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Ronald Reagan, 40th President: A Conservative Celebrity

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else we're destined to repeat it.

Official White House Photo

Life as an Actor and President of the Screen Actors Guild

The 40th United States president, Ronald Wilson Reagan, was born on February 6, 1911, in a low-income family in Tampico, Illinois. His father, John Reagan, was a shoe clerk, while his mother loved theater. He grew to enjoy it as well and pursued acting as an adult. Growing up, his nickname was Dutch.

In high school, he appeared in many plays; he was also active in swimming and football. After graduating high school, he attended Eureka College, studying economics and sociology. He also continued his extracurricular interests. After graduation, he became a radio sports announcer. In 1937, he traveled to California with the Chicago Cubs during spring training camp to broadcast their games. It was there that he got his first big acting break. He eventually appeared in 53 movies. He was very active in the Screen Actors Guild and served as its president for six years.

While president of the Guild, his political views changed as he became entangled in debates about communism in the film industry. Although he was initially a Democrat, he toured the country as a conservative television host, which would eventually lead him to being elected as governor of California in 1966 by a substantial margin, where he would serve two terms.

In his personal life, he married twice. The first time was to a costar named Jane Wyman, who had been divorced twice before. They had three children, Maureen, Michael, and Christine, who died prematurely. After their daughter died, Jane filed for her third divorce. Reagan remarried in 1952 to Nancy Davis, who was also an actress. They had two more children, Patricia and Ronald Prescott, and lived happily together for the rest of their life.

A year after being governor, he decided to run for the Republican presidential nomination, which he lost to President Ford. Unfortunately, Ford lost that election and Jimmy Carter became president.

Ronald Reagan in the U.S. Army Air Force, 1940s.


Reagan ran again with George H. W. Bush as his running mate. He gained the Republican presidential nomination and ultimately won against Carter by a landslide. His primary focus during and after his campaign was for defending hard work ethic, the family, and patriotism.

He became well known for his economic policies, known as Reaganomics. He worked skillfully with Congress, where he worked hard to curb inflation, stimulate economic growth, increase employment, and strengthen national defense. He slashed taxes, but also cut spending on welfare and unemployment programs.

He felt strongly about keeping the military strong to maintain peace, especially with the Soviet Union. He did allow extra spending for missiles, bombers, and other weapons, ultimately increasing the defense spending by 35 percent throughout his time in office.

The nation felt secure under Reaganomics and re-elected Reagan with a very high majority of electoral votes for a second term.

He continued with many of his economic programs, eliminating many deductions and exempting millions of people who had low incomes. By the end of his administration, the United States had its longest recorded period of peace without recession or depression.

He continued to seek to improve relations with the Soviet Union. He did several summit meetings with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1987, they signed a nuclear missile treaty, which disarmed many nuclear-armed missiles. This was thought to be his greatest success.

Unfortunately, he did declare war against international terrorism after it was revealed that Libya attacked American soldiers in a West Berlin nightclub, in which he sent American bombers to Libya.

He maintained his anti-communist stance and supported Central America, Asia, and Africa to stop the spread of Communism. He also maintained the transport of oil during the Iran-Iraq war by ordering naval escorts to the Persian Gulf.

His programs were thought to be so successful that his time in office became known as the Reagan Revolution at the end of his second term. He felt he was successful in accomplishing what he sought to do, which was to restore "the great, confident roar of American progress and growth and optimism."

He died in his home at the age of 93, on June 5, 2004, after suffering from Alzheimer's. On March 6, 2016, his wife Nancy died of congestive heart failure at 94. They both are buried at his presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

Reagan as an Actor

Fun Facts

  • He was a movie star before becoming president, appearing in 53 films.
  • He played football in college.
  • He designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national holiday.
  • In the 1947 movie That Hagen Girl, Reagan performed with Shirley Temple. She later stated he was her best on-screen kisser.
  • At the time, he was the oldest president ever to be elected at age 69. The next was Eisenhower, who was 70 when he left office. Donald Trump would eventually become the oldest elected president at age 70. Then one term later Joe Biden would at 72.
  • He was an FBI informer in 1947, who informed the Feds of actors who were part of the Communist party or were sympathizers.

Basic Facts

Question Answer


February 6, 1911 - Illinois

President Number




Military Service

United States Army Air Forces

Wars Served


Age at Beginning of Presidency

70 years old

Term of Office

January 20, 1981 - January 20, 1989

How Long Served as President

8 years


George H. W. Bush

Age and Year of Death

June 5, 2004 (aged 93)

Cause of Death

pneumonia, complicated by Alzheimer's disease

Model of USS Ronald Reagan

Former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, as well as Newport News Shipbuilding Chairman and CEO Bill Fricks stand behind the model of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).

Former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, as well as Newport News Shipbuilding Chairman and CEO Bill Fricks stand behind the model of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).


  • "10 things you (probably) didn't know about Ronald Reagan." History Extra. Accessed November 14, 2017.
  • Cleary, Tom. "Ronald Reagan’s Death: When Did the Former President Die?" March 06, 2016. Accessed January 13, 2018.
  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Ronald Reagan. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from
  • Roger Schlueter <a href="" title=""> "Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman's love story had an unhappy ending." Bnd. Accessed January 13, 2018.
  • Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2018 Angela Michelle Schultz