Retired Knoxville airman recalls former first lady Nancy Reagan

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Flags across the country were at half staff Monday in memory of former first lady Nancy Reagan. She died Sunday from congestive heart failure at the age of 94.

A retired airman who lives in Knoxville had the job of protecting President Ronald Reagan and his wife.

Previous story: Nancy Reagan’s funeral Friday at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

“She was a very cordial person. She was very patient with us,” retired MSgt. Perry Boyd of South Knoxville said.

In Boyd’s home office, there’s a picture of the first lady with him by the stairs. It’s his favorite picture that was also signed by Nancy Reagan.

Unlike most, he had a different relationship with President Reagan and his wife.

“We went on board. We had a seat on the airplane. We were the only people outside the secret service who were armed and there to make sure they got to wherever they were going safely and got back home safely,” Boyd said.

Boyd provided security for the president’s jet known as Air Force One. He did that for eight years with four being with the Carters and four with the Reagans.

“I think the one thing that sticks in my mind is how she stuck by his side. You would hear a lot of things being said about how she protected him,” Boyd said.

There are plenty of pictures of President Reagan and the first lady in Boyd’s office. He considers it a tribute to both of them.

“I was happy that she lived to be 94. Then I was sad because the world has lost a great person,” Boyd said.

Nancy Reagan made a few stops in Knoxville and is the only first lady to visit East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. World’s Fair Park was also a stop to help spread her “Just Say No” campaign.

Boyd says his time with the Reagans has a special place in his heart and he’s thankful he was able to document such a wonderful time in his life.

“They’ve always been extra special to me. They’ll be more special for the people I leave them for,” Boyd said.

Boyd said he plans to give the pictures to his two sons once he passes on. He also wants to write about his experiences on Air Force One with the Reagan’s as part of that.

Funeral services for the former first lady will begin on Friday at 11 a.m. in Simi Valley, California. She’ll be buried next to her husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

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