The Reagan family
Reagan Library

The Reagan family
February 6, 1911: 1911-1958

Ronald Wilson Reagan is born in Tampico, Illinois, the second of two sons to John (Jack) and Nelle Reagan.


After years of moving from town to town, the Reagan family settles in Dixon, Illinois.

September 21, 1922

Reagan is baptized at his mother's Disciples of Christ Church.


Reagan enters Dixon's Northside High School.


Reagan takes a job as lifeguard in Lowell Park, two miles away from Dixon, on the Rock River.

August 3, 1928

"Dixon Daily Telegraph" front page headline reads: "Ronald Reagan saves drowning man." By the time he leaves his job, after seven summers, the count of those he has pulled from the water is 77.

The football player
Reagan Library

The football player
Fall 1928

Reagan enrolls in Eureka College, a small Christian college near Peoria, Illinois. Although never a model student (he graduated with a "C" average), Reagan is successful as both an actor and a football player.


Within six weeks of graduating from Eureka, Reagan finds work at WOC radio in Davenport, Iowa.


Reagan becomes a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Officers Reserve Corps of the Cavalry. A Warner Brothers agent discovers him and offers him a seven-year studio contract. After his first film, "Love Is on the Air," in which Reagan plays a radio personality who uncovers corruption, Reagan will go on to star in more than 50 more films.

January 26, 1940

Reagan marries actress Jane Wyman.

The actor
Reagan Library

The actor
October 1940

Reagan stars as Notre Dame football legend George Gipp in "Knute Rockne, All American." He earns the nickname "the Gipper" from this role.

January 1941

Reagan's father Jack dies of heart attack at age 58.

January 4, 1941

Daughter Maureen is born.

July 1941

Appointed to the board of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). He had joined in 1937.

The war film star
Reagan Library

The war film star
December 1941

U.S. at war. Reagan drafted into the army. Nearsighted vision keeps him away from the front. He is assigned to the Motion Picture Army Unit in Culver City to make training and propaganda films.

January 1, 1942

"King's Row" opens. Reagan's performance as Drake McHugh is the highlight of his film career.

March 1945

Michael Edward Reagan is adopted.

November 1946

SAG asks Reagan to mediate a dispute between rival unions. One, the Conference of Studio Unions, is lead by Herb Sorrell, a suspected Communist. It is while battling Sorrell that he learns to mistrust Communists.

June 26, 1947

Wyman gives birth to a baby girl, born four months premature. The baby dies the next day. Elected president of SAG for the first of five consecutive terms, Reagan testifies as a friendly witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. As a result of the hearings, "the Hollywood Ten" are imprisoned and many writers and directors thought to have ties to the Communist Party are blacklisted.

June 6, 1948

Reagan and Wyman divorce. Wyman alleges "mental cruelty." Speculation about reasons for the break-up ranges from Reagan's obsession with politics to allegations of Wyman's affair with Lew Ayres, her co-star in "Johnny Belinda."


Reagan campaigns in support of California Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas in her race against Richard Nixon for U.S. Senate.

Nancy Davis and Ronald Reagan
Reagan Library

Nancy Davis and Ronald Reagan
March 4, 1952

Marries Nancy Davis, an actress under contract with MGM.

October 22, 1952

Daughter Patricia (Patti) is born.

November 1952

Reagan leads a movement of Democrats for Eisenhower during both of Eisenhower's presidential campaigns, in 1952 and 1956.

Late 1952

Reagan's movie career falters. Financially strapped, Reagan is forced to take a job as an emcee in Vegas, introducing singing quartet "The Continentals."

The television host
Reagan Library

The television host
January 1954

Reagan is hired by General Electric. For the next eight years he will host "G.E. Theater" on television every Sunday evening. The job also requires him to make celebrity appearances at G.E. plants. Reagan receives a political education rarely available to politicians. He hones his political ideas, as his speeches increasingly discuss government’s encroachment on individual freedom.

May 28, 1958

Son Ronald Prescott (Ron) is born.

Early 1959: 1959-1977

Fidel Castro's "revolution" topples the right-wing Batista government in Cuba.


During his last term as president of the Screen Actors Guild, Reagan fights for, and achieves, better benefits and working conditions for actors.


As a "Democrat for Nixon," Reagan champions Nixon's candidacy for president, delivering more than 200 speeches in his support.


G.E. fires Reagan as a political liability when he takes on the Tennessee Valley Authority, as an example of "big government." G.E. has contracts worth millions of dollars. Reagan switches his political affiliation to the Republican party. Nelle, Reagan's mother, dies. Although Alzheimer's Disease had not yet been identified, his mother suffered from this condition, as did his older brother, Neil. Reagan himself will be diagnosed with the disease in 1993.


Reagan makes his final film appearance, in "The Killers," where for the first time in his career, and rather unconvincingly, Reagan plays a villain. Becomes host of "Death Valley Days."

October 27, 1964

As co-chair of California Republicans for Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona for President, Reagan gives speech: "A Time for Choosing." The speech, a blistering attack on "big government" and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, is an instant success. As Goldwater fades from leadership after losing to Lyndon Johnson, Reagan emerges as the leader of the conservative movement.


Reagan's publishes his autobiography, "Where's the Rest of Me?"

January 1, 1966

Reagan announces candidacy for governor of California. He promises to reduce the waste in government and to "clean up the mess at Berkeley."

November 8, 1966

Reagan elected by almost 1 million votes more than incumbent Democratic governor Edmund G. ("Pat") Brown.

The Governor
Reagan Library

The Governor
January 3, 1967

Reagan is sworn in as governor of California. He inherits a $200 million deficit in a state where the governor is required by Constitution to submit a balanced budget. Reagan proposes a 10% across-the-board cut. There are both needed cuts and unnecessary, unpopular ones, such as cuts in the mental health system and for the University of California.

February 2, 1967

Students stage an orderly demonstration in front of the California State Capitol protesting budget cuts and the governor's request that a tuition be imposed for the first time in the University's history. Two days later a much louder demonstration takes place with groups carrying signs reading "Tax The Rich."

June 15, 1967

Reagan signs a bill liberalizing California's abortion law. He will later regret the decision.

October 25, 1967

Reagan calls for a harder line on war protestors.

May 2, 1968

Reagan draft movement for the 1968 presidential nomination takes off, initiated by aide Lyn Nofziger, with the support of Reagan's "millionaire backers."

August 5, 1968

Reagan announces his candidacy for the presidential nomination at the Miami Republican Convention.

January 1969

Richard Nixon is inaugurated for his first term as president.

The National Guard at Berkeley

The National Guard at Berkeley
Spring 1969

Reagan sends in the National Guard to break up a student strike at University of California at Berkeley. Armed with bayonets and tear gas, the National Guard occupies Berkeley for 17 days. The event establishes Reagan as a peace-restoring hero for some, a trigger-happy extremist for others. In spite of campaign promises, California's state budget increases during Reagan's first term as governor.


Reagan wins re-election as governor, beating the leader of the California Assembly, Democrat Jesse Unruh. He calls welfare the biggest single outlay of public funds at the federal, state, and local levels of government. He will have to negotiate with the Democrat-controlled California Assembly for his welfare reform bill to pass.

August 11, 1971

California legislature enacts a compromise welfare reform. The resulting law and the process which brought it about are widely regarded as a success.


Despite arrests that signal the beginning of the Watergate affair, Nixon is reelected in a near-record landslide, but Democrats win majorities in both houses of Congress.

January 18, 1973

Reagan submits $9.258 billion budget with a $1.1 billion surplus, and gives taxpayers a rebate.

May 1, 1973

Reagan defends President Richard Nixon in the midst of Watergate.

August 6, 1974

A longtime Nixon defender, Reagan admits Nixon deceived the country.

My American Experience

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