Former White House Press Secretary James Brady Dead at 73

Brady championed gun control legislation after being wounded during an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan.
13:31 | 08/04/14

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Transcript for Former White House Press Secretary James Brady Dead at 73
I was I was aware that that mr. Brady was in failing health in recent days and I was saddened when I first learned that. He is somebody view I think. For really revolutionized this job. And even after he was wounded. In that attack on the president. With somebody who showed his patriotism and commitment to the country. By. Being very outspoken on an issue that was. -- important him and that he felt very strongly about so he is so he leaves the kind of legacy that I think. That certainly this Press Secretary in all future press secretaries. Will aspire to live up to. The current white house Press Secretary Josh artist reflecting now on the man. Who once held his position James Brady the man who was by president Ronald -- side and shot during a 1981 assassination attempt. Former white house Press Secretary James Brady. Has died. When I'm Dan Butler in New York that day that gun shot making Brady a historic figure. To -- James Scott Brady the bear. Being mourned by his family and those in Washington DC and New -- ABC's chief White House correspondent -- Karl live. Washington with more on this and Jonathan at 73 and yet still the impact that he -- on this country cannot be overstated. Yet no question about that I mean I go to work every day in the James Brady briefing room. That White House briefing room has been named for James Brady was dedicated as such. By President George Bush. He was only Reagan's Press Secretary for just a couple of months he was the first Reagan Press Secretary Reagan of course sworn in January 1981. That assassination attempt up at the what up at the Hilton hotel in Washington was on March 30. Of 1981 he had only been in office for for for a couple of months Brady was incredibly badly injured as a matter of fact. Several -- networks including including this one had erroneously reported that he had died could it just seemed. -- he -- he was that he was hit in the head with that bullet. Was not seem possible that he could've survived but he not only survived. He came back he actually was technically. Reagan's Press Secretary for all eight years although he would only briefly come in and out of the White House after that. That the people that took his place Larry speaks won't Fitzwater. -- always served as. Acting Press Secretary never taking that that the title Press Secretary and he dedicated himself to trying to do something about gun violence. To -- the Brady handgun control. A group actually push forward the most sweeping gun control legislation. That we've seen in in modern times the Brady bill which would of course required a background check. For all hand com purchases that was passed in 1993. -- -- an incredible victory given the power of the NRA at the time. And Brady. Dedicated the rest of his life to furthering. The cause of handgun safety of -- of gun control. And John it was a long battle that bill as you pointed out was first introduced back in 1987. And it wasn't until. Some six years later in fact the legislation had been passed. He had really been the face of that bill. Oh he sure had and it was it it was a. Big victory it was a tough hard fought victory. Brady had views on gun control that that were far beyond the Brady bill he wanted to do more. That was a victory. -- number afterwards. That there were talked you know NRA's zeroed James Brady want -- taken on the powerful. -- NRA and he had one up but he wouldn't win again he pushed hard for for various gun control he had a vision that. By buying -- should be -- came to buying a car he -- to have a license to show you can actually operates the thing before you actually. You know why are able to -- -- of course he was never able to achieve anything remotely. Like that. But he was somebody who became. The face of that cause. And that obviously put him up against a lot of Republicans lot of Democrats -- -- a lot of Republicans. Which was something given that he was Reagan's first Press Secretary. But I have to say even those who disagreed. With James Brady on that issue and disagreed with him vehemently. Still respected the man he was somebody who was beloved in this town -- that you saw that when. The briefing room was dedicated. Under under George W. Bush. He was somebody who. You know somebody who -- what was known above all for having a sense of humor. Very very much somebody who. Could defuse a tense situation. Which they we would with the joked it took to lighten everybody up a little bit even as -- of course remain so firmly committed to that -- His wife Sarah -- their two children as well obviously also being thrust into the spotlight from that tragic day but also from those efforts that eventually export fruit. John if you can talk a little bit about the the personality the man who -- James Brady because as you pointed out obviously he was a political force but at the same time though. As his family pointed out in their statement he certainly had a zest for life. Yet no question that and it was a zest for life you saw even after he was wheelchair bound in the in the years after that shooting in 1981. He had that smile in a way to -- to lighten up the room and I and I say just. Truly a beloved figure this time you heard from Josh Earnest saying. That he is somebody who inspired Josh as as Press Secretary I think that. That many of Josh predecessors working for both democratic and Republican president's. Would would -- -- agreement that. She reflect just a bit on how his presence how is impacts would have changed the office of the Press Secretary. Well you know keep in mind that he was only Press Secretary for a couple of months. Josh -- in addition to the comments you've played said he revolutionized. That that that. Office that position that the that may be a bit of an overstatement -- only had two wants to do -- he actually what's interesting is. He wasn't somebody that had to long ties to Reagan he had actually worked for John Connolly. In the 1980 Republican primary and idiotic characteristically at a joke about that Connolly of course the former. Governor of Texas formally a Democrat. Connolly a night he joked I taught -- Brady joked I taught him how to spend twelve million dollars -- only win one delegate. So he was we got was like a long line Reagan. You know Reagan loyalists to came in because he'd worked so hard and toiled away in the Reagan campaign he came into the Reagan. World very late into into that process and you know a testament again to his to his strength is somebody that did it that people simply light somebody -- had. A way to connect with people he was names that as that first Press Secretary but you know he was only there are actively. For a couple of months so you know honestly didn't have the time to truly due march to the office of Press Secretary even though. Technically if you look on the list the press secretaries he's actually there for all eight years because as I mentioned the there's -- came after him under Reagan. Always kept the title of deputy Press Secretary -- acting Press Secretary wanted to say look as long as Reagan is in the White House officially. That man James Brady. Is the Press Secretary. A legacy that certainly extend -- beyond those eight years of service outside the White House our Jonathan Karl obviously with some very heavy hearts -- Jonathan thank you. I want to now bring in our political director Rick Klein who is standing by in -- Rick I mean really the -- -- the political. Diversity. That Jim Brady was able to bring to Washington really can't be overstated. That's right I and I think the fact that he stood in for something that was so noble and so important for the history press -- -- come after him. The fact that he literally took a bullet for his bosses some of those on the mind of anyone who would come after and the fact that. As Jon Karl mentioned that press secretaries and White House correspondents report for work in the James Brady press briefing room he is there on hand at that event in 2000 with George W. Bush. A formally named the room for him I think it was important. Important to note in light of of all of the political noises Mitterrand handgun control about that achievement he made in 1983. -- the proud moment that he had -- seen at ushered into law an unexpected victory. Four for the anti gun groups and not a victory that's been -- since then despite his efforts. And you saw him and in the Brady campaign. Redouble their efforts in the wake of the recent round of shootings and places like Aurora Newtown Connecticut and and end up coming up with nothing so that victory I think an important testament to him into his perseverance and the the ability to build simple. Partnerships political partnerships and obviously a lasting impacts on the way in which our country operates -- -- having met be a six year battle. Finally coming in to being signed by President Clinton the Brady handgun violence protection act essentially requires a five day background check for any kind of gun purchases. -- this was something that Jim Brady that his wife Sara -- really champion for. After that 1981 assassination attempt and the work -- even continued on beyond that 1993 signing. It was personal it was emotional. The fact that that Jim Brady was permanently. Scarred by that by the incidents wheelchair bound ahead -- difficulty speaking difficulty at times -- inference that the controlling his emotions he. They get very teary eyed in in in having discussions it meant so much to him personally and he was. The face of that movement for very long time the Brady campaign ahead of its side in some ways we've seen a number of groups -- -- trying to counter the NRA in recent years. -- has been affected as the Brady campaign and it's that fact that he was able to speak so eloquently his organization able to speak so eloquently and personally emotionally about the issue that powered it through in the -- Admired on both sides of the aisles and awarded for his work some of those accolades the presidential medal of freedom that was -- by President Clinton -- 1996. The presidential citizens medal from President Reagan in 1989. And the link -- award for being a national hero. Significant Sega as well from sigma pi fraternity and in 1981. This is a man that was very closely admired and liked in the Washington community which obviously speaks volumes for his personality because that is not an easy goal to accomplish. That's right in keep in mind he was barely forty years old when he became the white house Press Secretary -- very young man. By the standards of any high powered job in Washington and he only serve the full two months or so in that job before the incident. He wouldn't be behind that podium again as he struggled for his recovery. But there was such a full life after that incident 1981. More than thirty years in the public -- Fighting the fights engaging in the battle engaging in the friendships that matter in Washington. Such a full and complete life even after the incident barely half his life before. And half his life afterward and such achievements and such. Enjoy that he brought to its that the smile the laughter -- that Jon Karl reference I think is real and the memories of those who knew him well people interviewed him say. That's he had that that that we it and that the ability to make a joke up until the very end. And the ability and and the desire to work on big -- projects like gun control. That kind of ambition and lastly -- -- wanted to ask you to reflect on that. That bipartisan spirit that Jim Brady was able to sort of encapsulate and even put a name and face to. How -- that influence Washington politics over the years since that 1993. And ninety any forward. So I think the circumstances. Of his injury it contributed to a lot of the the admiration around him clearly this was an assassination attempt on the presidency of the United States it was only eighteen years. After president -- at Kennedy had been assassinated or attempts on president Ford's life as well there were tense times throughout initial reports. That that that Reagan himself had been unharmed were not true initial reports that did Brady himself was killed. I'm not true as well so it was a tense time in America and the fact that Brady had this very public recovery and ability to return to. To public life and fight for a cause that matter for him with something that was important. In terms of the the possibility of bipartisanship on gun control make a sad aspect of of Brady's memory will be the fact that there's been nothing close to what he achieved in 1993 in terms of gun control I think those who admired his work. Will have to look back on the ensuing two decades with disappointment and see. The assault weapons ban -- season rolling back of gun control laws CD. Very high profile failure of additional gun control in the wake of Newtown -- the senate. Had had a filibuster and couldn't even advance additional background checks this legislation present Obama himself very emotional thinking about it. But that was of the moment in time in 1983 that that that people were able to come together a little bit of bipartisanship around gun control that we haven't seen sense. James Brady being at the center that our political director Washington DC -- -- thank you for your time for insights appreciate it as always thank you -- And of course you can keep up with this story in real time the passing. Of former Press Secretary to Ronald Reagan Jim Brady at the age of 73. Star that's short for schools and updates on the -- For -- I'm Dan Butler New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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