Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), a former actor and California governor, served as the 40th U.S. president from 1981 to 1989. Raised in small-town Illinois, he became a Hollywood actor in his 20s and later served as the Republican governor of California from 1967 to 1975. Dubbed the Great Communicator, the affable Reagan became a popular two-term president. He cut taxes, increased defense spending, negotiated a nuclear arms reduction agreement with the Soviets and is credited with helping to bring a quicker end to the Cold War. Reagan, who survived a 1981 assassination attempt, died at age 93 after battling Alzheimer’s disease. RONALD REAGAN’S CHILDHOOD AND EDUCATION Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois , to Edward “Jack” Reagan (1883-1941), a shoe salesman, and Nelle Wilson Reagan (1883-1962). The family, which included older son Neil Reagan (1908-1996), resided in an apartment that lacked indoor plumbing and running water and was located along the small town’s main street. Reagan’s father nicknamed him Dutch as a baby, saying he resembled “a fat little Dutchman. Among the items on display at Ronald Reagan's presidential library in California is a 6,000-pound graffiti-covered section of the Berlin Wall, given to him by the people of Berlin.
During Reagan’s early childhood, his family lived in a series of Illinois towns as his father switched sales jobs, then settled in Dixon, Illinois, in 1920. 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. Reagan went on to attend Eureka College in Illinois, where 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 . RONALD REAGAN’S HOLLYWOOD CAREER AND MARRIAGES In 1937, while in Southern California to cover the Chicago Cubs’ spring training season, Ronald Reagan did a screen test for the Warner Brothers movie studio. The studio signed him to a contract, and that same year he made his film debut in “Love is on the Air,” playing a radio news reporter. Over the next three decades he appeared in more than 50 movies. Among his best-known roles was that of Notre Dame football star George Gipp in the 1940 biographical film “Knute Rockne All American.” In the movie, Reagan’s famous line–which he is still rememberd for–was “Win one for the Gipper.” Another notable role was in 1942 in “Kings Row,” in which Reagan portrayed an accident victim who wakes up to discover his legs have been amputated and cries out, “Where’s the rest of me?” (Reagan used this line as the title of his 1965 autobiography.) In 1940, Reagan married actress Jane Wyman (1917-2007), with whom he had daughter Maureen (1941-2001) and an adopted son, Michael (1945-). The couple divorced in 1948 (Reagan is the only
U.S. president to have been divorced). In 1952, he married actress
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- President Ronald Reagan