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Former First Lady Nancy Reagan Dies at 94

Former first lady Nancy Reagan is congratulated by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., while President George W. Bush, left, and Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., look on, at a ceremony in the Rotunda of the Capitol to honor former President Ronald Reagan with the Congressional Gold Medal. Mrs. Reagan accepted the honor on behalf of her husband.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan, a driving force behind her husband's political career and his fiercest protector, died Sunday in Los Angeles. She was 94.  

The cause of death was congestive heart failure, according to Mrs. Reagan's spokeswoman Joanne Drake.  

"Mrs. Reagan was fiercely loyal to her beloved husband, and that devotion was matched only by her devotion to our country," former President George W. Bush said in a statement.  

The former Nancy Davis was an actress when she married Ronald Reagan in 1952, and was at his side when he served two terms as governor of California from 1967-75. She was an influential adviser and loyal partner in his rise to national politics and the White House, becoming first lady in 1981.  

In the White House, Mrs. Reagan was well known for her "Just Say No" campaign centered on fighting drug abuse among youth. It was an effort she continued after leaving Washington in 1989. She later advocated for families of those suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, which claimed her husband's life.  

Her work against that affliction drew praise from President and Mrs. Obama, who said on Sunday that Mrs. Reagan redefined the role of first lady during her years in Washington and remained an influential voice afterward.  

"We remain grateful for Nancy Reagan's life, thankful for her guidance, and prayerful that she and her beloved husband are together again," the Obamas said.  

Nancy Reagan, Ronald Reagan's second wife, also was a fierce political insider. She was said to be behind the forced departures of at least three Cabinet secretaries, two national security advisers and — most notably — the president’s chief of staff Donald T. Regan, with whom she had fought on her insistence that he apologize for the Iran-Contra scandal. She eventually won that battle  — Regan was replaced and the president’s acknowledgement of the “mistake” was credited with saving his presidency.  

While funeral arrangements were not immediately available, she is to be buried in Simi Valley, Calif., next to her husband, who died in 2004.  

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Topics: white-house exbr