Nancy Reagan married Ronald Reagan in 1952. Nancy Reagan

On What Religion Meant to her Husband

Well he has a deep belief in God and that everything happens for a reason, which we may not understand at the time it happens but that God has a plan for each of us and you know you begin to think that really someone is looking out for him. In Sacramento, when he was first sworn in it was a gray day and as he stepped up to the podium to give his speech, the clouds parted and the sun shone. When he finished, the clouds went back together. The same thing happened in Washington. And after the shooting, the next morning, there was a rainbow over the White House, so and just the shooting itself, he said to Cardinal Cook, I know that God was sitting on my shoulder.

On her and Ronald's First Date

Well we met on a blind date which you probably know and so of course, I knew what he looked like and I liked that. But he was so completely different from any actor I had ever known. He didn't talk about his last picture or his next picture, you know the old story of well now let's talk about you, what did you think of my last picture. He had many other interests and the first night that we went out, I mean, we talked about so many things but we never talked about acting and I liked that.

On the Assassination Attempt on her Husband

I was at a luncheon, at an art museum and we'd gotten to dessert and for some reason, this has never happened to me before, or since and I hope it never does, I just had this overwhelming feeling that I should get back to the White House. And, I made kind of an excuse and I went back to the White House and we were in the midst of refurbishing and so on and I went up to the solarium where Ted Rayburn and Red Skeleton were and I was talking to them and I looked, there's a ramp that goes up to the solarium and I turned and looked and there standing at the bottom of the ramp was George Opfer who is head of my detail, motioning me to come down and I thought, well that's odd, why doesn't he come up here. It was so strange. And, I went down and he said, I want to tell you there's been a shooting. Well, you know, I don't think he got the words out of his mouth and I was headed for the elevator. And, he said, but the President's all right, the President wasn't hurt. I said nevertheless, I'm going to the hospital and we got in the elevator and went down and he's still saying to me, no it would be better if you stayed here. And I said, George, you either get me a car or I'm going to walk to the hospital. But, I'm going. So, of course, he got a car and we went.

Well, when I got there everybody's still telling me he hasn't been shot, he hasn't been hit. I think it was Mike Deaver who was standing waiting for me and I think he was the one who told me that he'd been hit. And I remember saying but they told me he hadn't been and he said, "I know, but he was hit." And they took me in a little tiny room, I mean tiny, they were, you could get two people in the room and I kept wanting to see him and they wouldn't let me see him. And that didn't make me feel very easy. And then when they finally let me see him, he was so white, I've never seen anybody so white and he had that thing over his face to help him breath and there was blood and he opened his eyes and saw me and that's when he said, "Honey, I forgot to duck."

My American Experience

My American Experience photos

Share Your Story

Who was your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Kennedy? Reagan? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH