10 interesting facts on President Ronald Reagan’s birthday

National Constitution Center

It’s the 102nd birthday of Ronald Reagan, and since he was one of the most widely recognized world leaders, it’s not hard to find some interesting facts about the 40th president.

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Reagan had a long career as an actor and union leader before he became the governor of California in the 1960s and won the presidential election in 1980.

Here are 10 facts about President Reagan you may not know.

1. Reagan really did enjoy jelly beans. According to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, his favorite flavor was licorice. Reagan started eating jelly beans in 1967 as he was trying to quit a pipe-smoking habit. He switched to Jelly Bellies a decade later.

2. One food that Reagan didn’t like was brussels sprouts. This is according to the Reagan Library website. In her autobiography, Nancy Reagan said her husband wasn’t a fussy eater since he traveled on the public speaking circuit for decades, but he also didn’t like tomatoes.

3. Reagan’s nickname of “Dutch” was given to him at an early age by his family. Reagan’s ancestry is Irish on his father’s side and Scots-English on his mother’s side.

4. The future president’s last movie role was in the 1964 release, The Killers. Based on an Ernest Hemingway story, it was Reagan’s only role as a villain in a film, and it was the first made-for-TV movie. However, The Killers was considered too violent for TV, and released to movie theaters instead.

5. The future president lost partial hearing in one ear when he was hurt on a movie set in the late 1930s, after a gun was fired next to his ear. Decades later, President Reagan wrote to Michael Jackson offering his support after Jackson was burned filming a TV commercial.

6. Ronald Reagan started out in life as a Democrat and supported the New Deal efforts of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Reagan officially became a Republican  in 1962, but he had grown more conservative during the 1950s as he toured as a General Electric spokesman.

7. Reagan was not the original choice to star in “Casablanca,” instead of Humphrey Bogart. The urban legend over the issue is documented on snopes.com, and it started with a paragraph in a Warner Brothers’ press release issued before the movie was made. Bogart was always expected to play the lead role.

8. In 1950, Reagan campaigned for Helen Gahagan Douglas in her bitter Senate race against Richard Nixon. A decade later, Reagan campaigned widely for Nixon in the 1960 presidential election against John F. Kennedy.

9. Ronald Reagan is the only U.S. president to get a divorce. He had married actress Jane Wyman in the 1940s and the couple was divorced in 1948. He married actress Nancy Davis in 1952.

10. Young Ronald Reagan was successful as an actor and football player at Eureka College. But his most important role was a lifeguard at a local park in Illinois. The future president saved an estimated 77 lives in his summers as a lifeguard.

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