The iconic TV journalist Ed Bradley now has an official Pennsylvania state historical marker in his name, in Philadelphia’s West Fairmount Park.
The marker is at the intersection of Belmont Avenue and Edgley Street, near the former location of radio station WDAS, where in the 1960s Bradley – who was working as a schoolteacher at the time – started moonlighting as a jazz DJ and a reporter. That’s where the West Philly native got his foot in the door of a career that led him to be the first Black TV correspondent in the White House and a longtime icon of the weekly news program “60 Minutes.”
“We love to brag about people who are from here. We love to say, ‘Well, you know they’re from Philly.’ ‘Well, you know they grew up in West Philly.’ ‘Well, you know he started at WDAS,’” said current WDAS DJ Patty Jackson. “There was Ed Bradley, followed by so many other great journalists like E. Steven Collins and Kent St. John. He ushered in an era.”
The blue plaque posted high on a pole on the side of the road is flanked by a newly planted grove of nine whitebud and redbud trees. Bradley was an avid outdoorsman and a lover of nature; his widow Patricia Blanchet said he often hiked and skied.
“Our property in Colorado is peppered with trees that we planted every year, because we realized early on that we were stewards of the land and that trees are important,” she said.
The trees also act as a reference to environmental injustice. Recent surveys show that there are fewer trees in lower-income neighborhoods, many of which are populated largely with Black residents, causing increased heat in summer months and less ability to absorb stormwater.
“Trees are also yet another way in which inequality is expressed in this country,” said Blanchet. “So I thought, what a beautiful symbol to contribute to the movement to change that. Not only to have the marker, but to also have this grove of trees in this spirit of shifting these inequities and celebrating the thing that Ed loved so much, which was nature.”
The marker unveiling was attended by elected officials, Black journalists mentored by Bradley, and the president of his alma mater, Cheyney University, Aaron Walton.
“Ed was a shining example of why humble beginnings do not have to define what your future will become. It’s all about taking advantage of opportunities,” said Walton. “I’m often asked, ‘Why do HBCUs [Historic Black Colleges and Universities] exist? What is their relevance?’ Best testimony: Ed Bradley.”
State Senator Vincent Hughes was also in attendance at the unveiling, and used the podium to promise his support of a future scholarship program in Bradley’s name at Cheyney.
Philadelphia already has a street named after Bradley and a mural painted in his honor. Those two, and this historic marker are all due to the dogged efforts of LeRoy McCarthy, a location scout for the film industry based in Brooklyn. He heard Bradley speak many years ago at his graduation commencement at Cheyney.
“I was inspired. There’s few things which, in life, stick with you. He stuck with me in terms of his accomplishments and his success,” said McCarthy. “I’m glad that maybe what I’m doing can inspire somebody else, can inspire the youth, can inspire a lot of people to do great things.”
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