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 majored in drama.
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. Frank Sinatra recorded the song, and all proceeds from the book and record sales have gone to the Foster Grandparent Program.
Mrs. Reagan’s special project is fighting drug and alcohol abuse among youth. To spotlight the problem, she has traveled nearly 200,000 miles throughout the United States and several countries in conjunction with her campaign to fight substance abuse. She has 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. She also appeared on a special drug abuse episode of NBC’s Diff'rent Strokes, co-hosted a special edition of Good Morning America on ABC which was devoted exclusively to the subject, and narrated two PBS specials – The Chemical People and its follow-up program, Chemical People II – which encouraged communities to organize against drug abuse.
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.
While First Lady, Mrs. Reagan served as Honorary Chairman of numerous organizations, including the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth; the “Just Say No” Foundation; the National Child Watch Campaign; the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities; the Wolf Trap Foundation Board of Trustees; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; the National Republican Women’s Club; and was Honorary President of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.
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 Good Housekeeping magazine, and in 1984, 1985 and 1986, she ranked number one in that poll. She has received numerous awards for her leadership role in the fight against drug abuse, including recognition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the United Service Organization (USO), the Salvation Army, the Entertainment Industries Council, Rotary Clubs International, Lions Club International, and from drug treatment programs such as Phoenix House and Second Genesis. Mrs. Reagan has also received humanitarian awards from the American Camping Association; the National Council on Alcoholism; United Cerebral Palsy and the International Center for the Disabled. She has received the Boys Town Father Flanagan Award; the 1986 Kiwanis World Service Medal; and the “Lifeline Award” from Variety Clubs International. In 1987, she received a doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, from Georgetown University and in 1983, she received an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from Pepperdine University for her commitment to public service.
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. She travels domestically and internationally, speaking out on the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol, and continues to meet with representatives in the field and parent groups to seek their advice and cooperation. She has most recently been honored with the United Cerebral Palsy Humanitarian Award, the Children’s Trust Award from the Children’s Memorial Medical Center in Chicago, the Tom Landry Medal from California Lutheran University, and the Albert Schweitzer Leadership Award from the Hugh O'Brian Youth Foundation.
In October of 1989 Mrs. Reagan’s memoirs, entitled My Turn, were published by Random House.
Mrs. Reagan is 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 University after 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. She has a brother, Dr. Richard Davis, who resides in Philadelphia with his wife, and they have two children.
The Reagans have four children, all of whom are living in California. They have two grandchildren, Cameron and Ashley Marie, children of son Michael Reagan.
12/31/91 Mrs. Reagan’s biography is provided courtesy of the Office of Ronald Reagan.