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President Ronald Reagan – A Short Biography

By Doug West, Ph.D.

President Ronald Reagan– A Short Biography

Copyright © 2017 Doug West

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author. Reviewers may quote brief passages in reviews.

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Table of Contents



Chapter 1 - Early Life

Chapter 2 – Entertainment Career

Chapter 3 - Governor of California

Chapter 4 - President of the United States

Chapter 5 - Foreign Affairs

Chapter 6 – Iran-Contra Scandal

Chapter 7 - Personal Life and Legacy

Ronald Reagan Timeline


References and Further Reading

About the Author

Additional Books by Doug West


Welcome to the book, President Ronald Reagan - A Short Biography. This book is part of the 30 Minute Book Series and, as the name of the series implies, if you are an average reader this book will take around 30 minutes to read. Since this short book is not meant to be an all-encompassing biography of Ronald Reagan, you may want to know more about this man and his accomplishments. To help you with this, there are several good references at the end of this book. Thank you for purchasing this book. I hope you enjoy your time reading about President Reagan.

Doug West
March 2017


Born of humble beginnings, Ronald Reagan came into the world as the son of working class parents in Illinois. During his youth he wasn’t a particularly gifted student, but he did manage to obtain a solid education. Though his hard work and determination, he was able to win the highest office in the land. Ronald Reagan was the fortieth president of the United States, in office between 1981 and 1989. A Hollywood actor and union leader turned politician, he also served as the thirty-third governor of California from 1967 and 1975, before reaching the White House. For his work as the President of the United States and for having realigned the country toward conservative policies, Ronald Reagan has remained an iconic influence among Republicans, who often invoke his beliefs. He transformed the American presidency with his bold strategies and inspired policies. His political agenda, including lower taxes, a conservative economic stance, and expansion of the military, redefined politics in the United States. To this day, the name Ronald Reagan is spoken with a form of reverence in circles of conservative-minded thinkers.

Reagan was voted the Greatest American in a survey conducted by Discovery Channel, and Time Magazine listed him as one of the 100 Most Important People of the twentieth century. Since 2010, California has celebrated February 6 as Ronald Reagan Day in recognition of his merits.

Figure – Official White House Portrait of Ronald Reagan in 1981

Chapter 1 - Early Life

Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” - Ronald Reagan

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois, above the bakery and general store where his father worked. He was the son of Nelle Clyde Wilson, a woman of half Scots, half English descent, and John Edward Reagan, the son of an Irish Catholic immigrant couple. Reagan’s father was a salesman and the family moved often, living for short periods in several towns and cities in Illinois. John and Nelle had two sons, the elder Neil, and Ronald. John Reagan said young Ronald looked like a fat Dutchman and gave him the nickname “Dutch,” which stuck with him for years. The family returned to Tampico in 1919, where they lived above a convenience store, but later settled in Dixon. The Reagans weren’t well off financially. John had a drinking problem and was only able to provide a meager lifestyle for his family. Ronald would later recall, “We were poor, but we didn’t know we were poor.”

As a child, Reagan was very optimistic, kind, and trustful of people’s good intentions, mostly influenced by his mother Nelle, who was an enthusiastic follower of the Disciples of Christ. Regan was baptized in 1922 into the same faith. During his time at Dixon High School, the young boy became interested in sports, acting, and storytelling. He was the president of the drama club and acted in many school plays. As a child, Reagan opposed racial discrimination with simple, yet effective gestures, despite the fact that this attitude was frowned upon in the white society. He often brought African American people home, where his mother would serve them breakfast or dinner.

In 1927, Reagan took his first job at the Rock River in Lowell Park, near his parents’ home, where he worked as a lifeguard and performed 77 rescues during his six years there. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at Eureka College, a small liberal arts school oriented along the values of the Disciples of Christ. Reagan chose to study economics and sociology, and in his spare time, he was a cheerleader and member of a fraternity. He was mostly an indifferent student and did not excel in his classes, focusing his attention on activities he enjoyed, such as sports or theater, where he also had a particular talent. He preferred social activities and was very popular among his peers, being known as a jack-of-all-trades. Besides being the captain of the swim team and member of the football team, he often got involved in campus politics and was elected student president. From this position, he initiated a student protest to fight back against the college president when he tried to impose new rules on campus.

Chapter 2 - Entertainment Career

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” - Ronald Reagan

In 1932, Reagan graduated from Eureka and moved to Iowa, where he took several different jobs, mostly in the sports industry, working as a radio sports announcer for baseball games. Reagan’s warm and soothing voice made him a natural for radio. Being from the middle of the country, he didn’t have to overcome a distinguishing regional accent. A few years later, during a journey to California with the Chicago Cubs baseball team, he managed to take a screen test in Hollywood. Unexpectedly, the positive feedback got him a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers Studios starting at two hundred dollars per week.

Only two years into his contract, Reagan had made an appearance in 19 films, including Dark Victory with Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis, Santa Fe Trail with Errol Flynn, and Knute Rockne, All American. In 1941, he was already the fifth most popular young star in Hollywood. He gave his best performance in the film Kings Row from 1942. However, he could not enjoy his success because two months after the film’s release he was called for active duty with the US Army.

Figure – Ronald Reagan in The Bad Man movie in 1941

In 1940, Reagan married actress Jane Wyman, whom he met on the set of Brother Rat, where the two of them were co-stars. The couple had two biological daughters, Maureen and Christine (who lived only one day), and later adopted a boy named Michael. Displeased with her husband’s political ambitions and after numerous arguments over the issue, Wyman decided to divorce. The couple legally separated in 1948, but continued to be friends until Reagan’s death. Wyman voted for Reagan and expressed her sincere condolences at his death, describing him as a kind and gentle man who was a great president for the United States.

Reagan had previously completed the Army Extensions Courses and enlisted with the Army Enlisted Reserve, becoming a second lieutenant in the Officers Reserve Corps of the cavalry in 1937. However, during World War II, he did limited service and only in US territory due to his poor eyesight. After several assignments around the United States, Reagan was assigned to First Motion Picture Unit in California. In 1943, he was already first lieutenant and after a successful mission at the Provisional Task Force Show Unit, he was promoted to captain seven months later. He also did temporary duty in New York City in January 1944, but returned to the First Motion Picture Unit before the end of World War II. In July 1945, a recommendation for his promotion to major was rejected. By the end of the same year, he was released from active duty.

In 1949, shortly after his divorce from Wyman, Reagan met actress Nancy Davis. Nancy contacted Reagan as the President of Screen Actors Guild to discuss her inclusion on the Communist blacklist in Hollywood. They realized she had been mistaken for someone else, but their meeting had a great impact on both of them. Nancy later revealed that it was very similar to love at first sight. They were married in 1952 and had two children, Patti and Ronald, Jr. Many people close to the couple commented on their intimate and authentic connection, describing them as very affectionate and loving toward each other.

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