Served: January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
Born: February 6, 1911
Birthplace: Tampico, Illinois
Died: June 5, 2004
Political Party: Republican
Spouse: Jane Wyman (1940-1948), Nancy Davis (1952-2004)
How a Former Actor Became President
Before Ronald Reagan became the 40th president of the United States, he was known for his governorship in California, where he served from 1967 to 1975. Additionally, Reagan had been an actor, appearing on radio, television, and film.
During his first term, Reagan focused largely on domestic issues, especially economic reform. His economic policies were named “Reaganomics” and included reduced tax rates, deregulation, and reduced government spending. Reagan also had an assassination attempt on his life, which he survived.
The Life of an Actor
Reagan attended Eureka College and graduated with a double degree in economics and sociology. Immediately after graduation, he began working as a radio host and DJ until he moved to Los Angeles to start his acting career.
As an actor, he made several films and then moved on to being a television actor. He was never known as an A-list actor, but he was a well-known B-lister. Later, he became president of the Screen Actors Guild.
In 1937, Reagan enlisted in the Army Reserve as a private. His first active duty assignment was in Fort Mason, California at the San Francisco Port of Embarkation, where he was Port and Transportation liaison officer. In 1942, he transferred into the Army Air Force, assigned to the public relations department.
Reagan married actress Jane Wyman in 1940 and they had three children, one of whom was adopted. In 1948, they divorced, making Reagan the only U.S. president to have ever been divorced. In 1952, Reagan remarried actress Nancy Davis, and they had two children together.
Ronald Reagan’s Pets
- Lucky, Bouvier des Flandres who had natural ears and was soon sent to the ranch
- Rex, Cavalier King Charles spaniel
- Victory, golden retriever
- Peggy, Irish setter
- Taca, Siberian husky
- Fuzzy, Belgian sheepdog
- Horses at ranch
MORE PETS! Check out our photo gallery of selected White House pets
An Interest in Politics Leads to the Presidency
By 1966, Reagan had become interested in politics and ran for governor of California. He was elected to two terms before deciding to run for president, defeating Jimmy Carter in 1980.
In Reagan’s first term as president, he announced a war on drugs; by his second term, he had refocused on foreign affairs. Reagan strongly supported anti-Communist movements throughout his presidency. His second term was mired in the Iran-Contra affair.
Check out this video of Reagan’s “We the People” Speech, his farewell address to the nation in 1988:
Did You Know…?
- Although Reagan is often thought of as one of the great modern Republican presidents, he actually aligned himself with Democrats when he first became interested in politics. Over time, his views changed and by the time he became president, he had become much more conservative.
- Both Reagan and his wife were FBI informants in the 1940s, when they supplied the FBI with a list of actors they thought were Communist sympathizers. Later Reagan also testified in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee.
- In his later years, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a fact he made public in 1994. Whether Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s while in office is a matter of some debate. The former president died in 2004 at age 93.