Nancy Reagan, An Influential And Stylish First Lady
Nancy Reagan, the former actress who was fiercely protective of husband Ronald Reagan through a Hollywood career, eight years in the White House, an assassination attempt and her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease, died on Sunday at age 94.
The cause of death was congestive heart failure, said a spokeswoman for the Reagan presidential library. She died at her Los Angeles home.
“She is once again with the man she loved,” her stepson Michael Reagan wrote on Twitter.
Reagan became one of the most influential first ladies in U.S. history during her Republican husband’s presidency from 1981 to 1989.
Her husband, who affectionately called her “Mommy” while she called him “Ronnie,” died in 2004 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s, the progressive brain disorder that destroys memory.
Nancy Davis was a Hollywood actress during the 1940s and 1950s and married Reagan, a prominent film actor, in 1952. She then served as first lady of California during her husband’s stint as California governor from 1967 to 1975 before moving into the White House after his decisive victory over incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Her most publicized project as first lady was the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. After her husband developed Alzheimer’s disease, she became an advocate for discovering a cure.
She was diminutive and publicly soft-spoken, but Nancy Reagan’s strong will, high-tone tastes and clout with her husband made her a controversial figure during his presidency.
As Reagan’s wife, political partner and adviser, she became one of America’s most potent first ladies, alongside the likes of Franklin Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, Woodrow Wilson’s wife, Edith, and Bill Clinton’s wife, Hillary.
“I see the first lady as another means to keep a president from becoming isolated,” she said in 1985. “I talk to people. They tell me things. And if something is about to become a problem, I’m not above calling a staff person and asking about it. I’m a woman who loves her husband and I make no apologies for looking out for his personal and political welfare.”
Nancy Reagan will be also remembered for hosting one of the most rocking Christmas parties in White House history.
On December 12, 1983, Mrs. Reagan invited none other than Mr. T to play Santa Claus for the unveiling of the White House Christmas decorations. At one point in the merrymaking, Mrs. Reagan seized her chance to sit on Santa’s lap for a photo. She then gave him a big, wet kiss on the forehead.
It was a photo-op that surprised many, not least because of Mr. T’s rugged persona on The A-Team.
Speaking about the event to The Independent, Mr. T said,
“Nancy Reagan was campaigning to get kids to say no to drugs, and they heard about me going round schools telling kids to stay away from drugs. It was a real honor for a black kid from the ghetto who grew up on welfare.”
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