President Ronald Wilson Reagan
Compilation by D. A. Sharpe
President Ronald Wilson Reagan was born February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Whiteside County, Illinois. He is the seventh cousin, once removed to me. The Ancestors in common between President Reagan and me are Susannah Coldman and her husband, John Bishop. They are my seventh great grandparents from the 1600's. Ronald Reagan and I are seventh cousins, once removed.
Reagan was the 40th President of the United States (1981-1989) and was elected earlier as the 33rd Governor of the State of California (1967 - 1975). Prior to his political successes, he was a professional screen actor and elected President of the Screen Actors Guild. He is the only U. S. President who also served as a labor union president.
Ronald Reagan was raised in a poor family in small towns of northern Illinois, Reagan graduated from Eureka College in 1932 and worked as a sports announcer on several regional radio stations. After moving to Hollywood in 1937, he became an actor and starred in a few major productions. Reagan was twice elected President of the Screen Actors Guild—the labor union for actors—where he worked to root out Communist influence. In the 1950s, he moved into television and was a motivational speaker at General Electric factories. Reagan had always been a Democrat until 1962 when he became a conservative and switched to the Republican Party. In 1964, Reagan's speech, "A Time for Choosing", supported Barry Goldwater's foundering presidential campaign and earned him national attention as a new conservative spokesman. Building a network of supporters, he was elected Governor of California in 1966. As governor, Reagan raised taxes, turned a state budget deficit to a surplus, challenged the protesters at the University of California, ordered National Guard troops in during a period of protest movements in 1969, and was re-elected in 1970. He twice ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency in 1968 and 1976; four years later, he easily won the nomination outright, becoming the oldest elected U.S. president up to that time, defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Entering the presidency in 1981, Reagan implemented sweeping new political and economic initiatives. His supply-side economic policies, dubbed "Reaganomics", advocated tax rate reduction to spur economic growth, control of the money supply to curb inflation, economic deregulation, and reduction in government spending. In his first term he survived an assassination attempt, spurred the War on Drugs, and fought public sector labor. Over his two terms, the economy saw a reduction of inflation from 12.5% to 4.4%, and an average annual growth of real GDP of 3.4; while Reagan did enact cuts in domestic discretionary spending, tax cuts and increased military spending contributed to increased federal outlays overall, even after adjustment for inflation. During his re-election bid, Reagan campaigned on the notion that it was "Morning in America", winning a landslide in 1984 with the largest electoral college victory in American history. Foreign affairs dominated his second term, including ending of the Cold War, the bombing of Libya, and the Iran–Contra affair. Publicly describing the Soviet Union as an "evil empire", and during his famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate, President Reagan challenged Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!". He transitioned Cold War policy from détente to rollback, by escalating an arms race with the USSR while engaging in talks with Gorbachev, which culminated in the INF Treaty, shrinking both countries' nuclear arsenals. Reagan's presidency came during the decline of the Soviet Union and just ten months after the end of his term, the Berlin Wall fell, and on December 26, 1991, nearly three years after he left office, the Soviet Union collapsed.
When Reagan left office in 1989, he held an approval rating of sixty-eight percent, matching those of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and later Bill Clinton, as the highest ratings for departing presidents in the modern era. He was the first president since Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve two full terms, after a succession of five prior presidents did not, some under unusual circumstances. Although he had planned an active post-presidency, Reagan disclosed in 1994 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier that year. He appeared publicly for the last time at the funeral of Richard Nixon. He died ten years later in 2004 at the age of 93. Reagan had the second-longest life out of all the presidents; the current longest lifespan of a president is held by Gerald Ford, who died two years after Reagan. An icon among Republicans, he is viewed favorably in historian rankings of U.S. presidents, and his tenure constituted a realignment toward conservative policies in the U.S.
He married actress Jane Wyman in 1940, and they divorced in 1949. He married Nancy Davis in 1952.
According to Paul Kengor, author of God and Ronald Reagan, Reagan had a particularly strong faith in the goodness of people; this faith stemmed from the optimistic faith of his mother and the Disciples of Christ faith, into which he was baptized in 1922. For the time, Reagan's opposition to racial discrimination was unusual. He recalled the time in Dixon when the proprietor of a local inn would not allow black people to stay there, and he brought them back to his house. His mother invited them to stay overnight and have breakfast the next morning. After the closure of the Pitney Store in late 1920 and the family's move to Dixon, the Midwestern "small universe" had a lasting impression on Reagan.
Reagan attended Dixon High School, where he developed interests in acting, sports, and storytelling. His first job involved lifeguarding at the Rock River in Lowell Park in 1927. Over a six-year period, Reagan reportedly performed 77 rescues as a lifeguard. He attended Eureka College, a Disciples-oriented liberal arts school, where he became a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, a cheerleader, and studied economics and sociology. While involved, the Miller Center of Public Affairs described him as an "indifferent student". He majored in economics and sociology, and graduated with a C grade. He developed a reputation as a "jack of all trades", excelling in campus politics, sports, and theater. He was a member of the football team and captain of the swim team. He was elected student body president and led a student revolt against the college president after the president tried to cut back the faculty.
On Reagan's 87th birthday, in 1998, Washington National Airport was renamed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport by a bill signed into law by President Bill Clinton. That year, the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center was dedicated in Washington, D.C. He was among 18 included in Gallup's most admired man and woman poll of the 20th century, from a poll conducted in the U.S. in 1999; two years later, USS Ronald Reagan was christened by Nancy Reagan and the United States Navy. It is one of few Navy ships christened in honor of a living person and the first aircraft carrier to be named in honor of a living former president.
Ronald Wilson Reagan died on June 5, 2004 at age 93 in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California. The cause of death was pneumonia, complicated by Alzheimer's disease. His final resting place is at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center.
Dwight Albert (D. A.) Sharpe
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