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Edith Luckett Davis with her daughter, Nancy, 1931
Edith with husband Loyal and daughter Nancy, 1951

Edith Luckett Davis (July 16, 1888 or 1896 - October 27, 1987)[1][2] was a film and Broadway stage actress in the 1910s and 1920s, and was the mother of Nancy Reagan, wife of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and First Lady of the United States from 1981 to 1989.

Edith Luckett, known as Lucky, was born the ninth and youngest child of Charles Edward Luckett and Sarah Whitlock.[3] Edith grew up in Washington, D.C., as her father worked for the Adams Express Company.[3] Known for her vivacious and outgoing personality and style,[3] Luckett began acting at the age of 15.[1] She appeared in several films, including The Other Girl (1915).[1] She acted on stage as well, most notably on Broadway but she also worked with several regional stock companies.[1] She performed and became friends with such stars as Walter Huston, George M. Cohen, and Spencer Tracy.[4] Her other friends in the business included Zasu Pitts, Louis Calhern, David Belasco, and Alla Nazimova.[3]

Luckett married Kenneth Robbins of Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1916.[2] The couple had one daughter, christened Anne Francis Robbins, but known as Nancy. Luckett and Robbins separated soon after Nancy's birth, and later divorced.[2] In order for Luckett to support herself and her daughter,[3] she chose to resume her stage career,[4] and arranged to have her daughter live with her sister's family in Bethesda, Maryland while she toured the East Coast with acting troupes.[4] She would visit her daughter in Maryland when time allowed.[3] Her last acting performance was in 1928, with Walter Huston and Kay Francis in Elmer the Great.[1]

While on a voyage to England in 1929, Luckett met Loyal Davis, a pioneering Chicago neurosurgeon.[1][4] The two were married on May 21, 1929 and moved to Chicago with Nancy.[2] Dr. Davis adopted Nancy when she was 14, legally changing her name to Nancy Davis.[4] Dr. Davis had one son, Richard, from a previous marriage, who came to live with the family.[4] Loyal Davis was appointed Chief of Surgery at Northwestern University Memorial Hospital in Chicago, a position he held until 1963.[4]

Edith gave up her acting career to become a housewife.[4] She became heavily involved in community and charity work; she organized the gift shop and served on the board at the Passavant Hospital and worked with the Women's Division of the Chicago Charity Fund, eventually becoming chairwoman in serving in that position from 1938 to 1963.[3] While living in Chicago, she saw Nancy move to California, become an actress in her own right, and marry fellow actor Ronald Reagan; Reagan would send flowers to Edith on Nancy's birthday to thank her for giving birth to Nancy.[4] Upon her husband's retirement as Chief of Surgery in 1963, the couple moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Edith volunteered much time to healthcare organizations, including the United Cerebral Palsy Crusade.[4] She sat on the board of the American Cancer Society as well.[3] In 1983, she was awarded the Arizona Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of her service to the mentally retarded.[3][4] The award was later renamed the Edith Davis Award.[4]

Dr. Davis died in 1982 of congestive heart failure. Upon his death, Edith moved from her home to a smaller apartment in Phoenix. She herself died on October 27, 1987, aged 91[1] or 99[2] of a stroke.[1] Her funeral was held in Phoenix, attended by her daughter, Nancy, who was then First Lady of the United States; son-in-law Ronald Reagan, then-President of the United States; and step-son Richard Davis, among many others.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Edith Davis, Nancy Reagan's Mother, Is Dead". The New York Times. October 27, 1987. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/27/obituaries/edith-davis-nancy-reagan-s-mother-is-dead.html. Retrieved 2009-08-08.  
  2. ^ a b c d e "First Lady Biography: Nancy Reagan". National First Ladies Library. http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=41. Retrieved 2009-08-08.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Nancy Reagan's Mom Edith Davis dies at 91". Associated Press, published in the Ocala Star-Banner (Google News Archive). October 27, 1987. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=DroVAAAAIBAJ&sjid=mw4EAAAAIBAJ&pg=5600%2C5325373. Retrieved 2009-08-08.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ferrell, David (October 27, 1987). "Nancy Reagan's Mother, Former Actress Edith (Lucky) Davis, Dies". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1987-10-27/news/mn-16882_1. Retrieved 2009-08-08.  
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