James Brady, the former White House press secretary who became an advocate for gun control after he was paralyzed in the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, died Monday at age 73.
His death was announced by a family spokeswoman, according to the Associated Press.
"We are heartbroken to share the news that our beloved Jim 'Bear' Brady has passed away after a series of health issues," his family said in a statement, according to ABC News.
"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 statement said.
As Reagan's chief spokesman in March 1981, Brady nearly died when a bullet fired by John Hinckley Jr. exploded the right frontal lobe of his brain. He survived but was confined to a wheelchair and paralyzed on the left side of his body.
"I'm the fifty-percent man," Brady told CBS News in 2006.
In a statement on Friday, Nancy Reagan said Brady was "the personification of courage and perseverance," according to ABC News.
In the short time he was able to serve as White House press secretary, Jim brought sharp instincts, integrity and energy to one of the most demanding jobs in Washington. What a shame that he was not able to serve as we had hoped for longer."
In the years after the shooting, he and his wife, Sarah, formed the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and became two of the nation's most prominent advocates for gun control.
Their initial work culminated in the passage of legislation named in Brady's honor in 1993, which President Bill Clinton signed into law. The law required background checks for all gun purchases through licensed dealers.
In a statement Monday, President Barack Obama said, "An untold number of people are alive today who otherwise wouldn’t be, thanks to Jim."
Vice President Joe Biden, an original author of the Brady law, called the advocate a "dear friend" and in a statement issued with his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, he said he valued Brady for his "honesty, humor, decency, and absolute courage."
It’s been three decades since he nearly lost his life to an assassin’s bullet fired at President Reagan from a gun bought with no background check. But through his paralysis and daily physical struggle, Jim and his wife Sarah showed a dignity, grace, and fierce determination to turn tragedy into action. Still healing himself, Jim would reach out to survivors of gun violence and other tragedies with a message of encouragement and hope on their own road to recovery. I was proud to have worked with Jim and Sarah in the 1980s and 1990s as they persevered privately to publicly lead the bipartisan consensus for commonsense efforts to keep guns out the hands of those who would use them to harm themselves or others. And I am grateful for their ongoing, rational, and heartfelt guidance as our nation continues to experience devastating gun violence tragedies, like the one at Newtown and in towns and cities across America.
Clinton awarded Brady the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and named the White House press briefing room after him four years later.
Yet the signing of the Brady Bill proved to be the high-water mark for federal gun control efforts in the last 20 years. The Democrats' blowout loss in the congressional elections in 1994 was blamed in part on a backlash against the new law by supporters of gun rights, and aggressive lobbying by the National Rifle Association has effectively blocked most new federal gun control laws in the two decades since.
At the White House, current press secretary Josh Earnest paid tribute to Brady on Friday, telling reporters he "revolutionized this job."
Other reactions began to pour in Friday from across the political world.
Jim Brady was a giant, in both overcoming the shooting & in passing the Brady Law. He may be gone, but so many live because of his efforts.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 4, 2014
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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