US President Ronald Reagan was born in Tamico, Illinois. In 1932, he began a radio career as a sports broadcaster for station WOC in Davenport, Iowa. Five years later, he quit radio and pursued a career in Hollywood.
Reagan played the lead role in a string of B movies, but by World War II he had advanced to becoming one of Hollywood's leading actors. During the war he served in supply corps and then in films produced for the Airforce.
In 1947, Reagan became the president of the Screen Actors Guild, giving him a first taste of activism. Though Reagan was a Democrat in his early years, in 1952 he joined the Democrats for Eisenhower, in support of the Republican candidate.
In 1960 he worked actively for the election of Richard Nixon and two years later, he formally joined the Republican Party. As his media career wound down, his political one was gearing up.
In 1966, Reagan was elected to the governorship of California. During his eight year tenure, he established a conservative record. His two greatest achievements were the return of fiscal stability to the state budget, and welfare reform.
In 1968 Reagan attempted to secure the Republican nomination for President. He finished third behind Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller.
In 1976, he challenged President Ford for the nomination of the party, falling only 60 votes short of achieving his goal. Finally in 1980, he was nominated by the Repblican Party to run for the Presidency.
Ronald Reagan's Presidency was dominated by two major themes. The first was that the United States needed to compete vigorously with the Soviet Union throughout the world. It had to resist Soviet advances, and build up its own defenses. He strongly advocated the development of the Strategic Defense Initiative, that was designed to provide a missile defense from an attack.
Reagan's other theme was that less government was best.
Reagan successfully initiated a massive armaments program, one that was probably responsible for the Soviets' decision that they could no longer afford to compete, and in fact were falling far behind. Thus, "perestroika" was born, and with it the Soviet Union drifted to dissolution.
Reagan, "the great communicator" was much liked while in office, even by many of his political opponents. It was felt that he was a genuinely "nice guy." After his retirement in 1988, Reagan seemed to be settling into a post-presidency life of golf and public engagements.
In the mid-1990's, the world was stunned to learn that Reagan was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He made the diagnosis public in a letter released to the media. By 1999, he had deteriorated to the point where he no longer was able to make public appearances.