On March 12, 1984, President Ronald Reagan was chatting with students at Congress Heights Elementary when he suddenly announced that he had chosen one of them to become his pen pal. The lucky winner was six-year-old Rudy Hines, who was picked because he had proven himself to be a good reader and writer.
The two wrote back and forth with surprising frequency, exchanging hundreds of letters until the end of Reagan's presidency in 1989. They covered topics you would expect, like reading ("Rudolph, if you get in the habit of reading stories for pleasure you'll never be lonely"), but also issues typically reserved for the political arena (Reagan lamented not getting to have a personal chat with Mikhail Gorbachev). The Gipper occasionally included some of the doodles for which he later became notorious and sent pictures of himself and the First Lady from their travels, always including a handwritten note on the back.
Rudy and his mom even had the Reagans over for dinner in their one-bedroom apartment on September 21, 1984 (pictured). Rudy told his pal Ron he could come over as long as he gave some warning first, so Rudy's mom had time to pick the laundry up off the floor. The Reagans were thrilled to accept, but had a condition of their own: that they eat the way Rudy and his mother ate every night. They ended up dining on fried chicken, rice, and salad in the living room while watching TV.
After Reagan passed away in 2004, Rudy recalled how impressed he was with the president for giving personal attention to a young child: "I figured I will get just a generic response that typical politicians give when people write letters to them. But he was not a typical politician. He actually sat down and took the time and carefully thought out his responses to my letters. And I really appreciated that."
Here's a video of Rudy and his mother on The Early Show the day after Reagan died.
This post originally appeared in 2011.