Remembering James T. "Brad" Bradley

October 24, 2023 by Analise Narine

Highland Park United Methodist Church is mourning the loss of congregant James T. “Brad” Bradley, who passed away on Friday, October 13. Brad was 101 years old, and his legacy is as vast as his life was long. Brad was a World War II veteran, dedicated sports photographer, and Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame member. He also made time for his family and his church, attending Sanctuary services for decades and serving as the photographer for Confirmation for 22 years, and has photographed countless other events at HPUMC. In May, the HPUMC team had the unique opportunity to speak to Brad about his inspiring life.

Brad, born on a farm in Tarrant County, attended North Texas Agricultural College (now UT Arlington) and entered World War II in 1943.

“I’ve always had a feeling that if you work hard and learn the job that you’re doing, it will eventually be the right thing to do,” Brad said. “I felt the same way about the service. We worked some long hours, but we did our job, and I’m proud of that. Staying on the ship as long as we did was one of the harder times. We cleaned rifles and counted our blessings, even though we didn’t think we had many blessings at the time.”

Following the war’s end in 1945, Brad married Betty Laughead and joined Laughead Photography after his father-in-law, Jim Laughead, was contracted to take yearbook photos for Southern Methodist University. In 1948, Brad photographed his first Cotton Bowl Classic. He fondly remembers Heisman Trophy winner Doak Walker, the subject of his favorite photo. Throughout his life, Brad photographed a total of 75 Cotton Bowls, pausing only one year due to 2020’s pandemic restrictions.

“I’ve had a good life, and a whole lot of my life has been positive,” Brad said. “I have fond memories of the war years, and I have fond memories of the job that we did after the war, which consisted of photographing athletes throughout the country. I couldn’t have imagined a better time than we had working with athletes in football and basketball at the college level.”

As a Highland Park resident, Brad was not only involved with SMU athletics, but he also attended church at HPUMC as a devoted Sanctuary congregant. He did his best not to miss a Sunday and often attended service with his son, James T. “Jimmy” Bradley II.

“The ministers at the church were friendly,” Brad said. “You couldn’t help but enjoy them and listen to them. That was a good reason to go to church. I don't know that I’m qualified to give advice, but I feel like it’s important to be considerate of others over the years and to help whenever you can. People who are in trouble need help, and the best way to do it is through the church or just private effort—to make their lives better.”

Brad Bradley lives on through the incredible impact he has made on college sports photography, on his family, HPUMC, and on many others who remember him fondly. He is survived by his son Jimmy, his daughter Iris, his granddaughter Susan, and many nieces and nephews.