Iconic Angelenos in Black History: Thomas Bradley

In honor of Black History Month, join us each day from February 10th to the 19th as we celebrate Black Angelenos who have influenced culture, social justice, and progress in Los Angeles and, in some instances, the nation. Today we celebrate Thomas Bradley:


Serving an unprecedented five terms as the mayor of Los Angeles from 1973 to 1993, Thomas Bradley wielded two decades of influence on the growth and direction of the second largest city in the United States. A grandson of slaves, Bradley moved from Texas to Los Angeles with his family in 1924. In 1963, after a career in the LAPD, Bradley became the first African American elected to the Los Angeles City Council. Ten years later, Bradley won a historic mayoral election against incumbent Sam Yorty, demolishing any doubt that an African American could be elected mayor in a city with a predominantly white population. As the 38th mayor of Los Angeles, Bradley's signature achievements included transforming the downtown skyline, increasing international investment in the city, and bringing the 1984 Summer Olympics to Los Angeles.

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Served in the LAPD for 21 years, retiring as a lieutenant in 1961, the highest rank held by an African American at the time.

Bradley was the 38th Mayor of Los Angeles, the second African American mayor of a U.S. city in 1973.

During his time as mayor Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Olympics.

In 1982 and 1986 he ran for governor of California.

His narrow loss in 1982 led to the "Bradley Effect" theory, defining the discrepancies between voter opinion polls and election outcomes between white and non-white candidates.

As we continue celebrating Black History Month with daily portraits of iconic Angelenos, check back for more features on other pioneering individuals and make sure to share this history with your friends and family. Click here for more portraits.




About the Author

I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley and enjoy exploring Los Angeles and learning about its origins.
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