Earl “Skip” Cooper, II, shakes hands with Mayor Tom Bradley in 1996 (Courtesy Photo)

Mayor Tom Bradley was born December 29, 1917 to Lee and Crennder Bradley in Calbert, Texas.

Tom Bradley was the product of the Los Angeles Unified School District and the University of California, Los Angeles. He received his LL.D. from Southwestern University School of Law in 1956.

Tom Bradley served 21 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, achieving the rank of Lieutenant before retiring. After a short tenure in the practice of law, he became the first African American elected to the Los Angeles City Council, in 1963.

Tom Bradley was elected the Mayor of Los Angeles in 1973 and was one of the best mayors of a major city in the United States in the last hundred years.

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Tom Bradley had an extraordinary career and life. He was a respected Mayor winning a historic five-terms as the mayor of one of America’s largest and best managed City’s, the City of Los Angeles.

A man of quiet determination, Bradley spent a lifetime bridging racial barriers and used his skills to bring the City together and forming coalitions. Tom Bradley made history as the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city with a white majority.

While he served as Mayor Los Angeles prospered. He changed the city’s downtown skyline. Among his other legacies are the start of the subway and light-rail systems.

Bradley also was a driving force to diversify the city’s workforce. He opened doors for minorities and women to not only serve on city commissions, with his leadership black men and women held more management positions.

Mayor Tom Bradley signed “Executive Directives” that created a Minority Business Enterprise Program, and many more minority businesses won a share in the millions of dollars in city contracts. Tom Bradley positioned the City to take its place as an international trade center. He brought the city a glowing spot on the world’s center stage with its smooth and lucrative hosting of the Olympic Games in the summer of 1984.

In 1987, Mayor Bradley was the first mayor of a major city in the United States to declare an official “Black Business Day.”

Bradley’s other legacies can be seen in institutions that bear his name, including the Tom Bradley International Terminal Los Angeles International Airport. He worked and succeeded in reforming and bringing civilian control to the Los Angeles Police Department. He enjoyed being a popular Mayor during most of his historic five-terms as the mayor of one of America’s largest and best-managed cities. In 1982, he was encouraged to run for governor of California and had a chance to make history again by becoming the first black in the nation to win a state’s top office.

Mayor Bradley was also the first African American elected to serve as the president of the National League of Cities and the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Mayor Bradley changed the political scene for black politicians and Los Angeles for the better. Mayor Tom Bradley left a lasting legacy of empowering people, achieving the “Impossible Dream” and managing the second largest city in the United States, the City of Angels.

By the end of Mayor Bradley’s fifth and last term as Mayor, he left a legacy of African Americans in key positions in the City of Los Angeles. Among them was the Port of Los Angeles, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the Los Angeles Police Department, the Department of General Services, the City Comptroller, and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

I am proud to say that Tom Bradley was a personal friend of mine.

He died on September 29, 1998, of a heart attack at the age of 80.

Earl ‘Skip’ Cooper II is the chairman/founder of the Earl Skip Cooper Foundation and a 100% Disabled Vietnam Veteran. During Tom Bradley’s tenure as Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, Mr. Cooper served as a Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles Housing Authority, a Commissioner for the Department of Social Services, and a member of the Mayor’s Small Business Advisory Council.