Michael Reagan is the son of one of the most iconic couples in Hollywood: former President Ronald Reagan and Academy Award-winning actress Jane Wyman.
Reagan and Wyman married in 1940 and welcomed a biological daughter the following year. Family members recall Maureen wanting a baby brother—so much so, that she took 97 cents out of her piggy bank in an attempt to buy one.
Wyman couldn’t get pregnant again, so she and Ronald decided to look into adoption.
That’s when a woman named Irene Flaugher contacted Wyman to see if she and Ronald were interested in adopting her child who was conceived out of wedlock.
“Jane [Wyman] told her, ‘Call me if you have a boy,’” Michael Reagan said of his mother’s first meeting in 1945.
Then, after 55 hours of labor, Flaugher made the phone call to Wyman: She had given birth to a son.
Flaugher put Michael, whose birth name was John, into Wyman’s arms. Wyman left the hospital with him three days later, and that’s when Michael officially became part of the Reagan family.
“I was born German, and three days later, I was Irish,” he laughed.
It wasn’t until he was five or six that Michael learned he was adopted though. During a childhood spat with his sister who was four years older, Michael said he knew what she was getting for her birthday.
“She said, ‘If you tell me a secret, I’m going to tell you a secret.’ And so I told her, ‘You’re getting a dress,’ and she said, ‘You’re adopted.’” Michael recalled.
In a state of confusion, Michael asked his mother about being adopted.
“She told me I was special,” he said. “And that was the last we talked of it.”
Reagan and Wyman eventually divorced. Being adopted and living in a split family, going away to boarding school, and becoming a young victim of sexual abuse during his time away significantly impacted how Michael viewed himself and those around him.
“I was scared to death that I was never going to be worth anything,” he said.
Growing up, Michael said others told him he was unwanted; some claimed he was an illegitimate child which is why he was placed for adoption in the first place.
In the 1980s, though, he learned the truth: that his birth mother had always loved him.
She died prior to his search, but in 1987, Michael was able to connect with his brother who gave him a stack of scrapbooks their mom had made with photos of Michael growing up.
“She’d find photos of me from magazines and put them in scrapbooks,” he said. “I actually had more pictures of my childhood from her than I did from anyone else.”
Michael and his brother, Barry, have remained close friends over the years. The two share similar genetics including heart issues and a common passion for following college sports.
“It’s taken me a long time to be comfortable with who I am,” said Michael, 73, who currently lives in Los Angeles and spends much of his time volunteering with foster and adopted youth.
His latest initiative includes working with Mixed Roots Foundation, an organization that provides post-adoption resources to the adoption and foster care community. Together, they’re on a mission to send 1,500 foster and adopted youth to their first baseball game during National Foster Care Month.
“What bothers me is that kids in foster care are looked at like they’ve done something wrong,” said Michael.
Michael said he’s committed to helping foster kids feel loved and cared for which is why he’s raising money for foster children to go to their first Dodgers baseball game on Friday, May 25, 2018, for the LA Dodgers Adoptee Night.