Nancy Reagan

First Lady of the United States from 1981 to 1989

Nancy Davis Reagan (July 6, 1921 – March 6, 2016) was an American actress and socialite. She was the first lady of the United States from 1981 to 1989 as the wife of the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan. Before becoming first lady, she was the first lady of California from 1967 to 1975 when her husband was governor.

Nancy Reagan
Official portrait, 1983
First Lady of the United States
In role
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byRosalynn Carter
Succeeded byBarbara Bush
First Lady of California
In role
January 3, 1967 – January 6, 1975
GovernorRonald Reagan
Preceded byBernice Brown
Succeeded byGloria Deukmejian
Personal details
Born
Anne Frances Robbins

(1921-07-06)July 6, 1921
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedMarch 6, 2016(2016-03-06) (aged 94)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of deathCongestive heart failure
Resting placeRonald Reagan Presidential Library
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)
Ronald Reagan
(m. 1952; died 2004)
Children
Parents
EducationSmith College (BA)
Signature

Reagan was born in New York City. After her parents separated, she lived in Maryland with an aunt and uncle for six years. When her mother remarried in 1929, she moved to Chicago and later was adopted by her mother's second husband. As Nancy Davis, she was a Hollywood actress in the 1940s and 1950s.

Biography

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Early life and education

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Anne Frances Robbins was born on July 6, 1921, at Sloane Hospital for Women in Uptown Manhattan.[1][2][3][4] She was the only child of Kenneth Seymour Robbins and Edith Prescott Luckett.

Robbins lived her first two years in Flushing, Queens, a neighborhood of New York City, in a two-story house on Roosevelt Avenue between 149th and 150th Streets.[5] Her parents separated soon after her birth and were divorced in 1928.[1][6][7]

After their separation, her mother traveled the country to pursue acting jobs and Robbins was raised in Bethesda, Maryland, for six years by her aunt and uncle, and later she attended Sidwell Friends School from kindergarten through second grade.[1][8]

At the time of the adoption, her name was legally changed to Nancy Davis.[9] She attended the Girls' Latin School of Chicago from 1929, until she graduated in 1939, and later attended Smith College in Massachusetts, where she majored in English and drama, and later graduated in 1943.[10][11]

Acting career

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Davis, c. 1949–50

In 1940, Davis appeared as a National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis volunteer in a memorable short subject film shown in movie theaters to raise donations for the crusade against polio.[12]

Davis held jobs in Chicago as a sales clerk in Marshall Field's department store and as a nurse's aide.[13] With the help of her mother's colleagues in theatre, including ZaSu Pitts, Walter Huston, and Spencer Tracy,[14] she pursued a professional career as an actress.

She first gained a part in Pitts' 1945 road tour of Ramshackle Inn,[15][13] moving to New York City. She landed the role of Si-Tchun, a lady-in-waiting,[16] in the 1946 Broadway musical about the Orient, Lute Song, starring Mary Martin and a pre-fame Yul Brynner.[17]

After passing a screen test,[18] she moved to California and signed a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., in 1949.[19]

Davis' film career began with small supporting roles in two films that were released in 1949, The Doctor and the Girl with Glenn Ford and East Side, West Side starring Barbara Stanwyck.[20] She played a child psychiatrist in the film noir Shadow on the Wall (1950) with Ann Sothern and Zachary Scott.[21] She co-starred in 1950's, The Next Voice You Hear.

In 1951, Davis appeared in Night into Morning, her favorite screen role,[22] a study of bereavement starring Ray Milland. MGM released Davis from her contract in 1952;[23] She soon starred in the science fiction film Donovan's Brain (1953). [24] In her next-to-last movie, Hellcats of the Navy (1957).[25]

After her final film, Crash Landing (1958), Davis appeared for a brief time as a guest star in television dramas, such as the Zane Grey Theatre episode "The Long Shadow" (1961), until she retired as an actress in 1962.[20] During her career, Davis served for nearly ten years on the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild.[26]

Marriage and family

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On November 15, 1949, she met Ronald Reagan,[27] who was then president of the Screen Actors Guild. The two began dating and their relationship was the subject of many gossip columns.[27] The got married on March 4, 1952, at the Little Brown Church in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.[28]

Their first child, Patti Davis, was born on October 21, 1952. Their second children, Ron Reagan, was born on May 20, 1958. Reagan also became stepmother to Maureen Reagan and Michael Reagan from her husband's children from his marriage.

California First Lady, 1967–1975

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Reagan as the first lady of California

Reagan became the first lady of California when her husband became the 33rd governor on January 3, 1967. As first lady, Reagan visited veterans, the elderly, and the disabled, and worked with a number of charities. She became involved with the Foster Grandparents Program,[29] helping to popularize it in the United States and Australia.[30]

She later expanded her work with the organization after arriving in Washington,[29] and wrote about her experiences in her 1982 book To Love a Child.[31] The Reagans held dinners for former prisoners of war and Vietnam War veterans while governor and first lady.[32]

In 1967, her husband appointed her to the California Arts Commission,[33] and a year later she was named Los Angeles Times, "A Model First Lady".[34]

First Lady, 1981–1989

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Reagan and her husband waving from the limousine during the Inaugural Parade.

Reagan became the first lady of the United States when her husband was sworn in as the 40th president on January 20, 1981. As first lady, she launched the "Just Say No" drug awareness campaign in 1982, which was her primary project and major initiative as first lady.[35] Her campaign focused on drug education and informing the youth of the danger of drug abuse.[35]

 
Reagan gives a speech at a "Just Say No" to drugs rally in Los Angeles, 1987

Reagan became actively involved by traveling more than 250,000 miles (400,000 km) throughout the United States and several nations, visiting drug abuse prevention programs and drug rehabilitation centers.[36]

In 1985, Reagan expanded the campaign to an international level by inviting the first ladies of other countries to the White House for a conference on drug abuse.[36] On October 27, 1986, President Reagan signed a drug enforcement bill into law, which granted $1.7 billion in funding to fight the drug crisis and ensured a mandatory minimum penalty for drug offenses.[37] In 1988, she became the first active first lady invited to address the United Nations General Assembly, where she spoke on international drug and trafficking laws.[36]

Fashion

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Reagan's interest in fashion was another one of her trademarks. Reagan's sense of style was favorably compared to that of a previous first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.[38]

Reagan's wardrobe consisted of dresses, gowns, and suits made by luxury designers, including James Galanos, Bill Blass, and Oscar de la Renta. Her white, hand-beaded, one shoulder Galanos 1981 inaugural gown was estimated to cost $10,000,[39] while the overall price of her inaugural wardrobe was said to cost $25,000.[40] Her wardrobe included red so often that the fire-engine shade became known as "Reagan red".[41] She employed two private hairdressers, who would style her hair on a regular basis in the White House.[42]

 
Reagan models for Vogue in the Red Room, 1981

In 1989, Reagan was honored at the annual gala awards dinner of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, during which she received the council's lifetime achievement award.[43]

Life after the White House

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Reagan's official White House portrait in the Vermeil Room

Upon leaving the White House, the couple returned to California. After leaving Washington, Reagan made numerous public appearances, many on behalf of her husband. She continued to reside at the Bel Air home, where she lived with her husband until he died on June 5, 2004.[44]

In late 1989, the former first lady established the Nancy Reagan Foundation, which was to continue to educate people about the dangers of substance abuse.[45]

The Foundation teamed with the BEST Foundation For A Drug-Free Tomorrow in 1994, and developed the Nancy Reagan Afterschool Program. She continued to travel around the United States, speaking out against drug and alcohol abuse.

Awards and honors

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Reagan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002[46] and the Congressional Gold Medal, in the same year.[47] In 1989, she received the Council of Fashion Designers of America's lifetime achievement award.[48]

Reagan received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Pepperdine University in 1983.[49] She received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Eureka College in 2009.[50]

Death and funeral

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On March 6, 2016, Reagan died of congestive heart failure at her home in Los Angeles at the age of 94.[51][52][53] On March 7, President Barack Obama issued a presidential proclamation ordering the US flag to be flown at half-staff until.[54]

Her funeral was held on March 11 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.[55]

References

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Percha, Julie (March 6, 2016). "Nancy Reagan, Former First Lady, Dies at 94". ABC News. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  2. Cite error: The named reference Nancy Reagan: Her Life & Times was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  3. When Nancy Davis signed with MGM, she gave her birth date as July 6, 1923, shaving two years off her age, a common practice in Hollywood (see Cannon, Governor Reagan, p. 75). This caused subsequent confusion as some sources would continue to use the incorrect birth year.
  4. Powling, Anne; O'Connor, John; Barton, Geoff (1997). New Oxford English. Oxford University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-19-831192-8.
  5. Gonzalez, David (April 12, 1991). "Talk and More Talk About Nancy (That One!) in Flushing". The New York Times. Retrieved October 29, 2007.
  6. Cite error: The named reference First Lady Nancy Reagan was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  7. "The 'just say no' first lady". Today.com. February 18, 2004. Retrieved October 16, 2007.
  8. Reagan, Nancy (1989), p. 71.
  9. Reagan, Nancy (1989), p. 67.
  10. Cite error: The named reference First Lady Nancy Reagan2 was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  11. Reagan, Nancy (1989), p. 82.
  12. Oshinsky, David M. (2005). Polio: An American Story. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-19-515294-4.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Cite error: The named reference First Lady Nancy Reagan3 was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  14. Cite error: The named reference nyt-lw2 was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  15. Cite error: The named reference Nancy Reagan: Her Life & Times3 was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  16. "Lute Song". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved October 18, 2007.
  17. Reagan, Nancy (1989), p. 85.
  18. Cite error: The named reference First Lady Nancy Reagan4 was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  19. Cite error: The named reference Nancy Reagan: Her Life & Times4 was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Nancy Reagan > Her Films". Ronald Reagan Foundation. Archived from the original on August 12, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2007.
  21. A. H. Weiler (credited as "A. W.") (May 19, 1950). "Another View of Psychiatrist's Task". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2007.
  22. Reagan, Nancy (1989), p. 91.
  23. Metzger, Robert Paul (1989), p. 33.
  24. Bosley Crowther (January 21, 1954). "' Donovan's Brain,' Science-Fiction Thriller, Has Premiere at the Criterion Theatre". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2007.
  25. Erickson, Glenn (2003). "Hellcats of the Navy, review one". Kleinman.com Inc. Archived from the original on May 10, 2017. Retrieved October 17, 2007.
  26. "Screen Actors Guild Presidents". Screen Actors Guild. Retrieved March 8, 2007.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Cannon, Lou (2003), pp. 77–78.
  28. "Noteworthy places in Reagan's life". The Baltimore Sun. June 5, 2004. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
  29. 29.0 29.1 "Nancy Reagan". Scholastic. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
  30. Anthony, C.S. (2003), p. 135.
  31. Jonas, Samantha (June 5, 2004). "Bio: Nancy Reagan". Fox News Channel. Archived from the original on November 9, 2007. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  32. Timberg, Robert (1999). John McCain: An American Odyssey. Touchstone Books. ISBN 978-0-684-86794-6. pp. 119–121.
  33. Windeler, Robert (November 17, 1967). "Reagan Panel Fills Arts Chief's Post After It Ousted Aide". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2007.
  34. Lilliston, Lynn (December 13, 1968). "A Model First Lady". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 14, 2008. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  35. 35.0 35.1 "Mrs. Reagan's Crusade". Ronald Reagan Foundation. Archived from the original on August 12, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2007.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 Cite error: The named reference First Lady Nancy Reagan5 was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  37. "Thirty Years of America's Drug War". pbs.org. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  38. Nemy, Enid (November 9, 1980). "Word From Friends: A New White House Style Is on the Way" (PDF). The New York Times. p. 80.
  39. Cite error: The named reference Nancy's Closet was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  40. Bennetts, Leslie (January 25, 1981). "Nancy Reagan's inaugural wardrobe gives notice of new White House opulence". St. Petersburg Times.
  41. Keogh, Pamela (March 7, 2016). "ow Nancy Reagan Returned Unapologetic Glamour to the White House". Vanity Fair. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  42. King, Wayne & Warren Weaver, Jr. (August 23, 1986). "Washington Talk: Briefing; A Do Ado". The New York Times. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  43. Hochswender, Woody (January 10, 1989). "Fashion; Amid the Rustle of Finery, Fashion Celebrates Its Own". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2009.
  44. "Ronald Reagan dies at 93". CNN. June 5, 2004. Retrieved February 7, 2007.
  45. "Nancy Reagan: Her Life and Times". Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. Archived from the original on November 12, 2007. Retrieved May 12, 2007.
  46. Cite error: The named reference President Bush Honors Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  47. Cite error: The named reference Congressional Gold Medal History was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  48. Cite error: The named reference honorednyt2 was used but no text was provided for refs named (see the help page).
  49. "Gets Honorary Degree". The New York Times. Associated Press. May 2, 1983.
  50. "Eureka College Awards Nancy Reagan Honorary Doctorate". Chronicle Media. April 8, 2009.
  51. Fieldstadt, Elisha; Gittens, Hasani (March 6, 2016). "Former First Lady Nancy Reagan Dead at 94". NBC News. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  52. Cannon, Lou (March 6, 2016). "Nancy Reagan, a Stylish and Influential First Lady, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2017-08-27. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  53. Dunham, Will (March 6, 2016). "Former First Lady Nancy Reagan dies at 94". Reuters. Washington D.C. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  54. "Presidential Proclamation – Nancy Reagan" (Press release). The White House Office of the Press Secretary. March 7, 2016. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  55. Casket Carrying Former First Lady Nancy Reagan Arrives at Reagan Library. Inside Edition (News). March 9, 2016. Archived from the original on 2021-11-14. Retrieved August 16, 2019.