Jack Ready: US Secret Service agent who was one of the guard detail for President Kennedy on the day of his assassination


Jack Ready, a special agent in the US Secret Service, thought he heard firecrackers as the presidential motorcade made its way past Dealey Plaza in Dallas on 22 November 1963. He realised his mistake when someone said that the president had been shot.

Ready was a key member of the White House detail that guarded President John F Kennedy on the day he was assassinated. During a two-decade career with the Secret Service he helped protect two presidents, a former president, a vice president, visiting foreign dignitaries and the Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

The job demanded gruelling hours and long stretches away from home during presidential trips, the most famous of which was to Dallas in 1963. Ready (pronounced “Reedy”) was assigned to the Secret Service car that followed the vehicle carrying Kennedy, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and the Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, Nellie.

The motorcade was scheduled to travel from Love Field to the Dallas Trade Mart, passing through Dealey Plaza. To the Secret Service agents, potential danger was always present. At Love Field, Ready and the others struggled to guard Kennedy as he engaged with the crowds that had come to see him.

“The crowd was going wild — people were moving closer and closer together, vying for the prime spots next to the fence,” former agent Gerald Blaine recalled in his memoir The Kennedy Detail, written with Lisa McCubbin. “In the agents’ minds, any one of those people could have a gun or a knife.”

When the motorcade departed, Ready was stationed on the follow-up car’s right-front running board. His position placed him opposite another agent, Clint Hill. When the shots rang out, Hill rushed forward and leapt on to the president’s car in an effort to shield him and the First Lady from the bullets. Ready, too, prepared to jump. But just as the third shot was fired, and as his driver veered to avoid hitting Hill, Ready was ordered to stay in place.

“Because of where he was positioned, he didn’t have a chance really to react or respond to the president,” Hill recalled. “I know that it was devastating to Jack that he was unable to do anything. But he went on... You could always rely on Jack.”

At Parkland Memorial Hospital, Ready manned the hallway where the First Lady waited for news from the doctors. His eyes, Blaine wrote, were “so filled with pain it was almost unbearable to look at his face.” In time, a presidential aide called on Ready for help. “Jack,” he said, “I need you to find a priest.”

John David Ready was born in 1927 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He joined the Navy at the end of the Second World War and served again at the beginning of the Korean War. In 1954 he graduated in political science from American International College in Springfield.

He joined the Secret Service in 1960 and was assigned to the White House the following year. After serving Kennedy he worked on President Lyndon Johnson’s detail and later, during Richard Nixon’s administration, for Vice President Spiro Agnew.

Ready then was assigned to protect Kissinger, who served as Nixon’s national security adviser and Secretary of State. Ready accompanied Kissinger on his secret trip to China in 1971 in preparation for Nixon’s historic visit the following year.

“I had never met any Chinese Communists; neither, I must add, had the members of my Secret Service detail, who had not been told of my destination and who nearly had heart attacks at what they were witnessing,” Kissinger wrote in his memoir White House Years.

Ready and the other agent, Kissinger added, “did their duty by sticking grimly by my side wherever we were taken.” They followed him on meetings with the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and “comported themselves,” Kissinger wrote, “as if they were a match for whatever 800 million Chinese might throw at them.”

Ready also handled security for Kissinger during meetings with the North Vietnamese preceding the 1973 Paris Peace Accords that helped end American involvement in the Vietnam War. He later served former president Nixon and his family at their home in San Clemente, California, as well as presidential nominees in the 1980 election, before his retirement in 1981. His daughter Jane Ready recalled that her father rarely spoke about his experiences in Dallas and that he revealed little about the leaders whom he protected and who counted on his discretion.

It was said that Ready had a close relationship with Kissinger and that the two men shared good humour in tense circumstances. Kent Jefferies, a younger Secret Service agent and friend of Ready’s, related one episode in a eulogy at his memorial service.

“I know you are brave and are good with a weapon,” Kissinger once told Ready. “What would you do if we were attacked by terrorists trying to kidnap me?”

“I have my instructions, sir,” Ready replied, knowing that the Secretary of State would not mind his ribbing. “You are not to be taken alive.”


John David Ready, US Secret Service agent: born Springfield, Massachusetts 12 August 1927; married Paula Waterhouse (died 2013; one daughter); died Fort Washington, Maryland 24 February 2014.

© The Washington Post

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor