The JFK Assassination


DALLAS (SMU) – SMU is sponsoring a series of compelling programs through spring 2014 associated with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas's Dealey Plaza. Check back for final schedules for programs marked “Time TBD.”

Tuesday, Sept. 10

James Reston, Jr.: The Accidental Victim, JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald, and the Real Target in Dallas

Time: 6 p.m. reception, 6:30 p.m. lecture and book signing
Ballroom, SMU Hughes-Trigg Student Center, 3140 Dyer Street
Registration/RSVP: 214-768-3225, Reston’s lecture is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested. The event is sponsored by Friends of the SMU Libraries.

Texas Gov. John Connally, not President Kennedy, was Lee Harvey Oswald’s intended target nearly 50 years ago, according to historian and author James Reston, Jr. Reston will be at SMU to discuss his new book, The Accidental Victim, JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald, and the Real Target in Dallas.

Reston theorizes Oswald carried an obsessive grudge against Connally after the governor, then-Secretary of the Navy, refused to schedule a hearing for Oswald related to his dishonorable military discharge. In addition, Marina Oswald provided testimony that Connally was her husband’s target. Reston’s book produces evidence that Lee Harvey and Marina Oswald greatly admired the Kennedys.

Wednesday, Oct. 2

How the JFK Assassination Changed North Texas Media
Sammons Media Ethics Lecture featuring Hugh Aynesworth

Time: 8 p.m.
Caruth Auditorium, Owen Arts Center
Registration/RSVP: Reservations (required) and information at 214-768-ARTS.

Iconic Dallas journalist Aynesworth will introduce and moderate a panel discussion. Aynesworth covered the assassination and its aftermath as a reporter for The Dallas Morning News and has written several books, including the forthcoming November 22, 1963: Witness to History.

Friday, Oct. 11

The Work of the Warren Commission, Half a Century On: Its Methods, Successes & Questions

Time:  12:30–4:30 p.m.
Location: Martha Proctor Mack Ballroom, Umphrey Lee Center,
       3300 Dyer St., on the SMU campus.
Registration/RSVP: Available online

The program will feature a panel of former Warren Commission staff members:

  • Howard P. Willens, Warren Commission assistant counsel
  • Judge Burt W. Griffin, Warren Commission assistant counsel
  • Professor W. David Slawson, Warren Commission assistant counsel
  • Justice Richard M. Mosk, Warren Commission staff member
  • Justice Stuart R. Pollak, Warren Commission staff member
  • Jay Vogelson, a law clerk who worked on the commission’s report in its final editing.

The group will discuss the Warren Commission’s work through the lens of Willens’ book, “History Will Prove Us Right,” due to be published October 2013.

The size of this gathering of former Warren Commission staff members is unprecedented. A group of academic experts will join the group for a separate discussion. Moderator for the event will be Sarah R. Saldana, SMU Law ’84, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.

Organized by Dedman School of Law Professor William Bridge, the program is presented by the Tower Center Working Group on Remembrance and Commemoration: the Life and Legacy of JFK.

Thursday, Oct. 24

A Look at the Oswald Photo at 50

Time: 3-4 p.m.
O'Donnell Auditorium, Owen Arts Center

A panel discussion of the iconic photograph of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald featuring Hugh Aynesworth, Dallas-Fort Worth media authority on the JFK assassination; Bob Jackson, the former SMU student who took the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph; and Jim Leavelle, a former Dallas homicide detective who was escorting Oswald at the time he was shot. Carolyn Barta, SMU’s Meadows Foundation Distinguished Teaching Professor, will moderate the session.

Feb. 18 – 19, 2014

The Presidents and Their Crises

Time: The program begins the evening of Feb. 18 with a focus on John Kennedy, while the all-day seminar on Feb. 19 will examine Kennedy and 12 other presidents.
Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza and SMU Crum Auditorium
Registration/RSVP: Details on registration will be posted to

Presented by SMU’s Center for Presidential History, Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, George W. Bush Library and Museum and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. The symposium is a two-day examination of the effect of three types of crises in the lives of sitting presidents – illness, personal matters made public, and a death in the family. The program will seek to answer what happens to a president and his administration when that president suffers a personal crisis. Does the crisis result in policy change, or an identifiable change in historical moments?

Tuesday evening, Feb. 18, 2014

Richard Reeves

Time: TBD
Sixth Floor Museum At Dealey Plaza

Richard Reeves,Senior Lecturer at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California, will discuss the traumatic events at play in John Kennedy’s life during his tenure as president – Addison’s Disease, the death of his infant son, and extramarital indiscretions. An author and syndicated columnist who has made a number of award-winning documentary films, Reeve’s latest book is Portrait of Camelot: A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House (Abrams, 2010).

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014

All-Day Symposium

Time: Schedule TBD
SMU Crum Auditorium

The daylong event will examine the impact of personal crises on Kennedy and 12 other U.S. presidents. Broken into three segments, the program will feature distinguished scholars from across the United States.

Topic: Personal Crises and Public Responsibility

  • A comparison of John Tyler and Gerald Ford: Mark Updegrove, presidential historian, author of Baptism by Fire: Eight Presidents Who Took Office During Times of Crisis (Thomas Dunne Books, 2009)
  • Bill Clinton: William Chafe, co-director of Duke University’s Program on History, Public Policy and Social Change.
  • Andrew Jackson: Dan Feller, director of The Papers of Andrew Jackson at the University of Tennessee.
  • Lyndon Johnson. Randall Woods, Distinguished Professor, John A. Cooper Professor of History, University of Arkansas.

Topic: Loss in the Family

  • Calvin Coolidge: Amity Shlaes, syndicated columnist, director of the Four Percent Growth Project at the George W. Bush Institute, author of Coolidge (Harper Collins, 2013).
  • Franklin Pierce: Michael Holt, emeritus professor history at University of Virginia, author of Franklin Pierce (Times Books, 2010).
  • John Kennedy: David Nasaw, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. professor of History at City University of New York City University of New York, award-winning author.
  • Abraham Lincoln: Michael Burlingame, Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

Topic: Presidential Illness

  • Woodrow Wilson: Tom Knock, associate professor at SMU’s Clements Department of History, author of To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order (Princeton University Press, 1992).
  • Richard Nixon: Jeremi Suri, Mack Brown Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, author of Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Harvard, 2007).
  • Ronald Reagan: Kiron Skinner, associate professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, co-author of multiple books on the 40th president, including Reagan: A Life in Letters (The Free Press, 2001).
  • Franklin Roosevelt: Frank Costigliola, professor of history at the University of Connecticut, author of Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War (Princeton University Press, 2013).