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Merle Haggard Passes: Once Said Reagan ‘Gave Me a Second Chance at Life’. VIDEO

Published Filed under Culture & Heartland, Entertainment News, US News. Total of no comments in the discussion.

Merle_Haggard_in_concert_2013Mariana Barillas / /The Daily Signal

Merle Haggard,  the country music icon who died Wednesday, credited President Ronald Reagan for playing a central role in helping him realize his dreams.

“He was a wonderful man in my life. He gave me a second chance at life in the form of the pardon he gave me,” Haggard said in a CMT interview after Reagan’s death in 2004.

Haggard, an acclaimed songwriter and performer, was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and one of the most influential figures in popular music —not just in Nashville. Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008, he had battled pneumonia since December.

Haggard died in California on the morning of his 79th birthday.

Born into a poor family in 1937, Haggard spent his youth as a small-time criminal before serving time in San Quentin State Prison for burglary. After being paroled in 1960, he successfully pursued a music career.

Haggard received a full pardon from Reagan, then governor  of California, in 1972. Officials determined he had been improperly convicted.

“God, it meant everything,” Haggard told CMT of Reagan’s decision to grant him the full pardon.

Having enjoyed a string of huge hits after his pardon, Haggard got the opportunity a decade later to perform at the White House for the man who cleared his record, as The New York Times reported in 1982. Reagan had been elected president two years earlier.

At the concert,  the newspaper reported, Reagan “said that although ‘Merle Haggard’s music is now the heart and soul of America,’ the pardon was ‘routine’ and had simply ‘come up through the system.’”

“I had a chance to thank him personally for the pardon and meet Nancy and have dinner with him. I sat on the right-hand chair next to the president, so I felt really honored. He treated me like royalty,” Haggard said years later in the CMT interview.

He described Reagan as “the epitome of everything we would want a president to be.”

“I think they ought to put his face on Mount Rushmore. I think he’s done that much. He’s the president of the century.”

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