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"Reagan" redirects here. For other uses of "Reagan", see Reagan (disambiguation).
|40th President of the United States|
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
|Vice President||George H. W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Jimmy Carter|
|Succeeded by||George H. W. Bush|
|33rd Governor of California|
January 2, 1967 – January 6, 1975
|Preceded by||Pat Brown|
|Succeeded by||Jerry Brown|
|Born||Ronald Wilson Reagan
February 6, 1911
Tampico, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||June 5, 2004 (aged 93)
Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California
|Political party||Republican (1962 and after)|
|Democratic (before 1962)|
|Relations||Neil Reagan (brother)|
|Children||5, including Maureen, Michael, Patricia, and Ronald ("Ron")|
Nelle Wilson Reagan
|Alma mater||Eureka College|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||U.S. Army Air Forces|
|Years of service||1937–45|
|Unit||18th Army Air Forces Base Unit|
|This article is part of a series about
President of the United States
Raised in a poor family in small towns of Northern Illinois, Ronald Reagan graduated from Eureka College in 1932 and worked as a sports announcer on several regional radio stations. Moving to Hollywood in 1937, he became an actor, starring in a few major productions. Reagan was twice elected as President of the Screen Actors Guild, the labor union for actors, where he worked to root out Communist influence. In the 1950s he moved into television and was a motivational speaker at General Electric factories. Having been a lifelong liberal Democrat, his views changed. He became a conservative and in 1962 switched to the Republican Party. In 1964, Reagan's speech, "A Time for Choosing", in support of Barry Goldwater's floundering presidential campaign, earned him national attention as a new conservative spokesman. Building a network of supporters, he was elected Governor of California in 1966. As governor, Reagan raised taxes, turned a state budget deficit to a surplus, challenged the protesters at the University of California, ordered National Guard troops in during a period of protest movements in 1969, and was re-elected in 1970. He twice ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nominations in 1968 and 1976; four years later, he easily won the nomination outright, going on to be elected the oldest President, defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Entering the presidency in 1981, Reagan implemented sweeping new political and economic initiatives. His supply-side economic policies, dubbed "Reaganomics", advocated tax rate reduction to spur economic growth, control of the money supply to curb inflation, economic deregulation, and reduction in government spending. In his first term he survived an assassination attempt, escalated the War on Drugs, and fought public-sector labor. His economic policies saw a reduction of inflation from 12.5% to 4.4%, and an average annual growth of GDP of 7.91%; while Reagan did enact cuts in domestic spending, military spending increased federal outlays overall, even after adjustment for inflation. During his reelection bid, Reagan campaigned on the notion that it was "Morning in America", winning a landslide in 1984 with the largest electoral college victory in history. Foreign affairs dominated his second term, including ending of the Cold War, the bombing of Libya, and the Iran–Contra affair. Publicly describing the Soviet Union as an "evil empire", he transitioned Cold War policy from détente to rollback, by escalating an arms race with the USSR while engaging in talks with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, which culminated in the INF Treaty, shrinking both countries' nuclear arsenals. During his famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate, President Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!" Months after the end of his term, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed soon thereafter.
Leaving office in 1989, Reagan held an approval rating of sixty-eight percent, matching those of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and later Bill Clinton, as the highest ratings for departing presidents in the modern era. While having planned an active post-presidency, in 1994 Reagan disclosed his diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease earlier that year, appearing publicly for the last time at the funeral of Richard Nixon; he died ten years later at the age of 93. An icon among Republicans, he ranks favorably in public and critical opinion of U.S. Presidents, and his tenure constituted a realignment toward conservative policies in the United States.
According to Paul Kengor, author of God and Ronald Reagan, Reagan had a particularly strong faith in the goodness of people, which stemmed from the optimistic faith of his mother, Nelle, and the Disciples of Christ faith, which he was baptized into in 1922. For the time, Reagan was unusual in his opposition to racial discrimination, and recalled a time in Dixon when the local inn would not allow black people to stay there. Reagan brought them back to his house, where his mother invited them to stay the night and have breakfast the next morning.
Further information: Ronald Reagan filmography
Radio and film
While traveling with the Cubs in California, Reagan took a screen test in 1937 that led to a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers studios. He spent the first few years of his Hollywood career in the "B film" unit, where, Reagan joked, the producers "didn't want them good, they wanted them Thursday".
Reagan's favorite acting role was as a double amputee in 1942's Kings Row, in which he recites the line, "Where's the rest of me?", later used as the title of his 1965 autobiography. Many film critics considered Kings Row to be his best movie, though the film was condemned by New York Times critic Bosley Crowther.
Although Reagan called Kings Row the film that "made me a star", he was unable to capitalize on his success because he was ordered to active duty with the U.S. Army at San Francisco two months after its release, and never regained "star" status in motion pictures. In the post-war era, after being separated from almost four years of World War II stateside service with the 1st Motion Picture Unit in December 1945, Reagan co-starred in such films as, The Voice of the Turtle, John Loves Mary, The Hasty Heart, Bedtime for Bonzo, Cattle Queen of Montana, Tennessee's Partner, Hellcats of the Navy (the only film in which he appears with Nancy Reagan) and the 1964 remake The Killers (his final film and the only one in which he played a villain). Throughout his film career, his mother often answered much of his fan mail.
Reagan was ordered to active duty for the first time on April 18, 1942. Due to his poor eyesight, he was classified for limited service only, which excluded him from serving overseas. His first assignment was at the San Francisco Port of Embarkation at Fort Mason, California, as a liaison officer of the Port and Transportation Office. Upon the approval of the Army Air Force (AAF), he applied for a transfer from the cavalry to the AAF on May 15, 1942, and was assigned to AAF Public Relations and subsequently to the First Motion Picture Unit (officially, the "18th Army Air Force Base Unit") in Culver City, California. On January 14, 1943, he was promoted to first lieutenant and was sent to the Provisional Task Force Show Unit of This Is The Army at Burbank, California. He returned to the First Motion Picture Unit after completing this duty and was promoted to captain on July 22, 1943.
In January 1944, Reagan was ordered to temporary duty in New York City to participate in the opening of the Sixth War Loan Drive. He was reassigned to the First Motion Picture Unit on November 14, 1944, where he remained until the end of World War II. He was recommended for promotion to major on February 2, 1945, but this recommendation was disapproved on July 17 of that year. While with the First Motion Picture Unit in 1945, he was indirectly involved in discovering actress Marilyn Monroe. He returned to Fort MacArthur, California, where he was separated from active duty on December 9, 1945. By the end of the war, his units had produced some 400 training films for the AAF.
Reagan never left the United States during the war, though he kept a film reel, obtained while in the service, depicting the liberation of Auschwitz, as he believed that someday doubts would arise as to whether the Holocaust had occurred. It has been alleged that he was overheard telling Israeli foreign minister Yitzhak Shamir in 1983 that he had filmed that footage himself and helped liberate Auschwitz, though this purported conversation was disputed by Secretary of State George Shultz.
Secret FBI informant in HollywoodDuring the late 1940s, Reagan and his wife provided the FBI with names of actors within the motion picture industry whom they believed to be communist sympathizers, though he expressed reservations; he said "Do they expect us to constitute ourselves as a little FBI of our own and determine just who is a Commie and who isn't?".
Reagan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee on the subject as well. A fervent anti-communist, he reaffirmed his commitment to democratic principles, stating, "I never as a citizen want to see our country become urged, by either fear or resentment of this group, that we ever compromise with any of our democratic principles through that fear or resentment."
TelevisionThough an early critic of television, Reagan landed fewer film roles in the late 1950s and decided to join the medium. He was hired as the host of General Electric Theater, a series of weekly dramas that became very popular. His contract required him to tour GE plants sixteen weeks out of the year, often demanding of him fourteen speeches per day. He earned approximately $125,000 per year (about $1.07 million in 2010 dollars) in this role. 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 General Electric Theater in 1958 called "A Turkey for the President".
Marriages and children
Observers described the Reagans' relationship as close, authentic and intimate. During his presidency they were reported to frequently display their affection for one another; one press secretary said, "They never took each other for granted. They never stopped courting." He often called her "Mommy" and she called him "Ronnie". He once wrote to her, "Whatever I treasure and enjoy ... all would be without meaning if I didn't have you." When he was in the hospital in 1981, she slept with one of his shirts to be comforted by his scent. In a letter to U.S. citizens written in 1994, Reagan wrote "I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.... I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience", and in 1998, while Reagan was stricken by Alzheimer's, Nancy told Vanity Fair, "Our relationship is very special. We were very much in love and still are. When I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it's true. It did. I can't imagine life without him."
Early political career, 1948–67Reagan began his political career as a liberal Democrat. He joined numerous political committees with a strong left-wing orientation, such as the American Veterans Committee. He fought against Republican-sponsored right-to-work legislation and for Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1950, when she was defeated for the Senate by Richard Nixon. It was his realization that Communists were a powerful backstage influence in those groups, that led him to rally his friends against them.
Reagan spoke frequently at rallies with a strong ideological dimension; in December 1945, he was stopped from leading an anti-nuclear rally in Hollywood by pressure from the Warner Bros. studio. He would later make nuclear weapons a key point of his presidency, specifically his opposition to mutually assured destruction, building on previous efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons to a new focus to reduce the numbers and types of them. In the 1948 election, Reagan strongly supported Harry S. Truman, appearing on stage with him during a campaign speech in Los Angeles. However, in the early 1950s, as his relationship with Republican actress Nancy Davis grew, he shifted to the right and, while remaining a Democrat, endorsed the presidential candidacies of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 as well as Richard Nixon in 1960.
He was hired by General Electric in 1954 to host the General Electric Theater, a weekly TV drama series. Much more important, he crisscrossed the country giving talks to over 200,000 GE employees as a motivational speaker. Reagan already embraced the conservative views of the sponsoring company's officials. His many speeches—which he wrote himself—were non-partisan but carried a conservative, pro-business message; he was influenced by Lemuel Boulware, a senior GE executive. Boulware, known for his tough stance against unions and his innovative strategies to win over workers, championed the core tenets of modern American conservatism: free markets, anticommunism, lower taxes, and limited government. Eager for a larger stage, but not allowed to enter politics by GE, he quit and formally registered as a Republican. He often said "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me".
When legislation that would become Medicare was introduced in 1961, Reagan created a recording for the American Medical Association warning that such legislation would mean the end of freedom in America. Reagan said that if his listeners did not write letters to prevent it, "we will awake to find that we have socialism. And if you don't do this, and if I don't do it, one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free." He also joined the National Rifle Association and would become a lifetime member.
Reagan gained national attention in his speeches for conservative presidential contender Barry Goldwater in 1964. Speaking for Goldwater, Reagan stressed his belief in the importance of smaller government. Consolidating themes he had developed in talks for GE, he argued in "A Time for Choosing" (October 27, 1964):
- The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing....You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream – the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order – or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism."