10 Things to Know About Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan

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Ronald Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois. The following are ten key facts that are important when studying the life and presidency of the fortieth president of the United States.

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He Had a Happy Childhood

Ronald Reagan said that he grew up with a happy childhood. His father was a shoe salesman, and his mother taught her son how to read when he was five years old. Reagan did well in school and graduated from Eureka College in Illinois in 1932.

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He Was the Only President to Have Been Divorced

Reagan's first wife, Jane Wyman, was a well-known actress. She starred in both movies and television.  Together, they had three children before divorcing on June 28, 1948.

On March 4, 1952, Reagan married Nancy Davis, another actress. Together they had two children. Nancy Reagan was known for starting the "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign. She caused controversy when she purchased new White House china while America was in a recession. She also was called out for using astrology throughout Reagan's presidency. 

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He Was the Voice of the Chicago Cubs

After graduating from Eureka College in 1932, Reagan began his professional career as a radio announcer and became the voice of the Chicago Cubs, renowned for his ability to give play-by-play game commentary based on telegraphs. 

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He Was the Screen Actor's Guild President and Governor of California

 In 1937, Reagan was given a seven-year contract as an actor for Warner Brothers. He made fifty movies over the course of his career. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he served in the Army. However, he spent his time during the war narrating training films. 

In 1947, Reagan was elected as the president of the Screen Actors Guild. While president, he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee about communism in Hollywood. 

In 1967, Reagan was a Republican and became governor in California. He served in this role until 1975. He tried to run for president in both 1968 and 1976 but was not chosen as the Republican nominee until 1980. 

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He Easily Won the Presidency in 1980 and 1984

Reagan was opposed by incumbent President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Campaign issues included inflation, high unemployment rates, the gasoline shortage, and the Iran hostage situation. Reagan ended up winning the electoral votes in 44 out of 50 states. 

When Reagan ran for reelection in 1984, he was hugely popular. He won 59 percent of the popular vote and 525 out of 538 electoral votes. 

Reagan won with 51 percent of the popular vote. Carter only gained 41 percent of the vote. In the end, forty-four out of the fifty states went to Reagan, giving him 489 out of 538 electoral votes.

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He Was Shot Two Months After Taking Office

On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley, Jr. shot Reagan. He was hit by one bullet, causing a collapsed lung. Three other individuals including his press secretary James Brady were seriously wounded. 

Hinckley claimed that the reason for his attempted assassination was to impress actress Jodie Foster. He was tried and found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to a mental institution. 

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He Espoused Reaganomics

Reagan became president during a time of double-digit inflation. Attempts to increase interest rates to help combat this only led to higher unemployment and recession. Reagan and his economic advisors adopted a policy nicknamed Reaganomics which was basically supply-side economics. Tax cuts were created to spur spending which would and did lead to more jobs. Inflation went down and so did unemployment rates. On the flip side, huge budget deficits were incurred. 

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He Was President During the Iran-Contra Scandal

During Reagan's second administration, the Iran-Contra scandal occurred. Several individuals within Reagan's administration were implicated. Money gained from secretly selling arms to Iran was given to revolutionary Contras in Nicaragua. The Iran-Contra scandals were one of the most serious scandals of the 1980s. 

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He Presided Over a Term of 'Glasnost' at the End of the Cold War

One of the key events of Reagan's presidency was the relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Reagan built a relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who instituted "glasnost" or a new spirit of openness.

During the 1980s, Soviet-controlled countries began claiming their independence. On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. All of this would lead to the downfall of the Soviet Union during President George H. W. Bush's term in office.

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He Suffered From Alzheimer's After the Presidency

After Reagan's second term in office, he retired to his ranch. In 1994, Reagan announced that he had Alzheimer's disease and left public life. On June 5, 2004, Ronald Reagan died of pneumonia.

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Kelly, Martin. "10 Things to Know About Ronald Reagan." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-ronald-reagan-104888. Kelly, Martin. (2023, April 5). 10 Things to Know About Ronald Reagan. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-ronald-reagan-104888 Kelly, Martin. "10 Things to Know About Ronald Reagan." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-ronald-reagan-104888 (accessed June 8, 2023).