Former White House press secretary Jim Brady dies

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Former White House press secretary Jim Brady dies
U.S. President Bill Clinton hands James Brady a pen after signing the Brady bill in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 1993. Applaud behind them, from left are, Vice President Gore, Attorney General Janet Reno, Sarah Brady and Scott Brady. The law requires a five-day waiting period and background check on handgun buyers and will take effect in 90 days. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)
President Ronald Reagan holds up Royal Doulton President’s signature edition character jug that was presented to him on Tuesday, July 24, 1984 in Washington at the White House as White House Press Secretary James Brady looks on. The limited edition numbered pieces will sold for $500 each and the James S. Brady Presidential Foundation will be a major beneficiary of the sales. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
U.S. President Ronald Reagan waves just before he is shot outside the Washington Hilton, Monday, March 30, 1981. From left are secret service agent Jerry Parr, in raincoat, who pushed Reagan into the limousine; press secretary James Brady, who was seriously wounded; Reagan; Michael Deaver, Reagan's aide; unidentified policeman; Washington policeman Thomas K. Delahanty, who was shot; and secret service agent Timothy J. McCarthy, who was shot in the stomach. (AP Photo/U.S. White House)
** FILE ** In this March 30, 1981 file photo released by the White House, White House press secretary James Brady, face down at right, and Washington, D.C., police officer Thomas Delahanty, front, lie on the ground after being wounded during the assassination attempt on President Reagan as he was leaving the Washington Hilton, March 30, 1981. A newly released Secret Service audiotape from the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan sheds lights on the chaotic aftermath when neither the president nor his agents realized he’d been shot. (AP Photo/White House, Michael Evans)
A secret service agent brandishes a submachine gun while agents and police subdue a gunman behind him after he shot President Ronald Reagan, his press secretary, a policeman and a secret service agent in Washington on March 30, 1981. The policeman lies wounded, foreground, while a White House staff member kneels over James Brady, the press secretary. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
As a U.S. secret service agent with an automatic weapon watches over James Brady, the president's secretary, after being wounded in an attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan, in Washington, D.C., March 30, 1981. A Washington, D.C. policeman, Thomas Delahanty, lies to the left after also being shot. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
FILE - This March 30, 1981 file photo shows a U.S. secret service agent with an automatic weapon watches over James Brady, the president's secretary, after being wounded in an attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan in Washington. A Washington, D.C. policeman, Thomas Delahanty, lies to the left after also being shot. A Brady family spokeswoman says Brady has died at 73. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
FILE - In this March 30, 1981 black-and-white file photo provided by the White House shows President Ronald Reagan waves just beforebeing shot outside the Washington Hilton in Washington. From left are, Secret Service agent Jerry Parr, in raincoat, who pushed Reagan into the limousine; press secretary James Brady, who was seriously wounded; Reagan; Michael Deaver, Reagan's aide; unidentified policeman; Washington policeman Thomas K. Delahanty, who was shot; and secret service agent Timothy J. McCarthy, who was shot in the stomach. (AP Photo/U.S. White House, File)
A secret service agent brandishes a submachine gun while agents and police subdue a gunman behind him after he shot President Ronald Reagan, his press secretary, a policeman and a secret service agent in Washington on March 30, 1981. The policeman lies wounded, foreground, while a White House staff member kneels over James Brady, the press secretary. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
A secret service agent brandishes a submachine gun while agents and police subdue a gunman behind him after he shot President Ronald Reagan, his press secretary, a policeman and a secret service agent in Washington on March 30, 1981. The policeman lies wounded, foreground, while a White House staff member kneels over James Brady, the press secretary. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
A secret service agent brandishes a submachine gun while agents and police subdue a gunman behind him after he shot President Ronald Reagan, his press secretary, a policeman and a secret service agent in Washington on March 30, 1981. The policeman lies wounded, foreground, while a White House staff member kneels over James Brady, the press secretary. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
White House press secretary James Brady lies wounded on the sidewalk outside a Washington hotel after being shot during an assassination attempt on U.S. President Ronald Reagan on Monday, March 30, 1981. In the background secret service agents and police wrestle the alleged assailant to the ground. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
White House press secretary James Brady lies wounded on the sidewalk outside a Washington hotel after being shot during an assassination attempt on U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Monday, March 30, 1981. In the background secret service agents and police wrestle the alleged assailant to the ground. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
President-elect Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy wave after attending a luncheon in their honor on Saturday, Jan. 17, 1981 at the City Tavern Club in Washington. At right is Press Secretary Jim Brady and lady in back is Mrs. Holmes Tuttle, wife of Holmes Tuttle who bosted the luncheon. (AP Photo/Zeboski)
FILE - This Feb. 11, 2000 file photo shows former White House press secretary for President Reagan James Brady, left, in a group photo following a dedication ceremony for the new James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington. From left are, Brady, presidential press secretaries Joe Lockhart (Clinton), Jerald terHorst (Ford), Larry Speakes (Reagan), Mike McCurry (Clinton) and Pierre Salinger (Kennedy). A Brady family spokeswoman says Brady has died at 73. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh/File)
James Brady, the press secretary for President Ronald Reagan, wears a blue bracelet in support of wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as he visits the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room on the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, Wednesday, March 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Former President Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, looks at a prototype "childproofed" hand gun during a news conference at the Trenton, N.J., Statehouse Thursday, Sept. 24, 1998. Brady visited Trenton in support of proposed state legislation that would require gun manufacturers to sell guns that are ``childproofed.'' (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Former White House press secretary James Brady, who was left paralyzed in the Reagan assassination attempt, wipes his eye during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 30, 2011, marking the 30th anniversary of the shooting. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
FILE- This March 30, 2011 file photo shows former White House press secretary James Brady who was left paralyzed in the Reagan assassination attempt during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington marking the 30th anniversary of the shooting. A Brady family spokeswoman says Brady has died at 73. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FILE - This March 30, 2011 file photo shows former White House press secretary James Brady, left, who was left paralyzed in the Reagan assassination attempt, looking at his wife Sarah Brady, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington marking the 30th anniversary of the shooting. A Brady family spokeswoman says Brady has died at 73. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
James Brady, the press secretary for President Ronald Reagan visits the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room on the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, Wednesday, March 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Clinton thanks former press secretary for President Reagan, James Brady, center, for his years of service following a dedication ceremony for the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House Friday, Feb. 11, 2000, in Washington. Brady's wife Sarah, left, holds a small copy of the plaque, also shown in the background, that will be hung on the wall. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, : US President Bill Clinton (R) listens to former Reagan Administration press secretary James Brady 06 August during a gun control event in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. Clinton, on the fifth anniversary of the Brady Bill, urged Congress to make permanent the Brady waiting period of up to five days before the purchase of a handgun. AFP PHOTO Chris KLEPONIS (Photo credit should read CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Bill Clinton meets with former White House Press Secretary Jim Brady to discuss the Brady gun bill in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday Nov. 2, 1993. The President supports the gun bill which Congress is expected to take up the soon. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
Former Reagan Press Secretary James Brady, right, shakes the hand of Democratic Senate candidate Bob Torricelli after endorsing Torricelli for U.S. Senate on the Statehouse steps in Trenton, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 22, 1996. Brady endorsed Torricelli because of his support of the Brady Gun Bill. Listening in behind are from left, Democratic State Chairman Tom Byrne, State Sen. John Adler, D-Camden, Sarah Brady, and Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
WASHINGTON - JUNE 16: James Brady, former White House Press Secretary under the Reagan Administration, visits the White House Briefing Room, which was named after him, June 16, 2009 in Washington, DC. Brady was shot in the head and became permanently disabled during the assassination attempt on former president Ronald Reagan in 1981. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US President Bill Clinton laughs with former US President Ronald Reagan's Press Secretary James Brady during a ceremony in Presidential Hall, in the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building, in Washington DC 30 November 2000, commemorating the 7th Anniversary of the Brady Law. President Clinton was joined by Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, Attorney General Janet Reno, Sarah Brady and Brady. AFP PHOTO/SHAWN THEW (Photo credit should read SHAWN THEW/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 11: President Bill Clinton (right.) congratulates former Press Secretary James Brady during the ceremony renaming the White House breifing room in honor of Brady. (Photo by Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 5: US President Bill Clinton(L) speaks at a press conference while former White House Press Secretary James Brady(R) and law enforcement officials look on during ceremonies at the White House in Washington 05 March. Clinton urged lawmakers to pass a pending Senate bill making it illegal for non-immigrant foreigners to carry or purchase firearms. The initiative was prompted by last month's attack on New York City tourists at the Empire State Building by a Palestinian teacher. AFP PHOTOLeighton MARK (Photo credit should read LEIGHTON MARK/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: US President Bill Clinton (R) shakes hands with former White House Press Secretary James Brady (L) during ceremonies 28 February at the White House to mark the first anniversary of the gun control bill bearing Brady's name. Bradywas wounded in a 1981 assassination attempt on then President Ronald Reagan. (COLOR KEY: Red stripes in flag.) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 30: James Brady (L), the Reagan Administration press secretary who was wounded during the 1981 attempted assassination of then President Ronald Reagan, watches as U.S. President Bill Clinton signs the Brady Bill at the White House 30 November 1993. The bill will require a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases, ending a seven-year gun-control battle. (Photo credit should read PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 24: U.S. President Bill Clinton (L) congratulates former Reagan Administration Press Secretary James Brady (R) on the passage of the Brady bill as Vice President Al Gore (2nd-L) and Sarah Brady look on during a meeting at the White House 24 November 1993. The bill will require a five-day waiting period and background check on handgun buyers. (Photo credit should read JENNIFER YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - MAY 11: Former White House Press Secretary James S. Brady and wife Sarah, actress Mariette Hartley and television journalist Diane Sawyer attend the American Suicide Foundation's LifeSavers Dinner Salute to Tina Brown and Sarah & James Brady on May 11, 1993 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Ex-WH press secy. Jim Brady, gun control advocate (re injury in 1981 Reagan assassination attempt), outside Capitol before vote on Brady Bill. (Photo by Terry Ashe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
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By DARLENE SUPERVILLE and DOUGLASS K. DANIEL

WASHINGTON (AP) -- James Brady, the affable, witty press secretary who survived a devastating head wound in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan and undertook a personal crusade for gun control, died Monday. He was 73.

"We are heartbroken to share the news that our beloved Jim "Bear" Brady has passed away after a series of health issues," Brady's family said in a statement. "His wife, Sarah, son, Scott, and daughter, Missy, are so thankful to have had the opportunity to say their farewells." The statement did not say where Brady was when he died.

Brady suffered a bullet wound to his head outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981. Although he returned to the White House only briefly, he was allowed to keep the title of presidential press secretary and his White House salary until Reagan left office in January 1989.

James Brady, Reagan's Former Press Secretary, Dies At 73

Brady, who spent much of the rest of his life in a wheelchair, died at a retirement community in Alexandria, Va., where he lived with his wife.

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, a federal law requiring a background check on handgun buyers, bears his name, as is the White House press briefing room.

"He is somebody who I think really revolutionized this job," said Josh Earnest, President Barack Obama's press secretary. "And even after he was wounded in that attack on the president, was somebody who showed his patriotism and commitment to the country by being very outspoken on an issue that was important to him and that he felt very strongly about." Earnest said Brady leaves a legacy "that certainly this press secretary and all future press secretaries will aspire to live up to."

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement that because of Brady's work on gun control "an estimated 2 million gun sales to criminals, domestic abusers and other dangerous people have been blocked. 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."

Of the four people stuck by gunfire on March 30, 1981, Brady was the most seriously wounded. A news clip of the shooting, replayed often on television, showed Brady sprawled on the ground as Secret Service agents hustled the wounded president into his limousine. Reagan was shot in one lung while a policeman and a Secret Service agent suffered lesser wounds.

Brady never regained full health. The shooting caused brain damage, partial paralysis, short-term memory impairment, slurred speech and constant pain.

The TV replays of the shooting did take a toll on Brady, however. He told The Associated Press years later that he relived the moment each time he saw it: "I want to take every bit of (that) film ... and put them in a cement incinerator, slosh them with gasoline and throw a lighted cigarette in." With remarkable courage, he endured a series of brain operations in the years after the shooting.

On Nov. 28, 1995, while he was in an oral surgeon's office, Brady's heart stopped beating and he was taken to a hospital. His wife, Sarah, credited the oral surgeon and his staff with saving Brady's life.

Brady was a strong Republican from an early age - as a boy of 12 in Centralia, Ill., where he was born on Aug. 29, 1940, he distributed election literature for Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In a long string of political jobs, Brady worked for some well-known bosses: Sen. Everett M. Dirksen of Illinois, Sen. William V. Roth Jr. of Delaware, and John Connally, the former Texas governor who was running for president in 1979. When Connally dropped out, Brady joined Reagan's campaign as director of public affairs and research. There, his irrepressible wit made him popular with the press, but not necessarily with the Reaganites.

He once ran through the Reagan campaign plane shouting "Killer Trees! Killer Trees!" as the aircraft flew over a forest fire. It was a jab at his own candidate's claim in a speech that trees cause as much pollution as cars.

Brady remained as transition spokesman after Reagan's election. But Reagan's advisers appeared hesitant to give him the White House job. Nancy Reagan was said to feel the job required someone younger and better-looking than the 40-year-old, moon-faced, balding Brady.

"I come before you today not as just another pretty face, but out of sheer talent," Brady told reporters. A week later, he got the job.

Previously, he had worked in the administrations of presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford: as special assistant to the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, as special assistant to the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and as an assistant to the defense secretary.

He was divorced from the former Sue Beh when, in 1973, he courted Sarah Jane Kemp, the daughter of an FBI agent who was working with him in a congressional office.

Sarah Brady became involved in gun-control efforts in 1985, and later chaired Handgun Control Inc., but Brady took a few more years to join her, and Reagan did not endorse their efforts until 10 years after he was shot. Reagan's surprise endorsement - he was a longtime National Rifle Association member and opponent of gun control laws - began to turn the tide in Congress.

"They're not going to accuse him of being some bed-wetting liberal, no way can they do that," said Brady, who had become an active lobbyist for the bill.

The Brady law required a five-day wait and background check before a handgun could be sold. In November 1993, as President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law, Brady said: "Every once in a while you need to wake up and smell the propane. I needed to be hit in the head before I started hitting the bricks."

Clinton awarded Brady the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996. In 2000, the press briefing room at the White House was renamed in Brady's honor. The following year, Handgun Control Inc., was renamed the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as a tribute to Brady and his wife.

Brady also served as vice chair of the National Organization on Disability and co-chair of the National Head Injury Foundation.

Survivors include his wife, Sarah; a son, Scott; and a daughter, Melissa.

Former White House Press Secretary James Brady Dead

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