Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois, to John Edward “Jack” Reagan and Nellie Wilson Reagan. His father nicknamed him “Dutch,” saying he looked like “a fat little Dutchman. ” During Reagan’s early childhood, his family lived in multiple towns, finally settling in Dixon, Illinois, in 1920, where Jack Reagan opened a shoe store. In 1928, Ronald 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 t 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 a Job as a radio sports announcer in Iowa. In 1938, Reagan co-starred in the film Brother Rat with actress Jane Wyman. They got engaged at the Chicago theatre and then married on January 26, 1940.
Together they had two children, Maureen, and Christine (who was born in 1947 but only lived one day), and adopted a third, Michael. Following arguments about Reagan’s political ambitions, Wyman filed for divorce in 1948. The divorce was finalized in 1949. He is the only US president to have been divorced. Reagan met actress Nancy Davis in 1949 after she contacted him while he was president of the Screen Actors Guild to help her with issues regarding her name appearing on a communist blacklist in Hollywood (she had been mistaken for another Nancy Davis).
She described their meeting by saying, “l don’t know if it was exactly love at first sight, but it was pretty close. ” They were engaged at Chasen’s restaurant in Los Angeles and were married n March 4, 1952, at the Little Brown Church in the San Fernando Valley. They had two children named Patti and Ron. Friends described the Reagans’ relationship as close, authentic and intimate. He often called her “Mommy” 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, “l 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 suffering 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. ” Reagan stepped into the national political spotlight in 1964, when he gave a well- received televised speech for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, a dedicated conservative. Two years later, in his first race for public office, Reagan defeated Democratic incumbent Edmund “Pat” Brown Sr. y almost 1 million votes, winning the California governorship. He was re-elected to a second term in 1970.
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