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© Richard Knight
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Sunday, February 6, 2011, marks the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth.

I first learned of Ronald Reagan in the 1950s, because many of his old movies were on television. In “Knute Rockne – All-American,” Reagan’s portrayal of George Gipp forever cast him as the "Gipper."

Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California in November of 1966. At the time, this was very big news at the Virginia Military Institute, where I was a cadet. Reagan had a role in a very schmaltzy movie about VMI, “Brother Rat” (1938), and we were very familiar with that flick.

During my senior year at VMI (1969), I invited Governor Reagan to speak at VMI, but he declined. I still have the letter that he signed and mailed to me.

In 1979, the Birmingham, Alabama Jaycees invited Reagan to speak – and he accepted! I shook hands with him, and I remember his iron grip and his impressive physical stature. Reagan was tall, handsome, and rugged. And, he had a friendly face that never met a stranger.

I also remember the little conversation that I had with the future president. I said, “Hello, Brother Rat,” a reference to his "VMI" movie (and a term of affection between VMI classmates). Reagan paused, smiled, and replied: “Yes, but you’re a real one,” and of course I was.

When President Reagan announced that he would run for a second term, I decided I would try to attend the Republican National Convention that year as a delegate (1984). Easier said than done!

I had to qualify for the Republican primary, which involved collecting more than 500 signatures of registered voters in my congressional district. Then, the President’s re-election committee had to select me for the ballot. And finally, I had to receive more votes than three other candidates. Somehow, I succeeded. I still have a copy of the paper ballot: There, seven names above my name, is the name of President Reagan!

Linda and I attended the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas, that August, and we had the time of our lives.

The Tennessee delegation was seated not far from the podium and next to the band. When President and Mrs. Reagan were introduced on the last night of the convention, the band broke out into a rousing rendition of “California, Here I Come.” Moments later, the great Ray Charles performed his vocal version of this American standard. It was thrilling.

Back home, President Reagan visited Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry in September to wish the legendary Roy Acuff a “Happy Birthday.” Linda and I were there.

In the large picture, you can see the President at the podium, to the left and a little above the “N” in Nebraska. (Mrs. Reagan, Ray Charles, and the President are shown on the large screen above the podium.) In the lower right, at right, are President Reagan and Roy Acuff on the stage of the Grand Old Opry.

Thanks for reading this long memoir, and thanks for stopping by!

54 responses

  • Donald Garrett

    Donald Garrett gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    What a vast collection of memories you have!! This is a wonderful presentation.

  • dp *

    dp * gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    ditto w/Donald. Lovely colage.

  • Susan Littlefield

    Susan Littlefield gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    What a wonderful collection of photos, and I agree with Don as well---you have so many incredible memories; I appreciate you sharing them with us! Reagan was truly an honorable man, and something one of the press secretaries said about the Reagans always stuck with me.....'"They never took each other for granted. They never stopped courting." He was indeed and gentleman and a scholar, and a heck of a president!!

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    I was a Nelson Rockefeller supporter and left the party when Tricky Dicky got the nod...I haven't supported a Republican presidential candidate since.

  • Roxana Brivent-Barnes

    Roxana Brivent-Barnes said (31 Jan 2011):

    Brilliant collage, and yes, it seams you have great memories, thanks for sharing!

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen said (31 Jan 2011):

    What an interesting narrative and collage of pictures...It is exciting no matter who is running to see a future president...We went to a rally and saw Bill Clinton when he was campaigning for president and the crowd was massive..I will never forget before they left, Tipper Gore who is a good photographer on the side, shooting pictures of the crowd from their campaign bus window.. They were all much younger then and had a lot of vitality and enthusiasm.

  • Richard Knight

    Richard Knight said (31 Jan 2011):

    Thanks for the nice faves, props, and comments everyone. There is a tremendous amount of excitement in these things, no matter the candidate or the political party. Out of curiosity, I went to see Governor George Wallace of Alabama at a large football stadium in Norfolk, Virginia in 1968 when he was running for president on a third-party ticket. I can remember the excitement to this day.


    JOE FAILK gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    Very interesting Thanks for sharing!

  • Debrah Leonard

    Debrah Leonard (Deleted) gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    Happy Birthday Mr. President. ..... I'm a Democrat, but I like your comp and photos ! bipartisan support ;-)

  • elfriede fulda

    elfriede fulda (Deleted) gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    I'm a Canadian,lol,,this is a well put together collage,,and so interesting as always....

  • Richard Knight

    Richard Knight said (31 Jan 2011):

    Thanks, Debrah. I intentionally avoided any partisan discussion in my narration. Thanks to everyone!

  • peggy maguire

    peggy maguire said (31 Jan 2011):

    incredible story Dick,you have such wonderful memories.....Peggy

  • Brad Paro

    Brad Paro gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    This is a great collage for a GREAT President!

  • Judy and Wayne Wanamaker

    Judy and Wayne Wanamaker gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    A fabulous story and collage, Dick! President Reagan was one of the most personable presidents I can remember. When Wayne taught at the US Naval Academy, I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Reagan speak at one of their commencements. He was six weeks out from his colon cancer surgery, and we were not even sure he would be there. Mr. Reagan held our military in the highest esteem, and said he would not have missed speaking for anything. After a highly complimentary speech full of respect and gratitude to those who serve, he stood on the podium and greeted each graduate with a handshake, and personal words of congratulations. As always, he pushed himself past what many of us would have endured. I didn't have a camera at that time, which I have regretted ever since.

  • Michael Ball

    Michael Ball gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    WOW!! What a very, very interesting story!! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this and the photos with us! Outstanding Dick!

  • Leslie Hunziker

    Leslie Hunziker   gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    Ole Ronnie baby. I loved him.

  • Linda Houghton

    Linda Houghton   gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    What great memories to have. A lovely tribute to our former President !

  • Steven Schutz

    Steven Schutz gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    FREAKING GREAT narrative....what a collection of awesome photographs...GO NEBRASKA!!!!....LOVE the stylin hat you are sporting....

  • Sonia Adam Murray

    Sonia Adam Murray gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    You certainly keep us up to day my friend!

  • Debbie Smartt

    Debbie Smartt   gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    You are amazing my friend!

  • Betty Maxey

    Betty Maxey   gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    Great photos!! And such an interesting narrative. WHAT a memory too!!! Loved this!

  • Litz Go

    Litz Go gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    now I know why you have soft spot for Californians! Wonderful narrative of a memorable event, RV! Love this and all your life experiences!

  • Warren ~Mangione~

    Warren ~Mangione~ gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    Wow, this is wonderful, Dick. I loved the narrative. You have had some really fabulous experiences. So now you get to take the point. LOL Oh yes, I remember that movie, Brother Rat.

  • Tiia Vissak

    Tiia Vissak gave props (31 Jan 2011):

    well done!

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain gave props (1 Feb 2011):

    collection of beautiful memories !! This is a excellent presentation!!! Great Richard!!!

  • eithne mythen

    eithne mythen gave props (1 Feb 2011):

    Love how you put these together, you are a great story teller and what a memory, enjoyed the read...

  • Nancy Richard

    Nancy Richard gave props (1 Feb 2011):

    A remarkable collage and memories! You are something, Dick!!!

  • Deborah Downes

    Deborah Downes gave props (1 Feb 2011):

    Wonderful collage and an excellent narrative. Thanks so much for sharing, Dick.

  • Heather Mellon

    Heather Mellon gave props (1 Feb 2011):

    President Reagan certainly left his mark on the pages of history! I love how you captured and shared your personal memories of him and the political process. Awesome!

  • Suzanne McGeady

    Suzanne McGeady said (1 Feb 2011):

    Just loved your turn of phrase....for it's so apt with you as well....."He has a friendly face that never met a stranger." There but for the grace, etc etc ....could be you dear Cap'n.
    Wonderful wonderful narrative.
    Your boater so becomes you!

  • Maria Mutch

    Maria Mutch (Deleted) gave props (1 Feb 2011):

    A great collection as always. As a lefty-canuck, I may catch on fire, but your memories and essays are loved by so many. I dig the white hat...

  • Jyri Vissak

    Jyri Vissak gave props (1 Feb 2011):

    Nice work! Well done.

  • dana io

    dana io gave props (2 Feb 2011):

    How many other great pictures filled with history do you have?... Really great! Thank you for the 'long memoirs' as well!!

  • dana io

    dana io gave props (2 Feb 2011):

    Is that you with the hat? : ) The wonderful smile looks like yours!

  • Carl Kuntze

    Carl Kuntze gave props (2 Feb 2011):

    I learned to admire Ronald Reagan, although many people couldn't get past the fact he was an actor. I'm sure they didn't archive an incoident I remember when he tried to brush off a young union leader questioning his qualifications. "I don't know. I never played governor." But when the young man persisted, put aside his prepared speech, explaining he too was a union leader. One of a small but influential organization that improved conditions not only of actors but people working in every aspect of the movie industry. Then he elaborated on his role as spokesman for GE. Then and there, he won my vote. Good memoriam.

  • Regenia Brabham

    Regenia Brabham gave props (2 Feb 2011):

    WOW BB!! You have really had some incredible life experiences. I was in middle school when he was elected and will never forget it. This is such a great tribute to him.

  • Bruce Miller

    Bruce Miller (Deleted) gave props (3 Feb 2011):

    Mr. Reagan was never one of my favourite Presidents but I was very sorry to hear about his Alzhiemer's. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Sir Knight you certainly have had some great experiences!,

  • Patty Gross

    Patty Gross (Deleted) gave props (3 Feb 2011):

    Fantastic collage honoring perhaps the president most deserving of honor. Ronald Reagan was a patriot, a very kind, honorable, intelligent, and decent gentleman. He was one of the few who men who have been really outstanding in performing their duties as the leader of the United States of America. Few could ever begin to compare to Ronald Reagan. What a pity for our beloved America that we have no one half as qualified now to lead us as he did!!! Thanks so much for the wonderful photos, and of course for the brilliant narrative describing the many incidents surrounding President Ronald Reagan!

  • Camera Junkie

    Camera Junkie gave props (4 Feb 2011):

    A great piece, Richard!

  • Rhio9 (Rhio9)

    Rhio9 (Rhio9) (Deleted) said (4 Feb 2011):

    i remember recording two new songs i wrote in "honor" of reagan at the time: (1) God, Guts and Guns and (2) Vietnam Vet, Welcome Home. in that year....what was it, 1984? i guess..in that year i was a card-carrying member of the Moral Majority, the John Birch Society and the Church of Scientology LOL this was before i did est and Transcendental Meditation and before the really hard-core use of drugs and other controlled substances that i couldnt control at the time! Anyway, i grew out of it and managed to take control of my sanity but the songs were always good as far as i was concerned. God, Guts and Guns got recorded on a NRA Gun Album back in those days. Of course, i dont know about the politics thing. i buried the religious stuff. i'm totally disillusioned with democracy generally but i LOVE the pieces youve done and the text in tribute to another time and place.

  • Richard Knight

    Richard Knight said (4 Feb 2011):

    Rhio's great comment has stirred me from my lethargy. (Sometimes it takes nuclear fission to do that.) My thanks to everyone for the generosity of their comments. This collage and accompanying narrative were uploaded to illustrate some interesting episodes in my life, not recruit anyone to the "cause." And everyone understood that. And I appreciate that. JPG is a vast tent, large enough to accommodate everyone, no matter what . . . Thanks again!

  • Dhanny P

    Dhanny P (Deleted) gave props (4 Feb 2011):

    Dear Richard, what a wonderful collection of memories you have. I am so lucky to know you to be able to share in them. Thank you so much.. :-)

  • Shirley Valencia

    Shirley Valencia   said (4 Feb 2011):

    All I can say is Wonderful....................

  • Lanis Rossi

    Lanis Rossi gave props (5 Feb 2011):

    Ah Yes! Those were the days! Nice Job!

  • Ronnie Ginnever

    Ronnie Ginnever said (7 Feb 2011):

    Richard, thank you for sharing these moments in history. Your images + narrative make me feel like I'm reliving times long gone.

  • Carlo Pagan

    Carlo Pagan gave props (7 Feb 2011):

    Love this!!

  • david ong

    david ong gave props (18 Feb 2011):

    thank you Dick, this is AWESOME!

  • Oregon Curly

    Oregon Curly (Deleted) gave props (19 Feb 2011):

    Richard, having read all the above comments, just let me say 'ditto' to most of them, Susan's in particular. I never had the honor to meet him, but have worked with some of the people he appointed, all honorable patriots. He was a strong backer of the political arena that I was working in at the time.

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain gave props (23 Feb 2011):

    what a wonderful memories you have Sir Richard!!!! Great!!!!

  • Christopher J Chalk

    Christopher J Chalk gave props (3 Mar 2011):

    WOW, I didn't realise he was that old! Great tribute and narrative my Friend - :)

  • Rajeev Jadhav

    Rajeev Jadhav said (4 Mar 2011):

    Great words and image Richard

  • William Garvey

    William Garvey gave props (9 Apr 2011):

    Wow, and I loved every word. Ronald Reagan was a great president. I voted for him twice. I loved, "The rest of the story"

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