William J. Bradley


 

WILLIAM JAMES LEE BRADLEY was an American patternmaker, engineer, businessman and Republican Party politician who served as Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly and President of the New Jersey Senate.

William J. Bradley was born in Sharptown, Maryland on May 5, 1852, the oldest child of Thomas Dryden Badley and Margaret Matilda Morris. Thomas Badley changed his name to Bradley in the 1870s. After the Civil War, his family moved to Wilmington, Delaware and then to Camden, New Jersey around 1872. Thomas Badley was a carpenter by trade, who had gone into the grocery business at 533 North 6th Street by 1880. 

William J. Bradley, upon first coming to Camden worked as a receiver at the Storey Cotton Company. In 1873 he joined the American Dredging Company of Philadelphia as a patternmaker, and rose through the ranks to become Chief Engineer and later General Superintendent of the Camden yards. In 1895 he designed the hydraulic dredge Delaware, and supervised its construction—on time and below budget—in a collaborative effort with the Bucyrus Steam Shovel & Dredge Company. Bradley became president of American Dredging in April 1908 on the death of his predecessor, L. Y. Schermerhorn.

William J. Bradley's political career began in 1892, when he was elected to the Camden City Council. He was also elected to the General Assembly and was re-elected four times. He was named Speaker of the Assembly for the 1901 and 1902 sessions.

In 1902 he was elected to the State Senate, serving three terms for Camden County. He was chosen as President of the Senate in 1905 and 1906. Bradley was one of the few politicians in state history to hold the leadership posts in both the Assembly and the Senate.

In 1911, Bradley split from his Republican colleagues, supporting a number of legislative reforms favored by Governor Woodrow Wilson. In retaliation, Republican party leadership defeated his renomination to the Senate.

William J. Bradley died on October 13, 1916 following an emergency operation for uremic poisoning at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. His widow received the following condolences from President Wilson: 

"My dear Mrs Bradley, It is with genuine grief that I have heard of the death of your husband. I learned in my association with him at Trenton to respect his character and judgment very deeply, and I feel that in him we have lost a man of high principle and great public usefulness. I felt that I could not deny myself this expression of admiration and deep regret. 

Cordially and sincerely yours,

Woodrow Wilson."

William J. Bradley's younger brother, Isaac V. Bradley, followed him to American Dredging and into local politics in Camden. As as a Republican in Camden's Seventh Ward, he was elected to city council four times and also served as City Clerk from 1907 to 1910. 

Bradley Avenue in Parkside was almost certainly named in his honor.

Philadelphia Inquirer - September 5, 1903



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