Humanities › History & Culture Ronald Reagan - Fortieth President of the United States Share Flipboard Email Print Getty Images / Wally McNamee History & Culture American History U.S. Presidents Basics Important Historical Figures Key Events Native American History American Revolution America Moves Westward The Gilded Age Crimes & Disasters The Most Important Inventions of the Industrial Revolution African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Martin Kelly History Expert M.A., History, University of Florida B.A., History, University of Florida Martin Kelly, M.A., is a history teacher and curriculum developer. He is the author of "The Everything American Presidents Book" and "Colonial Life: Government." our editorial process Martin Kelly Updated May 09, 2019 Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois. He worked at various jobs growing up. He had a very happy childhood. He was taught to read by his mother when he was five. He attended local public schools. He then enrolled at Eureka College in Illinois where he played football and made average grades. He graduated in 1932. Family Ties: Father: John Edward "Jack" Reagan - Shoe salesman.Mother: Nelle Wilson Reagan.Siblings: One older brother.Wife: 1) Jane Wyman - Actress. They were married from January 26, 1940 until they divorced on June 28, 1948. 2) Nancy Davis - Actress. They were married on March 4, 1952.Children: One daughter by first wife - Maureen. One adopted son with first wife - Michael. One daughter and one son by second wife - Patti and Ronald Prescott. Ronald Reagan's Career Before the Presidency: Reagan began his career as a radio announcer in 1932. He became the voice of Major League Baseball. In 1937, he became an actor with a seven year contract with Warner Brothers. He moved to Hollywood and made about fifty movies. Reagan was elected Screen Actors Guild President in 1947 and served until 1952 and again from 1959-60. In 1947, he testified before the House concerning Communist influences in Hollywood. From 1967-75, Reagan was the Governor of California. World War II: Reagan was part of the Army Reserve and was called to active duty after Pearl Harbor. He was in the Army from 1942-45 rising to the level of Captain. However, he never took part in combat and stated stateside. He narrated training films and was in the Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit. Becoming the President: Reagan was the obvious choice for the Republican nomination in 1980. George Bush was chosen to run as his vice president. He was opposed by President Jimmy Carter. The campaign centered on inflation, the gasoline shortage, and the Iran hostage situation. Reagan won with 51% of the popular vote and 489 out of 538 electoral votes. Life After the Presidency: Reagan retired after his second term in office to California. In 1994, Reagan announced that he had Alzheimer's Disease and left public life. He died of pneumonia on June 5, 2004. Historical Significance: Reagan's largest significance was his role in helping bring down the Soviet Union. His massive buildup of weapons which the USSR could not match and his friendship with Premier Gorbachev helped usher in a new era of openness which eventually caused the breakup of the USSR into individual states. His presidency was marred by the events of the Iran-Contra Scandal. Events and Accomplishments of Ronald Reagan’s Presidency: Soon after Reagan took office, an assassination attempt was made on his life. On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley, Jr. shot six rounds at Reagan. He was hit by one of the bullets which caused a collapsed lung. His Press Secretary James Brady, policeman Thomas Delahanty, and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy were also all hit. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to a mental institution. Reagan adopted an economic policy whereby tax cuts were created to help increase savings, spending, and investment. Inflation went down and after a time so did unemployment. However, a huge budget deficit was created. A lot of terrorist acts occurred during Reagan's time in office. For example, in April 1983 an explosion occurred at the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Reagan claimed that five countries typically harbored aided terrorists: Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Nicaragua. Further, Muammar Qaddafi was singled out as the primary terrorist. One of the major issues of Reagan's second administration was the Iran-Contra Scandal. This involved several individuals throughout the administration. In exchange for selling arms to Iran, money would be given to the revolutionary Contras in Nicaragua. The hope was also that by selling arms to Iran, terrorist organizations would be willing to give up hostages. However, Reagan had spoken out that America would never negotiate with terrorists. The revelations of the Iran-Contra scandal caused one of the major scandals of the 1980's.In 1983, the U.S. invaded Grenada to rescue threatened Americans. They were rescued and the leftists were overthrown.One of the most important events that occurred during Reagan's administration was the growing relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Reagan created a bond with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev who instituted a new spirit of openness or 'glasnost'. This would eventually lead to the downfall of the Soviet Union during President George H. W. Bush's term in office.