Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Nancy Reagan, R.I.P.

On March 6, we came to the end of an era. With the passing
of President Ronald Reagan's loving wife, confidant, closest
political consultant, best friend, and grand First Lady
Nancy Reagan, the Reagan Era --- begat by the "Reagan
Revolution" that made conservatism a permanent fixture on
America's political scene --- entered into the past and the
history books. This great lady was 94. She left a legacy
which will continue to grace our country long after her

Born Anne Frances Robbins on July 6, 1921 to Edith Luckett,
an actress, and Kenneth Robbins, a car dealer, in New York City,
Nancy had a rocky start when her father deserted the family when
she was just two years old. Her mother went on the road, acting in
various stage productions, leaving Nancy in the care of relatives
in Bethesda, Maryland. Her mother would go on to marry a
Chicago neurosurgeon, Dr. Loyal Davis, who would adopt the
future first lady and give her his name. When Nancy began her
own acting career, she was billed using her childhood nickname,
as Nancy Davis.

After graduating from Smith College, Nancy began her acting career,
performing in summer stock to get training and experience. She was
cast in a part in a Broadway musical, "Lute Song" which starred Mary
Martin and Yul Brynner. From there she went to Hollywood and
entered the movies.

It was while she was in Hollywood that she met her husband Ronald
Reagan, who was a film actor himself at the time and was head of the
Screen Actors Guild (SAG). In 1949, the name Nancy Davis appeared
in a Hollywood newspaper on a list of signers of a brief urging the
Supreme Court to overturn the convictions of two screenwriters
who had refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities
Committee in their efforts to root out communist spies operating in
the United States and were found to be in contempt of Congress.
Although it turned out that another actress with the same name was
the signer in question of that brief, the future Mrs. Reagan found herself
in danger of being blacklisted from working in movies, as was the fate
of many suspected of being communists, spies or not. She turned to her
friend, director Mervyn LeRoy, who had directed her on a film and had
done some digging and found that it was indeed another actress that
had signed the brief, to arrange a meeting with Reagan to ensure that
there would be no problems arising from the case of mistaken
identification. The pair had dinner together and not only did the name
flap get smoother over, they became quite smitten with each other.
After dating each other off and on, they married on March 4, 1952.

They each continued acting through the rest of the 1950s, including
appearing in "Hellcats of the Navy" together in the lead roles. The
movie was the last appearance as an actor for Nancy, who wanted to
devote herself to her husband and his own career, especially when he
entered politics in the 1960s. In the meantime they had a daughter,
Patti Davis Reagan, and a son, Ronald Prescott Reagan. They would
also have Ronald Reagan's son from his previous marriage to actress
Jane Wyman. Michael, in their immediate family. Another child of the
future president and Wyman, Maureen Reagan, a sometime actress,
died from cancer in 2001.

The Reagans became a formidable power couple in California's political
circles, especially in the state's Republican Party, which Ronald
Reagan joined upon leaving the Democrats when he decided that his
former party was too liberal for him (he would go on to quip that he
didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him).
Nancy became her husband's closest adviser on political matters, even
having a say as to who was hired to be on his campaign team when he
ran for governor in 1966, then for president in 1968 (he had a brief
candidacy for the GOP nomination, which would go to Richard Nixon),
1976, when he dueled with incumbent President Gerald Ford for the
party's nomination, narrowly losing at the Republicans' convention
in Kansas City, and 1980, when he stormed to victory for the GOP
nomination and in the general election where he routed incumbent
Democrat Jimmy carter, then finishing up in 1984 with an even bigger
rout of Walter Mondale, who was President Carter's Vice President.
Nancy also had a say in who would be fired and who would be named
for replacements, famously getting one White House staffer, Donald
Regan fired. Some in Washington at the time began referring to her
as the president's "Iron Lady".

During the Reagan's time in the White House, Nancy was diagnosed
with breast cancer. She promptly underwent surgery, which was
successful, and made her battle public so as to raise awareness of
the disease with women, stressing the necessity of having regular

But Nancy Reagan was as gracious a First Lady as she was steely as
President Reagan's closest confidant and adviser. She hosted parties
and other gatherings with grace and class, always conducting herself
with great dignity while they lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
And when her dear Ronald lost his long and courageous battle with
Alzheimer's disease in which she personally tended to his mounting
needs, Nancy was active in preserving his legacy through the Ronald
Reagan Presidential Library other organizations founded to share his
legacy with the American people and with the world. In subsequent
years, Nancy also visited Ronald's resting place as often as she could,
even when her own health began fading, always bringing flowers to
place on his grave.

And now, Nancy has gone to join her beloved Ronnie. God rest you,
Nancy Reagan.


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