James Brady gives a thumbs-up as he visits the White House
press briefing room in Washington in March 2011.
James Brady, a former US presidential press secretary who
became a leading gun control crusader after he was critically
wounded in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan,
has died. He was 73.
The March 30, 1981, attack on Reagan left Brady partially
paralyzed due to brain damage. His family said in a statement
he died Monday morning after a series of health issues at a
retirement community in Alexandria, Virginia, where he had
been living for the past year and a half.
Brady spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair after being
shot, but he and his wife, Sarah, campaigned for a gun law
that would be known as the "Brady bill." The law, which was
passed in 1993, required a mandatory five-day waiting period
for purchase of handguns and also background checks for
would-be gun buyers.
"As a result, countless lives have been saved. In fact, there
are few Americans in history who are as directly responsible
for saving as many lives as Jim," said Dan Gross, president
of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Reagan was two months into his presidency when John Hinckley
Jr. drew a $29 handgun outside a Washington hotel and wounded
the president, Brady, a Secret Service member and a
Washington police officer.
Reagan and his police guards fully recovered but Brady -
known for his jovial manner and fondly nicknamed "the Bear" -
was critically wounded from the .22-caliber bullet that
exploded into his forehead.
Brady's situation was so critical that one television network
erroneously reported he had died. But Brady, who was 40 years
old at the time, made a near-miraculous recovery and left the
hospital after a series of major operations that November.
After grueling sessions with physical therapists who Brady
called "physical terrorists," he regained some speaking
ability and some vitality but nevertheless was left
"Jim was the personification of courage and perseverance,"
Reagan's widow, Nancy Reagan, said in a statement.
Brady was kept on the White House payroll and technically
remained press secretary, in name if not the actual
spokesman, until Reagan left office in 1989.
President Barack Obama called Brady "a legend at the White
House for his warmth and professionalism" and said he left a
remarkable legacy of service.
"Since 1993, the law that bears Jim's name has kept guns out
of the hands of dangerous individuals. An untold number of
people are alive today who otherwise wouldn't be, thanks to
Jim," Obama said in a statement.
The White House press room was named in Brady's honor and he
returned there in 2006 at a ceremony temporarily closing the
room for renovations.
"He leaves the kind of legacy that ... certainly this press
secretary and all future press secretaries will aspire to
live up to," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at
a daily news briefing.
In the years after the shooting, Brady and his wife, daughter
of a gun-carrying FBI agent, became familiar figures fighting
against handgun violence. They established the Brady Center
to Prevent Handgun Violence and he was given a Presidential
Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
The five-day waiting period on handgun purchases expired in
1998 and was replaced by a requirement of a computerized
criminal background check.
"Jim Brady's zest for life was apparent to all who knew him,
and despite his injuries and the pain he endured every day,
he used his humor, wit and charm to bring smiles to others
and make the world a better place," the family statement
Brady was born in Centralia, Illinois, on Aug. 29, 1940, and
graduated from the University of Illinois. He taught at
Southern Illinois University and worked in public relations
before going to Washington in 1973 to work in the Department
of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Management and
Budget and Defense Department.
He also worked as press secretary to then-Republican
presidential candidate John Connally, a former Texas
After Connally lost his bid for the presidential nomination
in 1980, Brady joined Reagan's staff.