Local Commentary

Editorial: Heartfelt Tributes to James S. Brady

Many have been the great and heartfelt words and tributes to the late White House press secretary and gun control advocate James S. Brady (1940-2014), who died at age 73 on Aug. 4 after 33 years surviving with extreme difficulty. He took a bullet to the head in the attempted assassination of President Reagan on March 30, 1981 and used those years of his life to become a champion for reasonable gun control.

It was not his politics, but his disarming and humanizing style that endeared most to him and to share his suffering and admire his courage after he survived (contrary to early nationally-televised reports) the attack and beat the odds to survive multiple surgeries. A year and a half after his shooting, he was back as press secretary to President Reagan, although mostly in a ceremonial role. More importantly, though, with his wife, Sarah Brady, he fought for three decades for meaningful gun control, notwithstanding his lifelong Republican loyalties.

In congressional testimony, he chided members of Congress who would not support gun control legislation that became known as the “Brady Bill” for being “gutless” and “pandering” to the National Rifle Association. Eventually, President Reagan supported the bill, and then President Clinton signed it into law in 1993.
Here’s a sampling of some tributes to Brady found on line the past few days:

“James Brady RIP. This man endured extreme hardship for 30+ years after being shot and reported as slain by the media in the assassination attempt on Reagan. He always presented himself with cheers and an abiding concern for real gun control. On my short list of real heroes in life, he’s there” (Our editor)
“RIP Jim Brady, a wonderful human being who knew that a big part of a press secretary’s job was getting basic information to reporters” (Cragg Hines, then White House correspondent for the Houston Chronicle).

“He delighted in the good fortune of others. He was the kind of guy who looked out for the people around him – his candidate, other staffers, the reporters on the beat. This both more difficult and less common than you might think. After he was shot…Brady and his wife Sarah became ardent advocates of gun control. Although he spoke with some difficulty, he loved to hear from reporters and remember old names. Nearly every year, the Bradys would attend the Gridiron dinner, an annual white tie affair where journalists deliver satiric songs about politicians. At one of those dinners, I sat down beside him and told him, not for the first time, how he had played a role in my life. He laughed and gave a thumbs-up” (Susan Page, USA Today).

“I will never forget how Jim Brady was one of the very few people who always greeted me warmly at the White House press parties and the correspondents’ dinners. Every year his speech got better and his jokes got worse” (wife of former White House correspondent).