Presidents: Ronald Reagan

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Ronald Reagan is our only president to have previously been a Hollywood movie star.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois. He was the youngest son of John Edward “Jack” and Nelle Clyde Wilson Reagan.

As a child his father nicknamed him “Dutch”, which stuck with him throughout his youth.

While attending Dixon High School he developed interests in acting, sports, and storytelling.He was a member of the football team and captain of the swim team. He was elected student body president and led a student revolt against the college president after the president tried to cut back the faculty.

Upon graduation he moved to Iowa and was an announcer for several radio stations. He moved to WHO radio in Des Moines as an announcer for Chicago Cubs baseball games. His specialty was creating play-by-play accounts of games using as his source only basic descriptions that the station received by wire as the games were in progress.

In 1937, he screen tested for Warner Brothers studios, which led to a seven year contract. He began his career in the “B film” unit. Reagan joked, the producers “didn’t want them good; they wanted them Thursday”.

His first screen credit was the starring role in the 1937 movie Love Is on the Air, and by the end of 1939 he had already appeared in 19 films.

Ronald Reagan

In 1938, he co-starred with Jane Wyman in the film Brother Rat. They were married on January 26, 1940 in California. The couple had two biological children, Maureen and Christine, who only lived for a day. In 1945, they adopted a son, Michael.

In 1940, he played the role of George “The Gipper” Gipp in the film Knute Rockne, All American; from it, he acquired the lifelong nickname “the Gipper.”

In 1941, he was first elected to the Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild.

Reagan’s favorite acting role was as a double amputee in 1942’s Kings Row, in which he recites the line “Where’s the rest of me?”—later used as the title of his 1965 autobiography. Many film critics considered Kings Row to be his best movie and Reagan called it the film that “made me a star”.

His career as a movie star effectively ended when he was ordered to active duty in April 1942. He’d been in the Army Reserves since 1937.

Due to poor eyesight, he was unable to serve overseas. In time he began making training films for the Army Air Force. He made about 400 during his service before being discharged from active duty on December 9, 1945.

Ronald Reagan

In 1947, he was elected as the Screen Actors Guild President. He held this position for seven years until 1952 and again in 1959. Reagan led the SAG through eventful years that were marked by labor-management disputes, the Taft–Hartley Act, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings and the Hollywood blacklist era.

In 1949, Regan and his wife, Jayne Wyman were divorced. The couple stayed friends for the remainder of their lives. Later that year he met actress Nancy Davis.

He was an early critic of the television, but began to join the medium in guest roles and other parts by the late 1950s. He was hired as the host of General Electric Theater, a series of weekly dramas that became very popular. The show ran for ten years.

On March 4, 1952, Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis were married. They would have two children, Patti Reagan in 1952 and Ronald Reagan, Jr. in 1958.

His final work as a professional actor was as host and performer from 1964 to 1965 on the television series Death Valley Days.

Ronald Reagan began as a Democrat and considered President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a “true hero”. In 1962, he became a Republican. Reagan was always involved in politics, even while in Hollywood, and began to grow even more involved.

Ronald Reagan

In 1967, he was elected Governor of California. During this time he began to test the presidential waters. He served two terms as governor and signed the first “no fault” divorce law.

In 1976, he challenged President Gerald Ford for the Republican party nomination, but Ford prevailed.

In 1980, he ran for the presidency again and beat incumbent President Jimmy Carter. At the time he was the oldest person elected to the presidency.

Reagan fought for prayer in schools throughout his term as president.

On March 39, 1981, just 69 days into his administration he was shot at outside the Washington Hilton hotel. After almost two weeks in the hospital, he was released. He became the first U.S. president to survive being shot in an assassination attempt. Reagan believed that God had spared his life so that he might go on to fulfill a greater purpose.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan had a close relationship and were said to “never stop courting”. Their relationship was described as “close, authentic and intimate”. She served as his confident and many said that to talk with him they had to go through her.

Reganomics was the term coined for Reagan’s successful solution to fix the overly inflated economy.

In 1984 he was re-elected to a second term and became the first president to open an Olympic Games held in the United States for the Summer Olympics.

Ronald Reagan

Reagan was a skilled speaker and often used humor, however during the campaign for his second term, rumors began to circulate towards Alzheimer’s disease, as he had moments of confusion and forgetfulness.

During a second term he announced a War on Drugs, dealt with the AIDS epidemic that was spreading, and the scandal of the Iran-Contra affair.
Reagan was also very successful in his negotiations of the Cold War. Speaking at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987, Reagan challenged Gorbachev to go further, saying “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Ronald Reagan

In 1989, he left the presidency after two terms, when his Vice President George H. W. Bush succeeded him as president.

Nancy and Reagan moved to their Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara, California and purchased a home in Bel Air, Los Angeles.

On November 4, 1991, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was dedicated and opened to the public.

On April 13, 1992, Reagan was assaulted by an anti-nuclear protester during a luncheon speech while accepting an award from the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas. He was not hurt in the attack.

In 1992, he spoke at the 1992 Republican National Convention. He established the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award with the newly formed Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

In 1993, President Reagan received his own Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Ronald Reagan

His final public speech was on February 3, 1994, during a tribute to him in Washington, D.C., and his last major public appearance was at the funeral of Richard Nixon on April 27, 1994.

In August 1994, at the age of 83, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, an incurable neurological disorder which destroys brain cells and ultimately causes death. In November, he informed the nation through a handwritten letter, writing in part:  “I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease … At the moment I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done … I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.”

Ronald Reagan

In 1998, while he was stricken by Alzheimer’s, Nancy told Vanity Fair, “Our relationship is very special. We were very much in love and still are. When I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it’s true. It did. I can’t imagine life without him.”

Reagan remained active in the early stages and continued to daily go to the office until 1999. In2001, a broken hip began to limit his mobility, but he went through physical therapy.

Nancy Reagan told CNN’s Larry King in 2001 that very few visitors were allowed to see her husband because she felt that “Ronnie would want people to remember him as he was.”

In 2002, President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy Reagan, each received the were jointly awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on May 16, 2002, at the U.S. Capitol building, and were only the third President and First Lady to receive it; she accepted the medal on behalf of both of them.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan died on June 5, 2004 at his Bel Air, California home. After laying in state in the Washington National Cathedral he was buried at Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

He is the second longest-lived president, with Gerald Ford living only 45 days longer than Reagan.

His burial site is inscribed with the words he delivered at the opening of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library: “I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and that there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”

Upon his death, first wife Jane Wyman said saying “America has lost a great president and a great, kind, and gentle man.”

Ronald Reagan

Historians have pointed to a more efficient and prosperous economy as a result of Reagan’s economic policies, foreign policy triumphs including a peaceful end to the Cold War, and a restoration of American pride and morale. Proponents also argue Reagan restored faith in the American Dream with his unabated and passionate love for the United States.







40th President of the United States
(January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989)Nicknames: “The Gipper”; “The Great Communicator”; “Dutch”

Born: February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois
Died: June 5, 2004, in Los Angeles, California

Father: John Edward Reagan
Mother: Nelle Wilson Reagan
Married: Jane Wyman (1917-2007), on June 25, 1940 (divorced in 1948); Nancy Davis (1921-2016), on March 4, 1952
Children: Maureen Elizabeth Reagan (1941-2001); Michael Edward Reagan (adopted) (1945- ); Patricia Ann Reagan (1952- ); Ronald Prescott Reagan (1958- )

Religion: Disciples of Christ
Education: Graduated from Eureka College (1932)
Occupation: Actor, public official
Political Party: Republican

  • Governor of California, 1967-75

Presidential Salary: $200,000/year + $50,000 expense account

The assassination attempt on the President by John Hinckley Jr.
Irangate – the Iran-Contra Scandal
Glasnost with the Soviet Union – Fall of the Berlin Wall

  • At 69 years old, Reagan was the oldest elected president until the election of  Donald Trump.

1911 Ronald Reagan was born on 2/6/1911, in Tampico, Illinois

1932 Ronald Reagan was educated at Eureka College (1932)

1939 Germany invades Poland; World War II begins. Gerald Ford was in the military during WWII

1940 Married to his first wife, Jane Wyman in 1940 but divorced in 1948.

1941 Attack on Pearl Harbor
U.S. enters World War II. Ronald Reagan was in the military during WWII.

1945 Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Germany and Japan surrender, ending World War II

1946 The Cold War began between the United States and the Soviet Union

1950 Senator Joseph McCarthy gains power and start Communist witch hunts (1950-1954)
Korean War begins

1952 Ronald Reagan married his second wife, Nancy Davis, on March 4, 1952

1953 Armistice in Korea

1954 SEATO alliance

1955 Warsaw Pact

1957 Civil Rights Act of 1957
Russians launch Sputnik

1958 NASA formed

1959 Cuban Revolution

1960 Greensboro sit-in
Civil Rights Act of 1960

1961 Peace Corps
Vietnam War officially begins with 900 military advisors landing in Saigon
OPEC formed

1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

1963 President J Kennedy assassinated
March on Washington; Martin Luther King, Jr. “I have a dream” speech

1964 Civil Rights Act of 1964

1968 Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy assassinated
Civil Rights Act of 1968

1969 Vietnam
Neil Armstrong walks on the moon

1972 Watergate burglary
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with USSR

1973 Skylab first space station launched

1974 Richard Nixon resigns Presidency over Watergate

1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident
1979 – Iran hostage crisis begins

1981 1981 Ronald Reagan became the President of the United States of America

1981 Attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley

1983 1983 – Granada invasion

1985 Iran-Contra Scandal (1985-89)
Glasnost with the Soviet Union (1985-1991)

1987 Stark incident in Gulf War (1987)

1989 1989 The Presidency of Ronald Reagan ended

2004 He died of pneumonia on June 5, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. His seven-day state funeral followed and he was buried in Simi Valley.


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