“Leave her alone or I’ll shoot you right between the shoulders!”
A line from a Clint Eastwood movie or other classic Western? Or a tough-guy line from a cop show?
No. It’s Ronald Reagan – not as a movie star, but in real life – facing down a bad guy as a young man, just as he did later in life with various world leaders, tyrants and dictators.
More than 70 years ago, as IowaChannel.com reports, long-time Iowa resident Melba King was a 22-year-old nursing student.
The year was 1933, and on a hot, humid autumn night, as Melba was strolling home in downtown Des Moines, she felt a gun in her back. A mugger had stolen up behind her and was demanding money.
But someone was watching out for Melba – a young Des Moines radio sportscaster named Ronald Wilson Reagan who had overheard the confrontation and immediately sprang to her rescue. Reagan pointed a .45-caliber revolver at the would-be robber from the window of the second-story rented room he lived in.
“And he said, ‘Leave her alone or I’ll shoot you right between the shoulders,’” King recently told KCCI-TV.”
The scared mugger ran off, and Reagan went out to comfort King and walk her home.
“You stay right where you are, and I’ll go get my robe and slippers and walk over with you,” the youthful Reagan told her, according to King’s vivid recollection.
Decades passed. The next time King saw Reagan was more than 50 years later, in 1984, when Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad asked her to attend a Republican campaign event.
Embracing on stage, Reagan laughed as he quipped to the audience and King: “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!”
Staying in touch over the years, King’s and Reagan’s families exchanged birthday and Christmas cards, and comforted one another during hard times.
“The Reagans helped King when she lost her husband Harold in 1987,” said the Iowa news outlet, “and now she will send Nancy Reagan a sympathy note.”
View video of Reagan and King’s reunion at the future president’s comments at TheIowaChannel.com.
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