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Former White House press secretary James Brady, who survived a bullet wound to the head during the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan and went on to lead the gun control campaign that bears his name, has died at age 73, his family said in a statement Monday.

The family statement cited "a series of health issues" for the long-time political spokesman who was paralyzed during the attack 33 years ago.

"Over the years, Jim inspired so many people as he turned adversity into accomplishment," the family said in the statement.

Current White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Brady "really revolutionized this job" and set a standard that successors should aspire to. As for Brady's long-time campaign for gun control, Earnest said he "showed his patriotism and commitment to the country by being very outspoken on an issue that was important to him and that he felt very strongly about."

The White House press room is named in Brady's honor. So is the federal law that requires background checks on handgun buyers.

"There are few Americans in history who are as directly responsible for saving as many lives as Jim," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Born Aug. 29, 1940, in Centralia, Ill., Brady graduated from the University of Illinois in 1962 and held a number of jobs in government and Republican politics for two decades.

A spokesman for John Connally's failed campaign for the Republican nomination in 1980, Brady later joined Ronald Reagan's team and served as spokesman for the Office of the President-elect.

Reagan -- reportedly despite objections from wife Nancy -- tapped him as White House press secretary shortly after his 1981 inauguration. Nicknamed "The Bear," the garrulous Brady was highly regarded by the press corps.

"I come before you today not as just another pretty face, but out of sheer talent," the balding Brady told reporters shortly before he got the appointment.

On March 30, 1981, Brady accompanied Reagan to a speech at the Washington Hilton when John Hinckley Jr. opened fire on the presidential party. Reagan sustained a bullet wound in one lung, and recovered.

Caught in the crossfire, Brady sustained a wound in the head that paralyzed the left side of his body. Through therapy and a series of brain operations, Brady suffered constant pain as well as some slurred speech and partial brain damage.

Brady retained the title of press secretary for the remainder of Reagan's presidency, as others performed the duties of the office.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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