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33rd Governor of
California, January 2, 1967 - January 6, 1975

Born:  February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois

Died:  June 5, 2004, in Los Angeles, California

Marriage:  Jane Wyman (1940), 2 children; Nancy Davis (1952), 2 children


Ronald Reagan holds the distinction of being the only California governor to move into the presidency of the United States, a position that other governors have coveted.


Early Life

Young Reagan, nicknamed “Dutch” by his father, grew up in small towns in Illinois. From his mother he learned to love the theater and acting. At high school in Dixon, Illinois, Dutch was an all-round athlete. At Eureka College he continued to participate in sports as well as in drama.



Reagan’s first job after college graduation was as a radio sports announcer in Iowa. A screen test in 1937 with Warner Brothers motion picture studios brought about a move to Los Angeles. Over the next 25 years Reagan acted in more than 50 feature films. During a U.S. Army enlistment (1942-45), he made training films.

In the 1950s and 1960s Reagan was the host for the television series General Electric Theater and Death Valley Days. Reagan’s interest in politics began with a long service as president of the Screen Actors Guild, a union. Governor of California was his first public office.



Promising lower taxes, Governor Reagan slashed budgets for state departments. The Democratic legislature opposed many of his efforts to curb the growth of government, though Reagan blocked construction of new state buildings and educational facilities. Despite tax increases instead of the anticipated cuts, the people elected Reagan to a second term as governor.


Later Years

After two terms as governor, Reagan tried for the U.S. presidential nomination in 1976, but failed to get it. He was off to an early start for the 1980 election, however, and won by a large margin over President Jimmy Carter.

After two terms in the White House, Reagan retired to Bel Air, California, and his ranch near Santa Barbara. For several years he made speeches and wrote about his presidential years. His autobiography, An American Life, was published in 1990. In 1994 he told the American people that he had Alzheimer's disease. His last years were spent in seclusion at his home in Bel Air, California.


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