James Brady

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For other people named James Brady, see James Brady (disambiguation).
James Brady
Brady in August 2006
14th White House Press Secretary
In office
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Jody Powell
Succeeded by Larry Speakes
Personal details
Born James Scott Brady
(1940-08-29)August 29, 1940
Centralia, Illinois, U.S.
Died August 4, 2014(2014-08-04) (aged 73)
Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Sue Beh (m. 1960–67) (divorced)
Sarah Jane Kemp (m. 1972–2009) (divorced);
Alma mater University of Illinois, Urbana-
Nickname(s) Bear [1]

James Scott "Jim" Brady (August 29, 1940 – August 4, 2014) was an assistant to the U.S. President and White House Press Secretary under President Ronald Reagan. After nearly being killed and becoming permanently disabled as a result of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981, Brady became an ardent supporter of gun control. On August 8, 2014, Brady's death was ruled a homicide, 33 years after the gunshot wound he received in 1981.[2]

Early life[edit]

Brady was born in Centralia, Illinois, in 1940 to Harold J. Brady and to Dorothy (née Davidson). Brady graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign as a member of Sigma Chi with a Bachelor of Science in political science in 1962.[citation needed]

Early career[edit]

Brady began his career in public service as a staff member in the office of Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen (R-IL). In 1964, he was the campaign manager for Wayne Jones of Paris, Illinois in the race for US Congressman in the 23rd District. He again directed a campaign in the 23rd Illinois Congressional District in 1970 for Phyllis Schlafly.[3]

He went on to hold various positions in the private sector and in government, including service as Special Assistant to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, James Thomas Lynn; Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget; Assistant to the Secretary of Defense; and member of the staff of Senator William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE). He also served as Press Secretary to then-presidential candidate John Connally in 1979.[3]

After Connally dropped out of the race, he eventually became Director of Public Affairs and Research for the Reagan-Bush Committee, and then Spokesperson for the Office of the President-Elect. After Reagan took office, Brady became White House Press Secretary.[3]


Chaos outside the Washington Hilton Hotel after the assassination attempt on President Reagan. James Brady and Thomas Delahanty lie wounded on the ground.

Brady was one of four people shot during John Hinckley, Jr.'s March 30, 1981, attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, suffering a serious head wound. During the confusion that followed the shooting, all major media outlets erroneously reported that Brady had died. When ABC News anchorman Frank Reynolds, a friend of Brady, was later forced to retract the report, he angrily said on-air to his staff, "C'mon, let's get it nailed down!",[4][5] resulting in Sam Donaldson joining him after the commercial.[6]

During the hours-long operation, surgeon Dr. Arthur Kobrine was informed of the media's announcement of Brady's death, to which he retorted, "No one has told me and the patient."[7][8]

Although Brady survived, the wound left him with slurred speech and partial paralysis that required the full-time use of a wheelchair.[9] Kobrine, his neurosurgeon, described him as having difficulty controlling his emotions while speaking after the shooting, saying "he would kind of cry-talk for a while", and suffering deficits in memory and thinking, such as failing to recognize people. However, Kobrine said that 30 years later, Brady could walk and had recovered almost all speech and cognitive function.[10]

Brady was unable to work as the White House Press Secretary but remained in the position until the end of the Reagan Administration with Larry Speakes and Marlin Fitzwater performing the job on an "acting" or "deputy" basis.

Handgun control advocate[edit]

With his wife Sarah, who served as Chair of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence—formerly known as Handgun Control, Inc., co-founded by N. T. "Pete" Shields—Brady subsequently lobbied for stricter handgun control and assault weapon restrictions. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, also known as "the Brady Bill", was named in his honor.[3]

Brady received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from McKendree College, Lebanon, Illinois, in 1982. Sarah and James Brady were each awarded a doctorate degree (of Humane Letters) by Drexel University in 1993. In 1994, James and Sarah received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[11] In 1996, Brady received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton, the highest civilian award in the United States.

James S. Brady press briefing room[edit]

President George W. Bush hosts six White House Press Secretaries, including James Brady (second from the right) with his wife Sarah Brady (far right), before the Press Briefing Room underwent renovation (August 2, 2006).

In 2000, the Press Briefing Room at the White House was renamed after Brady as the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Brady married Sue Beh in 1960. The marriage ended in divorce in 1967. In 1972, Brady married Sarah Jane Kemp. James and Sarah Brady have no children.


Brady died in Alexandria, Virginia, at the age of 73. His family announced his death on August 4, 2014.[13] On August 8, 2014, in a controversial decision due to the length of time involved, his death was ruled a homicide[2] caused by the gunshot wound he received in 1981, approximately 33 years after the fact.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office stated prosecutors are reviewing the ruling and that his office "has no further comment at this time".[2] A Brady family spokesperson, who could not immediately be reached for further comment, added, "Jim had been suffering health issues since the shooting."[2]

Portrayals in film[edit]

Brady's recovery after the shooting was dramatized in the 1991 HBO film Without Warning: The James Brady Story, with Brady portrayed by Beau Bridges.[14]


  1. ^ Todd S. Purdum (August 4, 2014). "Remembering James S. Brady". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 8, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d Peter Herman (August 8, 2014). "James Brady’s death ruled homicide by Virginia medical examiner". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 8, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Jim Brady biodata, bradycampaign.org; retrieved August 7, 2014.
  4. ^ Stan Grossfeld (November 1, 1987). "Brady's had bear of a time - Reagan aide fights back from shooting". Daily News of Los Angeles (reprinted from the Boston Globe). p. USW1. 
  5. ^ David Bianculli (June 25, 2002). "Reagan Shooting Is Gripping 'Minute'". New York Daily News. Retrieved June 21, 2012. 
  6. ^ "President Reagan Shot assassination attempt Part 2". YouTube. ABC News. March 30, 1981. Retrieved June 21, 2012. 
  7. ^ Stephen Smith (February 11, 2009). "Jim Brady, 25 Years Later". CBS News. Retrieved June 21, 2012. 
  8. ^ Victor Cohn (November 23, 1981). "James Brady and his odyssey". The Washington Post. p. A1. 
  9. ^ Scott Simon (March 26, 2011). "Jim Brady, 30 Years Later (radio interview)". NPR Radio. Retrieved June 21, 2012. 
  10. ^ Erika Check Hayden (January 11, 2011). "Anatomy of a brain surgery". Nature News. Nature Publishing Group. Retrieved January 11, 2011. 
  11. ^ Jeffersonawards.org
  12. ^ "President Barack Obama on the Passing of James Brady". Imperial Valley News.com. Retrieved August 8, 2014. 
  13. ^ "James Brady, Reagan spokesman and anti-gun activist, dies at 73". CBS News. August 4, 2014. 
  14. ^ Without Warning: The James Brady Story at the Internet Movie Database; accessed August 7, 2014.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jody Powell
White House Press Secretary
(did not brief the press after March 30, 1981)
Succeeded by
Larry Speakes