Why LA's First Black Mayor Served For 20 Years

mayor tom bradley smiling
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
January 4, 2022

The son of sharecroppers, Tom Bradley dedicated his life to improving Los Angeles. He joined the LAPD to promote change, but over time learned how corrupt the police are and resigned after receiving his law degree. 

Switching to politics, in 1963 he was LA’s first Black City Councilman. Racial tensions were high throughout the sixties, which encouraged Bradley to run against LA’s racist mayor, Sam Yorty. But they wouldn’t make it easy.

Yorty lied ruthlessly, saying Bradley’s campaign was run by Black militants. He threatened that the entire LAPD would resign if Bradley won! 

Only 17% of LA’s population was Black, so Bradley knew he’d need additional support to win – but he couldn’t pull it together. He lost – but wasn’t done yet.

In 1973, Bradley ran against Yorty again, after building relationships and proving he was the right man for the job. Black and non-Black residents put their faith in Bradley, electing him as LA’s first Black mayor! 

Over his 20 years of service, Bradley’s leadership shaped LA’s demographics. He centered positive interracial relations, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, police reform, and an overall Black-positive agenda.

The LA known and loved today wouldn’t have been possible without Bradley. He faced multiple set-backs throughout his journey, but his commitment to his people gave him the strength to carry on. 

His perseverance inspires us to make a difference in OUR communities!

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