He had no experience governing. But people knew him from TV and movies (he also served as president of the Screen Actors Guild).
Of course Reagan, who died from pneumonia in 2004, went on to serve as President of the United States from 1981 to 1989.
His story as a celeb leaping into politics feet first is resonate of our President-elect, Donald Trump and they aren't the only two.
But how do stars do, once in office?
Singer and one-half of the musical duo Sonny and Cher, Bono had only registered to vote the year before when he ran for mayor of Palm Springs, California in 1988 and won.
Bono was popular with his constituents and served until 1992. Part of his legacy was spearheading the creation of the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
That same year, he ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for United States Senate. In 1994, he was elected to represent California's 44th Congressional district in the US House of Representatives, where he served two terms.
When he died in 1998 from injuries sustained during a skiing accident, his CNN obituary
noted that he was viewed "as a competent politician known for his sense of humor and approachability."
The "Dirty Harry" star has been known as a staunch, no-nonsense conservative.
He didn't have to be so stern, however, when in 1986 he was elected mayor of the small city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.
According to a 1987 New York Times article
, under Eastwood's leadership, the city "legalized the sale of ice cream cones, provided more public toilets, built new stairways to the town beach and expedited previously-stalled efforts to expand Carmel's library."
"Even his critics say that Mr. Eastwood is likable and eager to do a good job," the article said. "Yet, some Carmel residents are urging him not to run for re-election when his term ends next April because, they say, his celebrity status is attracting more tourists than can be absorbed by the mile-square city, which even in pre-Eastwood days was a popular weekend destination."
Ventura was a true Trump forerunner, shocking folks when he went from being a reality star to public office.
Born James George Janos, Ventura has had a full resume as a professional wrestler, actor, shock jock, and, of course, politician.
He served as Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota from 1991 to 1995.
But even he was surprised when in 1998 he ran for Governor of Minnesota as part of the Reform Party and won.
"This is beyond the expectations that any of us felt, at least I did," the Washington Post reported Ventura telling supporters during his victory speech.
"The American Dream lives on in Minnesota as we shocked the world. I'll bet you they're never going to take the people lightly again, are they?"
He declined to run for a second term, and in 2002, Minnesota Public Radio reported that "Ventura inherited a $4 billion surplus, and leaves office with the state facing a $4.5 billion deficit."
Some high points of his term included the building of a light-rail line that serves Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the overhaul of the state's property tax system.
Critics said at the time that Ventura would have achieved more had he been more cooperative with legislators.
"There are times he just charmed you tremendously. You know, just very, very charming," then Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum said. "And in the next minute, you'll be shaking your head and saying, 'You know, I don't want anything to do with the individual.'"
Perhaps an even stronger comparison can be made between the "Terminator" star and Trump, particularly since Schwarzenegger was tapped to take over "Celebrity Apprentice" when Trump had to bow out to run for President.
Schwarzenegger won the 2003 recall election for Governor of California and was reelected in 2006.
A 2010 Time magazine article
about his legacy as governor quoted journalist Joe Matthews as saying Schwarzenegger "was an 'illustrative failure' in regards to the two-thirds supermajority votes needed to pass a budget and taxes in California and in trying to work within the existing system to move the state ahead."
But Schwarzenegger did do some good, Mathews said.
"He did us a great service because he tried everything," Mathews said. "He fought with people, he circumvented the legislature and went to the ballot measure, he compromised, he tried for spending caps, rainy day funds, raising taxes, cutting programs, working with the Republicans, working with the Democrats."