Sunday, March 6, 2016
Who Was Nancy Davis Reagan?
Nancy Davis Reagan was born on July 6, 1921, in New York City. Raised in Chicago, she graduated from Girls’ Latin School and went on to Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, where she graduated in 1943.
In her early career, Nancy Davis worked as an actress in stage, film, and television productions. Her stage performances ranged from summer stock to road tours to Broadway and, in 1949, she was signed to a seven-year contract with MGM. During this time, she met Ronald Reagan and they were married on March 4, 1952. She made eleven films in all, including three after her marriage. Her last film, at Columbia in 1956, was “Hellcats of the Navy,” in which she and her husband appeared together.
Shortly after her husband became Governor of California in 1967, Mrs. Reagan began visiting wounded Vietnam veterans and became active in projects concerning POWs and servicemen missing in action. During the war, she wrote a syndicated column, donating her salary to the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia.
While First Lady of California, Mrs. Reagan made regular visits to hospitals and homes for the elderly, as well as schools for physically and emotionally handicapped children. During one of these hospital visits in 1967, she observed participants in the Foster Grandparent Program, a program which brings together senior citizens and handicapped children, and she soon became its champion. Later, as First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Reagan continued to help expand the program on a national level and promote private funding in local communities. With Jane Wilkie, she co-authored a book, To Love a Child, and a song by the same title was written and dedicated to her by Hal David and Joe Raposo.
Mrs. Reagan’s special project was fighting drug and alcohol abuse among youth. To spotlight the problem, she traveled nearly 250,000 miles throughout the United States and several countries in conjunction with her campaign to fight substance abuse. She appeared on television talk shows, taped public service announcements, written guest articles, and visited prevention programs and rehabilitation centers across the country to talk with young people and their parents.
In April 1985 Mrs. Reagan expanded her drug awareness campaign to an international level by inviting First Ladies from around the world to attend a two-day briefing in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia, on the subject of youth drug abuse. During the 40th Anniversary of The United Nations in 1985, Mrs. Reagan hosted 30 First Ladies for a second international drug conference. She was also the first American First Lady to address the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly whose meeting she attended in October 1988.
In each Annual Gallup Poll from 1981 to 1989, the American public voted Mrs. Reagan one of the ten most admired women in the world, and in 1981, 1985, and 1987, voted her number one. Every year since 1981, she has been named one of the ten most admired women in the world by readers of Good Housekeeping magazine, and in 1984, 1985, and 1986 she ranked number one in that poll.
After leaving the White House on January 20, 1989, Mrs. Reagan established the Nancy Reagan Foundation to continue her campaign to educate people about the serious dangers of substance abuse. In 1994, the Nancy Reagan Foundation joined forces with the BEST Foundation For A Drug-Free Tomorrow and developed the Nancy Reagan Afterschool Program, a drug prevention and life-skills program for youth. Mrs. Reagan continued to travel domestically and internationally, speaking out on the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.
In October of 1989 Mrs. Reagan’s memoirs, entitled My Turn, were published by Random House.
In recent years, Mrs. Reagan devoted her time to projects related to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, where she serves on the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to developing and fostering President Reagan’s Four Pillars of Freedom: preserving individual liberty, promoting economic opportunity, advancing democracy around the world, and instilling pride in our national heritage. In addition, Mrs. Reagan was actively involved with the national Alzheimer’s Association and its affiliate, the Ronald & Nancy Reagan Research Institute in Chicago, Illinois.
Mrs. Reagan was the only daughter of Dr. Loyal Davis and Mrs. Edith Davis of Chicago and Phoenix. Her father, who died August 19, 1982, was Professor Emeritus at Northwestern Universityafter serving as Professor of Surgery there for more than 30 years. Mrs. Reagan’s mother, who died October 26, 1987, was involved throughout her life with many charitable organizations.