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Reagan, Ronald

(Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1911.02.06-2004.06.02)  40th President of the United States (1981-1989), 33rd Governor of California (1967-1975), President of the Screen Actors Guild (1947-1952, 1959-1960), actor.

Frequent Phoenix visitor

White House portrait of President Ronald Reagan.

The Arizona Biltmore proudly proclaims that every president since Herbert Hoover has stay at the Biltmore.  During his presidency, the Reagans made many visits to the hotel--the First Lady Nancy Reagan's parents, Dr. and Mrs. Loyal Davis, lived next to the hotel at 24 Biltmore Estates--but those were far from their first visits. 

Acting in Old Tucson.  In the early 1950's actor Ronald Reagan came to the Old Tucson movie studio west of the real Tucson to film The Last Outpost (Technicolor, 1951).  The movie has been described as a watchable but not great Civil War western in which two brothers fighting on opposite sides band together to fight off an Apache Indian attack.  The year that The Last Outpost was released was a big year in Reagan's film career with no less than four of his pictures being released, including the infamous Bedtime for Bonzo.

Honeymooning at the Biltmore.  Reagan was an eligible bachelor at the time he visited Old Tucson since he and his first wife, Jane Wyman, had been divorced on June 6, 1948.  A return visit to the state marked the change of that status.  He married actress Nancy Davis on March 4, 1952 at the Little Brown Church in Studio City, California.  They honeymooned at the Biltmore Hotel from March 5 to 13 in 1952.

Commencement in Paradise Valley.  Reagan's older son, Michael Reagan, whom he and Jane Wyatt adopted just before they were divorced, was sent to the private Judson School in Paradise Valley.  When Michael graduated in 1964, his father had just finished an 8 year stint (1954-62) as host and sometimes actor on the top rated General Electric Theater television show.  He was about to move on to another anthology series, Death Valley Days, which he would host from 1965 to 1966.  Reagan took advantage of the hiatus to deliver the commencement address for his son's graduation.

The Goldwater connection.  The Judson School graduation was not the only place Reagan was speaking in 1964.  Reagan had become increasingly interested in politics and had even given more than 200 speeches in support of Richard Nixon's unsuccessful 1960 presidential campaign as a "Democrat for Nixon."   In 1962 he changed is party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.  Two years later, Arizona's Mr. Conservative, Barry Goldwater, was making his remarkably unsuccessful run for the White House.  Reagan made a series of speeches supporting his new party's candidate and became the co-chair of the California Republicans for Goldwater.  On October 27, 1964, Reagan gave a nationally broadcast speech titled "A Time for Choosing."  A blistering attack on "big government" and Lyndon Johnson�s Great Society programs, the speech was an instant success.   When Goldwater lost to Johnson, Reagan succeeded to the leadership of the conservative movement.

A run for governor and more Arizona connections.  When Reagan made his run for the California governorship in 1966, FCC rules forbid him as a candidate from appearing on Death Valley Days when it was broadcast in California during the election.  He called on Rosemary DeCamp to take his place as host.  Rosemary was born in Prescott.

As Reagan served as California's governor, his and Nancy's rebellious daughter, Patti Davis, was just a stone's throw from Prescott.  She was in boarding school at the Ohrm School in Mayer.

Arizona was Reagan country.  Since Arizona's admission to the union in 1912 through the 2000 campaign, its citizens participated in 23 presidential elections.  Just seven times did the winner receive over 60 percent of Arizona's vote.  Franklin D. Roosevelt had 3 of those victories.  Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon each had one.  Regan had the remaining two.

Presidential visits.  The Reagans returned to Arizona on numerous occasions during his presidency.  When he stayed at the Biltmore in 1987 for Edith Davis' funeral, witnesses remember him waving at guests from the balcony of his fourth-floor room.

Thrown from his horse.  In July, 1989, President Reagan had just completed his second term in the White House. During a visit to a ranch near Cananea, Sonora, Mexico, which was partially owned by long-time supporter William Wilson, the 79 year old Reagan went for a horse ride.  He was thrown from his horse and suffered bruises, abrasions and struck his head.  A helicopter evacuated him to Fort Huachuca in Arizona where he received medical treatment.  The ranking officer at the post said that Reagan asked him to "make sure people know that I was thrown from the horse.  I did not fall."

Books about Arizona from amazon.com
Arizona For Dummies(r), 2nd Edition by Edie Jarolim
Arizona Goes to War: The Home Front and the Front Lines During World War II by Brad Melton (Editor), Dean Smith (Editor), Marshall Trimble (Introduction), John S. McCain
Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Michael P. Ghiglieri, Thomas M. Myers
Roadside History of Arizona (Roadside History Series) by Marshall Trimble, Joe Beeler
Arizona: A Cavalcade of History by Marshall Trimble
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