Former White House Press Secretary James Brady Passes Away

James Brady with his wife, Sarah, on the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt. James Brady with his wife, Sarah, on the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt. Evan Vucci/AP

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.

Brady did not return to work as press secretary but held the title for the duration of Reagan's presidency.

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.

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."

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