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AAMU Mourns Death of Iconic Figure

March 17, 2019

AAMU Mourns Death of Iconic Figure

  • VISITATION: Friday, March 22, at Church Street Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America, 226 Church Street, NW, Huntsville, AL 35801, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • FUNERAL SERVICE: Saturday, March 23, 12 Noon, at First Missionary Baptist Church, 3509 Blue Spring Road, Huntsville, Ala., with Dr. Charles Lee as eulogist and Dr. Mitchell Walker officiating. Interment: Valhalla Memory Gardens. (Royal Funeral Home - Huntsville, Ala.)

​The entire Alabama A&M University Family mourns the March 15, 2019, death of one of its most revered men, as well as an icon in the institution's rich music legacy and the history of the Tennessee Valley.

The Reverend Doctor Henry Bradford, Jr., was born and reared in New Orleans, La., and received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Dillard University. Further studies earned him the Bachelor of Divinity degree (now called the Master of Divinity degree) from The Oberlin Graduate School of Theology, Oberlin, Ohio; Master of Arts degree, Columbia University, New York, N.Y.; The Specialist Diploma and the doctorate degree from Columbia University, New York, N.Y. Additionally, he studied at the New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, Mass.; The Juilliard School, New York, N.Y.; Chicago Musical College; the Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Ill.; and The Union Theological Seminary, New York, N.Y.

Dr. Bradford and his wife, Nell Lane Bradford, were a musical dynasty at AAMU, where he served for decades as professor and chair of the Department of Music Education, while his wife conducted the world-famous Alabama A&M University Choir. The two were also proud members of the prestigious Normal Legacy Society, designed to recognize AAMU's top donors.

As a speaker, lecturer, consultant, adjudicator and teacher, Dr. Bradford received countless citations, plaques and awards in several American cities, various citations for professional and community service within the Huntsville-Madison County, as well as in approximately 20 other Alabama counties and other areas of the nation.

Dr. Bradford was awarded the coveted Brotherhood Medallion by the National Association of Christians and Jews for his efforts to help improve racial and human relations. During the 1997-98 concert series of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Dr. Bradford served as the narrator for “A Lincoln Portrait” by the American composer Aaron Copeland in January 1998. In late 1998, he also recorded several narrations for Early Works (a Huntsville museum highlighting Southern history). He authored and/or co-authored a large number of magazine articles, monographs, and published sermons, including one in the volume entitled Black Preaching: Selected Sermons in the Presbyterian Tradition, published by the Geneva Press. Dr. Bradford co-authored A Planning Guide for the Worship Committee (in the Cumberland Presbyterian Churches). He is listed in Personalities of the South, Outstanding Educators of America, Leaders in Education and in Men of Achievement (an international compendium).

Rev. Dr. Bradford maintained membership in several honor societies and service organizations, including the Northwest Club of Kiwanis International, which he organized and served as its first president; a founder, the graduate and undergraduate chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, in Huntsville via Alabama A&M University; past president of the Board of Directors of Harris Home for Children, on which he served in that position for six consecutive years; former member, Board of Directors of the Huntsville Youth Band, Huntsville Community Chorus,
Huntsville Civic Opera Society, Madison County Alabama Association of Mental Health, Girl Scouts, Boys Club, Child Health Improvement Association; and member, Board of Directors of North Alabama Center for Educational Excellence. Dr. Bradford was a charter member of the Delta Theta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., when it started in Huntsville on April 13, 1948.

As a prolific writer and skillful orator, Dr. Bradford wrote and narrated numerous litanies and readings for several educational institutions and organizations in the Huntsville-Madison County community. In August 1999, he performed the narration for a musical work by the French composer Francis Poulenc, entitled “L’Histoire de Babar la petit elephant” (“The Story of Barbar, the Little Elephant”), at the national meeting of the Music Clubs of America held in Huntsville, Ala.

Dr. Bradford’s broad professional experiences have been associated with different kinds of musical, academic and ecclesiastical assignments. He served as guest lecturer at colleges and universities, schools, and as guest preacher in various settings across the country. He also served as Pastor Emeritus, Church Street Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America, where he faithfully dedicated thirty-six (36) years; professor and chairman of the Department of Music Education and University Chaplain at Alabama A&M University, where he served for approximately four decades, establishing the music department with State of Alabama approval. For 10 of those two scores, he served as an adjunct music professor at Oakwood College. Dr. Bradford remained a highly sought-after speaker, invited to serve as guest preacher, speaker and lecturer by many civic, social, educational and religious organizations.

In recognition of his service and contributions to humanity, he received many awards and honors. Some of them include: Proclamation - “Henry and Nell Bradford Day,” City of Birmingham, Ala.; Award of Merit, Alabama A&M University Alumni Association, Inc.; professor/chairman emeritus, Department of Music Education, Alabama A&M University; Path of Honor recipient, Senior Center; and Outstanding Service Award, Class of 1953, Alabama A&M University.

In 2007, Dr. Bradford was honored as a part of the four-member inaugural 2007 class of "Elders" of the distinguished Rosetta James Foundation, a Huntsville-based organization dedicated to recognizing active volunteerism among persons who are at least 70 years old.

Even for decades after his retirement, Rev. Dr. Bradford generously provided his time and talents to the fulfillment of numerous requests for greetings, remarks, litanies, and other services. He was the source of continuity that tied thousands to a warm and memorable past at AAMU.

Dr. Bradford married the former Nell Lane of Gary, Ind., a retired associate professor of music education and director of the University Choir, the Concert Choir and the Choraliers. To their union were born two children, Andrea Bradford and Dr. Henry Bradford, and one grandson, Henry Lane Bradford.

- J. Saintjones