Biography of U.S. President Ronald Reagan Part 9 Personal Life

About the United States President Ronald Reagan, biography and history and personal life including his marriages and family.


40th President



Personal Life: As the first U.S. president to have been divorced, Reagan nevertheless places a traditional and stable family life at the pinnacle of his moral code and his political program. On Jan. 26, 1940, Reagan and first wife, actress Jane Wyman, were married. Described by Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons as the ideal American couple, they had met in 1937 on the Warner Bros. lot and had co-starred in Brother Rat (1938), Brother Rat and a Baby (1940), and An Angel from Texas (1940). Reagan was not oblivious to the publicity value of his marriage. He consented to Modern Screen magazine's publication of his "Letters to Button Nose"--his version of a serviceman's letters home during W.W. II, even though his battle station was in Culver City and he went home to Button Nose every night, Daughter Maureen Reagan was born in 1941, and the Reagan adopted son Michael in 1945.

Wyman's reputation as an actress flourished while Reagan had made only one film, King's Row, which received critical acclaim. He was proud of it, though, and often screened it for after-dinner guests. As his film career veered off into politics, Reagan was divorced by Wyman in 1948, the year she won an Oscar for her role in Johnny Belinda. Of the divorce, Reagan said, "I suppose there had been warning signs, but small-town boys grow up thinking only other people get divorced." Wyman blamed his obsessive political activism, claiming, "Finally there was nothing in common between us." She is also reported to have said, "I just couldn't stand to watch that damned King's Row one more time." She was granted custody of their children, and Reagan briefly indulged in a bachelor life of nightclubs and parties that ill suited him.

It was his role as the film industry's anti-Communist watchdog that led Reagan to his second wife, Nancy Davis. Ten years younger than Reagan, she was an MGM contract actress who arrived in Hollywood through her parents' contracts. Nancy had grown up in the ultra-conservative household of her stepfather, Dr. Loyal Davis, a wealthy Chicago neurosurgeon. She had been a debutante whom acquaintances described as prim and straitlaced. On her own in Hollywood in 1951, she was dismayed to find her name associated with Communist organizations. She appealed to her union president--Ronald Reagan--for help. They soon began dating and were married on Mar. 4, 1952. Daughter Patti was born 7 1/2 months later. In 1957 Reagan and his wife co-starred in Hellcats of the Navy. It was her last film. The Reagans had a son, Ronald, in 1958. Many observers have said that Nancy Reagan greatly reinforced her husband's conservative views. Acknowledged to be his all-around adviser and the person closest to him, she has also been described by one California Reagan supporter as an "anachronism [who] lives in the 1950s, when it was a man's world and women were there to be perfect wives. She lacks compassion for the issues of the day because they have never been in her sphere of life."

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