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Clint Hill receives Theodore Roosevelt Roughrider Award

Clint Hill newest Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award honoree

Gov. Doug Burgum presents the Roughrider Award to Clint Hill.
Clint Hill accepts the accolades of Gov. Doug Burgum, and hundreds of well-wishers, upon the unveiling of his official portrait, which will be added to the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Hall of Fame gallery in the state Capitol in Bismarck. NDAREC PHOTO/KENT BRICK

Last month, the state of North Dakota and Gov. Doug Burgum honored retired U.S. Secret Service agent and author Clint Hill with the state’s esteemed Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award. Gov. Burgum presented the award during a ceremony attended by more than 200 friends, family and other well-wishers at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Hill’s hometown of Washburn.

Hill is the 44th person to receive the Rough Rider Award, the state’s highest commendation for its citizens. He served in the U.S. Secret Service from 1958 to 1975, protecting the presidency through five administrations: President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson, President Richard M. Nixon and President Gerald R. Ford.

Hill will forever be remembered for his courageous actions on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, when in the midst of the assassination of President Kennedy, he leapt onto the back of the presidential limousine to shield President Kennedy and the First Lady with his own body. His swift and selfless action is credited with saving the life of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

“Clint Hill exemplifies the spirit of service, determination and work ethic associated with the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award,” Burgum said. “From his humble North Dakota roots, he rose to the highest ranks of the U.S. Secret Service, continually risking his life to protect our nation and its commander in chief, and he has since inspired millions by sharing the stories of his experience.”

Secretary of State Al Jaeger and State Historical Society Director Claudia Berg, who concurred with Burgum’s selection of Hill for the award, helped unveil the official portrait of Hill. The painting, by Minot-based artist Vern Skaug, incorporates images of the White House, Hill’s military service, his three books about his experiences in the Secret Service, and the iconic image of him leaping onto the presidential limousine during the president’s assassination. The portrait will hang in the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Hall of Fame in the state Capitol.

In accepting the award, Hill said it was a humbling experience to be placed on the list of achievers who have previously received the Rough Rider Award. He thanked Burgum, Jaeger and Berg for selecting him, as well as all those who nominated him and attended today’s ceremony.

“You have made a fellow North Dakotan a very proud and happy man,” Hill said. “I may have left North Dakota because of employment opportunities, but my heart and soul will always be here in Washburn, along the banks of the Missouri River in McLean County.”

Hill was born in Larimore and grew up in Washburn. He graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., with a degree in history and physical education. Though he intended to be a history teacher and coach, he was drafted into the U.S. Army where he served as a special agent in the Army Counter Intelligence Corps.

After his honorable discharge from the Army, Hill applied to the U.S. Secret Service and, in 1958, was accepted as a special agent. A year later, he was assigned to the elite White House detail protecting President Eisenhower.

In 1961, Hill was assigned to new First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s detail. Hill was in the motorcade as a member of the First Lady’s detail on the day President Kennedy was assassinated. He remained with the First Lady’s detail after the assassination and in 1964 was reassigned to the White House where he joined the presidential detail during President Johnson’s administration, eventually becoming the special agent in charge of presidential protection. He retired from the Secret Service in 1975.

Hill has co-authored three books with Lisa McCubbin detailing his experiences as a U.S. Secret Service Agent, including the No. 1 New York Times bestseller “Mrs. Kennedy and Me,” “Five Days in November” and “Five Presidents.”

“He always will be that boy from Washburn, North Dakota, who puts others before himself, who does every job, no matter how big or small, without complaint, to completion. These values were instilled here in North Dakota,” McCubbin said.