Tom Bradley’s Los Angeles
Posted on February 15, 2014 by Lou
With its dominant anti-union business class, racist and brutal police force and bigoted and provincial mayor, Los Angeles was a backwater city through the early 1970s.
Its transition to a world-class, cosmopolitan, diverse and liberal metropolitan region began 40 years ago with the election of Tom Bradley, an African-American former LAPD officer who built an electoral and governing coalition of Blacks, Latinos, Jews and others.
The first African-American mayor of a large white-majority city, Bradley would serve 20 years. Though his tenure was marked by enormous achievements in trade, downtown construction and rail transportation, his political ambitions were stymied by two bitter defeats for governor; his legacy tarnished by the 1992 uprising triggered by the acquittal of the four cops accused of beating Rodney King.
Nevertheless, Tom Bradley is a pivotal figure in Southern California and nationally whose place in history has been largely overlooked.
Now, two local documentarians – Lyn Goldfarb and Alison Sotomayor – are about to correct that. Their first installment is a 45-minute educational piece which surveys Bradley’s life and times. Featuring footage and recent interviews with family and colleagues, “Tom Bradley’s Impossible Dream” is designed for high school students and older, offering a solid and easy-to-follow narrative: a must-see for this and all generations.
Next to appear will be a more nuanced and slightly longer version for PBS: “Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race.”
“Impossible Dream” was previewed recently at the African-American museum in Exposition Park and received a standing ovation.
If you were here during the Bradley years, the film will remind you of the mayor’s stature and quiet self-assurance. You’ll also remember and appreciate – like many in the audience – all he did to make Los Angeles the inclusive and progressive city it has become.