UPDATE: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have issued an official statement about the passing of Former First Lady Nancy Reagan.
“Nancy Reagan once wrote that nothing could prepare you for living in the White House. She was right, of course. But we had a head start, because we were fortunate to benefit from her proud example, and her warm and generous advice.
Our former First Lady redefined the role in her time here. Later, in her long goodbye with President Reagan, she became a voice on behalf of millions of families going through the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer’s, and took on a new role, as advocate, on behalf of treatments that hold the potential and the promise to improve and save lives.
We offer our sincere condolences to their children, Patti, Ron, and Michael, and to their grandchildren. And we remain grateful for Nancy Reagan’s life, thankful for her guidance, and prayerful that she and her beloved husband are together again.”
Former First Lady Nancy Reagan has died at the age of 94, CNN reported.
According to John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation, Mrs. Reagan passed away in her California home due to congestive heart failure .
Mrs. Reagan went from Hollywood actress to Republican First Lady when her husband Ronald Reagan, a former actor, was elected President in 1980. From there, Mrs. Reagan became a much-needed staple in the White House with some biographers and cabinet members giving her credit for helping run the country as it was rumored that her husband was either ill-equipped or may have been battling some neurological issues, or both. It’s been documented that Reagan was very protective of her husband “both personally and politically, being vocal about which staffers seemed loyal and which ones were not, TMZ noted.
During her two-term tenure, Mrs. Reagan also helped coin the phrase “Just Say No,” becoming a staunch anti-drugs spokesperson and became a very public face of breast cancer when she was diagnosed with the disease in 1987. But despite being well-liked by many Americans, the Reagans’ policies left behind a problematic legacy for people of color and the LGBT community. Just look at the impact “Reaganomics,” the racially biased “War on Drugs,” government silence around the early days of the AIDS crisis and the introduction of the “welfare queen” stereotype has had on contemporary society.
But before Mrs. Reagan was acclimated to Washington, the New-York born Nancy Davis was an MGM contract actress, making 12 films and a few television shows from 1949 until 1956. However, her promising career was cut short, when her name appeared “on a list of people thought to have been Communist sympathizers in 1949,” CNN noted. Soon after she met Mr. Reagan and they wed in Los Angeles in 1952.
In 1968, Mr. Reagan decided to leave the bright lights of Hollywood and begin a career in politics. Many referred to their relationship as a fairy tale marriage. In her autobiography, Mrs. Reagan wrote, “My life really began when I married my husband.”
After her husband’s death to Alzheimer’s in 2004, Mrs. Reagan experienced “massive grief, loneliness and a very bad fall,” which made her become very private. But in a rare 2009 interview for Vanity Fair, she opened up about her life in the White House, her love for her husband and her thoughts on the 2008 election, where she had very kind words for then newly-elected President Barack Obama.
“I voted for McCain. But I thought Obama ran the best campaign I have ever known—disciplined, well-organized, very, very good. I was very impressed,” she said.
She also shared that First Lady Michelle Obama called her asking for advice on how to navigate this new role as the wife of a president. The mother and grandmother told her, “to have lots of state dinners.”
It’s the easiest thing in the world,” she says about entertaining at the White House, with its large and efficient staff. “You don’t have to do anything. Just have a good time and do a little business. And that’s the way Washington works,” she stressed.