Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon was born on March 22, 1976 at Southern Baptist Hospital (now Memorial Medical Center) in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was the second child born to Dr. John Witherspoon and Betty Reese. Her father was a military surgeon specializing in the ear, nose and throat. Her mother was a Registered Nurse who later became a Ph.D in pediatric nursing. Reese spent the first four years of her life in Wiesbaden, Germany where her father served as a lieutenant colonel in the US Army reserves. Shortly after, John moved the family back to the States, settling in Nashville, Tennessee.
After graduating from a private all girl’s school in 1994, Witherspoon decided to halt her acting career temporarily to attend Stanford University. Her intentions were short lived though as after just a year of studying, Witherspoon left to continue with her true ambitions on the acting path.
In a fortuitous first meeting, Witherspoon takes note when a mutual friend brings actor Ryan Phillippe to her 21st birthday party. "I think you're my present," the actress tells Phillippe, reports PEOPLE. Both acknowledge an intense initial emotional connection; after five weeks of phone calls, letters, and e-mails, the two go out on their first date, moving in together soon after.