The attack on Reagan in 1981 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
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
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 paralyzed.
"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
"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
The White House press room was named in Brady's honor and he
returned there in 2006 at a ceremony temporarily closing the room
In a rare joint statement, Brady's living successors hailed him as a
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"Jim set the model and standard for the rest of us to follow. It's
been a genuine honor for each of us to stand at the podium in the
briefing room that will always bear his name," they said in a
statement under the names of current Press Secretary Josh Earnest
and predecessors Jay Carney, Robert Gibbs, Dana Perino, Scott
McClellan, Ari Fleischer, Jake Siewert, Joe Lockhart, Mike McCurry,
Dee Dee Myers, Marlin Fitzwater, and Ron Nessen.
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 said.
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 governor.
After Connally lost his bid for the presidential nomination in 1980,
Brady joined Reagan's staff.
(Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by
Jeff Mason in Washington; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa
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