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President Ronald Reagan

Updated on January 7, 2017

Ronald Wilson Reagan, (1911-2004) was the 40th president of the United States (1981-89).

Born in Tampico, Illinois. In 1940 he married actress Jane Wyman, and they had one child and adopted another before their divorce (1948).

In 1952 he married Nancy Davis, with whom he had two children. Reagan graduated from Eureka (Illinois) College in 1932 and began working as a radio sportscaster and newspaper sportswriter in Des Moines, Iowa. On assignment near Los Angeles in 1937, he took a successful screen test and in the same year appeared in the first of over 50 films he made during the following three decades.

After serving in the US Army (1942-1945), he returned to Hollywood where he was active in liberal causes, at the same time developing strong anti-Communist sentiments. In 1947 he was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild, serving five successive terms, until 1952. Working (1954-62) for the General Electric Company, he appeared on the television program General Electric Theater while serving again (1959-60) as president of the Screen Actors Guild. In 1962 he joined the Republican party and became a crusader for conservative causes and candidates.

Despite his lack of political experience, he won a landslide victory over California's incumbent governor, Edmund G. Brown, in 1966. Reagan was reelected in 1970, serving until 1974. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 and 1976. In 1980, on a ticket with George Bush, he defeated incumbent President Jimmy Carter. Reagan's campaign platform called for a balanced budget, with reduced federal spending and taxes, and a strengthening of military defense.

Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt in 1981.

Although inflation and taxes were cut, his economic program ("Reaganomics") drew much criticism and eventually was blamed for budget problems, a trade deficit, and rising health and education costs. Despite the scandal of the Iran/Contra affair (1987). he remained a popular figure and was respected for his abilities in foreign affairs and his no-nonsense, hardline approach to relations with the Soviet Union.

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