Ronald Reagan: Armed Citizen
Editor's Note: As we mark the 100th birthday of President Ronald Wilson Reagan, we remember a story that always seems to escape the attention of the establishment media.
Reagan Was Hero To Iowa Woman
Nursing Student Rescued From Mugger By Reagan
June 7, 2004
Former President Ronald Reagan is known as the "Great Communicator," but one Iowa woman will always know him as her hero.
Melba King was a 22-year-old nursing student in Des Moines in 1933. She was walking home one autumn night when a mugger came up behind her with a gun and demanded her money.
At that moment, Ronald Reagan -- who was a Des Moines radio sportscaster at the time -- came to her rescue. Reagan pointed a .45-caliber revolver at the robber from the window of his second-floor rented room.
"And he said, 'Leave her alone or I'll shoot you right between the shoulders,'" King told KCCI.
Reagan scared the man off and calmed King's nerves. Then, the future president said he would walk King home.
King didn't see Reagan again until 1984, when Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad heard her story and invited her to an Iowa caucus campaign event.
After King and Reagan hugged on stage, Reagan laughed, and said to the crowd, "This is the first time I've had a chance to tell you the gun was empty. I didn't have any cartridges. If he hadn't run when I told him to, I was going to have to throw it at him."
King's rescue became a national news story. "The phone rang constantly," King said.
All the media attention caused Reagan and King to stay in touch. The two families exchanged cards on birthdays, holidays, and during times of sickness and grief.
The Reagans helped King when she lost her husband Harold in 1987, and now she will send Nancy Reagan a sympathy note.