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Tom Bradley

Tom Bradley was an American politician, five-term mayor of Los Angeles, California, and three-term Los Angeles city councilman.

He was the first African-American mayor of Los Angeles, one of the first black Los Angeles city councilmen, one of the first African-Americans to serve as mayor of a major U.S. city, and the first African-American mayor of a predominantly white city.

Mayor Tom Bradley
Mayor Tom Bradley
Biographical fast facts

Date and place of birth: December 29, 1917, near Calvert, Texas, U.S.A.

Date, time, place and cause of death: September 29, 1998, at approximately 9 a.m., Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center, 6041 Cadillac Avenue, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. (Heart attack)

Marriage
Wife: Ethel May Arnold (m. May 4, 1941 - September 29, 1998) (his death)

Family/Relatives
Siblings: Lawrence, Willa Mae, Ellis, and Howard

Children
Daughters: Lorraine Bradley and Phyllis Bradley
Note: They also had a daughter who died the day she was born.

Parents
Father: Lee Thomas Bradley (a porter for the Santa Fe railroad)
Mother: Crenner (Hawkins) Bradley (a maid)

Burial site: Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California, U.S.A.

Biography

Tom Bradley was born to poor sharecroppers who lived in a small log cabin outside Calvert, Texas. His grandfather had been a slave. The Bradley's arrived in Los Angeles in 1924, and lived near Temple and Alvarado streets. The family consisted of father Lee Thomas Bradley, mother Crenner (Hawkins) Bradley, Tom and his siblings, Lawrence, Willa Mae, Ellis, who had cerebral palsy, and Howard. Tom attended Rosemont Elementary School and Lafayette Junior High School, and was a standout athlete in high school.

He received an athletic scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles where he distinguished himself on the Bruin track team. After placing near the top on a Los Angeles Police Department recruitment exam during his junior year at UCLA, Bradley decided to drop out of college, and entered the L.A. Police Academy. During his time on the force, he worked as a detective, a juvenile officer, and in police-community relations. Toward the end of his career in law enforcement, he was not only working full-time with the LAPD, but was going to night school to earn his law degree from Southwestern University. He actually graduated and passed the California bar exam while still on the police force. Following 21 years of service (1940-61), Lieutenant Tom Bradley retired from the LAPD.

After a brief period practicing law, he was urged by community leaders to run for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council. He won, and went on to serve three terms on the L.A. city council (1963-73). In the Los Angeles mayoral election of 1969, Bradley challenged outspoken incumbent Mayor
Sam Yorty. Tom Bradley lost his bid for the city's highest office in what turned into a bitter campaign. With the Watts' riots still fresh in the minds of many Los Angeles residents, all it took to swing the election Sam Yorty's way were a few leaked files that implied Bradley was a left-wing radical with communist leanings. Four years later, Tom Bradley would successfully unseat Mayor Yorty. At a time when the city was only 18 percent African-American, Bradley forged a broad-based coalition of liberals and moderates to win the election.

As the 37th mayor of Los Angeles, Bradley presided over a period of enormous growth in Los Angeles. The city emerged as a world-class metropolis that took its place as an international trade center. Mayor Bradley remained such a well-respected figure among the electorate, that he would go on to serve an unprecedented five-terms in office (1973-93). During his tenure, the city surpassed Chicago to become the second-largest city in the United States. He oversaw a massive downtown redevelopment project that successfully revitalized much of the formerly rundown, seedy downtown area. Perhaps his most visible legacies remain the Los Angeles subway system and light-rail mass transit system. Improving and expanding public transportation was one of his earliest campaign promises.

Some dubbed him the Teflon mayor, or "Teflon Tom" for his seeming ability to avoid being touched by any serious scandal. All that changed in the waning years of his political career, when he found himself defending his integrity, as scandals erupted over some questionable financial dealings, and possible financial conflict-of-interest charges. Investigations revealed that Bradley had been paid to serve on the board of advisors of a bank and the board of directors of a savings and loan association, both of which had dealings with the city. Those disclosures led to wider investigations into his personal finances. Inquiries exposed the mayor's secret acceptance of a consultancy from a Los Angeles bank, who in turn, received an unexplained two million dollars from the city. Although no proof of criminal wrongdoing was found, the report criticized the mayor on ethical grounds and for his poor judgment in the matter.

Following the 1992 Rodney King riots, Mayor Tom Bradley announced he would not seek reelection. After leaving office, he joined the Los Angeles office of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. The former mayor worked on international trade issues for the firm.

In March 1996, Bradley suffered a heart attack that led to triple bypass surgery. Following the surgery, he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak. Friends report he later regained most of his mobility but never regained his ability to speak.

Tom Bradley was married to Ethel (Arnold) Bradley for 57 years. They had two daughters, Lorraine and Phyllis.


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