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Bradley's Life Saluted in Outpouring of Tributes

Memorial: Dignitaries and common people join in honoring a leader who transformed the city.

October 06, 1998|JAMES RAINEY and LARRY GORDON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Former Mayor Tom Bradley was eulogized Monday as a heroic and historic leader who helped build modern Los Angeles, opened the city's political doors to all people and never forgot his roots as a poor boy from rural Texas.

Dignitaries including Vice President Al Gore, Gov. Pete Wilson and Mayor Richard Riordan filled a three-hour funeral service with tributes to Bradley's achievements--for his city, for African Americans and for the dispossessed.

The service before an overflow audience of 1,500 at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church reached its emotional climax as Bradley's oldest allies literally sang his praises, recalling him as a man of the people who "always did right by us."

The church's pastor, the Rev. Cecil L. "Chip" Murray, urged the gathering to live in the spirit of peace and understanding, which he said Bradley brought to the city he governed for 20 years.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 7, 1998 Home Edition Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Bradley funeral--In Tuesday's coverage of the funeral of former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, a photo caption misidentified one of Bradley's former aides. The man pictured embracing another mourner was Maury Weiner, former first chief deputy mayor, not former City Councilman Marvin Braude.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday January 12, 1999 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Metro Desk 3 inches; 74 words Type of Material: Correction
Tom Bradley--In several stories on the death of former Mayor Tom Bradley, The Times said Bradley had been the first African American to reach the rank of lieutenant in the Los Angeles Police Department. That distinction was achieved by at least three others before him. In 1923, William L. Stevens became the department's first black lieutenant detective, and two others, Roscoe Washington and A.J. Johnson, became lieutenants in 1945. When Bradley retired from the LAPD to practice law, he was its only active black lieutenant.

"When we lift up on the shield this fallen warrior, Tom Bradley, we are lifting up more than a companion," Murray said. "We are lifting up a concept, the concept of servant-hood."

Bradley's friends and former political foes joined in the praise of Los Angeles' first black mayor and its longest-serving chief executive. Bradley, 80, died last week of heart failure.

In the audience were former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and former Gov. George Deukmejian, the Republican who twice defeated Democrat Bradley's runs for governor, once narrowly and once by a wide margin.

With musical tributes by the Rev. O.C. Smith, Edna Williams, the 90-member First AME choir and a surprise appearance by entertainer Stevie Wonder, what began as a sort of official state event warmed into more of a revival meeting.

Political allies and enemies shook hands and slapped backs just a few feet from where Bradley rested in an open, black coffin. Even Gore, famous for his wooden persona, swayed to the music.

When the vice president rose first in a series of speakers from the halls of government, he recalled that Bradley and Jackie Robinson were fellow athletes at UCLA. Gore dubbed Bradley "the Jackie Robinson of public service."

Paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr., the vice president said the "arc of the universe" tends toward justice.

"And so it was for Tom Bradley," Gore said, "whose whole life was a testament to faith and hope. . . . That arc led all the way from a tiny log cabin in Texas to the towering skyline in this place that he helped make one of the great cities in the world.

"Today, in the City of Angels there is one more angel watching over us," Gore concluded, words that were greeted by a standing ovation.

The Republican Wilson also recalled Bradley warmly as a gentle and gracious man.

"His election and years in the mayor's office had enormous significance both real and symbolic," Wilson said. "The real you can see all around us from the tallest buildings of Bunker Hill to the speeding trains beneath our streets. . . . And the symbolic significance of his mayoralty exceeds even those changes."

Recollections From Friends, Colleagues

To Watts community activist "Sweet" Alice Harris, that significance was personal and as close as the nearest telephone. Even with a bevy of aides surrounding him, even 20 years after he took office, Harris said "the mayor" always would return a phone call.

She remembered how she once called the mayor, asking him to come to Los Angeles International Airport to send off a group of young men who were taking a trip to Hawaii. Many of the teenagers had never been in an airplane, but would not admit they were afraid.

"The mayor took them off to a quiet place and talked to them and later I asked one of them what he said," Harris recalled. "The mayor told them it was all right for a man to be scared. It was all right for a man to cry. He put that safeguard in for them. He told them they were somebody."

The audience roared with laughter a moment later, when Harris imagined a conversation in heaven between Bradley and Kenneth Hahn, the venerable county supervisor who also represented the African American community for decades. "The mayor's saying, 'Kenny, there ain't no potholes in the street here. And if there are, don't worry, they are taking care of them.' "

Harris concluded: "The mayor was all right with poor folk. I don't know about the rich. I don't know about that. But he didn't forget. He was all right by us."

The services were arranged with the direction of Bradley's widow, Ethel, and his daughters, Phyllis and Lorraine. The daughters leaned over to kiss their father, whose casket lay before the altar for several hours before the service.

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