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Mayor Who Reshaped L.A. Dies

TOM BRADLEY: 1917-1998

Leaders: First black to head city overcame racism to guide explosive growth and build coalitions.

September 30, 1998|JEAN MERL and BILL BOYARSKY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

That kind of dedication continued until Bradley was felled by a heart attack while driving his car in March 1996. Doctors performed triple bypass surgery on the former mayor shortly thereafter, and he appeared to be recovering. But less than a day after the surgery he suffered the stroke that left him unable to speak clearly for the rest of his life. His condition limited his public appearances.

But even before he was stricken, for the most part, he kept a promise he made to himself not to comment on the actions or performance of his successor. He generally resisted urgings to do so from any number of reporters or attendees at his occasional public speaking engagements. A notable exception was the anger that he displayed in late 1995, when Riordan vetoed a housing and commercial development proposed at 81st Street and Vermont Avenue in south Los Angeles. It had been opposed by neighbors of powerful Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) but was an important project to her political foe and area representative, Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Bradley publicly denounced the veto, accusing Riordan of acting on a desire to get back at Ridley-Thomas, his most vocal council critic. Soon afterward, the council overrode the veto with a stunning 15-0 vote.

The next month, Bradley lent his voice in opposition to another Riordan initiative to fire Franklin White, the executive director of the agency building the subway, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. White said that he was being fired because he had shown too much integrity in trying to control a "money train, and if you get between the people who want the money and the people who spend the money you've got problems."

But Riordan blamed White for failing to stop the hemorrhage of bad publicity and other problems with subway construction and for what he called the MTA's "paralysis by analysis."

At the showdown MTA board meeting at which Riordan prevailed, Bradley made a surprise appearance. "I could no longer sit back and be quiet," he said, in defending White as a voice of independence and integrity. "I have too much of my blood, sweat and energy wrapped up in the MTA for me to ignore what is taking place in my community."

Those were exceptions. Once out of the limelight, Bradley generally professed not to miss it and seemed to take easily to life as a private citizen. In 1994, he told a Times reporter of the pleasure he took in reading the morning newspaper once he left office: "It's a joy to get up in the morning, walk out to the frontyard, pick up the paper and say: 'I don't give a damn what's in it.' I had enough exposure in 20 years to last a lifetime. If my name was never printed again, it wouldn't bother me."

Bradley's body will be at the Los Angeles Convention Center for public viewing, beginning Sunday at either 10 a.m. or noon and continuing until 6 p.m.

A funeral service will be held Monday at First AME Church, Bradley's parish, at 10 a.m.. Although seating for the public may be limited, speakers will broadcast the eulogy by the Rev. Cecil L. "Chip" Murray to those outside the church.

A wide array of local and national leaders, including President Clinton, have been invited to the service.

Burial arrangements were pending.

Boyarsky is The Times' city editor. Times staff writers Ted Rohrlich, James Rainey and Darryl Fears contributed to this story.

Audio comments from prominent Los Angeles politicians and analysts on the death of Tom Bradley are on The Times' Web site, at http://www.latimes.com/bradley

* MIKE DOWNEY: The Olympics were a Bradley triumph. A3

* BILL BOYARSKY: Bradley emphasized deeds, not words. A14

* PATT MORRISON: Tom Bradley is what California is all about. B1

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Tom Bradley: A Los Angeles Life

Dec. 29, 1917: Born to sharecroppers near Calvert, Texas.

1924: Family moves to Los Angeles.

1930s: Attends John H. Francis Polytechnic High School, a mostly white campus, where he is the first black to be elected president of the Poly Boys' League and the first to be inducted into the Ephebians, a national honor society; he also is captain of the track team and makes the all-city football team as a tackle. He graduates in the winter of 1937.

1937: Wins a track scholarship to UCLA.

1940-41: Drops out of UCLA during his junior year to attend the Los Angeles Police Academy, after placing near the top on a recruitment exam. On May 4, he marries Ethel Arnold, whom he had met at New Hope Baptist Church. They eventually have two daughters, Phyllis and Lorraine.

1950s: Earns a law degree from Southwestern University School of Law while working for the LAPD. Enters politics by joining the Crenshaw Democratic Club.

1961: After rising to the rank of lieutenant in the LAPD, the highest-ranking African American in the department at the time, Bradley retires to practice law.

1963: Becomes the first elected black member of the City Council.

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