|Interment Location||Visited||Sequence in Graves I Have Visited|
|Simi Valley, CA||August 10, 2008||33rd President visited|
Ronald Reagan first rose to fame as a B-movie Hollywood actor with Warner Bros. Studios in the 1940s. Four decades later, he was the face of American conservatism and president of the United States. He and his second wife, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, are entombed within inches of each other at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, California.
The tomb’s concave west front is inscribed with a quotation from the speech Ronald Reagan made on November 4, 1991 when his library was dedicated: “[…] I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and that there is purpose and worth to each and every life.” The excerpt was altered in a minor way when it was translated to the gravesite.
My father’s friend Jay photographed our reunion with former President Reagan at his gravesite. Four years prior, my father and I passed by the late politician’s casket as he lay in state in the Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C. We paid our respects at 2:00 a.m. on June 11, 2004. 1,522 days afterward, I could barely squeeze into the “Remember President Reagan” souvenir shirt I had gotten at an outlet near Ford’s Theatre later that June day. The garment was retired to a shadowbox soon after this graveside picture.
At the time of our August 2008 stop at the Reagan Library, the 40th president was the only person entombed at the site. Mrs. Reagan lived close to another eight years after our visit. She died at age 94 on March 6, 2016. Five days later she was interred with her husband, and her name and lifespan have since been added to the stone pictured here.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s grave faces west, overlooking the Simi Valley hillside. The library is located on the ancestral lands of the Indigenous Chumash Peoples, who lived in the region as far back as 13,000 years ago. Colonization by Spain and the United States in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries introduced diseases that killed a substantial number of Chumash. The name Simi Valley is derived from the Chumash word “Shimiji,” a reference “to the stringy, thread-like clouds that typify the region.”
Born: February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois
Spouses: Jane Wyman (m. 1940-1949); Nancy Davis Reagan (m. 1952-2004)
Highest Military Rank: Captain — U.S. Army Air Forces
Political Affiliation: Republican Party
Gubernatorial Term: 1967-1975
Presidential Term: 1981-1989
Vice President: George H.W. Bush
Presidential Medal of Freedom: Awarded by George H.W. Bush (1993)
Died: June 5, 2004 in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death: Alzheimer’s Disease; Pneumonia
Interment: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, Simi Valley, California
"Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy 'accommodation.' And they say if we'll only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he'll forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers. They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer - not an easy answer but simple: If you and I have the courage to tell our elected officials that we want our national policy based on what we know in our hearts is morally right."
- Ronald Reagan
October 27, 1964 in his nationally televised speech "A Time for Choosing," in support of the Republican presidential nominee, Senator Barry Goldwater
On January 26, 1940, Ronald Reagan married his Brother Rat co-star Jane Wyman at the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather Chapel in Glendale, California. The small structure is located on the grounds of Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Just west of the chapel is a two-seated wishing chair, which Reagan and Wyman were photographed sitting in on the day of their nuptials. The future president was 28 years old at the time of the wedding — the same age I was when I sat in the wishing chair, sans accompanying bride.
In February 1960, Ronald Reagan received a star on the newly-established Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the medium of television. His star is located at 6374 Hollywood Boulevard, near the street’s intersection with Cahuenga Boulevard.
This display case at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library contains the suit that the 40th chief executive wore at his first inauguration on January 20, 1981. Just 17 days shy of his 70th birthday, Reagan surpassed William Henry Harrison as the oldest person to take the presidential oath of office, breaking a 140-year record. Reagan padded his record in 1985, when he recited the oath at the start of his second term, aged 73. The title is now held by Joe Biden, who was 78 when he was sworn into office in 2021.
On March 30, 1981, just over two months into his first presidential term, Ronald Reagan was shot as he exited the Washington Hilton. The perpetrator, a mentally-ill 25-year-old named John Hinckley, Jr., wounded three other people as well: White House Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy, and police officer Thomas K. Delahanty. All survived the attack, but Brady was left paraplegic. The exterior of the Hilton remains relatively unchanged since the assassination attempt, with a notable exception being the addition of a garage, shown at the bottom left of this photograph. Its construction has allowed V.I.P.s to enter and exit the hotel without being exposed to potential threats outdoors, as President Reagan had been. The Washington Hilton is located at 1919 Connecticut Avenue NW, near D.C.’s Dupont Circle.
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Balmer, Randall. “The Religious Right and the Abortion Myth.” Politico. May 10, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/05/10/abortion-history-right-white-evangelical-1970s-00031480.
Dferriero. “The Importance of Acknowledging our History: The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Simi Valley, California.” AOTUS Blog (blog). National Archives. August 25, 2021. https://aotus.blogs.archives.gov/2021/08/25/the-importance-of-acknowledging-our-history-the-ronald-reagan-presidential-library-and-museum-simi-valley-california/.
“Our History.” Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. Accessed December 28, 2021. https://www.santaynezchumash.org/chumash-history.
Pach, Chester. “The Long Goodbye: Mourning and Remembering Ronald Reagan.” In Mourning the Presidents: Loss and Legacy in American Culture, edited by Lindsay M. Chervinsky and Matthew R. Costello, 244-270. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2023.
“Reagan Presidential Library Dedication.” C-SPAN video, 1:28:12. November 4, 1991. https://www.c-span.org/video/?22610-1/reagan-presidential-library-dedication.
Reagan, Ronald. “A Time for Choosing.” Transcript of speech delivered in Los Angeles County, CA, October 27, 1964. https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/reagans/ronald-reagan/time-choosing-speech-october-27-1964.
Tribune News Services. “Nancy Reagan to be laid to rest close as possible to husband.” Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2016. https://www.latimes.com/nation/ct-nancy-reagan-funeral-20160308-story.html.
Washington Post. “Scenes From the Funeral Ceremonies.” June 11, 2004. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34145-2004Jun11.html?noredirect=on.