WIUM Tristates Public Radio

A Tribute to The Gipper

Illinois – The Illinois Reagan Centennial Commission is starting to organize events for a two-year tribute to Ronald Reagan. He is the only US president born in Illinois.

Reagan was born in Tampico February 6, 1911. His family moved around quite a bit when he was young. Their stops included Galesburg and Monmouth.

"He was five when he went to Galesburg," said Ann Lewis, vice chair, the Illinois Reagan Centennial Commission.

They lived in an apartment at 1260 N. Kellogg Street and later moved across the street to 1219 N. Kellogg. He attended the Silas Willard Elementary School.

Lewis said the family lived in Galesburg for about two years. After that they moved to Monmouth in 1918. His family lived at 218 S. Seventh St and Reagan began second grade at Central School.

Eventually the family moved to Dixon, where Reagan spent the rest of his formative years.

Lewis said she has become a fan of Reagan while researching his life.

"In addition to being able to deliver a good speech, he knew how to write one because he truly wrote from the heart," said Lewis. "In many a speech, as president of the United States and as governor of California, he would talk about his Midwest values of family and friends and faith that he learned here and that never left him."

Lewis said the commission hopes to promote Reagan-related tourism. In addition, numerous activities will be held. Many are still in the planning stages but Lewis said they will include events involving music, art, sports, and education. She hopes school and park districts across the state will participate in some of the events.

Lewis said there is no state funding for the commission so its members are seeking funding through corporate donors.

Reagan left Illinois for a career in Hollywood when he was 27. Most of his roles were in "B" movies.

Reagan was elected governor of California in 1966. He served two terms.

Reagan ran for the Republican nomination for president in 1976 but was defeated by incumbent Gerald Ford. Reagan won the party's nomination in 1980 and easily defeated Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter in the November election to become the nation's 40th president.

Reagan walloped Walter Mondale in the 1984 election to earn a second term. Reagan won every state except Minnesota (and the District of Columbia) in the largest landslide in US presidential election history.

Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1994. He died on June 5, 2004.