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Politics & War

Politics & War

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan




  • Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois, to John Edward “Jack” Reagan and Nellie Wilson Reagan.
  • His family lived in a series of towns, finally settling in Dixon, Illinois, in 1920, where Jack opened a shoe store.
  • In 1928, Reagan graduated from Dixon High School, where he was an athlete and student body president and performed in school plays. During summer vacations, he worked as a lifeguard in Dixon.


  • Enrolling at Eureka College in Illinois on an athletic scholarship, Reagan majored in economics and sociology.
  • There, he played football, ran track, captained the swim team, served as student council president and acted in school productions. After graduating in 1932, he found work as a radio sports announcer in Iowa.
  • In 1937, Reagan signed a seven-year contract with the movie studio Warner Bros. Over the next three decades, he appeared in more than 50 films.


  • In 1940, Reagan married actress Jane Wyman, with whom he had daughter Maureen and adopted a son, Michael. The couple divorced in 1948.
  • He spent the first few years of his Hollywood career in the “B film” unit. He earned his first screen credit with a starring role in the 1937 movie Love Is on the Air, and by the end of 1939 he had already appeared in 19 films including Dark Victory with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart.
  • In 1941, exhibitors voted him the fifth most popular star from the younger generation in Hollywood.


  • During World War II, Reagan was disqualified from combat duty due to poor eyesight and spent his time in the Army making training films. He left the military ranked as a captain.
  • From 1947 to 1952, Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. During this time, he met actress Nancy Davis Both were immediately attracted to each other.
  • Over time he recognized Nancy as his kindred spirit, and they wed in 1952. The pair had two children, Patricia Ann and Ronald.


  • Reagan stepped into the national political spotlight in 1964, when he gave a well-received televised speech for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, a prominent conservative.
  • Two years later, in his first race for public office, Reagan defeated Democratic incumbent Edmund “Pat” Brown Sr. by almost one million votes, winning the California governorship. He was reelected to a second term in 1970.
  • After making unsuccessful bids for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 and 1976, Reagan finally received his party’s nod in 1980.


  • In that year’s general election, he defeated Democrat incumbent President Jimmy Carter, winning the electoral college (489 to 49) and capturing almost 51 percent of the popular vote. At age 69, Reagan was the oldest person elected to the U.S. presidency.
  • In his inaugural speech on January 20, 1981, Reagan rhetorically announced that “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”


  • On March 30, 1981 , Reagan, his press secretary James Brady, Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty, and Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy were struck by gunfire from would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr. outside the Washington Hilton hotel.
  • Although “close to death” Reagan was stabilized in the emergency room.He recovered and was released from the hospital on April 11, becoming the first serving U.S. president to survive being shot in an assassination attempt.
  • The attempt had great influence on Reagan’s popularity; polls indicated his approval rating to be around 73%.


  • On the domestic front, President Reagan advanced a number of conservative policies. Tax cuts were implemented to stimulate the United States’ economy.
  • He also advocated for increases in military spending, reductions in certain social programs and measures to deregulate business.
  • By 1983, the nation’s economy had begun to recover and, according to many economists, entered a seven-year period of prosperity. In 1981, Reagan once gain made history by appointing Judge Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.


  • The most pressing foreign policy issue of Reagan’s first term was the Cold War. Dubbing the Soviet Union “the evil empire,” Reagan embarked on a massive buildup of U.S. weapons and troops.
  • He implemented the Reagan Doctrine, which provided aid to anticommunist movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 1983, he announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, a plan aiming to develop space-based weapons to protect America from attacks by Soviet nuclear missiles.
  • 1982, Reagan ordered U.S. forces to invade the Caribbean island of Granada after Marxist rebels overthrew the government. In addition to the problems in Lebanon and Grenada, the Reagan administration had to deal with an ongoing contentious relationship with Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi.


  • In November 1984, Ronald Reagan was reelected in a landslide, defeating Democratic challenger Walter Mondale. Reagan carried 49 of the 50 U.S. states in the election, and received 525 of 538 electoral votes—the largest number ever won by an American presidential candidate.
  • Yet his second term was tarnished by the Iran-Contra affair, a convoluted “arms-for-hostages” deal with Iran to funnel money toward anti-communist insurgencies in Central America.
  • During his second term, Reagan also forged a diplomatic relationship with the reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev, chairman of the Soviet Union.


  • In 1987, the Americans and Soviets signed a historic agreement to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
  • That same year, Reagan spoke at Germany’s Berlin Wall, a symbol of communism, and famously challenged Gorbachev to tear it down. More than two years later, Gorbachev allowed the people of Berlin to dismantle the wall, ending Soviet domination of East Germany.
  • After leaving the White House, Reagan returned to Germany in September 1990—just weeks before the country was officially reunified—and, with a hammer, took several symbolic swings at a remaining chunk of the wall.


  • After leaving the White House in January 1989, Reagan and wife Nancy returned to their home in Los Angeles, California. In 1991, the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs opened in Simi Valley, California.
  • In November 1994, Reagan revealed in a handwritten letter to the American people that he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Nearly a decade later, on June 5, 2004, he died at his Los Angeles home at age 93, making him the nation’s longest-lived president at that time.
  • A state funeral was held in Washington, D.C., and Reagan was later buried on the grounds of his presidential library in California. His wife Nancy Reagan died of heart failure in 2016 at the age.