Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Last Day of Black History Month Celebrates Tom Bradley, L.A.'s First and Only African-American Mayor

We hope you have enjoyed our celebration of Black History Month on our Twitter feed, profiling the many amazing accomplishments of African-Americans in transportation.  We have enjoyed discovering an immense treasure trove of history and transportation firsts, giving us exceptionally more reason to celebrate the diversity of this discipline.

On this last day of Black History Month, we highlight one person in particular for his accomplishments, despite not being associated as solely a transportation official.  Today, for his contributions to L.A.'s modern transportation future, and his unwavering support of seeing rail and sustainable transportation return to the region - despite the MANY setbacks and defeats, we celebrate and honor Tom Bradley - Los Angeles' first and only African-American Mayor, as well as, L.A.'s longest-serving Mayor (1973-1993).

Mayor Bradley was initially not interested in politics, and rose through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department to become a lieutenant.  However, with institutional racism at LAPD holding him from career advancement, Mayor Bradley enrolled at Southwestern Law School, attending class in the evenings, and when he graduated, immediately resigned from LAPD.  (For which we are thankful.)

Mayor Bradley was elected to the L.A. city council in 1963 amidst a wave of African-Americans being elected into office throughout the L.A. region.  In 1969, he first ran for Mayor, having won in the primaries, but lost to current mayor Sam Yorty in the general election.  In 1973, he ran again for Mayor, defeating Yorty's fifth-term dreams, and overcoming an election marred by public racism against Bradley.  Immediately, Mayor Bradley made a difference in city hall and the region, not only becoming the the first African-American Mayor of a major city, but also a city with a majority Caucasian population.

"He opened City Hall and city commissions to women, minorities and people with disabilities, largely for the first time. He transformed Los Angeles from a conservative, white, urban center into one of the most diversified and important cities in the world with a new skyline, vibrant downtown and revitalized financial and business districts. He positioned the growing metropolis to take its place as an international trade center. He influenced two generations of policy makers and leaders. He brought the city a glowing spot on the world stage with the 1984 Summer Olympics – the first-ever profitable Games" (Mayor Tom Bradley Documentary).

Opening in the Metro Blue Line (14 July 1990).
Besides Mayor Bradley's numerous major accomplishments, he was the biggest supporter of returning rail transit to Los Angeles - once home to the world's largest streetcar system.  Although famously regretting his promise to have rail in L.A. running within 18 months of taking office, Mayor Bradley stood by his vision for a modern transportation system in the epicenter of automobiles.  Mayor Bradley would eventually see the opening of 1990's Blue Line - Downtown L.A. to Downtown Long Beach, the 1993 Red Line subway - Union Station to then Vermont Avenue, as well as, the 1995 Green Line opening - Norwalk to LAX.

In 1998, at the age of 80, Mayor Bradley suffered a fatal heart attack.  He would miss out on the later subway extension to Hollywood and Universal City, an extension he, for decades, fought for.

In November, L.A. County voters signaled a paradigm shift with the 71% approval of Measure M.  The measure made permanent a transportation sales tax increase, and will accelerate and green light many grand and long-needed transit projects, especially in the form of rail.
GIF displaying Measure M's projects. (Adam Linder)

TransportiCA not only thanks L.A. voters for sounding the alarm that transit is vital in the nation's most auto-dependent region, but with the power of their vote, gave celebration to the work and legacy of Mayor Bradley.  It was his vision to see Los Angeles with a superior rail infrastructure, and we are exited to see that vision carried-on.

Lastly, for an unmatched account of Mayor Bradley's incredible transportation work, we highlight the publication, Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City, by UCLA and Berkeley law professor Ethan Elkind.  Professor Elkind's book profiles the long and tenuous struggle of returning rail transit to the L.A. region, especially raising Mayor Bradley's efforts.  For these reasons, and also because many of TransportiCA's staff are from L.A. and have a devotion to transit, we chose Railtown as the inaugural TransportiCA Book Club selection.

Thank you so much for following us as TransportiCA celebrates Black History Month, and we look forward to next February.

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