Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States. He is widely considered one of the most popular, influential and successful chief executives in American history.
President Reagan is most commonly remembered as the man who defeated Soviet communism and won the Cold War. He is also credited with reviving the national Republican Party during the difficult post-Watergate era, serving as the leader of the modern conservative movement and revitalizing the nation's economy through a series of tax cuts.
Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois on February 6, 1911 and passed away on June 5, 2004. He served as President from 1981-1989. His running mate and Vice President for both of his four-year terms was George Herbert Walker Bush, who succeeded Reagan and served as America's 41st President. Reagan defeated the 39th President, Jimmy Carter, in 1980, and former Vice President Walter Mondale in 1984.
Reagan was married to actress Jane Wyman for seven years, from 1941-1948. They had two children, Michael and Maureen. The coupled was divorced and Reagan later married actress Nancy Davis in 1952. Ron and Nancy also had two children, Patricia and Ron, Jr.
Ronald Reagan worked as a sports radio announcer and studied at Eureka College prior to moving to Hollywood, California in 1937. Reagan was a successful actor, starring in dozens of films and even becoming President of the Screen Actors Guild. Democrat Reagan became a spokesman for General Electric and hosted its national television program for eight years.
Reagan campaigned for U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater for President in 1964, delivering a historic address warning of the evils of socialism that received a lot of national attention. The speech is still considered to be one of the greatest and most important political addresses in the nation's history.
Ronald Reagan subsequently switched his party affiliation to Republican and ran for Governor of California. He won a spirited campaign and went on to serve two terms as a right-of-center governor. Though less than a right-winger in office, his crack down on leftist protesters gained him the respect of conservative leaders across the country and many began discussing the possibility of a Reagan for President effort.
In 1974, Republican Richard Nixon became the first president in US history to resign from office. His successor, Gerald Ford, angered conservatives by implementing wage and price controls and appointing Goldwater rival Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President of the United States. Ford polled poorly against prospective Democratic challengers. The Reagan for President movement suddenly took on a life of its own.
Ronald Reagan announced his intention to seek the Republican presidential nomination and to unseat Gerald Ford. The GOP became badly fractured and President Ford won all of the early states in the nomination process as the Reagan for President movement appeared doomed to fail.
But the tide turned and Reagan won key victories in North Carolina, Texas and California, sweeping larger states and catching up in the national delegate count. Republicans gathered in the summer of 1976 for a fiercely divided convention in Kansas City and the Reagan delegates were very vocal. Reagan forces tried a series of parliamentary moves such as a vote to release all pledged delegates (allowing them to vote their consciences) and forcing presidential candidates to announce their support of a running mate prior to the vote for the presidential nomination.
By a narrow margin, Ford delegates outpolled their opponents and Ford went on to win the nomination. But Reagan's speech was the highlight of the convention, leaving a general feeling in the room among many delegates on both sides that they had just nominated the wrong candidate.
Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford in the 1976 general election. Conservatives wasted no time in beginning a "draft Reagan" movement for 1980. Reagan stayed in the public eye in the interim by publishing weekly newspaper columns, a cutting-edge strategy at the time. When President Carter asked the US Senate to ratify a treaty to return the Panama Canal Zone to Panamanian ownership in 1978, Ronald Reagan led the fight against ratification, an effort that ultimately revitalized his political career and landed him in the White House.
Ronald Wilson Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States on January 20, 1981. Iran, which had been holding dozens of American hostages for more than a year, released the former embassy workers within an hour of Reagan's taking office.
What started as the best year of Ronald Reagan's long lifetime came to an abrupt halt when would-be assassin John Hinckley, Jr. shot the President outside of the Washington Hilton Hotel. Reagan survived, winning the hearts of both supporters and opponents alike with his ever-positive and humorous personality, telling doctors who were about to operate on him, "I hope you're all Republicans."
Weeks later, the President surprised nearly everyone by passing the "Kemp-Roth" 25% income tax cuts through a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. The cuts are credited with turning around the American economy and mainstreaming "supply-side economics." Though Reagan cut taxes, the resulting economic growth resulted in federal government revenues increasing by 96% during the Gipper's 8 years in office.
The popular Reagan was re-elected and concluded his distinguished political career in 1989.
About that time, the Soviet Union began to disintegrate, the Berlin Wall fell and Eastern Europe was freed from communist oppression. Ronald Reagan arguably had accomplished more than any other person in the 20th Century. But his retirement years were cut short by the revelation in 1994 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer disease.
The retired president faded from public view after the announcement and lived until 2004, when the family announced his passing.
The President was buried in southern California near his presidential library in June 2004 after a moving nationally televised funeral service. Ronald Wilson Reagan, the simple boy from Tampico, Illinois, had become the man of the century, changing the course of world history and freeing hundreds of millions of people from the slavery of oppression.