Wilson Reagan, the 40th President of the United
States, was born February 6th, 1911 in rural Tampico,
Illinois. The Ronald Reagan family consisted of
his father, John Edward ("Jack"), his
mother, Nelle Wilson and Ronald's older brother
Neil. The Reagan family lived in several small Illinois
towns before settling in Dixon, the place Ronald
Reagan considers his hometown.
Reagan graduated from Dixon High School in 1928 and
went on to attend Eureka College, a small liberal
arts institution near Peoria, Illinois. He majored
in economics and sociology, graduating in 1932 at
the height of the Great Depression. His school years
seemed to be a model for his future, as he participated
in various sports, starred in school plays and served
as student body president in both high school and
the unemployment rate in the country stood at 25%,
Ronald Reagan managed to land a job as sportscaster
at WOC Radio in Davenport, Iowa. WOC later consolidated
with WHO in Des Moines, and "Dutch" (a childhood
nickname because of his "Dutch boy" haircut)
gained national media exposure recreating Chicago
Cubs baseball games from the studio.
1937, Ronald Reagan enlisted in the Army Reserve as
a Private, but was soon promoted to the rank of 2nd
Lieutenant in the Officers Reserve Corps of the Cavalry.
That same year, one of his friends arranged for him
to take a screen test at Warner Brother's studios.
He was hired on the spot, and suddenly he was a Hollywood
actor. He made more than 50 films, normally playing
the hero, including the part of legendary Notre Dame
halfback George Gipp in 1940's "Knute Rockne,
All American." "Dutch" was later known
by the nickname "the Gipper."
1938, while making the film "Brother Rat,"
Ronald Reagan fell in love with fellow Warner Bros.
star Jane Wyman. The couple married in 1940 and Maureen
Reagan was born January 4th, 1941. They later adopted
a son, Michael in 1945. Their marriage, however, ended
in divorce in 1948.
1942, Lieutenant Ronald Reagan was called to active
duty by the Army Air Force. Capitalizing on his film
experience, Lt. Reagan was assigned to 1st Motion
Picture Unit in Culver City, California where he assisted
in the production of over 400 training films. He was
promoted to the rank of Captain in 1943 and discharged
on December 9th, 1945, allowing him to resume his
Reagan became more involved in the political scene
by supporting Harry Truman for president in 1948 and
Helen Gahagan Douglas for the Senate in 1950. In 1949,
Ronald Reagan met actress Nancy Davis. Sparks flew
between the couple and on March 4th, 1952, they were
married. That same year, Reagan campaigned as a Democrat
Ronald Reagan's second marriage proved more lasting
than his first. Nancy devoted herself to supporting
her husband's career and raising their two children,
Ron and Patti.
1964, Ronald Reagan delivered a rousing speech, calling
up romantic visions of an America of a bygone era
("We will preserve for our children this, the
last best hope of man on earth.."), on behalf
of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.
Although Goldwater lost the election, Ronald Reagan,
the handsome, articulate Hollywood actor was now in
the political spotlight.
by several wealthy businessmen in Southern California,
Ronald Reagan won a landslide victory over Democratic
incumbent Edmund Brown during the 1966 race for California
Governor. He began his highly successful eight years
as California's governor January 3, 1967.
Reagan made unsuccessful bids for president in 1968
and 1976, losing the GOP party nomination in both
cases. Proving the adage that "third times a
charm", he won the Republican party's nomination
in 1980. He went on to win the Presidency in a landslide
victory by appealing to the common sense of the American
people ("...ask yourself, are you better off
than you were 4 years ago?")
Reagan became one of the most popular presidents in
history. His economic policies, known as "Reaganomics",
resulted in a drop in the inflation rate from 13.5%
in 1980 to under 5% by 1982 and throughout the rest
of his presidency. His commitment to freedom and opposition
to the spread of communism resulted in end of the
Cold War in 1989. He maintained a firm and determined
stance against terrorism, exemplified by American
retaliation against Libya for the death of Americans
in a Berlin discotheque in 1986. ("Today we have
done what we had to do.") His quick wit endeared
him to many, such as when his age was called into
question during the presidential debates in 1984,
and he remarked "I am not going to exploit, for
political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."
Ronald Reagan worked hard at solving America's problems,
he made no apologies for not putting in 16-hour days
at the White House. Often criticized for running what
appeared to be a "9-to-5" presidency, he
was a devoted family man, spending as much time as
he could with Nancy and his children.
month before the election of his successor, Ronald
Reagan reflected on his eight years in office. "I
am the same man I was when I came to Washington,"
he remarked. "I believe the same things I believed
when I came to Washington, and I think those beliefs
have been vindicated by the success of the policies
to which we hold fast." There is little doubt
that the many changes effected by the Reagan presidency
will play a major role in shaping America's future
as we begin this new millennium.