This Day in Black History: Dec. 29, 1917

Thomas “Tom” Bradley

This Day in Black History: Dec. 29, 1917

On Dec. 29, 1917, the first Black mayor of Los Angeles, Thomas “Tom” Bradley, was born in Calvert, Texas.

Published December 29, 2012

(Photo: Sam Mircovich / Reuters)

On Dec. 29, 1917, politician Thomas “Tom” Bradley was born in Calvert, Texas.

Bradley was the first Black mayor of Los Angeles and served in office from 1973 to 1993. He was also the first African-American mayor of a major American city without a black majority.

Born the son of sharecroppers and the grandson of slaves in rural Texas, Bradley's family moved to Los Angeles in 1924. He went on to attend UCLA where he excelled in academics and sports. While at UCLA, Bradley became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and, years later, went on to become national president of the organization.

In 1940, Bradley joined the LAPD and worked his way up to the rank of lieutenant, the highest rank an African-American could earn at the time. This racist limitation inspired Bradley to leave the force, but not before he attended Southwestern Law School at night and passed the bar exam.

Bradley became active in politics in 1963, serving on the Los Angeles City Council for the 10th district. He was elected mayor in 1973 after a previous, unsuccessful bid for office in 1969 and is credited with diversifying Los Angeles and revitalizing the city’s downtown and financial and business districts.

He died in 1998 at age 80.

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Written by Naeesa Aziz


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