SMU remembers iconic Dallas photographer and University friend James T. “Brad” Bradley
SMU mourns the loss of James T. “Brad” Bradley, renowned SMU photographer, World War II veteran, and Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame member known throughout Dallas and North Texas for over 70 years. An active working photographer, Bradley passed away at the age of 101 on Friday, October 13, 2023.
“Brad was central to telling the story of our University’s history, and I cannot express with words the loss we feel at his passing,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His incredible talent and his visionary storytelling have captivated millions of SMU alumni, Dallas residents, and sports enthusiasts, and his memory will live forever in the photographs he captured and the thousands of lives he impacted throughout his near-century career.”
Raised on a cotton farm near Arlington, Texas, Bradley studied business at the then-named North Texas Agricultural College, now known as the University of Texas at Arlington, before joining the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, where he earned the rank of technical sergeant, and marrying sweetheart Betty Laughead in 1946.
Bradley’s relationship with SMU and his storied career in Dallas began after his discharge from the military. When Bradley’s father-in-law, Jim Laughead, was contracted to take yearbook photos for SMU, he opened a studio across the street from the University’s campus. Needing assistance for increasing workloads, Laughead contacted Bradley and wife, Betty, who moved back to North Texas to jointly open Laughead Photography.
At the age of 25, Bradley attended his first college bowl game, where he photographed legendary Mustang football player Doak Walker and his team facing off against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Bradley would spend the rest of his life becoming an intrinsic part of the history of SMU, Dallas, and universities across Texas, photographing every Cotton Bowl game, barring 2020, since his initial 1948 attendance. To date, Bradley is the only photographer ever inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame. He was further honored by a 2018 exhibition by the College Football Hall of Fame of the Bradley-Laughead archives and was awarded the 2023 Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Lone Star chapter of the Regional EMMY Awards.
“Brad was a key part of capturing the story and action of athletic competition in Texas,” said SMU Director of Athletics Rick Hart. “Over the years, he not only showcased the Mustang community to the wider world but also became a beloved and respected member. His decades-long career impacted countless lives and organizations across the sports landscape, and his loss will be greatly felt by us all.”
Throughout his esteemed career, Bradley and his family’s company covered dozens of colleges, NFL teams, high schools, and corporations like Topps, one of the nation’s leading baseball card companies. A member of the Park Cities community, Bradley was named Citizen of the Year in 2019 and served the city twice as its Fourth of July Parade Grand Marshal.
At SMU, Bradley’s talent and dedication to his craft and community could be seen across campus, photographing events and occasions ranging from the SMU Athletic Forum and Doak Walker Awards to the SMU Tate Lecture Series and the Dedman School of Law Hooding Ceremony, among many others. In 2019, the SMU Lettermen’s Association awarded Bradley with the Legends Award in honor of his “extraordinary contributions to the success and legacy of the SMU Athletics Program that fall outside of the realm of athletic success.” In 2022, Bradley celebrated his 100th birthday where his lifelong career first began, on SMU’s campus with a surprise event held in his honor.
“Few have had such a long and storied relationship with SMU as Brad Bradley, who had been a member of our city and community for over 75 years,” said Brad E. Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. “His absence on our campus, at our games, and behind the camera will be sorely felt, and we are proud that his legacy will live on in the generations of memories he has captured for students, alumni, friends, and family members across the nation.”
Bradley was preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Betty Fern Laughead Bradley, who passed in 2010. He is survived by son James T. “Jimmy” Bradley, II and daughter Iris L. Bradley ’76. He is further remembered by his granddaughter, Susan Gleiser, and numerous nieces and nephews.