The recent passing of Brad Pye, Jr., the “godfather” of L.A.’s Black sports journalists, prompted many people to reflect on Pye’s legacy. The following are some of the comments his admirers shared with the L.A. Sentinel.
Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., L.A. Sentinel executive publisher and CEO of Bakewell Media:
“I was saddened to hear of the passing of Brad Pye. I have known Brad for years. Not only was Brad a legendary sports journalist, but he was a man of such brilliance that he was able to break down discriminatory practices in sports to bring about changes for all Black people in Los Angeles and around the country through sports. He was respected by African Americans in all sports. Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jim Brown all wanted to and were willing to talk to Brad.
He was the first African American to have a Heisman vote, which I believe he still had until he passed away. I was honored to call Brad a friend and colleague and found even greater satisfaction when Brad returned to the Sentinel family as Sports Editor Emeritus in March of 2016.”
William “Bill” Burke, chairman of South Coast Air Quality Management District and founder of the L.A. Marathon: “In the days when Muhammad Ali was fighting, he (Brad) was an icon in the industry and we’d look to him every time Ali came to Los Angeles to either stop by or call or acknowledge that we respected him. Brad always came to the L.A. Marathon and I appreciated him for doing that.”
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas
“Brad will be remembered as a man of many firsts, the first recognized African American sportswriter in Southern California, the first Black administrator for the National Football League Commission, and the first African American Public Relations and scout for the Los Angeles and then-San Diego Chargers football team,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “As a trailblazer, a champion for racial equality in sports, and an advocate for parks, he will be greatly missed by so many throughout Los Angeles County.”
L.A. Councilmember Herb J. Wesson: Everywhere he went, Brad Pye broke down barriers and opened up doors for those who came after him. It is never easy losing a giant in our community like Brad, but he lived a life full of love and accomplishments and his legacy will continue to live on for generations to come. I pray his family finds peace during these difficult times. “Switch reels!”
Larry Oats: “I have admired Mr. Brad Pye Jr. from near and far for more than 40 years. During my high school days in the late 1970’s, my friends and I would hear Brad on KGFJ radio talking about local and national sports. He interviewed star athletes, including my favorite, Muhammad Ali. Every week we would get the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper to read about what was going on in our community and to find out who Brad was writing about.
“I also had the pleasure of knowing Brad on a personal level because he was married to my cousin, Eunice. On one of my visits to their home, I talked to Brad about my aspirations to play football at UCLA. Soon after that conversation, Brad mentioned me in one of his Sentinel articles, stating that UCLA had their eye on me. Not two weeks after that, the UCLA football recruiter, Billy Matthews, came to Verbum Dei High School to talk to me about being part of their program. I went on to play football at UCLA, which was one of the greatest experiences in my life. Thank you, Brad, for your positive influence and help in my life.”
Leroy Vaughn, M.D.: Brad has uplifted the lives of thousands of people during his years in Los Angeles. In 1943, at the age of 12, he convinced a person driving to Los Angeles to allow him to ride along for $5. His loving mother steered him toward friends and joined him six years later. Brad parlayed this non air-conditioned journey into a magnificent career.
For over 50 years, Brad used his influence and insider leverage to help break racial barriers in every major sport including football, baseball, boxing, and track and field. Brad also worked tirelessly to promote Black “firsts.” Brad and others, like Wendell Smith of the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, also helped promote the acceptance of major league baseball stars like Sam Lacey and Jackie Robinson, who became his very close friend.
Brad Pye Jr.’s great career also touched the lives of numerous non-athletes. The late attorney, Johnnie Cochran, thanked Brad for 30 years of friendship and promotion long before the national media “discovered” him. When I told Brad that I had difficulty establishing my private practice as the only Black retinal specialist on the West Coast, he told me not to worry. He subsequently published my resume in the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper and appointed me to the State Boxing Commission and the State Athletic Commission. I cherish our 30-year friendship.