From Mary Beth Brown:
Almost all of the books on President Reagan devote about one sentence to his father. In this one sentence they note one negative aspect about the man, and sum him up in one word – alcoholic. Unfortunately, historians have only looked deep enough to catch a glimpse of John Edward (Jack) Reagan and not gotten a picture of the whole man.
One of the lessons Jack Reagan constantly taught his son was the importance of judging people as individuals and not holding a prejudice against anyone. The Reagan family came from Ireland to America prior to the Civil War, when food was scarce and times were bleak in Ireland. They came looking for a better life. Jack Reagan was a quintessential Irishman who loved his heritage and passed his love on to his son.
During the early 1900s, there was bigotry and discrimination against the Irish and Catholics. Jack Reagan was often on the receiving end of this discrimination and hated to see others treated the same way. Once when Jack was out of town selling shoes, he slept a night in his car during a winter blizzard rather than stay in the only hotel in town because they would not allow Jewish customers. From his own experience, there was born in Jack strong beliefs against ethnic and religious bigotry, which he passed onto his son.