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Biographies Unit Biographies

Tom Bradley 1917–1998
Mayor of Los Angeles

Tom Bradley achieved many “firsts” in his life. He was the first African American to reach the rank of lieutenant in the Los Angeles Police Department. He was the first African American to be elected to the Los Angeles City Council. In 1973, he became the city's first African American mayor.

Bradley's parents were tenant farmers who lived in a log cabin in Texas. The family moved to Los Angeles when Bradley was seven years old. Bradley's talent as an athlete helped him get a college scholarship. While working as a police officer for the Los Angeles Police Department, Bradley went to law school at night. He opened a law office after he retired from the police force. Then he decided to enter city politics.

Bradley's skill at bringing people together helped him win elections. With his leadership, the city grew and business prospered. His work led to Los Angeles being picked to host the 1984 Summer Olympic Games. Bradley was so popular that he was elected to five terms as mayor — another “first” in Los Angeles history!

Comprehension Check

Which of the following was not one of Tom Bradley's “firsts”?

Critical Thinking

In what ways do you think Bradley's experience as a police officer might have helped him as a mayor?