Russell A. Bradley (1920-1997)
-- sheriff of Greene County for 30 years
By Mark Fisher Russell A. Bradley - tenacious lawman, avid hunter, consummate politicianand colorful sheriff of Greene County for three decades - died May 8, 1997 inXenia. He was 77.
DAYTON DAILY NEWS
Mr. Bradley retired in 1987 as the longest-tenured sheriff in Ohio, cappinga 40-year career in law enforcement. That career included several brushes withcontroversy, personal tragedies and political successes. Greene County voterselected Mr. Bradley eight times.
"There will never be another Sheriff Bradley - the mold was broken," GreeneCounty Commissioner Kathryn Hagler said. "He was a unique individual, and hehad his own style of management. If you were his friend and he was yours, hewas a true friend."
Greene County Prosecutor William Schenck said Mr. Bradley "took me underhis wing like a son" in 1970.
"He was for me, clearly the greatest influence on my career as aprosecuting attorney," Schenck said. "He taught me more than I ever learned atthe Ohio State University College of Law. He taught me how it really is. Hewas the most brilliant natural politician I have ever known."
"Russell Bradley was, and will always be, a legend," Schenck said.
Mr. Bradley was born in Owensboro, Ky., in 1920. His father died whenRussell was 6-weeks-old, and he was reared on a farm by his stepfa ther andmother. At 18, he left Kentucky for a job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.He started a taxi business in Yellow Springs and became a patrol officerthere, later moving up to chief.
In 1956, after nine years as village police chief, he borrowed money from abank and challenged the incumbent sheriff in the Republican primary. He won by322 votes, then overwhelmed his Democratic opponent to become sheriff. He setabout cleaning up gambling, prostitution and bootleg-liquor establishments inthe county.
He faced adversity in his private and public life. His first wife died of aheart attack in 1981; his three adult children died.
In 1975, Mr. Bradley was found to be allowing county jail inmates to workon his land near Jamestown. He defended the practice by saying he paid theinmates and that the vegetables grown on the land were donated to the jail'skitchen.
His political presence was felt in a Greene County Commission race in 1982,when Mr. Bradley recruited a candidate to oppose an incumbent Republicancommissioner who had clashed publicly with the sheriff over deputy's raises.The incumbent chose not to run for re-election.
As a lawman, Mr. Bradley excelled.
"He was tenacious," recalled Larry Morris, Greene County recorder andformer GOP party chairman. "Boy, if you were a crook in Greene County at thetime, you probably wanted a local police department investigating you, and notthe county sheriff's office."
Mr. Bradley said in a 1986 interview that the favorite part of his job wasinterrogating suspects. "I've laughed, cried and prayed" with inmates, hesaid.
"When other officers couldn't break 'em, it'd be Russ Bradley's turn," Mr.Bradley said, punctuating his words by spitting from a chewing-tobacco-filledcheek into a spittoon. "Boy, if I couldn't break 'em, they couldn't bebroken."
At the time, Mr. Bradley spoke of looking forward to fishing, gardening andhunting, for which he had considerable prowess.
"A 'coon hunter has got to be tough," he said. "There's a lot of 'em whocan walk faster than I can, but not many who can walk longer."
DAYTON DAILY NEWS
Copyright (c) 1997, Dayton Newspapers Inc.
Published: Friday, May 9, 1997