Wilson Reagan was born February 6, 1911 in Tampico,
Illinois to Nelle Wilson and John Edward ("Jack")
Reagan. The Reagans had one previous son, Neil ("Moon")
Reagan. In 1920 the Reagans moved to a succession of
rural northern Illinois towns until they settled in
Dixon, Illinois, the place Ronald Reagan considers his
Ronald Regan attended high school in nearby Dixon and then worked his way through Eureka College. There, he studied economics and sociology, played on the football team, and acted in school plays. Upon graduation, Ronald Reagan became a radio sports announcer. A screen test in 1937 won him a contract in Hollywood. During the next two decades he appeared in 53 films.
As an actor Reagan received decent reviews, but not especially good roles. In 1940, however, he landed a role that made him famous, playing college football star George Gipp in the movie Knute Rockne—All American. In January 1940 he married actress Jane Wyman, with whom he had a daughter and adopted a son, although another infant born to them died in June 1947. The marriage began to fail shortly thereafter, and Reagan and Wyman divorced in June of 1948.
Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actor's Guild,
which is the labor union for movie actors, from 1947 to
1952, and again in 1959. During this time he also became
well known for his strong anticommunist views. As he was
offered a limited range of acting roles in film, Ronald
Reagan turned to television and was hired as the host of
General Electric Theater, a series of weekly dramas that
became very popular. His final work as a professional
actor was as host and performer from 1964 to 1965 on the
television series Death Valley Days. Reagan and Nancy
Davis appeared together several times, including an
episode of GE Theater in 1958 called A Turkey for
President. The couple soon fell in love and were
married in March of 1952. They went on to have two
Reagan was approached about becoming the Republican
Party candidate as Governor of
With the help of a smear campaign against Pat Brown and
promises of tax cuts he won an easy victory in 1966 by a
margin of a million votes. As governor Reagan quickly
established himself as one of the country's leading
conservative political figures. Re-elected with 52 per
cent of the vote in 1970, Reagan introduced a series of
welfare reforms during his second term in office. This
included tightening eligibility requirements for welfare
aid and requiring the able to seek work rather than
Though already governor of one of the largest states in the union, Reagan continued to look at the bigger picture. At both the 1968 and 1974 Republican National Conventions, Reagan was considered a potential presidential candidate.
Ronald Reagan won the Republican Presidential nomination in 1980 and chose as his running mate former Texas Congressman and United Nations Ambassador George Bush. Voters troubled by inflation and by the year-long confinement of Americans in Iran swept the Republican ticket into office. Reagan won 489 electoral votes to 49 for President Jimmy Carter. On January 20, 1981, Reagan took office. Only 69 days later he was shot by a would-be assassin, but quickly recovered and returned to duty. His grace and wit during the dangerous incident caused his popularity to soar.
As president, Reagan implemented sweeping new political and economic initiatives. His supply-side economic policies, dubbed "Reaganomics," advocated reducing tax rates to spur economic growth, controlling the money supply to reduce inflation, deregulation of the economy, and reducing government spending. Ronald Reagan was reelected in a landslide in 1984, proclaiming it was "Morning in America." Reagan negotiated with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, culminating in the INF Treaty and the decrease of both countries' nuclear arsenals.In Ronald Reagan's second term in office, the Iran-Contra Affair brought scandal to the presidency when it was discovered that the government had traded weapons for hostages. Though Reagan initially denied knowing about it, he later announced that it was "a mistake." It is possible that memory losses from Alzheimer's had already begun.
As Reagan's second term drew to a close, it was clear that he had not accomplished the conservative "revolution" predicted in 1980. However, an important part of his legacy was the increased conservatism of the Supreme Court. Reagan's appointment to the court of justices Sandra O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Kennedy, along with the promotion of William Rehnquist to the position of Chief Justice, had moved the court strongly to the right.
Throughout his presidency, Reagan maintained a hold on the public's affection unequaled since the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower.