Community mourns the loss of James Bradley known, as a ‘Walking History Book’
By Charles Moseley
In ancient Africa the tribal Griot preserved the history and culture of the tribe, through his story telling ability. James Bradley was truly a modern day griot. He would share from memory, the history of Fort Lauderdale’s African American community to whomever cared to listen. The passing of James Bradley will leave a hole in this community’s historical fabric. Bradley succumbed on Sunday, March 16, 2014 at the Broward General Medical Center. He was 84.
Bradley was born on Oct. 6, 1929 in Wilton Manors, Florida. He was delivered by a mid-wife named Mrs. Covington. His parents were Flora Edwards Bradley and James D. Bradley Sr. They hailed from Live Oak and Rochelle, Fla. respectfully.
He graduated from Dillard High School in 1948. He began working for Florida Power & Light as a messenger from 1949 -1952. He served in artillery during the Korean War as a member of the United States Army in 1953. He worked in cash services from 1954-1994 at The First National Bank in Fort Lauderdale, where he re-tired.
In 1995, he was elected the homeowner’s president for West Ken Lark Homeowners Association. For the last 16 years he has dedicated himself to working to improve the lives of others in his neighborhood until his untimely death. He was involved in numerous civic organizations.
He also was a member of the Broward County Historical Commission for 10 years and was appointed to the commission by former Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, Jr.
He was an active member of The New Mount Olive Baptist Church where he sang bass in the male chorus. He served as treasurer on the old Dillard Museum Foundation Board and an active member of the NAACP. He was a contributing historian to the 2001 novel My Soul is a Witness by Debra Work. In 2011, he was recognized by the City of Lauderhill for his contributions to the development of Central Broward Regional Park.
After retiring he began volunteering at the Old Dillard Museum as a security monitor in 1995. In 2001 he came aboard as a paid security person and shortly thereafter became unofficially, “The Historical Ambassador of the Old Dillard Museum. It was a match made in heaven and as they say, “the rest is His-Story.”
Bradley was a gregarious soul who had a distinctive gravel in his voice which belied his caring demeanor. Whenever he was asked to recall something or someone from days gone by, no matter how long ago, his face would light up and with a twinkle in his eye he would recall in vivid detail and bring that moment back to life. He displayed an uncanny ability to remember people, places, and things that happened half a century ago as if they had occurred only yesterday.
His knack for remembering things stuck with him up until his last days. He possessed a photographic memory up until the end.
A neighbor and buddy of Bradley is Bobby R. Henry, Sr., publisher of the Westside Gazette who shared, “Mr. Bradley could have had the best gossip column in the newspaper business, if he so wanted to. A-side from getting a plethora of insight and news from him, I was blessed to have visited Mr. Bradley in the final days of his life here on earth.
As he lie in his bed he shared a few historical Black first things with me and one particular personal moment with him and my father. Bradley was a fine man, a gentleman, a great neighbor and a God -fearing man… I will always respect Mr. Bradley for his ability to know things and not hurt others because of his knowing.”
Bradley loved to tell stories and would do so at the drop of a hat even unsolicited. He loved his family. He loved his beloved New Mount Olive Baptist Church family, where he was a proud member of the Men’s Choir.
Bradley had a zest for life and often held court at the local resident watering hole better known as the Elks’ Club.
City of Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bobby DuBose lives just a few short blocks a-way from where Bradley would hold court at the museum daily. Commissioner DuBose spoke fondly of the late community leader.
“A quiet giant in our community has transitioned in the person of James Bradley. He will forever be remembered for his love of the Northwest and its rich history. Mr. Bradley was a walking history book and could regale you for days with his knowledge of Fort Lauderdale. His bright smile and ironclad memory will be forever missed.”
Dr. Rosalind Osgood, associate pastor of the New Mt. Olive Baptist Church, also praised Bradley for his commitment to the community and his church.
“Brother Bradley was a longtime faithful member of the New Mount Olive Baptist Church. He believed in the Social Gospel. His love for Christ compelled him to love his neigh-bor. He was very active in his homeowners association and led much community initiative to improve the quality of life for his neighbors. He served at the Old Dillard Museum. In this capacity he kept our church engaged in community events that shared Black history.” “Mr. Bradley also had a great sense of humor. He would often talk about how people would mistake him for Dr. Mack King Carter. He would tell them “Dr. Carter is my pastor and the preacher. God gave him preaching and God gave me the looks. I am the better looking of the two’,” added Dr. Osgood.
Derek Davis, curator of Old Dillard Museum learned first-hand how valuable a human asset Bradley was during his tenure at the museum.
“Mr. Bradley was a great and longtime inspiration for the Old Dillard Museum. He had a fabulous memory. This being a historical site and having someone who could remember all the people, remember all the places, and remember the events was a great help just to be able to make it through the day. When people would ask him a question about something either he would tell them or refer them to someone who knew the answer to their question.”
“He was always very enthusiastic about the museum and its history and support for the museum. He was always great about getting other people involved during fundraising things, just getting the word out for this museum and for The Historical Society. Mr. Bradley was always there to make it correct and to keep us going,” added Davis.
He is survived by his wife, Alice Bradley, his two daughters, Michelle (Greg) Foster; Pamela (Ron) Haynes and one son; Scott Bradley; three grand-children; Erica (Dennis) Robinson; Justin Foster; Jarred Anderson; 11 great grandchildren. Siblings; Alphonso (Katie) Bradley; Ferreta (Willie) Kelly; Antone (Mattie) Bradley; Benjamin Vanita) Bradley; Robert (Wanda) Bradley; Joanna b. Goode; Helen (Ben) O’Neal; Donald (Debra) Wallace; Tony (Velma) Tennyson; Michael Spann; Pete (Emma) Tennyson; Debra (Terrence)Lee Proceeded in death: Sinclair Bradley; Richard Bradley; Jerrylia Howard Jackson; Bettie B. Williams; Annie Lee Pope; Agnes B. Pattern, and Timothy Tennyson.
Viewing will be held at McWhite’s Funeral Home on Friday, March 21, 2014 at 5 to 9 p.m. Funeral will be held at New Mt. Olive Baptist Church Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 10 a.m.