State Stories

11

Ronald W. Reagan, Dixon High School Class of 1928

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Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois and is a 1928 graduate of Dixon High School who went on to become the 40th President of the United States. Reagan won two terms, holding the office from 1981 to 1989, and exited with a sixty-eight percent approval, matching Franklin D. Roosevelt, and later Bill Clinton, as the highest ratings for departing Presidents.

President Reagan’s time and participation at Dixon High School had a significant impact on his life, as the following excerpts from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library expand on:

“In 1924, Ronald Reagan entered Dixon High School with a strong love for football. He wanted to play on the team more than anything, but at 5’3” and 108 pounds, his coach wasn’t even sure they had regulation pants to fit him. He tried out for the team, but didn’t make it as a freshman. He determined that next year he would be ready to play and decided over the summer to make sure he was bigger and stronger for football in the fall. Over the summer, Ronald Reagan took a job -- working for 35¢ an hour – helping build and remodel homes around Dixon. He learned to lay floors, shingle roofs, and work with concrete. Not only did he earn money for his future, but built up his muscles for football.

In the fall of 1925, Ronald Reagan, a sophomore, was proudly elected captain of the football team – in a newly-established division for players under 135 pounds. He loved football as much as he had dreamed and went on to play varsity football his junior and senior years. By then he was 5’10½”, 160 pounds and a proud right guard and tackle. He also involved himself in writing and acting as president of the Dramatic Club. He worked as art director of the yearbook and vice president in charge of entertainment for the YMCA ’s Hi-Y Club, which was dedicated to “Clean Speech, Clean Sports, Clean Living, and Clean Scholarship.” In his senior year at Dixon High School, Ronald Reagan was elected Student Body President and had his first real leadership experience.”

President Reagan graduated from Eureka College in 1932 and worked as a sports announcer on several regional radio stations. Moving to Hollywood in 1937, he became an actor, starring in a few major productions, including playing famed University of Notre Dame football player George "The Gipper" Gipp in the classic 1940 film Knute Rockne, All American. Months after the release of his most popular film, Kings Rows, he was placed on active duty by the U.S. Army at the San Francisco Port of Embarkation in Fort Mason, California.

Reagan was twice elected as President of the Screen Actors Guild and was elected Governor of California in 1966. He twice ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nominations in 1968 and 1976; four years later, he easily won the nomination outright, going on to be elected the oldest President, defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980. His 1984 election was the largest electoral college victory in history.

President Reagan’s most well-known accomplishments in office include his economic plan that was dubbed Reaganomics, his escalation of the war on drugs, and ending the Cold War. During his famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, President Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!" Months after the end of his term, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed soon thereafter.

In 1994, President Reagan disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He died of complications from pneumonia at his home in Bel Air, California, on the afternoon of June 5, 2004. His body was put on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, where over 100,000 people came to view the coffin.