Ronald Reagan: 40th President

Updated on January 16, 2018
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Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past or else be destined to repeat it.

Official White House Photo

President of the Screen Actors Guild

Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th United States President, was the oldest man ever elected for the position. He 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 he was nicknamed Dutch.

In high school, he appeared in many plays, while also active in swimming and football. After graduating high school he attended Eureka College where he studied economics and sociology. He also continued his extracurricular interests, then after graduation became a radio sports announcer. In 1937, he was able to travel in California with the Chicago Cubs during spring training camp in order 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 became its president for six years.

While president of the Guild, his political views changed as he became ensnared in debates about Communism in the film industry. Although he was initially a Democrat, he ended up touring the country as a conservative television host. This would eventually lead him to become elected as Governor of California in 1966 by a very large margin, where he would serve two terms.

In his personal life, he married twice. The first time was to a costar 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. He 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 his life.

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

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

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

He felt strong about keeping the military strong in order 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 deduction 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 gave support to Central America, Asia, and Africa in order 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 at the end of his second term, his time in office became known as the Reagan Revolution. 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 several years suffering from Alzheimer’s. His wife Nancy died March 6, 2016 of congestive heart failure at 94. They both are buried at his presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

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


Fun Facts

  • Was a movie star before becoming president, appearing in 53 films.
  • Played football in college.
  • Designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday.
  • In the 1947 movie That Hagen Girl Reagan performed with Shirley Temple. She later stated he was her best onscreen kisser.
  • He was the oldest President to ever be elected at age 70. The next was Eisenhower, who was 70 when he left office.
  • He was an FBI informer in 1947, who informed the Feds of actors who were part of the Communist party and sympathizers.

Excerpt from the History Channel

List of United States of America

1. George Washington
16. Abraham Lincoln
31. Herbert Hoover
2. John Adams
17. Andrew Johnson
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Thomas Jefferson
18. Ulysses S. Grant
33. Harry S. Truman
4. James Madison
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
5. James Monroe
20. James Garfield
35. John F. Kennedy
6. John Quincy Adams
21. Chester A. Arthur
36. Lyndon B. Johnson
7. Andrew Jackson
22. Grover Cleveland
37. Richard M. Nixon
8. Martin Van Buren
23. Benjamin Harrison
38. Gerald R. Ford
9. William Henry Harrison
24. Grover Cleveland
39. James Carter
10. John Tyler
25. William McKinley
40. Ronald Reagan
11. James K. Polk
26. Theodore Roosevelt
41. George H. W. Bush
12. Zachary Taylor
27. William Howard Taft
42. William J. Clinton
13. Millard Fillmore
28. Woodrow Wilson
43. George W. Bush
14. Franklin Pierce
29. Warren G. Harding
44. Barack Obama
15. James Buchanan
30. Calvin Coolidge
45. Donald Trump

Reagan as an Actor


Basic Facts

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). | Source


  • "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.

© 2018 Angela Michelle Schultz


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