick off our lecture series. When an e-mail crossed my desk from the Premiere Speakers Bureau of Chicago about Secret Service Agent Clint Hill and journalist Lisa McCubbin, I knew we had found the perfect match for our community lecture series," said Alex Marshall, publisher of the Herald-Star.

"We are coming up on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Everyone who was alive on that day will always remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that the president of the United States had been shot. And we will always remember the news footage of the secret service agent running to the president's limousine and scrambling across the back of the vehicle to reach Jackie Kennedy," Marshall added.

Hill's official biography states the retired Secret Service agent rose through the ranks of the agency to become assistant director and he served in five administrations. But the assassination of President Kennedy left Hill spiraling into a deep depression.

"Hill felt guilty for not being able to save the president's life that day and retired from his job at the age of 43. He became dependent on cigarettes and alcohol. It wasn't until he met McCubbin that he found a reason to live and not just exist," said Marshall.

"Hill met McCubbin in 2009 when she was writing her book, 'The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence.' McCubbin was able to convince Hill the memories he had buried for nearly 50 years were of historic value and should be documented," noted Marshall.

"McCubbin and Hill will offer a multi-media presentation that will include humor and drama with a backdrop of rarely seen photos and videos. Our audience will have an insight into the day-to-day workings of the Secret Service with answers to the conspiracy theories. And the audience will be inspired by the powerful message of an unlikely hero," said Hershey.

Audience members will have the opportunity to submit written questions, which Hill and McCubbin will answer following their presentation.

John Cucarese, chamber of commerce board chairman, said he is happy the lecture series is kicking off in November.

"I believe the community will be very excited to see some of the speakers we are seeking for future dates, especially our first speaker Clint Hill. We are coming up on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. So there will be more focus on the events of November 1963," said Cucarese.

"It is also exciting the city schools have come on as a partner. The chamber does a lot of business focused work but I think this lecture series will be beneficial for the entire community," noted Cucarese.

Hershey said the lecture series has been made possible with the help of several key partners, including Steubenville City Schools.

"What Superintendent Mike McVey has done in collaboration with the chamber of commerce is nothing short of incredible. Our lecture and concert series would not have happened without the cooperation and help of the city school district," said Hershey.

"Two additional important sponsors are Eastern Gateway Community College and the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Both institutions match up well for the lecture. And while it is a chamber of commerce speaker series, the lecture is in partnership with the Herald-Star," remarked Hershey.

"A community college's mission is to help improve the quality of life in the area it serves," said Laura Meeks, Eastern Gateway Community College president.

"So we are happy to be involved in this new opportunity for interesting, lifelong learning lectures for our Jefferson County citizens," Meeks added.

"This is a great opportunity for Franciscan University and the community college to work together. Any time we have that opportunity we are excited about the collaboration. We hope to join the chamber of commerce in bringing in speakers who will be interesting and beneficial to people who live here and who are affiliated with the university," said Mike Florak.

"Scott Dressel and his Baybery Properties are providing the lodging for our guests. Scott will also host a private reception prior to the speaking engagement," said Hershey.

Ross Gallabrese, executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times, said he was impressed when he read the Hill book.

"The book is an interesting and easy read. It offers a different and unique perspective into the history of the United States in the early 1960s. Many books have been written about the Kennedy era, but few have been written from the first-person perspective that Hill offers through McCubbin," noted Gallabrese.

"It is a very interesting book that the reader literally can't put down," said Hershey.

"Our mission statement clearly states we exist to be a champion of business and stimulate economic opportunities. Our board firmly believes the new lecture and concert series that started with the July 3, 2011, concert spectacular represents a means to help fulfill our mission," stated Hershey.

Committee members planning the lecture series include Marshall; Hershey; Gallabrese; Cindy Kotsch, director of marketing and special promotions for the newspapers; Suzanne Kresser of Tri-State Financial; David D'Anniballe of D'Anniballe and Co.; Greg McDonnell of McDonnell Chiropractic; Ann Koon of Eastern Gateway Community College; and Mike Florak of Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Hershey said Todd Piergallini of St. Florian Hall will assist with the V.I.P. services.

"This will be our fall lecture. We are already working on our spring lecture and plan to announce the speaker for that event at a later date," added Hershey.

"The chamber is making an ongoing effort to partner with our business members to bring quality life events to our community," said Marshall.

"We have new schools, new roads and bridges, a new city building and there is even new business development activity and investment in our communities as well. And if you look closely, there is a new cooperative effort among the public and private sectors that all but assures a bright future for the city of Steubenville and Jefferson County," said Marshall.

Copies of "Mrs. Kennedy and Me" will be available for purchase at the Herald-Star office later this week. Watch the newspaper for details. The books can be taken to the event, and afterward, Hill and McCubbin will be available to sign them.



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