SMU Partner: Texas Presidential History
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Date(s) - 21/09/2021 - 26/09/2021
All Day

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Texas Presidential History: A Travel Course for Alumni & Friends of SMU

September 21-26, 2021

Covid-19 Related Precautions: Essential History Expeditions and the Center for Presidential History will ensure adherence to all Covid-19 recommended precautions in place in September 2021. Guests will be responsible for their own transportation throughout the trip. Breakfasts will be included at the hotels, lunches will be on your own at onsite cafes where available, and group dinners will be at restaurants with excellent outdoor dining space within walking distance from the hotels. Essential History Expeditions will provide hand sanitizer after each stop. This trip is predicated on the successful opening of all included sites by September 2021.

Presidential history runs deep in Texas, from the birthplaces of Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Baines Johnson to the foundational stories of LBJ, George HW Bush and George W Bush. From the Presidents of the Republic of Texas era to the last moments of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Presidential history in the Lone Star State is, indeed, Texas-sized, with three Presidential Libraries and Museums residing here. The SMU Center for Presidential History and Essential History Expeditions have teamed to offer an in-depth examination of Texas presidents.

Issues of national and international importance will be in the fore, from Vietnam to Iraq, from the Great Society to the Great Recession, and the Cold War and its ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall. And much more.

Our journey will follow US presidential history chronologically, beginning with visits to Dealey Plaza and the 6th Floor Museum to discuss JFK, then moving to the rolling Hill Country and the National Museum of the Pacific War followed by the famed LBJ Ranch and Texas White House. In Austin, we will visit the LBJ Library & Museum and State Capitol Building. Then it’s over to College Station where we will visit the GHW Bush Library & Museum. A couple of hours east lies Washington-on-the-Brazos and the beginnings of the Republic. We will discuss presidents Houston, Lamar, Jones and acting-president Burnet here. Anson Jones’ plantation house, “Barrington”, is on the historic site grounds. Huntsville has Sam Houston’s museum and gravesite. Dallas is our final destination with a visit to the GW Bush Library & Museum.

Each day we will begin with opening lectures from Professors Jeff Engel, Director of the Center for Presidential History, Brian Franklin, Deputy Director of the Center, and Brian DeToy of Essential History Expeditions. Visits to the museums and libraries will fill the central parts of the days, followed by a group Q&A session to delve deeper into the issues we confronted in the visit. Where possible, we will have members of the presidential administrations join our group to share lessons and stories at the elbow of world leadership.

The First Ladies – Lady Bird, Barbara and Laura – will receive their due, as well, in both our discussions and museum exhibits.

Texas will also come to life for us, from large cities to small towns, from Hill Country wineries and ranches to the prairies and lakes of the east. Microbreweries and barbecue.

Quality lodging and meals, with time for camaraderie and continued discussion, will make for an unforgettable experience with both old friends and those newly made.

SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour


Jeffrey A. Engel is founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University and a Senior Fellow of the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies. Author or editor of ten books on American foreign policy, his latest is When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War.

Essential History Expeditions’ president, expert historian and guide, Lt Col (Ret) Brian DeToy, PhD served as Director of the Defense & Strategic Studies program at the United States Military Academy, West Point from 2007-13. He has appeared in numerous documentaries for programming such as History, Discovery, A&E and Military channels. He is also an accomplished author and presenter at international history conferences.

Brian Franklin is Associate Director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. His research explores the interaction between religion and politics in American history, including publications on the topics of church-state relations, the American West, and a manuscript project on the missionary movement in the early United States. A proud native Texan, he gladly teaches an annual class on Texas History for the SMU History Department.

SMU History Tours
Dr Brian DeToy Essential History Expeditions
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour


While Texas is, of course, accessible to American travelers on their own, fully understanding the events in the state, the US and the World from the Texas Revolution through WWII and the Cold War and beyond, so large in scale and scope, requires extensive preparation. A professional, guided experience is essential in comprehending the complexities of the events and their timing, specific locations and personalities. What sets this particular experience in Presidential History apart is the unique collaboration between EHE’s Dr. Brian DeToy and the CPH’s Professors Jeffrey Engel and Brian Franklin. Brian brings his unique experience with 14 years as a university professor including teaching history and strategic studies at West Point, 28 years as a US Army officer with combat experience, and 27 years of leading groups throughout America and the world. Brian’s many tours, both large and small, have included military leaders, West Point professors and cadets, and business leaders of international companies. Brian’s combined experience as a scholar soldier brings history to life. Jeff Engel is Director of the CPH and has written and edited numerous books on Presidential History and American and world politics. He is a renowned scholar and called upon by numerous news organizations for his cogent input and insights. Brian Franklin is deputy director of the CPH and specializes in Early American and Texas History. Together, they ensure tour guests receive an incredible education experience, unmatched in the field.

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“We were educated, inspired, and deeply moved by the D-Day program and tour! The tour was life-changing. Thanks to you and your team for doing an outstanding job in conveying the extraordinary bravery, courage, and sacrifice by U.S. and Allied military personnel during WWII. We are forever indebted to them for the freedom to live our lives as we do today. The group on the tour was a terrific mix of students, alumni, and friends of the University. You and Sheryl are now members of the SMU family. Cheyenne and I have already told others about the extraordinary quality of your work and that you have an effective business that delivers the tours.”

— Steve Currall, Former Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Southern Methodist University

“You simply will not find a better “team” than Sheryl and Brian. Sheryl’s attention to detail is unsurpassed – her goal is your comfort at all times. Brian’s expertise and his ability to share his depth of knowledge and commitment to our country in a way anyone can understand is truly a gift not to be missed. My husband and I spent 11 days with Essential History Expeditions exploring the history and sites of D-Day. Brian’s experiences as a U. S. Army Ranger (Col. ret.) and professor at West Point, along with his intimate knowledge of war, are shared with a passion that is palpable. Our new understanding of the D-Day operations is beyond anything we imagined.Sheryl’s compassion for her fellow travelers overflows -she anticipates your every need and is ready to provide whatever it is you need. I simply cannot imagine choosing any other leaders now that I know what an educational trip can provide. If you are considering a trip – don’t miss this organization. If you do, you will miss something to treasure for the rest of your life!”

— Retired Dallas educator, SMU Alumni

“I would not, ever, take a history-focused trip with anyone else!  Brian is a walking encyclopedia, and Sheryl the most competent and caring person I know.  Having worked with them for several years now on several trips, I can say without reservation that they are THE BEST and we will be happily planning and taking more trips with them in years to come!”

— Jeffrey Engel, Director, Center for Presidential History, Southern Methodist University

SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
Essential History Expeditions Tours
Brian DeToy Sheryl Shafer Gettysburg guided tours
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour

Day 1, September 21: John F. Kennedy

  • Visit Dealey Plaza and the 6th Floor Museum and discuss JFK.
  • This area of downtown is known as “the birthplace of Dallas” with a number of structures contributing to the early days of the city. For our purposes, we will examine sites associated with JFK’s assassination at 12:30 pm on November 22, 1963. These include the plaza, grassy knoll, Sixth Floor Museum in the Old Texas Schoolbook Depository, and JFK Memorial. This area is a National Historic Landmark. JFK was accompanied that day by Jaqueline Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally.
  • Discuss the nearby site of the 1910 lynching of Allen Brooks for discussion on race and the presidency.
  • Lunch in Dallas.
  • Drive to Fredericksburg.
  • Night in Fredericksburg among wineries and live music. Lodgings in a boutique Fredericksburg hotel.

Day 2, September 22: Lyndon Baines Johnson at Home

  • Breakfast
  • We will visit the highly acclaimed National Museum of the Pacific War. Admiral Chester Nimitz was from Fredericksburg and, as Commander-in-Chief of the Central Pacific Theater in WWII, his forces contributed mightily in conquering the Japanese Empire. Future presidents Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George HW Bush all served in the US Navy in the Pacific during the war. The museum has a special WWII Presidents statuary circle honoring the ten associated with the war. The Texas Ranger Heritage Center and the Fort Martin Scott US Army frontier fort are also well worth the visit.
  • Visit the LBJ Ranch and then drive 20 minutes to Johnson City to visit Boyhood home. Most of the National Historic Site in both locations are open. However, the Texas White House is currently closed for intensive renovations (and will remain closed throughout 2021). The focal piece is the LBJ Ranch, the home of President Johnson and a center of political activity for more than 20 years. Leaders from around the world visited the Johnsons here, and during the Johnson Administration it became known as the Texas White House. President Johnson was the first President to create a functioning White House away from Washington. He spent 20 percent of his Presidency here. Both he and Lady Bird are buried here on the Ranch.
  • Drive to lodgings in central Austin.
  • Lodging night in Austin: The Stephen F Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel

Day 3, September 23: LBJ in Austin

  • Breakfast
  • Visit LBJ Library & Museum on the campus of the University of Texas.

Lyndon Baines Johnson (1907-73) was a bigger-than-life personality, a Texas-sized politician. In over thirty years in Washington DC—as Representative, Senator (including Majority Leader), Vice President and President—he shaped our national discussion as much as any man. Passionate, demanding, intense. The causes he pushed as President—healthcare, civil and voting rights, the Great Society and more—along with the Vietnam War, make his administration one of the most consequential of the century.

  • If time allows, we may visit the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) on the UT campus—home to numerous world-renowned artifacts, books and other treasures as well as the Woodward and Bernstein Watergate Papers for another look at presidential history.
  • Last, we will visit the Texas State Capitol Building and grounds. The largest state capitol and modeled on the US Capitol design, the building was completed in 1888 and contains a tremendous amount of artwork inside as well as statuary on the grounds.
  • Lodging night in Austin: The Stephen F Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel.

Day 4, September 24: George HW Bush

  • Breakfast
  • Drive to College Station and visit the George HW Bush Library & Museum on the campus of Texas A&M University. If possible, we will have members of the administration join us to share lessons and stories.

The elder Bush was a decorated naval aviator in WWII and, after a career in the West Texas oilfields, spent a lifetime in public service. He was a US representative, Ambassador to the United Nations and to China, head of the Republican National Committee, Director of the CIA, Vice President for eight years and President. Under his watch, the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended; US troops invaded Panama, liberated Kuwait and brought relief to Somalia. Tiananmen Square also occurred during his administration. Bush also signed the NAFTA Agreement.

  • Visit the TAMU campus for discussions of university presidents James Earl Rudder (WWII Ranger commander at the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc) and Sul Ross (Civil War general and later Texas Governor).
  • Lunch at the University Club restaurant in Rudder Tower.
  • Lodging night in College Station: The George (or comparable).
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour

Day 5, September 25: Texas Independence

  • Breakfast
  • Drive to Washington-on-the-Brazos and visit the State Historic Site where Texas Independence was proclaimed in March 1836 while the siege of the Alamo raged in San Antonio de Bexar. Delegates from across the Mexican province descended on the tiny hamlet and wrangled out a proclamation and a constitution. Immediately afterwards, the Alamo fell and the approach of the Mexican Army under general Santa Anna, caused the delegates to flee eastward towards the bayous around Galveston.
  • Here, in this cradle of Texas history, we will discuss leadership in the Republic of Texas era, including the relations between three men who were presidents that year—David Burnet, Santa Anna and Sam Houston.
  • Drive to Huntsville and visit the Sam Houston Memorial Museum on the campus of Sam Houston State University.
  • Sam Houston served as Commanding General of the Texas Army in 1836 and then twice as President of the Republic of Texas. Later, he also served as Governor of the new US state of Texas. He was also a US representative from Tennessee and a US Senator from Texas. He is buried nearby.
  • Drive from Huntsville to Dallas, arriving by approximately 6pm.
  • Dinner on your own.

Day 6, September 26: George W. Bush

  • Visit GW Bush Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University. If possible, we will have members of the administration join us to share lessons and stories.

The younger Bush served in the US Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. He worked in the oil industry, was president of the Texas Rangers baseball club and served as Governor of Texas before becoming President in 2001. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began under his watch. The No Child Left Behind education bill, approval of Medicare Part D, Hurricane Katrina response, and the Great Recession were also part of his term. He and his wife, Laura, still make their home in the Dallas area.

  • Optional visit to Oak Lawn Park (formerly Lee Park) for discussion on presidency, race, Texas and Civil War.
  • Final group dinner and talk, and end of the expedition.
  • Hotel not included.

Pre-Trip Extension: September 20: Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • Arrive in Denison by 10 am for a guided tour of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site. The 34th President was born on October 14, 1890, in the same 1870s home that still stands as the museum. He was the third of seven sons born to David J. and Ida Eisenhower. His mother originally named him David Dwight but reversed the two names after his birth to avoid the confusion of having two Davids in the family. All of the boys were called “Ike”, such as “Big Ike” (Edgar) and “Little Ike” (Dwight); the nickname was intended as an abbreviation of their last name. By World War II, only Dwight was still called “Ike.”
  • Hotel not included.
  • Pricing: $30 per person
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour


  • Six days of in-depth guided tours, led by three expert historians
  • Accommodations for four nights in Hill Country, Austin, and College Station
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary
  • All museum entrance fees
  • Personalized tour support
  • Alcoholic drinks are excluded

Please note: as a precaution for Covid-19, guests will be responsible for their own transportation throughout the trip.

SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour
SMU Essential History Expeditions History Tour


  • Let’s set up a conference call! We would love to chat with you to answer any questions you may have!
  • Just complete the contact form below and let’s set up a call.


  • Pricing for alumni/friends: $1,995 per person, double occupancy; $500 single occupancy supplement.
  • Deposit of $1,000 required to register. This trip does not automatically include a tax deductible donation for student programming. However, the Center for Presidential History is always grateful for donations for student programming.
  • For more information, email the Center for Presidential History at or call 214.768.3210.
  • If the trip must be canceled because of Covid-19, EHE will refund all payments minus absolute sunk costs, ie, a hotel chain such as Marriott or Hilton files for bankruptcy and EHE cannot recoup deposit funds. EHE will be judicious in any deposit payments to ensure any risk remains minimal.
  • Itinerary subject to minor changes.
  • Airfare and daily transportation not included.
  • All repeat guests of Essential History Expeditions receive a 10 percent discount on all future expeditions.
SMU Partner: Texas Presidential History 21/09/2021 - 26/09/2021 All Day SMU Partner: Texas Presidential History SMU Partner: Texas Presidential History From the birthplace of Eisenhower and LBJ to the foundational stories of LBJ and the Bush family. From presidents of the Republic of Texas era to the last moments of JFK. Presidential history in the Lone Star State is, indeed, Texas-sized. Mission Critical Systems 21-09-2021T00:00 21-09-2021T23:59 Active Active 21-09-2021 Active $0.00 21-09-2021
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