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Ronald Wilson Reagan

Ronald Wilson Reagan (born February 6, 1911– died June 5, 2004) was the 40th President of the United States, serving from 1981 to 1989. Prior to that, he was the 33rd Governor of California from 1967 to 1975 and a radio, film and television actor.

Born in Tampico, Illinois and raised in Dixon, Reagan was educated at Eureka College, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and sociology. After his graduation, Reagan moved first to Iowa to work as a radio broadcaster and then in to Los Angeles in 1937 where he began a career as an actor, first in films and later television. Some of his most notable films include Knute Rockne, All AmericanKings Row, and Bedtime for Bonzo. Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and later as a spokesman for General Electric (GE); his start in politics occurred during his work for GE. Originally a member of the Democratic Party, his positions began shifting rightward in the late 1950s, and he switched to the Republican Party in 1962. After delivering a rousing speech in support of Barry Goldwater‘s presidential candidacy in 1964, he was persuaded to seek the California governorship, winning two years later and again in 1970. He was defeated in his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 as well as 1976, but won both the nomination and general election in 1980, defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter.

Early Life

Photo: Ronald Reagan as a teenager in Dixon, Illinois

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in an apartment on the second floor of a commercial building in Tampico, Illinois on February 6, 1911, to Jack Reagan and Nelle Wilson Reagan.[2] Reagan’s father was a salesman and a storyteller, the grandson of Irish Catholic immigrants from County Tipperar  while his mother hadScots and English ancestors.   Reagan had one sibling, his older brother, Neil (1908–1996), who became an advertising executive.    As a boy, Reagan’s father nicknamed his son “Dutch”, due to his “fat little Dutchman”-like appearance, and his “Dutchboy” haircut; the nickname stuck with him throughout his youth. Reagan’s family briefly lived in several towns and cities in Illinois, including MonmouthGalesburgand Chicago, until 1919, when they returned to Tampico and lived above the H.C. Pitney Variety Store.   After his election as president, residing in the upstairs White House private quarters, Reagan would quip that he was “living above the store again.”

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.  See Tribute film to Ronald Reagan below.

1980 Republican National Convention

Photo: 40th President of the United States

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