President Ronald Wilson Reagan
(1911-2004)
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Ronald Wilson Reagan
(1911- 2004)

 

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in an apartment above the general store in Tampico, Illinois. His family consisted of his parents, John and Nelle, and his older brother Neil. After a series of homes in Chicago, Galesburg, Monmouth, and Tampico, Illinois, the Reagans moved to Dixon, Illinois in 1920. Ronald Reagan considers Dixon his boyhood home. There he attended high school where he became involved in school football, basketball, track, student body president, school plays and the yearbook. For seven summers he was employed as a life guard at Lowell Park, and is credited with saving 77 lives.

Reagan graduated from Eureka College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Sociology. At Eureka College he was also involved in extracurricular activities including football, swim team, drama, yearbook editor, and school newspaper reporter and student body president. After graduating college Reagan became a radio sportscaster, first at WOC in Davenport, Iowa, later a full-time staff announcer at WHO in Des Moines. While reporting on spring training with the Chicago Cubs in California, he made a screen test for Warner Bros. They liked the easy speaking, handsome Reagan and signed him to a seven year contract. Reagan worked in Hollywood for the next 27 years and appeared in 53 films.

His military career began in 1935 with enlistment in the Army Reserve. Two years later he was promoted to Second Lieutenant in the Reserve Corps of Cavalry. In the Cavalry he learned to ride horses, which became a love he enjoyed throughout his life. In 1942 he was called to active duty in World War II. His eyesight made him ineligible for overseas duty and he was assigned to the U.S. Army Air Corp's First Motion Picture Unit attaining the rank of captain. There he appeared in numerous training films and starred in films selling war bonds.

In 1940 he married Jane Wyman, an actress he met while filming Brother Rat . Maureen Reagan was born, and Michael Reagan was adopted before their divorce in 1949. He then met actress Nancy Davis, they fell in love, and were married in 1952. They had two children, Patti and Ronald. Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis appeared together in only one film, Hellcats of the Navy , made in 1957. In 2002 they celebrated their 50 th wedding anniversary.

After World War II Reagan returned to Hollywood. His interest in the entertainment industry waned and he became increasingly more focused on political matters. He was president of the Screen Actors Guild for five years, and toured the country giving speeches as General Electric's celebrity spokesman. In 1960 Reagan campaigned for Richard Nixon as a Democrat for Nixon. In 1962 he switched political parties from Democrat to Republican. He co-chaired the California campaign for Barry Goldwater for President, and launched his political career with a televised speech, A Time for Choosing, which raised a record $8 million for the Goldwater campaign. In 1964 Reagan appeared in his last film, The Killers . In 1966 he was elected Governor of California, where he served for eight years from 1967 through 1975.

In 1975 he announced his candidacy for President of the United States, but failed to win his party's nomination. In 1980 he won the Republican nomination for the Presidency, was overwhelmingly elected, and was inaugurated as 40 th President of the United States in 1981. President Reagan was the oldest man to be inaugurated as President, the first two-term President since Eisenhower, and the longest living President of the United States.

During his eight years in office, Reagan was wounded by an assassin's bullet, appointed the first women to the Supreme Court, worked to cut inflation and reduce government spending, improved the military, negotiated reduction of nuclear weapons with the Soviet Union, defeated the takeover of Grenada, and called upon Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.

At the age of 79, he left the presidency and returned to California. In 1991 the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was dedicated. In 1994, President Reagan released a letter to the American people announcing that he had Alzheimer's disease, concluding his letter with, 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 died on June 5, 2004, and is buried at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.



President Ronald Reagan
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Page revised Jan. 5, 2007