"My life really began when I married my husband," says Nancy Reagan, who happily left an acting career for a role as the wife of Ronald Reagan and mother to their children. According to her autobiography Nancy, published in 1980, her life actually began in New York City on July 6, 1921. When she was six, her actress mother married Dr. Loyal Davis. Dr. Davis adopted Nancy, and she grew up in Chicago. It was a happy time with summer camp, tennis, swimming and dancing. She received her formal education at Girls' Latin School and at Smith College in Massachusetts, where she majored in theater.
After graduation Nancy became a professional actress, touring with a road company, then landing a role on Broadway in the hit musical Lute Song. More parts followed, drawing an offer from Hollywood. Billed as Nancy Davis, she performed in 11 films from 1949 to 1956. Her first screen role was in Shadow on the Wall. Other releases included The Next Voice You Hear and East Side, West Side. In her last movie, Hellcats of the Navy, she played opposite her husband.
She had met Ronald Reagan in 1951, when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild. The following year they were married. Mrs. Reagan soon retired from making movies to find "real fulfillment" with her husband and children. President and Mrs. Reagan have a daughter, Patricia Ann, and a son, Ronald Prescott.
While her husband was governor of California from 1967 to 1975, she spent many hours visiting veterans, the elderly, and the handicapped. As America's first lady, she lent her support to the Foster Grandparent Program, subject of her 1982 book, To Love A Child. She also concentrated on the fight against drug and alcohol abuse among young people, and in 1985 held a conference for first ladies of 17 countries to focus international attention on this problem. In her term at the White House, Mrs. Reagan directed a major renovation of the second and third floors; then used the Executive Mansion to showcase young artistic talent in the PBS television series "In Performance at the White House."
While living in retirement in California, Nancy continued to work on her campaign to teach children to "just say no" to drugs, and had been actively engaged with events at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs. In her book My Turn, published in 1989, she gives her own account of her life in the White House. Through the joys and sorrows of those days, including the assassination attempt on her husband, Nancy Reagan held fast to her belief in love, honesty, and selflessness. "The ideals have endured because they are right and are no less right today than yesterday."
Nancy Reagan died at home in Los Angeles on March 6, 2016. She is buried along side her husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
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