Civil rights advocate Hilbert Bradley had passion for justice
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/302-0949 October 14, 2013 5:40PM
Past drum major award winners Cherrie White and Hilbert Bradley, sing, "We shall Overcome," Jan. 15, 2007 at the end of the annual Drum Major Awards Ceremony at the Genesis Center. | File photo
Updated: November 16, 2013 6:17AM
GARY — Legendary civil rights attorney Hilbert L. Bradley, who was the first African-American graduate of the Valparaiso University School of Law in 1950, died Sunday in Naples, Fla. He was 93.
Bradley, city attorney under former mayor Richard G. Hatcher, founded the Fair Share Organization in the 1960s to fight for equal employment opportunities for blacks.
His son, Gary Bradley, remembers being taken to a former Gary supermarket where his father organized a picket campaign to protest a lack of black workers.
“Even as a little boy, I remember picketing with him,” said Gary Bradley.
Hilbert Bradley was also instrumental in getting blacks on the bench. In 1987, he founded the Indiana Coalition for Black Judicial Officials and led protests on the steps of the Indiana Supreme Court.
His efforts culminated with the 1990 election of Bernard Carter as Lake Superior Court judge. Carter is now Lake County prosecutor. Bradley also later became a Lake County judge.
“A lot of people here should know about him because they have him to thank,” said attorney Robert L. Lewis, who joined Bradley’s law office after leaving the Army in 1980.
Bradley grew up in Repton, Ala., where his passion for the law developed.
“It was very segregated during those times and I would go to the movies and watched those courtroom lawyers. Watching them in the movies sparked a fire,” Bradley said in a 2009 interview.
World War II disrupted Bradley’s studies at Tennessee State University. He enlisted in the Army and following his discharge he came to Valparaiso University, where the school was trying to integrate its campus.
“In 1950, it was the time of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball and other barriers coming down,” said Lewis, who said the VU law school dean John Moreland allowed Bradley to stay in his own home. “He was forever indebted to the dean,” said Lewis.
Gary Bradley said his father needed an escort when he first began attending classes at VU.
In 1957, Bradley lobbied Congress for the passage of the Civil Rights Bill. He led a delegation of Gary residents to the 1963 March on Washington with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Poor People’s March on Washington in 1968.
Bradley is survived by his wife, Della Burt-Bradley, and seven children.
The funeral is at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Timothy Community Church, 1600 W. 25th Ave. Visitation will from 9 a.m. until services.