A decade in the making, based on hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents, this is the definitive life of America’s 38th president. Full of surprises, historical revelations, and intimate details from the Warren Commission to Watergate to the Nixon pardon, the fall of Saigon, and the epic Ford-Reagan battle for the soul of the GOP… a gripping narrative that’s sure to invite a reappraisal of the “accidental” president whose decency and decisiveness look better and better with the passage of time.
“So few people knew that I was not Jerry Ford’s son in Grand Rapids … and we sure never talked about it in our house.”
”Dancing is discovery, discovery, discovery” - Martha Graham, credited by her student, Betty Ford, as one of the three most influential women in her life (the others her mother and Eleanor Roosevelt).
”Don’t ever tell me again what a nice goddamn guy Jerry Ford is” So observed a bitterly disappointed Republican House Leader in January, 1965, after “good old Jerry” ousted him in a closed door cliffhanger.
“You can’t pull a bandage off slowly” Ford said in defending his controversial pardon of Richard Nixon. Here, accompanied by presidential speechwriter Bob Hartmann, the look on Ford’s face says it all. It is moments away from his Sunday morning bombshell that led journalist Carl Bernstein to inform his Watergate partner, Bob Woodward,”The sonofabitch just pardoned the sonofabitch”.
”The type of man I could establish a great rapport with” Ford spoke the truth regarding Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, shown here during their first meeting in June, 1975. Their mutual trust led to the Sinai II agreement, separating Egyptian and Israeli forces and foreshadowing the landmark Camp David Accords brokered three years later by President Jimmy Carter.
Ford and Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev failed to conclude an arms control deal when they met at Helsinki in August, 1975. But they achieved something even more important… rejecting harsh criticism from right and left, Ford signed the Helsinki Accords, seen today as a major milestone on the road to human rights and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.
“It is a little startling to look down to shake hands and you see a hand with a gun in it… Say a little prayer and the Lord will take care of you”. So Ford described his encounter with Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a disciple of mass murderer Charles Manson, outside the California State Capitol in Sacremento on the morning of September 5, 1975.
Few would have imagined it on the morning of January 20,1977, but onetime rivals Ford and Carter would become close friends, their post-White House relationship unmatched since the autumnal reconciliation of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
John is a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, author of the New York Times bestsellers Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, Franklin and Winston, and Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush
Journalist & Anchor, CBS News
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Explore Richard's work.
Richard Norton Smith is a nationally recognized authority on the American presidency and a familiar face to viewers of C-SPAN, as well as The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Following graduation from Harvard in 1975, he worked as a White House intern and a speech writer for Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke. In 1979 he went to work for Senator Bob Dole, with whom he collaborated on several volumes of autobiography and political humor.
Smith’s first major book, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, was a finalist for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize. He has also written An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover (1984), The Harvard Century: The Making of a University to a Nation (1986), Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation (1993), The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick, which received the prestigious Goldsmith Prize awarded by Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School, and has been described by Hilton Kramer as “the best book ever written about the press.” In October 2014 Random House published On His Own Terms, a monumental life of Nelson Rockefeller described by Douglas Brinkley as “one of the greatest cradle to grave biographies written in the past 50 years,” and tagged in advance by Amazon as one of the fall’s Twenty Big Books in Biography and Memoir.
Between 1987 and 2001, Mr. Smith served as Director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa; the Dwight D. Eisenhower Center in Abilene, Kansas; the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and the Reagan Center for Public Affairs in Simi Valley, California; the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, Michigan respectively.
In December, 2001 Mr. Smith became director of the new Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. There he supervised construction of the Institute's $11.3 million permanent home and launched a Presidential Lecture Series and other high profile programs. In October, 2003 he was appointed the first Executive Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, a four building complex in Springfield, Illinois. The Library opened to the public in 2004 and the Museum opened the next year.
Much in demand as a speaker, in 2009 Smith was invited by Congress to be one of two historians addressing it on the two hundred anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Earlier, millions of television viewers heard him deliver the final eulogy at Gerald Ford’s Michigan funeral, a role he repeated at Betty Ford’s request when she was laid to rest beside her husband in 2011. Twice a year he personally leads historical tours (www.presidentsandpatriots.com) emphasizing American presidents and history rarely found in the text books.
Whether you're newly single or, perhaps, your companion just isn't into history as much as you are, solo travelers will find our tours fun and enjoyable, all while discovering new places and meeting new friends. And don't feel like you'd be the odd one out... our tours are comprised of roughly half doubles and half singles. As an added service, should you wish to be matched with another solo traveler, we will be more than happy to try to find you a roommate.
Join "the Club"
Our deluxe motor coach tours are designed with your comfort and enjoyment in mind, and our small group setting creates a much more intimate, personal setting when compared with other tours who attempt to fill their motor coaches to capacity. In fact, many of our guests are repeat participants (more than 90 of our guests have joined us on six or more tours!). This, combined with a shared interest in the history being experienced, makes for an unusually relaxed, fun and friendly atmosphere. As a result, many of our patrons have begun calling us "their Travel Club".
As Seen on TV
Our host, Richard Norton Smith, was C-SPAN's in-house historian, where he was responsible for such long form series as Presidential Libraries: History Uncovered, The Contenders, and Influence and Image: America's First Ladies. C-SPAN viewers may have seen one or more of our tours featured over the past several years. C-SPAN has been along with us on several past trips, and has broadcast segments on their history channel, C-SPAN 3.
SEPT & OCT 2023
Monuments, Missiles & The Wild West
Black Hills Magic
After more than twenty years on the American road uncovering a history not always found in the history books, it gives us special pleasure to plan a trip to a place new to us. Such a destination is South Dakota and its Badlands region. The first human entry into the adjacent Black Hills is frankly uncertain. The oldest Indian site found to date is a little over 7,000 years old. It is thought these early people were big game hunters who stalked the mammoth and bison that thrived in the lush post-glacial grass lands.
For eight days in June 2024, we will follow in their footsteps, encountering fossilized remains of prehistoric creatures, ancient mountains carved by daredevil sculptors, and the raucous frontier of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock. Basing ourselves in Rapids City, South Dakota – and staying in the same downtown hotel for eight nights – we’ll explore stunning landscapes in and around the Black Hills. From a moving nighttime lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore and a mountaintop excursion to the nearby Crazy Horse Memorial – a monument in the making – to Wyoming’s Devils Tower, and the colorful history of Deadwood.
Explore America's heritage.
On the itinerary: An old gold mine, restored 19th century brothel, Victorian mansion, and a scenic train ride through the Black Hills. We’ve included a safari Jeep ride through herds of Buffalo and other animals in Custer State Park, lunch at Calvin Coolidge’s summer White House, an actual Minuteman missile in its Cold War silo, plus chuckwagon dinners and frontier breakfasts. And did we mention: THE SAME HOTEL – THE RUSHMORE – FOR THE ENTIRE TRIP.
With a first-class hotel, meals to match, and the incomparable landscape of the Badlands – we think you’ll agree that this tour does indeed deliver Black Hills Magic.
SEPT 2021 MAY 2022 | A THOUSAND YEARS OF SCOTLAND
History, Heather & Highlands
this September May 2022 for a memorable trip to some of the most beautiful – and historic – country this side of Brigadoon. Starting with two nights in the majestic English Lake District, with its brooding landscapes and literary shrines to poet William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, best known for The Tales of Peter Rabbit. En route to Edinburgh, our home for six nights, we’ll pause in the village of Lockerbie to pay our respects to the victims of Pan Am Flight 103, lost to a terrorist bomb in December 1988.
A wonderful adventure for all ages.
Our Edinburgh home is the Kimpton Charlotte Square, taking its name from the adjacent World Heritage Site and ideally located next to picturesque Old Town. Our itinerary includes a day in the Scottish Highlands, a walking tour of the Old Course at St. Andrews, birthplace of golf, and Glamis Castle, girlhood home of the late Queen Mother. Edinburgh Castle beckons, along with Holyrood House, St. Giles Cathedral and the multi-media extravaganza called Dynamic Earth. We’ve set aside half a day to explore the Royal Yacht Britannia. And another half to tour Scotland’s capital on your own. Visit an art museum or shop the Royal Mile. If you have been to Scotland before, we’ll take you places you haven’t been. And introduce you to a history you cannot beat.