William Robert Greer (September 22, 1909 – February 23, 1985) was an agent of the U.S. Secret Service, best known for having driven President John F. Kennedy's presidential limousine in the motorcade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas on November 22, 1963, when the president was assassinated.
Greer was born on a farm in Stewartstown, County Tyrone, Ireland, and emigrated to the United States in 1929. After working for over a decade as a chauffeur and servant to several wealthy families in the Boston and New York areas, including the Lodge family and several years with Franklin Q. Brown of Dobbs Ferry, NY (the 1940 census has him as a live-in servant of Franklin Brown of Dobbs Ferry and in Greer's Warren Commission testimony he said that he worked for a "private family" in Dobbs Ferry for "13 years" before enlisting into the Navy in 1942), Greer enlisted in the U.S. Navy in World War II, was assigned to the presidential yacht in May, 1944, was discharged on September 18, 1945 and then joined the United States Secret Service on October 1, 1945.
Greer took a role close to Kennedy, and can be seen in several pictures with the Kennedy family. He chauffeured the president on many occasions, including the day of the assassination. Like all agents involved, he has been the target of much speculation and criticism for his actions on that day. Greer, along with Secret Service agents Roy Kellerman, Clint Hill, and Rufus Youngblood, provided testimony to the Warren Commission in Washington, D.C. on March 9, 1964.
Greer retired on disability from the Secret Service in 1966 due to a stomach ulcer that grew worse following the Kennedy assassination. In 1973 he relocated to Waynesville, North Carolina, where he eventually died of cancer. Greer's son, Richard, told author Vince Palamara in 1991 that his father "had absolutely no survivor's guilt."
Analysis and criticism
Secret Service procedures in place at the time did not allow Greer to take action without orders from senior agent Roy Kellerman, who sat to Greer's right. Kellerman has stated that he shouted, "Let's get out of line, we've been hit," but that Greer apparently turned to look at Kennedy, initiating a fatal delay, before accelerating the car out of the danger zone. As Roy Kellerman told author William Manchester, "Greer then looked in the back of the car. Maybe he didn't believe me."
No agents were reprimanded or disciplined for their actions during the shooting, but privately, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was bitterly critical of the agents' performance, Greer's in particular, comparing his efforts to those of "Maud Shaw" (the Kennedy children's nanny). Greer later delivered a heartfelt apology to her.