On March 4, 1952, actor and future president Ronald Reagan married his second wife, actress Nancy Davis. The couple wed in Los Angeles at the Little Brown Church in the Valley. For trivia lovers, the matron of honor was Brenda Marshall and the best man was her husband, actor William Holden. Nancy Davis met her husband in 1949 while Reagan was serving as president of the Screen Actors Guild and Nancy was embroiled in an effort to remove her name from the notorious McCarthy-era Hollywood blacklist of possible communist sympathizers. The two fell in love and were married three years later. Ronald Reagan 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.
The Reagans were married for 52 years, until the president’s death in 2004. What made their marriage special? One of Reagan’s press secretaries said, “They never stopped courting.” Mr. Reagan once wrote to Nancy, “Whatever I treasure and enjoy, all would be without meaning if I didn’t have you.” When he was in the hospital in 1981, she slept with one of his shirts to be comforted by his scent.
In a remarkable letter 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.” Four years later, while he was well into his disease, 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.”
Happy anniversary, Mr. President. Happy anniversary, Mrs. Reagan.