Birth Date: February 6, 1911
Birth Place: Tampico, Illinois, USA
Date of Death: June 5, 2004 / Age: 93
Location of Death: Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of Death: pneumonia and alzheimer's disease
Biography: Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989) and the 33rd Governor of California (1967–1975). Reagan was also a broadcaster, actor, and head of the Screen Actor's Guild before entering politics.
Early life and career
Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, the second of two sons to John "Jack" Reagan and Nelle Wilson. One of his four great-grandfathers had immigrated to the United States from Ballyporeen, Ireland in the 1860s. Prior to his grandfather's emigration, the family name had been spelled Regan.
In 1920, after years of moving from town to town, the family settled in Dixon, Illinois. In 1921, at the age of 10, Reagan was baptized in his mother's Disciples of Christ church in Dixon, and in 1924 he began attending Dixon's Northside High School. Reagan always considered Dixon to be his hometown.
In 1927, at age 16, Reagan took a summer job as a lifeguard in Lowell Park, two miles away from Dixon on the nearby Rock River. He continued to work as a lifeguard for the next seven years, reportedly saving 77 people from drowning. Reagan would later joke that none of them ever thanked him.
In 1928, Reagan entered Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois, majoring in economics and sociology and graduating in 1932. In 1929 Reagan joined the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity which he later recalled during numerous interviews and conversations as one of the greatest experiences he had during his college years. Though earning mediocre grades, he made many lasting friendships. Reagan developed an early gift for storytelling and acting. He was a radio announcer as an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs baseball games, getting only the bare outlines of the game from a ticker and relying on his imagination and storytelling gifts to flesh out the game. Once in 1934, during the ninth inning of a Cubs-St. Louis Cardinals game, the wire went dead. Reagan smoothly improvised a fictional play-by-play (in which hitters on both teams fouled off pitches) until the wire was restored.
In 1937, while in California to cover the spring training session of the Chicago Cubs as a radio announcer, Reagan took a screen test that led to a seven-year contract with the Warner Brothers studio. Reagan's clear voice and athletic physique made him popular with some audiences; the majority of his screen roles were as the leading man in B movies. His first screen credit was the starring role in the 1937 movie Love Is On the Air. By the end of 1939, he had appeared in 19 films. In 1940 he played the role of George "The Gipper" Gipp in the film Knute Rockne, All American, from which he acquired the nickname the Gipper, which he retained the rest of his life. Reagan himself considered his best acting work to have been in Kings Row (1942). He played the part of a young man whose legs were amputated. He used a line he spoke in this film, "Where's the rest of me?" as the title for his autobiography. Other notable Reagan films include Hellcats of the Navy, This Is the Army, and Bedtime for Bonzo. Reagan was kidded widely about the last named film because his co-star was a chimpanzee. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6374 Hollywood Blvd.
Reagan was commissioned as a reserve cavalry officer in the U.S. Army in 1935. After the attack on Pearl Harbor he was activated and assigned, partially due to his poor eyesight, to the First Motion Picture Unit in the United States Army Air Force, which made training and education films. He remained in Hollywood for the duration of the war, and he attained the rank of captain. Reagan tried repeatedly to go overseas for combat duty, but was turned down because of his astigmatism.
Reagan married actress Jane Wyman in 1940. They had a daughter, Maureen in 1941 and adopted a son, Michael in 1945. Their second daughter, Christine, was born four months prematurely in 1947 and lived only one day. They divorced in 1948. Reagan remarried in 1952 to actress Nancy Davis. Their daughter Patti was born on October 21 of the same year. In 1958 they had a second child, Ron. In his second marriage, Reagan was known as a loving and devoted husband.
As Reagan's film roles became fewer in the late 1950s, he moved into television as a host and frequent performer for General Electric Theater. In the GE effort, for the first time, he encountered the working class and labor union population that he had previously not understood. Reagan now identified with them, which may be the original nexus between the conservative movement, and the understanding of the labor unions, which resulted in the "Reagan-Democrat" 1984, movement. Reagan appeared in many live television plays and often co-starred with Nancy. Reagan became head of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and served in this position from 1947 until 1952, and then again from 1959 to 1960. In 1952, a Hollywood scandal raged over his granting of a SAG blanket waiver to MCA, which allowed it to both represent and employ talent for its burgeoning TV franchises. He went from host and program supervisor of General Electric Theater to actually producing and claiming an equity stake in the TV show itself. At one point in the late 1950s, Reagan was earning approximately $125,000 per year. His final regular acting job was as host and performer on Death Valley Days. Reagan's final big-screen appearance came in the 1964 film The Killers, in which, uncharacteristically, he played a mob chieftain. This film was a remake of an earlier version, based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway. Reagan's co-stars were John Cassavetes and Lee Marvin.