James Brady

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James Brady
James Brady 1986.jpg
Brady in 1986
17th White House Press Secretary
In office
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
Leave of absence: March 30, 1981 – January 20, 1989
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byJody Powell
Succeeded byLarry Speakes (Acting)
Personal details
James Scott Brady

(1940-08-29)August 29, 1940
Centralia, Illinois, U.S.
DiedAugust 4, 2014(2014-08-04) (aged 73)
Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.
Cause of deathComplications due to gunshot wounds
Resting placeGilgal Cemetery Marion Center, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, USA
Political partyRepublican
Sue Beh
(m. 1960; div. 1967)

(m. 1972)
EducationUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (BA)
^* 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 the seventeenth White House Press Secretary, serving under President Ronald Reagan. In 1981, Brady became permanently disabled from a gunshot wound during the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Brady's death was ruled a homicide, caused by the gunshot wound he received 33 years earlier.[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 Congressional candidate Wayne Jones in the race for Illinois' 23rd District. In 1970, Brady directed a campaign in the same district for Phyllis Schlafly.[3]

Brady served various positions in both the private sector and the 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 in 1979 to presidential candidate John Connally.[3]

After Connally withdrew his candidacy from the race, Brady became Director of Public Affairs and Research for the Reagan-Bush Committee, 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 and staff, 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 had fired 6 shots from a .22 caliber Röhm RG-14 revolver. Brady was hit in the head above his left eye passing through underneath his brain and shattering his brain cavity, exploding on impact. President Reagan, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and District of Columbia 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 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.[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 1994, James and Sarah received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[12] In 1996, Brady received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton, the highest civilian award in the United States.

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).

Personal life[edit]

Brady married Sue Beh in 1960. The marriage ended in divorce in 1967. In 1972, Brady married Sarah Jane Kemp.

In 2000, the White House press briefing room was renamed the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in his honor.[13]


Brady died on August 4, 2014, in Alexandria, Virginia.[14] Four days later, the medical examiner ruled that his death was a homicide,[2] caused by the gunshot wound which he sustained in 1981. Hinckley did not face any charges for Brady's death because he had been found not guilty by reason of insanity.[15]

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.[16] Brady was also portrayed by John Connolly in the 2001 Showtime film The Day Reagan Was Shot.[17] Michael H. Cole portrayed him in the 2016 television film Killing Reagan.[18]

Season 1, Episode 4, "In Control" of the TV series The Americans takes place on the day of Reagan's assassination attempt as the main characters try to figure out what's happening. The episode depicts the media falsely reporting Brady having died before issuing the correction that he's still alive.


  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 December 3, 2015.
  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. doi:10.1038/news.2011.9. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
  11. ^ "Jeffersonawards.org". Archived from the original on November 24, 2010. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  12. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  13. ^ "President Barack Obama on the Passing of James Brady". Imperial Valley News.com. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  14. ^ "James Brady, Reagan spokesman and anti-gun activist, dies at 73". CBS News. August 4, 2014.
  15. ^ "John Hinckley Won't Face Murder Charges in James Brady's Death". nbcnews.com. January 2, 2015. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  16. ^ Vick, Karl (June 16, 1991). "James Brady, After the Bullet: HBO film follows press secretary's struggles since the Reagan shooting". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  17. ^ Fries, Laura (December 5, 2001). "Review: 'The Day Reagan Was Shot'". Variety. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  18. ^ de Moraes, Lisa (May 23, 2016). "Kyle More Cast As John Hinckley Jr. In Adaptation Of Bill O'Reilly's 'Killing Reagan' For NatGeo". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 12, 2017.

External links[edit]

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