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Kathryn Childers' longest-running secret

Kathryn Childers Today
Posted at 5:19 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 18:23:18-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Kathryn Childers.

More than likely you recognize her name. She's had a long history of service here in the Coastal Bend.

She's been on TV, she’s one of the "Clowns Who Cares" at Driscoll Children's Hospital, and she created all those snow books after the "miracle snow" of 2004 blanketed South Texas.

'I don't think any of us realized at the time what a challenge it is to be first.'
-- Kathryn Childers

What you may not know, though, might be considered her longest-running secret.

“A man named Clint Hill actually hired me in 1970 as that experiment, to see if they would make us agents in ‘71," she said. "He was the agent who saved Jacqueline Kennedy in the back of the limousine (when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas)."

Years later, Hill hired Childers to become one of the first female U.S. Secret Service agents in American history, and she was honored last week for being one of those pioneers, as the Secret Service commemorated 50 years of female agents.

"In those days there was very little opportunity to do other than what was predictable," she said about women’s roles in the late 1960’s.


Childers said not many women were allowed into the program, and that number was quickly whittled down.

"Initially, it was seven and then it went down to five, and we had to go through the requirements," she said. "You had to be a certain height, weight, eye agility. You had to pass the training."

She said her experience with weapons gave her an advantage.

"You had to be able to handle weapons and, where I was ahead of the game: I had already handled weapons," she said. "Not automatic weapons like you use in the protection of the president, but I — I was a pretty good. I was a good shot."

She and four other women went in as an experiment, took aim and shattered that glass ceiling for women.

In 1971, Childers was one of five women who became the first-ever female U.S. Secret Service agents.

Kathryn looks back and says had they failed, women may not have had the chance to try again as secret service agents.

“The phenomenal thing about it — looking back, at my age now — had we failed, those five of us who were dropped (in) to (do) the various things the Secret Service did: protecting the President; protecting the children of the former president, in this case John Kennedy; working undercover; we were a work in progress," she said. "I don't think any of us realized at the time what a challenge it is to be first. And it isn't the challenge to be best it's just not to be the last. You really don't want to mess up."

Kathryn was one of the first 5 female U.S. Secret Service Agents

Her assignments ranged from traveling with the Queen of Spain, to working undercover in New York, to being assigned to the White House.

Among Childers' assignments: protecting the Kennedy children, John Jr. and Caroline.

"My first assignment was fly to Hainesport to meet Mrs. Kennedy Onassis and essentially go through and interview to see if I would travel to Scorpios that summer," Childers said. "I met John and Caroline, and I ended up spending two summers on the island of Scorpios.”

She was the pistol-packing nanny.

Today, Childers is reflecting on her life. She’s written a memoir called “Scared Fearless.”

"My last contact with Mrs. Kennedy Onassis was on First Avenue (in NYC)," Childers said. "I ran into her, and she said ‘How have you been?’ and I said ‘Oh, Mrs. Onassis, I’ve been traveling, and she said ‘Oh, you live such an interesting life,” she recalled with a laugh and a smile. "Cars are running by, and I thought 'Kathryn Clark from the Midwest lives an interesting life?' And I turned to her and said ‘Oh Mrs. Onassis, it's only relative, and highly unlikely."

Mrs. Childers, your life has been short of amazing, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis isn't the only one who thinks so.

Find out more about Childers and her book here.