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Nancy Reagan: Her Life From Hollywood to the White House
The former first lady, actress, and advocate for causes such as drug education and stem cell research died at the age of 94.
Nancy Davis Reagan pictured at age 6. She was born Anne Frances Robbins in Queens, N.Y., to Edith Luckett Robbins and Kenneth Seymore Robbins and nicknamed Nancy by her mother. Shortly after she was born, her parents split up and Nancy lived with her aunt and uncle for a time while her mother pursuing her acting career. She was reunited with her mother in Chicago after her mother remarried about the time this photo was taken. Her step-father, Dr. Loyal Davis, was a neurosurgeon and adopted Nancy.
Nancy Davis posing for a publicity photograph circa 1949-50. After graduating from Smith College in Massachusetts, she became a professional actress, touring and appearing on Broadway and on screen in Hollywood. She was rumored to have dated Clark Gable while she was living in New York. She later moved to Hollywood where she met her future husband. In her last movie, Hellcats of the Navy, she played opposite Ronald Reagan.
Newlyweds Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan cut their wedding cake on March 4, 1952, in Toluca Lake, Calif. They dated for two years before Ronald proposed, having suffered a painful divorce from his previous wife, Jane Wyman, with whom he had two children, Maureen and Michael.
Nancy Reagan holds her son, Ronald Prescott, with her husband and daughter Patti outside their Pacific Palisades home in California circa 1960. Patti was born in 1952 and Ronald Prescott was born in 1958. Nancy was also the stepmother to Maureen (born 1941) and Michael (born 1945) from her husband's previous marriage.
Nancy Reagan poses in the Red Room on Feb. 5, 1981, during a photo session with Vogue Magazine. Nancy is credited with putting glamour back in the White House. She procured private donations for major renovations and redecorating of several rooms in the White House in addition to new state china. She was also interested in fashion and was often compared to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The Galanos hand-beaded 1981 inaugural gown was said to cost nearly $10,000.
Nancy appears with her husband April 3, 1981, at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., four days after an assassination attempt. Reagan was hit in the chest by one of six shots fired by John Hinckley, who also seriously injured press secretary James Brady. When she arrived at the emergency room shortly after the shooting, Ronald told her, "Honey, I forgot to duck," repeating boxer Jack Dempsey's jest to his wife. Later it was revealed that she consulted an astrologer following the attempt on his life in an effort to protect him.
Nancy Reagan attending a "Just Say No" rally with children at Kaiser Arena in Oakland, Calif., Nov. 26, 1985. Drug education was her signature issue, launching the campaign in 1982. The campaign slogan proliferated after a schoolgirl asked her what to do when offered drugs and Nancy replied, "Just say no."
In October 1987, Nancy was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. She was welcomed home at the White House after the operation on Oct. 22. Ten days after her operation, her mother Edith Luckett Davis died and in her memoir, "My Turn," Nancy would refer to the time as "a terrible month."
President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan greet Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa outside the White House before a State Dinner, Dec. 8, 1987. Nancy's role at the White House was an integral part of diplomacy. She hosted over 80 state dinners and numerous other events. Each state dinner required months of planning, from the menu to the entertainment, to the table settings and seating arrangements. The most momentous of the state dinners was the one held for Gorbachev, the first visit by a Soviet leader since Khrushchev in 1959. Nancy arranged for renowned pianist Van Cliburn to perform, and he played a rendition of "Moscow Nights" which was well received by the Soviet delegation.
After leaving the White House, the Reagans moved back to California and continued to work on plans for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. They broke ground in 1988 and dedicated it three years later. At the dedication ceremony on Nov. 4, 1991, the former first ladies, left to right, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford, Pat Nixon and Lady Bird Johnson, appeared together.
Her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and Nancy chose to take care of him at home, being his primary caregiver for the last 10 years of his life. Here they celebrate Ronald's 89th birthday at their home in Bel Air, Calif., Feb, 6, 2000. In September of 2000 she released a collection of letters from her husband, entitled "I Love You, Ronnie - The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan."
Nancy Reagan receives a standing ovation before being given the Congressional Gold Medal award during a ceremony for her and her husband, former President Ronald Reagan, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2002. Mrs. Reagan accepted the award on behalf of her husband, who hadn't made a public appearance in nearly eight years.
Former first lady Nancy Reagan leans into the casket of her husband during the interment ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, June 11, 2004 in Simi Valley, Calif. Reagan died of pneumonia due to complications with Alzheimer's at age 93 at his home in California.
President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush and Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation Chairman Fred Ryan, Jr., right, watch as Nancy Reagan cuts a ceremonial ribbon at The Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Oct. 21, 2005. The Bushes came to the library for the unveiling of the Air Force One Pavilion at the library. In 2001, President George W. Bush awarded Nancy Regan the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award.
President Barack Obama clasps the hand of former first lady Nancy Reagan after he signed the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, June 2, 2009. Obama praised the former first lady for her work on stem cell research and Alzheimer's disease.
Republican presidential candidates are greeted by Nancy Reagan, center, before a GOP presidential debate in a replica of the Oval Office at the Reagan Library Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, in Simi Valley, Calif. From left are, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, businessman Herman Cain and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Nancy hosted two Republican debates at the Reagan libary ahead of the 2008 election, one in May of 2007 and one in January of 2008.