Monday, August 4, 2014

Former Reagan White House Press Secretary James “The Bear” Brady Has Died

Photo Credit:  Charles Tasnadi/AP
Ronald Reagan won in a landslide in 1980.  Less than three months into his first term President Reagan was leaving a union convention at the Washington Hilton Hotel.  Emerging from the hotel at 2:25 PM after giving a speech on March 30, 1981, James S. Brady was in the president’s entourage when John Hinckley opened fire wounding not only the president but D.C. police officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and Mr. Reagan’s press secretary James Brady.

The bullet from Hinckley’s gun entered the left side of Brady’s forehead and passed through the right side of his brain.  He was the most severely injured in the assassination attempt and was not expected to live.

He remained hospitalized for nine months, and after he was discharged he returned for physical therapy every day. He could manage only a few steps at a time, and sometimes he would blank out.  He lived in constant pain.

Although Brady 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 became a symbol of the fight for gun control.

On February 11, 2000 President Bill Clinton presided at the renaming of the room in which White House news briefings are held.  It became the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.

The plaque reads: 
“This room is named in honor of James S. Brady, White House Press Secretary from January 22, 1981 until January 20, 1989.  Mr. Brady served his nation with honor and distinction, strengthening the bond between government and press.  May his courage and dedication continue to inspire all who work in this room and beyond.”
Nancy Reagan released a statement after learning of Brady’s passing.
“I was deeply saddened to learn of Jim Brady's passing today. Thinking of him brings back so many memories - happy and sad - of a time in all of our lives when we learned what it means to "play the hand we're dealt." On the 1980 campaign plane, Jim was a wise counselor, who took his role but not himself seriously. Ronnie and I enjoyed his company, trusted his judgment and relied on him. So did the press corps.” 
“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. I still remember vividly that day in March 1981, when Sarah and I sat together in a tiny room near the emergency room at George Washington University Hospital, trying to comfort each other while we both were gripped with unspeakable fear. The bond we established then was unlike any other.” 
“Jim was the personification of courage and perseverance. He and Sarah never gave up, and never stopped caring about the causes in which they believed. They remained dear friends, and I send my deepest sympathy to Sarah, Scott and Missy.”

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