Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989). Prior to his presidency, he served as the 33rd Governor of California (1967–1975), and was a radio, film and television actor.
Born in Tampico, Illinois, and raised in Dixon, Reagan was educated at Eureka College, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and sociology. After graduating, Reagan moved first to Iowa to work as a radio broadcaster and then, in 1937, to Los Angeles where he began a career as an actor, first in films and later television. Some of his most notable films include Knute Rockne, All American (1940), Kings Row (1942), and Bedtime for Bonzo (1951). Reagan served as President of the Screen Actors Guild and later as a spokesman for General Electric (GE); his start in politics occurred during his work for GE. Originally a member of the Democratic Party, his positions began shifting rightward in the 1950s, and he switched to the Republican Party in 1962.
One of the last photos the family released of Reagan was taken on Feb. 6, 2000, his 89th birthday. It shows him and his wife at home, in matching red sweaters, sharing a kiss and cake, the former president still looking trim. As late as the year before, his biographer Edmund Morris reported, Reagan was still strong enough to rake leaves from the family pool, but even that basic household chore had become tinged with sadness. "He will rake leaves for hours, not realizing that they are being surreptitiously replenished by his Secret Service men," Morris wrote. In a March 2001 interview with CNN's Larry King, Nancy Reagan said she no longer allowed visitors to see her husband - and even she could no longer reach him. "I think Ronnie would want people to remember him as he was," she said, explaining his seclusion.
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