James Brady, the White House press secretary who was wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, died Monday in Alexandria, Va. 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 Monday. “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. (…) Over the years, Jim inspired so many people as he turned adversity into accomplishment,” the statement also said.
March 30, 1981, Brady was caught in a hail of bullets fired by John Hinckley Jr. that left him in a wheelchair ever since. The mentally troubled Hinckley Jr. was a college dropout who had hoped that shooting the president would impress the actress Jodie Foster, he had an obsession for. Thus Brady became a prominent gun-control advocate after the horrible incident.
Suffering a head wound, he was left partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Nevertheless he had managed to save President Regan. The latter was severely wounded as well, but survived the attack and managed to serve the U.S. twice, as President. Hinckley, 59, on the other hand, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting and has spent the ensuing years in St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital. However since 2006, Hinckley has been allowed to leave the Washington, D.C., hospital on several occasions to visit his mother, who lives in Williamsburg, Va.
After leaving the White House, Brady started the Brady Campaign in order to Prevent Gun Violence, which pushes for stricter firearms laws. He inspired the Brady Bill, which was widely fought over for years before Congress approved it and President Bill Clinton signed it into law in 1993. It basically requires background checks for gun purchases.
Brady was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award. James Scott Brady was born on Aug. 29, 1940, in Centralia, Ill., the only child of Dorothy and Harold James Brady, a yardmaster for the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.
“Jim is a legend at the White House for his warmth and professionalism as press secretary for President Reagan; for the strength he brought to bear in recovering from the shooting that nearly killed him 33 years ago; and for turning the events of that terrible afternoon into a remarkable legacy of service,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.