Norma Jean Lollis Hill (February 11, 1931 – November 7, 2000) was an eyewitness to the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Hill was known as the "Lady in Red" because of the long red raincoat she wore that day, as seen in Abraham Zapruder's film of the assassination. A teacher by profession, she was a consultant for Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK and co-wrote JFK: The Last Dissenting Witness with Bill Sloan.
Hill's claims have been both disputed and embraced. While official sources have considered her an unreliable witness for a number of reasons, other researchers investigating the assassination and the conclusions of the Warren Commission consider her a highly credible witness. Critics point to her statement that she saw Jack Ruby, the killer of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, at the scene of the assassination in Dealey Plaza when other witnesses placed him in the offices of The Dallas Morning News at the time. Others point to significant circumstantial evidence of an apparent smear campaign to undermine the testimony and credibility of Hill, the closest civilian witness to the assassination and its immediate aftermath.
Jean Hill was a consistent critic of the official report of the Warren Commission since its release and in 1992 she co-wrote a book entitled The Last Dissenting Witness. In this book she made the assertion that her reported testimony before the Warren Commission was fabricated by the commission, a claim also made by others about Warren Commission testimony. Others point out that those claims cannot be verified one way or the other, and argue that the Warren Commission did not fabricate testimony at all, although some people who probably committed perjury point to the possibility of an internal conspiracy.
Hill was born and raised in Ferguson, Oklahoma. After her parents divorced in 1943, she moved with her father to Wewoka, Oklahoma where she later graduated from Wewoka High School. Upon graduation, Hill enrolled at Oklahoma Baptist University. She dropped out after two years after marrying Bill Hill. The couple had two children, Jeanne and Billy. Hill eventually returned to college and earned a degree in elementary education in 1955. Hill worked as a teacher in Oklahoma City until 1962 when the family moved to Dallas for Bill Hill's job at Science Research Associates.
Shortly after moving to Dallas, Hill and her husband separated. To support herself and her children, Hill got a job as a teacher with the Dallas public school system. Jean and Bill Hill's divorce was finalized in August 1964.
Hill was present along with her friend Mary Moorman across from the grassy knoll, and was one of the very nearest witnesses to the presidential limousine when shots were fired at President Kennedy. Moorman can be seen in the Zapruder film taking pictures, which Hill stated were later taken and bleached out by unknown parties. At Zapruder frame 313, when Kennedy was shot in the head, Hill was only 21 feet (6.4 m) away, leftward, and slightly behind him. In her Warren Commission testimony, she stated that a Secret Service agent told her right after the attack that another Secret Service agent, watching from the courthouse, saw a bullet strike "at my feet" and kick up debris. Hill was also one of several witnesses who stated that at the end of the assassination they saw smoke lingering near the grassy knoll picket fence corner.
She testified to the Warren Commission that after the assassination she watched a man running from near the Texas School Book Depository toward the picket fence area. After watching this man, Hill crossed the street and was one of many witnesses and authorities who first ran toward the grassy knoll after the shots ended.
"Mrs. Jean L. Hill stated that after the firing stopped she saw a white man wearing a brown overcoat and a hat running west away from the Depository Building in the direction of the railroad tracks. She has since stated when she saw a photo of Jack Ruby after his killing of Lee Harvey Oswald she now believes he was the man she saw running. You can see in the Zapruder film that she was clearly looking into the direction of the Texas School Book Depository while the president is right in front of her which appears to support her story of looking at someone running just after the assassination. There are no other witnesses who claim to have seen a man running toward the railroad tracks. Examination of all the available films of the area following the shooting, reexamination of the interviews with individuals in the vicinity of the shooting, and the interviews with members of the Dallas police department and the Dallas Country sheriff's office failed to corroborate Mrs. Hill's recollection or to reveal the identity of the man described by Mrs. Hill".
Hill stated that she received death threats and that the brake lines of her automobile were cut after the assassination. Hill apparently always thought of herself as a survivor after many of the other witnesses to the assassination died shortly after President Kennedy's death under what some considered to be mysterious circumstances. The assertions of the mysterious deaths connected with the assassination became a much more well known part of the popular conspiracy debate after appearing in the epilogue of the film Executive Action, which purports to show how a conspiracy could have been carried out. The film's epilogue states that "of 18 witnesses: all but two of whom died from unnatural causes within three years of the assassination". A voice-over then says that "an actuary of the British newspaper The Sunday Times calculated the probability that all these people who witnessed the assassination would die within that period of time to be 100,000 trillion to one".
There were significant problems with the film's actuarial assertions, which were completely inaccurate due to an error in communication. This inaccurate information has sometimes been used over the years since to argue for a conspiracy despite being refuted by the editor of the very newspaper that produced them. The number given in The Sunday Times article on February 26, 1967 was in fact 100,000 trillion to one, and the editor of the newspaper told the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978 that the article was "based on a careless journalistic mistake and should not have been published - that the odds would have been much lower."
Jean Hill adamantly rejected the Warren Commission's single gunman findings and was sure, based on what she saw the day of the assassination and on her experience afterward, that there was a conspiracy.
According to Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, changes in Hill's story over time led some researchers of the Kennedy assassination to consider Hill a "controversial witness". Others argue that her testimony was both reliable and that "the strong patriotic convictions that bound Jean Hill to defy the official report of the Warren Commission", and the fact that "she received no compensation, and a lifetime of woe" add significant credibility to her testimony and also at the same time call into deeper question the conduct of some officials on the day of the assassination and in the investigation that followed. The controversy over Hill's testimony continues as a part of the larger debate and ongoing research into the Kennedy assassination.
Hill was reported to have avoided publicity for nearly 25 years after testifying to the Warren Commission. She continued working for the Dallas Public School System until her retirement a few years before her death.
She worked as a consultant for Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK, and was portrayed in the movie by Ellen McElduff. In 1992, Hill and Dallas journalist Bill Sloan released JFK: The Last Dissenting Witness. Stone wrote the foreword for the book. Publishers Weekly said The Last Dissenting Witness "was often engaging, sometimes infuriating" and that Hill's "story is salutary for those overly respectful of official authority." This view was also held by other authors. Hill spoke to various groups about her experience of the Kennedy Assassination and its controversial aftermath during the last few years of her life.
On November 7, 2000, she died of complications due to a blood disease in Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, the same hospital to which Kennedy was rushed after being fatally shot. Parkland Memorial Hospital is also where Kennedy's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and Oswald's killer Jack Ruby died. Hill is buried in Grove Hill Memorial Park in Dallas.