Clint Hill is a former Secret Service agent who was in the presidential motorcade on November 22, 1963, as John F. Kennedy was shot. On May 16, 2016, The Henry Ford will host Mr. Hill, who will talk about his work with five presidents: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. While this evening event is sold out, you can still hear some of Mr. Hill’s stories in a video oral history he made at The Henry Ford during an earlier visit in 2013. We’ve just digitized these clips, including one tale of the unusual issues that arise when presidential motorcades are showered with confetti. We’ve gathered all 11 clips in an Expert Set within our Digital Collections for easy viewing.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
Dotting the landscape of places like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York are numerous Colonial-era homes and taverns where George Washington is said to have spent the night. Some of these claims are true; some are likely only wishful thinking. But the desire to claim a tangible connection to our Revolutionary War hero and first president runs strong.
As commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, General George Washington usually did sleep and eat in the nearby homes of well-to-do people during the eight years he led the American military campaign. But among George Washington’s camp equipage were tents, this folding bed, cooking and eating utensils, and other equipment that he used when encamped on the field with his troops.
Yet the George Washington camp bed in The Henry Ford’s collections is more than just a humble cot, used when no better option was available. This object symbolizes George Washington as a leader who cared more about his men and the cause of democracy than he did for himself.
In Henry Ford Museum’s With Liberty and Justice for All exhibit, visitors stand in quiet contemplation before the Washington camp bed on display, gazing at a humble cot where the great general took some weary rest during the struggle for American independence.
A great many stories of American ingenuity and innovation abound in Henry Ford Museum. But these stories generally do not involve military history. Why, then, display a bed associated with war?
With Liberty and Justice for All explores the proud and painful evolution of American freedom, from the Revolutionary War through the struggle for civil rights. This exhibit, then, is about social innovation: new ideas that render old ways obsolete and radically alter how people think about themselves, their interactions with others, and the larger world.
The Revolutionary War became about more than just American independence from Britain. It evolved into a new way of thinking: that it was possible for a people to govern themselves through a democratic system of elected representatives. The Revolutionary War also launched Americans on the road toward a newfound sense of national identity as Americans, rather than British subjects, New Englanders or Virginians. And George Washington was at the center of that new way of thinking.
Jeanine Head Miller is the Curator of Domestic Life at The Henry Ford.
A few split-second decisions on March 30, 1981, made that the historic day on which Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt instead of the day he was assassinated.
When Secret Service Agent Jerry Parr reacted within four-tenths of a second from the time the first of six shots were fired by John Hinkley, Jr., he took President Ronald Reagan out of direct range of gunfire. Then, just minutes later, it was Parr who realized the President had been hurt and made the decision to take him to an unsecured hospital instead of returning to the safety of the White House and its medical staff.
Listening to Jerry Parr and author Del Wilber recount the story, in Henry Ford Museum during a lecture based on Wilber's compelling book "Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan," while they stood near the actual presidential limo used that day was more than just a treat.
Wednesday night's event was just plain cool.
The free lecture required reservations, which met maximum capacity and had to be closed days before the event.
I know I wasn't alone in my appreciation. I talked with many people afterward and saw their enthusiasm as they asked Parr questions by the car, or waited to have Wilber sign their books. The place was really buzzing with a unique excitement.
As I was waiting in line to have a couple books signed, I met a woman who said her husband decided to be a secret service agent because of the events of that day. (He was just 11 at the time.) I couldn't help but wonder if the day had played out differently, would he have made that same decision. It was kind of a hit-you-over-the-head example of how certain events in history, and split-second decisions, can change our lives, collectively and individually. Cool.
Kristine Hass is a mother of five and long-time member of The Henry Ford. She frequently blogs about her family’s visits to America’s Greatest History Attraction.