Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy became one of the most beloved First Ladies in history during her time in the White House. The Southampton, New York native was married to the then-youngest president to ever take office, John F. Kennedy, and their lives together seemed like a true love story to all those watching from the outside.
Everything changed on that fateful day in November of 1963, when John F. Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas, Texas. Jacqueline, or “Jackie,” as she was better known, had to adapt to a whole new life, and would go on to remarry years later.
Though she was an immensely popular figure, much of Jackie Kennedy’s life inside the White House was unknown; though the public adored her, there were questions about how she was to be around on any regular day.
In an interview with the JFK Presidential Library and Museum, her former bodyguard, Clint Hill, revealed new information about Jacqueline – and what she was like to work for in private.
First, though, let us take a closer look at Jackie Kennedy’s life.
She was born Jacqueline Lee Bouvier on July 28, 1929, in Southampton, New York, to parents John Vernon Bouvier III and Janet Lee.
Jackie Kennedy – early life
Her father worked as a stockbroker, and the Bouvier family was wealthy. Jackie developed interests in riding, writing, and painting at a very young age. Pretty much by the time she could walk, she was sitting on the back of a horse.
Since her family had no problems with money, Jackie Kennedy got her education at some of the best private schools around. She lived her childhood in New York City, Hampton, Newport, and Rhode Island, where her time was spent writing poems and other stories, drawing her own illustrations for them. She also studied ballet.
Jackie started first grade at Miss Chapin’s School on East End Avenue in New York. According to the JFK Library, one of her teachers, named Miss Platt, thought Jackie was “a darling child, the prettiest little girl, very clever, very artistic, and full of the devil.”
Coincidentally, Jackie found herself in plenty of mischief. One of her report cards, written by headmistress Miss Ethel Stringfellow, stated: “Jacqueline was given a D in Form because her disturbing conduct in her geography class made it necessary to exclude her from the room.”
When Jackie was ten years of age, her parents divorced, with her mother Janet going on to marry Hugh D. Auchincloss. The family then moved to his home near Washington D.C.
In 1947, Jackie Kennedy enrolled at Vassar College. After studying at Sorbonne, in Paris, during her junior year, she returned to graduate from George Washington University in 1951.
Worked as a columnist and photographer
Her time in France made Jackie empathize with people in foreign countries, especially the French. But at that time, she didn’t know that she would become the First Lady of the United States one day.
“I loved it more than any year of my life. Being away from home gave me a chance to look at myself with a jaundiced eye,” Jackie Kennedy said of her year in France.
“I learned not to be ashamed of a real hunger for knowledge, something I had always tried to hide, and I came home glad to start in here again but with a love for Europe that I am afraid will never leave me.”
After graduating from George Washington University, Jackie got her first job at the Washington Times-Herald Newspaper. She became the “Inquiring Camera Girl,” and, during her job hours, she roamed around the city, taking pictures of people and asking them different questions depending on the issue of that specific day.
She continued to write columns for the newspaper, where she interviewed people such as Richard M. Nixon, and covered the first inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Through her work at the Herald, Jackie met her future husband, John F. Kennedy. In 1952, she was invited to a dinner party in Georgetown, hosted by her friend and fellow journalist Charles Bartlett.
How did Jackie Kennedy and John F. Kennedy meet?
He was also friends with John Kennedy. The pair met, and John and Jackie instantly hit it off.
“She knew instantly that he would have a profound, perhaps disturbing, influence on her life,” Jackie’s family friend Molly Thayer said, as quoted in America’s Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Even though Jackie left to go on another date, sparks had already flown at her meeting with future president John. According to his youngest brother, Ted Kennedy, he adored her.
“My brother really was smitten with her right from the very beginning when he first met her at dinner,” he claimed.
So it was that John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy fell in love. On September 12, 1953, the two tied the knot at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island. They went to Mexico for their honeymoon – by that point, Kennedy had become a U.S Senator.
At the same time as his political career was on its upward trajectory, JFK also had plenty of time on his hands. He had injured his back earlier in his life, and while recovering from the surgery, Jackie encouraged him to write a book about US Senators who had risked their careers to fight for things they believed in.
The book Profiles in Courage was published, and JFK received the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957. It was also a massive year for the Kennedy family, as their first child, Caroline, was born.
Jackie Kennedy’s life in the White House
Three years later, Kennedy announced he was running for president. On November 8, 1960, JFK became the next President of the United States.
As a result, Jackie became the First Lady of the United States overnight, age 31. Shortly after the inauguration, her husband grew very emotional, and Jackie and JFK shared a wonderful moment.
A now-famous picture from AP photographer Henry Burroughs caught the couple while Jackie had her hand on his chin.
“Everyone said, why didn’t Jack kiss you after, which of course, he would never do there. But you had to march out in such order that I was about eight behind him,” Jackie Kennedy explained.
“And I so badly wanted to see him before the lunch, just to see him alone. And I caught up to him in the Capitol and, oh, I was just so proud of him.
She added: “And there’s a picture where I have my hand on his chin, and you know, he’s just looking at me, and there really were tears in his eyes. Suddenly a flash came because I didn’t think there was anyone there. In the papers, it said wife chucks him under chin. I mean, that was so much more emotional than any kiss because his eyes really did fill with tears.”
Jackie felt a deep sense of obligation for her country. At the same time, she was also entirely devoted to their family, especially since their second child, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr, had been born just weeks after the inauguration.
Life after John F. Kennedy’s death
The White House property was transformed, with swings, a treehouse, and a swimming pool added to make it more suitable for a family with children. Jackie’s first major project as First Lady became restoring and preserving the White House.
Once this was complete, Jackie Kennedy gave a tour of the place herself. More than 80 million people watched the broadcast on CBS, and Jackie Kennedy earned herself an honorary Emmy Award.
On August 7, 1963, John and Jackie welcomed their third child, Patrick. Sadly, he passed away just two days later due to a severe lung ailment.
Then, on November 22, 1963, the infamously terrible tragedy in Dallas, Texas, took place, where President Kennedy was shot and killed. Jackie became a widow, aged 34, with millions of people around the world sharing their grief.
At the time, Jackie was praised for her courage and dignity. Shortly after her husband’s death, she began working on creating the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Jackie soon left the spotlight, and in 1968 married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. She was widowed a second time in 1975, and decided to embark on a new career. Jackie became the editor at Viking Press in New York City, and later a senior editor at Doubleday.
Jackie Kennedy – cause of death
On May 19, 1994, she passed away from non-Hodgkins lymphoma and was laid to rest beside JFK at the Arlington National Cemetery, outside of Washington D.C.
Her death was a blow felt especially bitterly by all who had loved her during her time as First Lady. Yet, though Jackie became a hugely popular figure at the White House, not all that much is known about how she was in private.
Recently, her former bodyguard Clint Hill spoke out about his life protecting Jackie, revealing a number of things most people will likely have never heard.
Clint had worked with President Eisenhower in Denver, Colorado, after becoming an agent in counterintelligence for the Department of the army. One day, he was selected to become an agent who worked closely with Jackie Kennedy.
At first, he thought it would be a very dull detail.
“Okay, we’ve decided what we’re going to do. You’re going to be assigned to Mrs. Kennedy.” And I was really disgusted,” Hill recalled.
“I didn’t want that assignment. I had seen what former first ladies did. Fashion shows, tea parties, ballet school., I didn’t want any part of that.
But soon after meeting Jackie, Clint understood that she wasn’t like the rest of the First Ladies before her. The pair established a great relationship, which gradually grew stronger and stronger over time.
As mentioned, Jackie was both a First Lady and a mother, and she always made sure that her children came first. That was something Clint Hill also learned very quickly.
Former bodygurd Clint Hill reveals what Jackie Kennedy was like
“She wanted the children to be brought up as normal children. Nothing special. The agents were to treat them as if they were just one of their own. If the kids fell down, they got up. You didn’t help them. They had to learn all this stuff on their own. She wanted to avoid as much publicity as she could for the children and for herself,” he explained.
“Oh, she was a great mother. She was very concerned about them, about their education. She formed a school there in the White House so that Caroline could go to school and had a bunch of several young classmates brought in from outside, from all walks of life. And it was right up on the third floor of the White House, had two teachers. They used to play out on the south grounds,” he added.
Though Clint and Jackie enjoyed a close relationship, she always called him Mr. Hill, and he called her Mrs. Kennedy. One time, he was to spend the entire summer on Squaw Island – the Kennedy family was there – and so he brought his whole family along.
Clint worked long hours as a bodyguard to the First Lady, and was frequently away from his wife and children. Therefore, his children were left virtually without a father.
But that summer on Squaw Island, Jackie happened to notice that Clint’s children were the same age as her children.
She invited Clint’s children to play with her own.
For his part, however, he declined.
“She was more concerned about us than she was about herself”
“I finally convinced her; I said, ‘This just isn’t a good idea. I’m a government employee. You’re the wife of the president. They’re the president’s children. I don’t think it’d be a very good idea for my two children to be playing with your two children, and something should happen.’ She finally understood the problem and said, ‘Okay.’”
Of course, Clint Hill was present on that terrible day in Dallas, Texas, in November of 1963. In pictures, he can be seen as the secret service agent who climbed up onto the car after the shots were fired at JFK.
Hill went to the hospital with Jackie Kennedy, and he got the credit for being the person that made sure no photographs were taken. Of course, he wanted to protect Kennedy’s privacy. But when they boarded the plane to fly back to Washington, she did something he didn’t expect.
Rather than grieving her beloved husband’s loss, Jackie Kennedy asked Clint Hill how he was doing.
“She said, ‘Oh, what’s going to happen to you now, Mr. Hill?’ She was so much more concerned about my wellbeing and that of the other agents that were involved, that she wanted to make sure that we were going to be okay,” Clint recalled in the interview.
“And I told her, ‘I’ll be okay, Mrs. Kennedy. I’ll be okay.’ She hadn’t changed clothes. She hadn’t cleaned up. She hadn’t done anything, she just was in shock. And she was more concerned about us than she was about herself.”