The death of former presidential press secretary and gun control advocate James Brady on Monday drew expressions of sorrow and fond memories of his life from LGBT activists in Rehoboth Beach, where Brady and his wife Sarah lived since the late 1990s.
Brady, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary during Reagan’s first year in office, became an internationally recognized figure after being shot in the head in an assassination attempt on Reagan in Washington in 1981.
Brady’s notoriety stemmed from his and his wife’s work in the cause of gun control in the years following the shooting by would-be assassin John Hinckley, who wounded Reagan, Brady and two others outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981.
Despite a brain injury that left him partially paralyzed and wheel chair bound, people who knew Brady said he kept his wry sense of humor and warm personality, which he used to lobby Congress and many state legislatures to enact gun control legislation.
With political ties to Delaware dating back to before he became Reagan’s press secretary, Brady and his wife moved to Dewey Beach, Del., which is located next to Rehoboth Beach, in 1991 before moving to Rehoboth several years later, according to the Delaware News Journal.
Gay Democratic activist Peter Schott, a longtime Rehoboth resident, said he became friends with Jim and Sarah Brady through political circles after the Bradys moved to Rehoboth.
“I can tell you I attended a number of political fundraisers at their home for Democratic candidates,” Schott said. “They of course knew that I was gay.”
In August 2006, the Delaware Stonewall Democratic Club, an LGBT group that Schott headed at the time, honored Jim and Sarah Brady at a reception in Rehoboth Beach. The event took place sometime after the Bradys changed their party registration from Republican to Democrat.
Mitch Crane, the gay chair of the Sussex County, Del., Democratic Committee, said he has worked with the Bradys on various political endeavors.
“She did speak and did make comments stating that they were in support of LGBT rights,” Crane said of Sarah Brady.
John Brady, a gay attorney who won election in Sussex County last year as Clerk of the Peace, said he became friends of the Bradys at a time when he too changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.
According to John Brady, who is not related to Jim Brady, the Bradys have attended on at least two occasions an annual summer fundraising event for the Rehoboth LGBT community center called CAMP Rehoboth.
You couldn’t not like Jim,” said John Brady. “His nickname was The Bear but he was really a Teddy bear.
Tim Ragan, co-owner of the Blue Moon, the popular Rehoboth Beach restaurant and gay bar, said he got to know Jim and Sarah Brady when the two became regular customers of the restaurant.
“For years they would come here,” said Ragan. “They were among our favorite customers.”
Ragan said the Blue Moon staff missed seeing the Bradys in the past two years after Jim Brady’s health began to fail and he and his wife relocated to Virginia.
The Washington Post reported that Brady died Aug. 4 at a retirement community in Alexandria, Va.