This Day In History: March 4

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On March 4, 1952, actor and future President Ronald Reagan marries his second wife, actress Nancy Davis. The couple wed in Los Angeles at the Little Brown Church in the Valley.

Nancy Davis, whose real name is Anne Frances Robbins, met her husband in 1951. (MGM Studios signed her to a contract and billed her as Nancy Davis for her first screen role in the film Shadow on the Wall). The two met in 1951, while Reagan was serving as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Nancy was embroiled in an effort to remove her name from the notorious McCarthy-era Hollywood blacklist of possible communist sympathizers. The list actually referred to another actress of the same name, but it was preventing Davis from finding work, so the future first lady contacted Reagan to see if he, as SAG president, could help clear up the confusion. The two fell in love and were married a year later. Their first child, Patricia, was born 7 months after the wedding. 

In 1957, the couple appeared together in Hellcats of the Navy, but after their son Ron was born the following year, Nancy left acting to become a full-time wife and mother. Meanwhile, her husband’s political career took off and he became governor of California in 1967, a position he held until 1975. In 1980, he became president, serving for two terms. For her part, Nancy embraced the role of governor’s wife and later, first lady.

Thought of as America’s first couple, the Reagans appeared to embody traditional American values. Their appeal reflected America’s love affair with movies and the actors in them. Americans ate up images of Ronald and Nancy’s public expressions of sincere devotion and they were often photographed together on their ranch in California or dancing in each other’s arms at state functions.

Nancy placed her husband at the center of her life. "My life really began when I married my husband,” she once reminisced. Speaking of Reagan, she said, "I could be the wife I wanted to be…A woman’s real happiness and real fulfillment come from within the home with her husband and children.” She nursed him while he recovered from a serious gunshot wound inflicted by a would-be assassin in 1981 and he stood by her when she underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer in 1987.

Shortly after leaving office, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and the ever-devoted, stalwart Nancy took care of him until his death in 2004 at the age of 93. Nancy died in 2016 at the age of 94.