Ronald Reagan   (1911-2004)

By Michael Arthur Worden Evans, ca. 1984. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Fortieth President, 1981-1989

When ex-California governor Ronald Reagan began his presidency in 1981, his warmth and skill in handling the media had already planted the seeds of his reputation as the "great communicator." More significant, however, was how those traits were made to work on behalf of his conservative agenda. By the end of his second term, despite widespread concern over budget deficits and several administration scandals, Reagan's presidency had wrought many significant changes, heartily endorsed by the public at large. Under his leadership, the nation had undergone major tax reforms, witnessed a significant easing of relations with the Communist world, and experienced a sharp upturn in prosperity. In the wake of these developments, Reagan left office enjoying a popularity that only a few of his outgoing predecessors had ever experienced.