WASHINGTON (CBS/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.”
Brady, who spent much of the rest of his life in a wheelchair, died at a retirement community in Alexandria, Virginia, where he lived with his wife.
He suffered a bullet wound to his head in the assassination attempt 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.
Brady was born in Centralia, Illinois and grew up there.
Centralia Mayor Tom Ashby grew up in a house that was right behind the Brady family’s home. Ashby told WBBM’s Steve Miller Brady’s recovery after the shooting was followed by everyone in town.
“We kind of went through the whole process with him. We… were glad to see him come back and still have the sense of humor and still have his laugh.
“That’s really something that was a true attribute of what he was… his laughter and being able to talk to anyone.”