Today in History
Ronald Reagan marries Nancy Davis
March 4, 1952
Ronald Reagan met actress Nancy Davis in 1949 after she contacted him in his capacity as president of the Screen Actors Guild to help her with issues regarding her name appearing on a Communist blacklist in Hollywood. She had been mistaken for another Nancy Davis. She described their meeting by saying, “I don’t know if it was exactly love at first sight, but it was pretty close.” They were engaged at Chasen’s restaurant in Los Angeles and were married on March 4, 1952, at the Little Brown Church in the Valley (North Hollywood, now Studio City) San Fernando Valley. Actor William Holden served as best man at the ceremony. They had two children together, Patti (born October 21, 1952) and Ron (born May 20, 1958).
Observers described the Reagans’ relationship as close, authentic and intimate. During his presidency they were reported to frequently display their affection for one another. One press secretary said, “They never took each other for granted. They never stopped courting.” He often called her “Mommy” and she called him “Ronnie.” He once wrote to her, “Whatever I treasure and enjoy … all would be without meaning if I didn’t have you.” When Reagan was in the hospital in 1981, Nancy slept with one of his shirts to be comforted by his scent. In a letter to U.S. citizens written in 1994, Reagan wrote “I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease…. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience,” and in 1998, while Reagan was stricken by Alzheimer’s, Nancy told Vanity Fair, “Our relationship is very special. We were very much in love and still are. When I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it’s true. It did. I can’t imagine life without him.” Reagan died of pneumonia, complicated by Alzheimer’s disease, at his home in Bel Air, California, on the afternoon of June 5, 2004. A short time after his death, Nancy Reagan released a statement saying, “My family and I would like the world to know that President Ronald Reagan has died after 10 years of Alzheimer’s disease at 93 years of age. We appreciate everyone’s prayers.” Nancy Reagan passed away on March 6, 2016 at age 94 of congestive heart failure.