James Brady

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James Brady
James Brady 1986.jpg
White House Press Secretary
In office
January 20, 1981 – March 30, 1981
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Jody Powell
Succeeded by Larry Speakes (Acting)
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 (1960–1967)
Sarah Kemp (1972–2014)
Education University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (BA)
Nickname(s) Bear[1]
^* Brady formally retained the title of Press Secretary until the end of the Reagan Administration on January 20, 1989, but he did not brief the press after he was shot in the 1981 assassination attempt.

James Scott Brady (August 29, 1940 – August 4, 2014) was an assistant to the U.S. President and White House Press Secretary under President Ronald Reagan. In 1981, Brady became permanently disabled from a gunshot wound during the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Brady became an ardent supporter of gun control as a result of this event. Brady died on August 4, 2014, 33 years after the shooting. His death was ruled a homicide, caused by the gunshot wound he received in 1981.[2]

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. In 1970, Brady directed a campaign in the 23rd Illinois Congressional District for Phyllis Schlafly.[3]

Brady served 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 withdrew his candidacy from the race, Brady 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]


On March 30, 1981, 69 days into his presidency, Ronald Reagan and his cabinet members, including Brady, were leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel when a gunman opened fire. The first of six bullets hit Brady. The gunman was 25 year old John Hinckley, Jr..

Secret Service and police officers forced the suspect to the ground and arrested him. Hinckley fired 6 shots from a .22 caliber Röhm RG-14 revolver. Brady was hit above his left eye. President Reagan, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty were also injured from the shooting. Brady, Reagan and McCarthy were taken to George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

During the confusion that followed the shooting, all major media outlets erroneously reported that Brady had died.[4] 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!",[5][6] as a result of the miscommunication.

During the hours-long operation on Brady at the George Washington University Hospital, surgeon Dr. Arthur Kobrine was informed of the media's announcement of Brady's death, to which he said, "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. He lived the rest of his life using a wheelchair and had his speech affected.[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.

Gun control advocate[edit]

With his wife Sarah Brady, who served as Chair of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, 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 the Jefferson Awards Foundation.[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.


Brady died in Alexandria, Virginia, twenty-four days away from his 74th birthday. His family announced his death on August 4, 2014.[13] On August 8, 2014, his death was described by the medical examiner as a homicide[2] caused by the gunshot wound he received in 1981, approximately 33 years after the fact. Hinckley did not face charges as a result of Brady's death due to having been found not guilty by reason of insanity.[14]

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.[15] Brady was also portrayed by John Connolly in the 2001 Showtime film The Day Reagan Was Shot.[16] Michael H. Cole also portrayed him in the 2016 television film Killing Reagan.[17]


  1. ^ Todd S. Purdum (August 4, 2014). "Remembering James S. Brady". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 8, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b 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. ^ "Media Outlets Apologize After Falsely Reporting Giffords' Death". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-12-03. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ David Bianculli (June 25, 2002). "Reagan Shooting Is Gripping 'Minute'". New York Daily News. 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. ^ "John Hinckley Won't Face Murder Charges in James Brady's Death". nbcnews.com. January 2, 2015. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  15. ^ Vick, Karl (16 June 1991). "James Brady, After the Bullet : HBO film follows press secretary's struggles since the Reagan shooting". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 September 2017. 
  16. ^ Fries, Laura (5 December 2001). "Review: 'The Day Reagan Was Shot'". Variety (magazine). Retrieved 4 September 2017. 
  17. ^ de Moraes, Lisa (23 May 2016). "Kyle More Cast As John Hinckley Jr. In Adaptation Of Bill O'Reilly's 'Killing Reagan' For NatGeo". Deadline.com. Retrieved 12 September 2017. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jody Powell
White House Press Secretary
Succeeded by
Larry Speakes