Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Honoring Tom Bradley

In October, President Obama signed into law Congresswoman Diane Watson’s bill to officially change the name of the Crenshaw Post Office to the Tom Bradley Post Office. Last Saturday, I joined Congresswoman Watson, members of the Bradley family, and Councilmembers Wesson and Parks for the official dedication ceremony.

Thomas J. "Tom" Bradley was born December 19, 1917, in Texas, the son of a sharecropper and the grandson of former slaves. In 1924, the family moved to Los Angeles. As a promising athlete he was recruited by Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles where he starred in football and track. He attended University of California, Los Angeles on a track scholarship, but dropped out of UCLA during his junior year to attend the Los Angeles Police Academy. He became a member of the Los Angeles Police Department in 1940 and studied at night at Southwestern University School of Law and received his law degree.

He served on the Los Angeles City Council from 1963 to 1972. Bradley went on to serve as a five-term mayor of Los Angeles from 1973 to 1993. He was the first and to date only African-American mayor of Los Angeles. His 20 years in office marks the longest tenure by any mayor in the city's history.

He presided over a period of enormous growth in Los Angeles and positioned the emerging metropolis to take its place as a hub for international trade. He brought the city a spot on the world's center stage with its hosting of the Olympic Games in the summer of 1984. His legacy includes the gleaming downtown skyline of Bunker Hill, the start of a subway and light rail system, and numerous city institutions that bear his name, such as the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.

Bradley married Ethel Arnold in 1941 and the two remained married for the remainder of his life. The couple has two surviving daughters, Phyllis and Lorraine. Tom Bradley passed away on September 29, 1998, and Ethel on November 25, 2008.