Donald Regan

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Donald Regan
11th White House Chief of Staff
In office
February 4, 1985 – February 27, 1987
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byJames Baker
Succeeded byHoward Baker
66th United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
January 22, 1981 – February 1, 1985
PresidentRonald Reagan
DeputyR. T. McNamar
Preceded byG. William Miller
Succeeded byJames Baker
Personal details
Donald Thomas Regan

(1918-12-21)December 21, 1918
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedJune 10, 2003(2003-06-10) (aged 84)
Williamsburg, Virginia, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Ann George Buchanan (1942–his death)
EducationHarvard University (BA)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Marine Corps
RankUS-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel
Battles/warsWorld War II

Donald Thomas Regan (December 21, 1918 – June 10, 2003) was the 66th United States Secretary of the Treasury from 1981 to 1985 and the White House Chief of Staff from 1985 to 1987 under Ronald Reagan. In the Reagan administration, he advocated "Reaganomics" and tax cuts as a means to create jobs and to stimulate production.

Earlier in his life, he had studied at Harvard University before he served in the United States Marine Corps, achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1946 he started to work for Merrill Lynch. He served as its chairman and CEO from 1971 to 1980.

Early life[edit]

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Kathleen (née Ahearn) and William Francis Regan, he was of Irish Catholic origins. Regan earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard College in 1940 and attended Harvard Law School before dropping out to join the Marine Corps at the outset of World War II.

He reached the rank of lieutenant colonel while he was serving in the Pacific Theater. He was involved in five major campaigns, including Guadalcanal and Okinawa.

In 1942, Regan married the former Ann George Buchanan (1921–2006) with whom he had four children: Donna Regan Lefeve, Donald T. Regan, Jr., Richard William Regan, and Diane Regan Doniger.

Wall Street[edit]

Donald Regan portrait as Merrill Lynch CEO, by Robert Templeton, 1981

After the war, he joined Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. in 1946 as an account executive trainee. He worked up through the ranks, eventually taking over as Merrill Lynch's chairman and CEO in 1971, the year the company went public. He held those positions until 1980.

Regan was one of the original directors of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation and was vice chairman of the New York Stock Exchange from 1973 to 1975. He was a major proponent of brokerage firms going public, which he viewed as an important step in the modernization of Wall Street. Under his supervision, Merrill Lynch had its initial public offering on June 23, 1971, becoming only the second Wall Street firm to go public. (Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette was the first.)

During his tenure in these two positions, Regan pushed hard for an end to minimum fixed commissions for brokers, which were fees that brokerage companies had to charge clients for every transaction they made on the clients' behalf. Regan saw them as a cartel-like restriction. His lobbying played a large part of fixed commissions being abolished in 1975.

Reagan administration[edit]

President Ronald Reagan selected Donald Regan in 1981 to serve as Treasury Secretary, marking him as a spokesman for his economic policies, dubbed "Reaganomics". He helped engineer changes in the tax code, reduce income tax rates, and decrease taxes for corporations. Regan unexpectedly swapped jobs with then White House Chief of Staff James Baker in 1985. As chief of staff, Regan was closely involved in the day-to-day management of White House policy, which led Howard Baker, Regan's successor as chief of staff, to give a rebuke that Regan was becoming a "prime minister" inside an increasingly-complex Imperial Presidency. During his four years as Secretary of the Treasury, Regan did not have a single one-to-one meeting with the president. Regan was forced to resign for repeatedly disagreeing with the First Lady and for being unable to contain the continuing political damage to President Reagan from the Iran–Contra affair.[1]

Regan's 1988 memoir, For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington, exposes his disagreements with First Lady Nancy Reagan, revealing publicly that she had a personal astrologer who was later revealed to be Joan Quigley with whom she consulted and who helped steer the president's decisions. Regan wrote:

Virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House Chief of Staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco [Quigley] who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise.[2][3]

Donald Regan is portrayed by Frank Moore in the 2003 TV movie The Reagans.


"And the horse you rode in on" was a favorite saying of Regan. He learned it from a poker buddy in Texas who said "fuck you and the horse you rode in on." Regan adopted the latter part of the phrase.[citation needed] In the portrait of Regan that hangs on the third floor of the treasury, the title of a book in the background reads And the Horse You Rode In On.[4]

"You've got to give loyalty down if you want loyalty up."[5][6]

"You're gonna have to speed it up", or simply "Speed it up", was a phrase that Regan infamously said to President Reagan during one of his speeches, effectively ordering him to hurry up, as shown in Michael Moore's documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story.[7]


Regan retired quietly in Virginia with Ann Regan, his wife of over 60 years. In late life, he spent nearly 10 hours a day in his art studio painting landscapes. He had four children and nine grandchildren.[8]


Regan died of cancer on June 10, 2003, at the age of 84, in a hospital near his home in Williamsburg, Virginia, and was served by Nelsen Funeral Home.[8] His cremated remains were inurned at Arlington National Cemetery.


  1. ^ Fred I. Greenstein, "Ronald Reagan—Another Hidden-Hand Ike?." PS: Political Science & Politics 23.1 (1990): 7-13.
  2. ^ Donald Regan. For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington, (San Diego: Harcourt Trade Publishers, 1988), ISBN 0151639663
  3. ^ "The President's Astrologers", People (May 23, 1988)
  4. ^ Birnbaum, Jeffery H.; Murray, Alan S. (1987). Showdown at Gucci Gulch: Lawmakers, Lobbyists, and the Unlikely Triumph of Tax Reform. New York: Random House. p. 68. ISBN 0394560248.
  5. ^ Hopkins, Tom (2010). Selling in Tough Times: Secrets to Selling When No One Is Buying. New York: Hachette Book Group. ISBN 9780446558501.
  6. ^ Adamchik, Wally (2011). Construction Leadership from A to Z: 26 Words to Lead By. Austin, Texas: Live Oak Book Company. ISBN 9781936909179.
  7. ^ Taylor, Ella (September 22, 2009). "Michael Moore Is Now a Marxist for Capitalism: A Love Story". The Village Voice.
  8. ^ a b "Donald Regan, 84, Financier and Top Reagan Aide, Dies". The New York Times. June 11, 2003. Retrieved March 20, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Regan, Donald T. For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington (1988)
  • Johns, Andrew L. ed. A Companion to Ronald Reagan (2015)
  • Zaleznik, Abraham. "A Disengaged President: Ronald Reagan and His Lieutenants." Hedgehogs and Foxes (Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008) pp. 23–43.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by United States Secretary of the Treasury
Succeeded by
Preceded by White House Chief of Staff
Succeeded by