James Brady, President Reagan’s press secretary who was shot in the 1981 assassination attempt, died today in an Alexandria, Va., retirement home. He was 73.

“Jim was the personification of courage and perseverance,” former first lady Nancy Reagan said in a statement. “He and Sarah never gave up, and never stopped caring about the causes in which they believed.”

President Obama praised Brady for the gun-control efforts he championed with his wife.

“Jim is a legend at the White House for his warmth and professionalism as press secretary for President Reagan; for the strength he brought to bear in recovering from the shooting that nearly killed him 33 years ago; and for turning the events of that terrible afternoon into a remarkable legacy of service through the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Since 1993, the law that bears Jim’s name has kept guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. An untold number of people are alive today who otherwise wouldn’t be, thanks to Jim,” Obama said in a statement.

“Every day, reporters and White House staffers walk past a plaque marking the day in 2000 that the White House Briefing Room was renamed the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. It reads, ‘May his courage and dedication continue to inspire all who work in this room and beyond.’ Those words will endure, as will his legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim’s wife Sarah, who has been Jim’s steadfast partner in advocacy, and their children Scott and Melissa.”

Vice President Joe Biden said their friendship went back to when Brady was the press secretary to Sen. Bill Roth (R-Del.).

“It’s been three decades since he nearly lost his life to an assassin’s bullet fired at President Reagan from a gun bought with no background check. But through his paralysis and daily physical struggle, Jim and his wife Sarah showed a dignity, grace, and fierce determination to turn tragedy into action. Still healing himself, Jim would reach out to survivors of gun violence and other tragedies with a message of encouragement and hope on their own road to recovery. I was proud to have worked with Jim and Sarah in the 1980s and 1990s as they persevered privately to publicly lead the bipartisan consensus for commonsense efforts to keep guns out the hands of those who would use them to harm themselves or others. And I am grateful for their ongoing, rational, and heartfelt guidance as our nation continues to experience devastating gun violence tragedies, like the one at Newtown and in towns and cities across America,” Biden said in a statement.

“Because of the Bradys’ leadership and the gun violence prevention law named in Jim’s honor, sensible background checks to date have kept 2 million guns out of the wrong hands. Because of them, countless lives have been saved,” Biden continued. “And because of what became the cause of their lives, countless more can be saved—in our school and on our streets—if we carry forward the legacy of Jim Brady that turned personal tragedy into service to country and to each other.”