Bradley, Thomas

born Dec. 29, 1917, Calvert, Texas, U.S.
died Sept. 29, 1998, Los Angeles, Calif.

Mayor of Los Angeles (1973–93).

The son of a sharecropper, he moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was seven and endured poverty after his father abandoned the family. In 1940 he began a 22-year tenure with the city's police department, during which he earned a law degree (1956) by attending night school. In 1963 he became the city's first African American council member, and in 1973 he was elected one of the country's first two African American mayors of a major city (with Coleman Young of Detroit). During five terms as mayor, he helped transform Los Angeles into a bustling business and trading centre, overseeing massive growth and hosting the 1984 Olympic Games. He retired in 1992 after the city was consumed by riots following the acquittal of police officers in the beating of African American motorist Rodney King.

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▪ 1999

      American politician (b. Dec. 29, 1917, Calvert, Tex.—d. Sept. 29, 1998, Los Angeles, Calif.), transformed Los Angeles into a bustling business and trading centre during his five terms (1973-93) as the city's mayor. The son of a sharecropper, Bradley moved to Los Angeles when he was seven and faced economic hardship after his father abandoned the family. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, on a track scholarship but left before graduation to serve on the Los Angeles police force; he earned a law degree (1956) from Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, attending night school. After reaching the rank of lieutenant, with little chance of further promotion owing to his African-American heritage, Bradley retired in 1961 to pursue a career in politics. In 1969, at a time when the city was still reeling from the 1965 Watts riots, Bradley staged his first mayoral campaign. Though narrowly defeated, he ran again in 1973 and won. During his tenure as mayor Los Angeles experienced massive growth and became the second largest city in the U.S., and Bradley was instrumental in forging alliances between business and government sectors. With his stately bearing and soft-spoken demeanour, he enjoyed great popularity that reached a zenith when the city hosted the 1984 Olympic Games. The first privately funded Olympics, they produced a huge profit for Los Angeles. Bradley's approval rating began to fall in the late 1980s, however. Complaints arose over the city's increasing pollution, traffic, and crime, and in 1989 he was fined for improper financial dealings. Trouble continued in 1991 when four white policemen were captured on videotape beating Rodney King, an African-American. Hours after the policemen's acquittal in 1992, the city erupted in riots and more than 50 people were killed. The violence was, in part, blamed on Bradley's mishandling of the situation and his acrimonious relationship with police chief Daryl Gates. Deeply disturbed by the course of events, he decided not to run for reelection.

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Universalium. 2010.

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