Bradley, Jennette B. 1952(?)–

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Jennette B. Bradley 1952(?)

State government official

Made Columbus History

Tafts Choice Angered Some

Named Director of Commerce

National Prominence Prophesied


Jennette B. Bradley made history in 2003 when she was sworn in as Ohios newest lieutenant governor and became the first African-American woman to hold the post in the United States. A former bank vice president and municipal-finance expert, Bradley has been deemed a name to watch in Republican Party circles, and possibly even a future contender for a White House appointment. As one of of only two U.S. blacks serving as second in command in their state, Bradley told Cincinnati Enquirer writers Debra Jasper and Spencer Hunt that the position doesnt intimidate me. If it serves as an incentive for other women and people of color to become involved in government and public policy, Im happy to open that door.

Made Columbus History

Bradley was born in the early 1950s. Her family settled in a neighborhood on the east side of Columbus, Ohio, after the retirement of her father, a U.S. Army master sergeant who served two tours of duty in Vietnam. After graduating from East High School in 1970, Bradley enrolled at nearby Wittenberg University in Springfield. She earned a psychology degree in 1974, took a job with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, and seven years later became the youngest person in agency history to become its head. She was just 28 years old at the time, and was the first African American and first woman to serve as its executive director. In 1986 she moved on to take a banking position at Kemper Securities in Washington, D.C.

Homesick, Bradley returned to Columbus in 1989 and took a position as senior vice president for public funds at one of the citys top financial institutions, Huntington National Bank. A year later, she wed communications consultant Michael Taylor. When she decided to enter the 1991 Columbus city council race, Taylor served as her campaign manager. Bradley ran as a Republican and was initially considered a long shot to win, but she became the first African-American woman in Columbus history to be elected to the council. She was re-elected in 1995 and 1999, and in the latter contest was the top vote-getter among all council candidates. During her tenure, Bradley chaired council committees for parks and recreation and public utilities, and pushed for improved

At a Glance

Born c. 1952; married Michael Taylor (a communications consultant), 1990. Education: Wittenberg University, BA, 1974. Politics: Republican.

Career: Controller 1974-81, Columbus, Ohio, Metropolitan Housing Authority, executive director, 1981-86; Kemper Securities, Washington, DC, senior vice president for public finance, 1986-89; Huntington National Bank, Columbus, OH, senior vice president for public funds, c. 1989-2002; elected to Columbus City Council, 1991, 1995, 1999; elected lieutenant governor of Ohio as running mate of incumbent Republican governor Bob Taft, 2002; named director of the states Commerce Department by Taft, 2003.

Memberships: Wittenberg University, board of trustees.

Awards: Columbus Public Schools Hall of Fame, inductee, 2000.

Address: Office Ohio Department of Commerce, 77 S. High St., 23rd Floor, Columbus, OH 43215-0544.

street lighting in the city, especially in its higher-crime neighborhoods.

In early 2002 Ohios incumbent Republican governor Bob Taft was embarking upon his re-election campaign. Taft is the great-grandson of twenty-seventh U.S. President William Howard Taft, and grandson of one of the mid-twentieth-centurys staunchest conservative Republicans, Senator Robert A. Taft. When his first terms lieutenant governor bowed out to run for a seat on Ohios Supreme Court, Taft announced that he had asked Bradley to be his running mate.

Tafts Choice Angered Some

The gubernatorial contest pitted Taft against Democrat Tim Hagan, who had already chosen Bradleys fellow Columbus City Councilperson, Charleta Tavares, for the lieutenant governors slot on his ticket. Tavares was African American, and the Hagan ticket made headlines, for no black female politician had yet served in the lieutenant governors office in any state. The Hagan camp decried Tafts choice of Bradley as an opportunistic ploy, but Tafts office issued a statement commending the banker and city council member for her achievements, including her stint as the citys director of public housing in the 1980s. An article by Dayton Daily News reporter Kristy Eckert quoted the governor as saying, Jennette Bradley is an outstanding community leader who will serve Ohio well. Although she brings diversity, geographic balance and political skills to the ticket, the foremost reason I asked her to run was because she will be an effective governor if circumstances ever require her to take over this job.

Bradley soon had to contend with thornier issues as she campaigned across the state. Some of the more conservative Republican leaders in Ohio took issue with her selection, criticizing Taft and claiming that Bradleys politics were too liberal. She had diverged from Tafts platform on the matter of reproductive rights. Im pro-choice, but I only talk about that when Im asked about it by a reporter, she explained in the Cincinnati Enquirer interview. Its already federal law, so its not an issue for me. Its not my platform, and the fact that I have that position doesnt mean Im not a Republican. Critics of the Taft-Bradley ticket also expressed concern over her 1998 City Council vote in support of extending city workers health benefits to include domestic partners, including same-sex couples. The vote caused such an uproar in the city at the time that the council was forced to vote again a month later, when threatened with a petition drive for a referendum on the matter. In this second vote, Bradley voted against extending the benefits.

Unappeased, some Republicans in the state threatened to boycott the gubernatorial race altogether in protest, claiming they could not vote for Taft in good conscience because of Bradleys politics. A petition drive was launched to put a challenger on the May 7 Republican primary slate, but it failed to gather the necessary number of signatures. I was stunned by some of the comments, Bradley told Akron Beacon Journal writer Stephen Dyer two months after she had accepted Tafts offer. She was particularly bothered by comments about her political loyalties, describing herself as closely aligned with Republican ideals. I believe in fiscal responsibility and making government more responsive, she asserted. Her defenders remarked that there should be room in any political party for differing viewpoints on social issues, and Bradley campaigned relentlessly to bring her message to voters over the next few months. Im an African-American woman. Ive faced resistance. I can understand challenges, she told Cleveland Plain Dealer journalist Stephen Ohlemacher. These are philosophical differences. We ought to be able to disagree on issues.

Named Director of Commerce

In the state elections that November, the Taft-Bradley ticket won 58 percent of the vote, with Hagan and Tavares netting 38 percent. She became one of two black lieutenant governors elected in the country in 2002, along with Marylands Michael S. Steele, another Republican. With the retirement of Oklahomas J. C. Watts from the House of Representatives, Bradley and Steele became the two highest-ranking elected black Republicans in the United States. Closer to home, she was one of only three blacks elected in the seventh largest state in the Union.

Bradley gave up her Huntington Bank job as well as the city council seat to serve in the state government. The only specified duty of a lieutenant governor is to step in should the governor become incapacitated, but Taft announced that Bradley would also serve as his chief policy advisor for urban development. As advisor, she would oversee a $400 million urban initiative, with the funds earmarked for preservation of green space and the clean-up of abandoned industrial sites. Bradley vowed to bring her housing authority experience to the state capital to make the initiative a success. Taft also named Bradley to lead the states Commerce Department. As head of the chief regulatory agency in the state, she would be responsible for the offices and officials that supervised or licensed the banking industry, liquor control, real estate, and occupational safety.

Bradley was sworn in on the second Monday in January of 2003. Jet reported that Bradley described the moment as awe-inspiring, and added that she was proud to be representing Ohio. According to a report by Dayton Daily News writer Laura A. Bischoff, at a tribute dinner that night Bradley briefly lost her composure, but rebounded quickly to tell the crowd, This is America, the land of opportunity where all dreams may come true. The new lieutenant governor added, I am honored to occupy this place in the history of our nation and in our great state. Words cannot adequately express the elation and deep emotion that comes with this moment.

National Prominence Prophesied

During her first week on the job, Bradley was asked to comment about a controversial anti-Semitic remark made by Ohio Senate President Doug White. The incautious politician quickly issued a formal apology to Ohios Jewish leaders, and Bradley remarked, according to Jasper in the Cincinnati Enquirer, I think he was right to apologize, and I think this should be a learning experience. I hope all of us learn. How many of us saw themselves in those comments? As a nation, we have to be united and we have to be very sensitive to these types of issues.

Bradleys name has been mentioned as a possible contender for a future White House appointment. The chair of the Ohio Republican Party, Bob Bennett, told Jasper and Hunt in the Cincinnati Enquirer that in four years she will be in high demand. Bennett also felt that Bradley might be invited to speak at the 2004 Republican National Convention. I think the opportunities for her right now are unlimited, Bennett asserted. Bradleys husband gave a slightly less imposing impression of his wife to the reporters. If I get home before her and hear the garage door open, he told the paper, I dont worry if she doesnt come in for 10 or 15 minutesbecause shes sitting in the car singing at the top of her lungs.

Bradley and Taylor live in Columbus, also the state capital, where Bradley serves on the board of trustees at her alma mater, Wittenberg University. She was inducted into the Columbus Public Schools Hall of Fame in 2000. Though her career has enjoyed several other firsts, Bradley has dismissed her achievements as unimportant in the end. Maybe the goal is that one day we wont have to identify people as the first or the only, she told the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hopefully, because of me, it will be a little easier for them.



Akron Beacon Journal, April 7, 2002.

Cincinnati Enquirer, January 11, 2003, p. A1, p. A4; January 14, 2003, p. A1.

Cincinnati Post, February 13, 2002, p. 15A; November 6, 2002, p. A12; November 7, 2002, p. A16; December 4, 2002, p. A1.

Dayton Daily News, February 22, 2002, p. 7A; March 22, 2002, p. 1A, p. 1B; March 23, 2002, p. 1B; September 15, 2002, p. 1A, p. 8A; January 14, 2003, p. 7A.

Ebony, April 2003, p. 12.

Jet, January 27, 2003, p. 11.

New York Times, November 7, 2002, p. B14.

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), February 14, 2002, p. B1; August 12, 2002, p. A1; November 7, 2002, p. B8.

Washington Times, November 10, 2002, p. A5.


Full Biography for Jennette Bradley, SmartVoter, (April 17, 2003).

Carol Brennan

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Bradley, Jennette B. 1952(?)–

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