Thomas Bradley (December 29, 1917 – September 29, 1998) was an American police officer, lawyer, and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he notably served as the 38th Mayor of Los Angeles from 1973 to 1993. He was the first and thus far only black mayor of Los Angeles, and his 20 years in office mark the longest tenure by any mayor in the city's history. His election as mayor in 1973 made him the second black mayor of a major U.S. city. Bradley retired in 1993, after his approval ratings began dropping subsequent to the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.
Born in Calvert, Texas, his family moved first to Somerton, Arizona before settling in Los Angeles, California. Bradley graduated from Los Angeles Polytechnic High School in 1937, and then attended the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) until 1940 when he left the institution to join the Los Angeles Police Department, becoming one of 400 black officers in a police department that had 4,000 officers. Bradley rose to become a Lieutenant by 1960, the highest ranking African American at that time. He attended Southwestern University Law School while a police officer, beginning his practice as a lawyer after being admitted to the bar in 1962. From 1963 to 1972, Bradley served on the Los Angeles City Council. During his tenure on the Los Angeles City Council, Bradley criticized racist attitudes within the Los Angeles Police Department, including the Department’s handling of the 1965 Watts Rebellion. In 1969, he unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty.
In 1973, Bradley bested Yorty in a rematch, becoming the first black mayor of Los Angeles. Bradley contributed to the financial success of the city by helping develop the satellite business hubs at Century City and Warner Center. Bradley was a driving force behind the construction of Los Angeles' light rail network. He also pushed for expansion of Los Angeles International Airport and development of terminals in use today. Although Bradley was a political liberal, he believed that business prosperity was good for the entire city and would generate jobs; for most of Bradley's long administration, the city appeared to agree with him. But in his fourth term, with traffic congestion, air pollution and the condition of Santa Monica Bay worsening, and with residential neighborhoods threatened by commercial development, the tide began to turn. With his political strength waning, Bradley chose to leave office in 1993. Bradley ran for Governor of California twice, in 1982 and 1986, but lost both times to Republican George Deukmejian.
Upon his leaving the office of mayor in 1993, Bradley joined the law offices of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, specializing in international trade issues. He had a heart attack while driving his car in March 1996 and endured a triple bypass operation. Later, Bradley suffered a stroke "that left him unable to speak clearly." He died in Los Angeles and was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery.