A man who grew the PLF community: Dick Bradley, 1929–2022

July 19, 2022 | By JAMES BURLING
Dick Bradley

Next year Pacific Legal Foundation will be celebrating our 50th anniversary. It’s a milestone we would not have reached without the tireless work and indefatigable enthusiasm of people like Dick Bradley, who just passed away at the age of 93.  

Since Dick won’t be here for next year’s celebrations, I want to take a moment to share the kind of person he was and what he meant to the PLF community. 

Richard “Dick” Bradley was a cornerstone of PLF’s fundraising for over two decades, from 1988 to his retirement in 2011. His personal touch and charm made him more than a fundraiser, however. As he liked to say, his specialty was “friend-raising.” In getting to know people, and speaking with them honestly about liberty and justice, Dick cultivated many great and longtime supporters of PLF. 

Dick was born in Santa Barbara County, in the town of Santa Maria, in 1929. He liked to joke that he was always blamed for the Great Depression. His family had deep roots in the county beginning with his great-grandfather, who emigrated to the United States from Derbyshire, England, in 1846 and went on to purchase 4,000 acres in Santa Maria. His other great-grandfather, Ezra Waite, had the first blacksmith shop in Los Alamos. (Dick did not come from a family of slackers.) If you went out looking for Dick back in his childhood days, you were likely to find him on the back of Babe, his favorite horse. Or he might be hunting. His first catch occurred when he was six years old—a bobcat! 

Dick did so many things with his long life. In 1948, he received a congressional appointment to attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. He went on to launch various business ventures, including service stations, rental equipment stores, ranch riding stables, vineyards, and other agricultural endeavors.   

He met his wife Cathie in January of 1970 and proposed to her in February, and they were married in August. As Cathie writes, “We were meant to be. God put us together and we never wanted to be separated and we were together until his last breath.” 

His love and passion for business earned him a management position for the National Federation of Independent Business, the largest independent business lobby in the United States. He still holds the record for membership growth. 

Dick told his wife Cathie many times that his work for PLF offered some of the proudest moments of his long and fruitful career. He connected so much of our community over the years, bringing together people who, like him, were concerned about government overreach. He was the force behind PLF events at venues such as the LA Country Club, Peterson Auto Museum, The Olympic Club, and the always-popular year-end celebration at the Pankow mansion in San Francisco.

These events were opportunities for PLF supporters to meet each other and celebrate PLF’s success together—and Dick was the linchpin of our growing network. He was always working behind the scenes to connect people who care about liberty to PLF attorneys fighting to protect liberty in court.

When talking about someone struggling under an unjust regulation, Dick would emphatically say, “He’s getting his ox gored.” His conviction in PLF’s mission gave supporters conviction as well. When he asked for a gift or sponsorship, they usually enthusiastically said yes.  

In keeping with the spirit of Dick’s love for PLF’s mission, Cathie has asked that anyone who wishes to memorialize his legacy to make a gift in his name.