Charles Smith Bradley (1819-1888), was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He graduated first in his class at Brown University in 1838, then obtained a master’s degree from Brown and, eventually, a law degree from Harvard. He commenced the practice of law in Providence in 1841 and became known as an eloquent, persuasive, and powerful advocate.
Bradley was elected to the Rhode Island state senate from North Providence in 1854 and promoted, among other causes, a bill providing amnesty to the participants in the Dorr Rebellion of 1842, even though he had supported the Charter government. Bradley routinely represented Rhode Island at the National Democratic Convention. As a testament to his universally-admired reputation, he was elected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island in 1866 by a Republican majority, succeeding the famous Judge Samuel Ames. He filled this office with distinction for two years, before resigning to devote more time to scholarship and his private business matters. He was a generous philanthropist and donor and helped endow Rhode Island Hospital at its inception.
In the 1880s, Justice Bradley became a leading supporter of constitutional reform, the author of an important treatise on constitutional conventions, and a member of the Equal Rights Movement of that era. He served as a lecturer and professor at Harvard Law School from 1876 to1879 and became a nationally renowned public speaker. His oratorical talents were legendary.
Greatly loved and admired by the Rhode Island community, Justice Bradley was described by a friend and colleague as “Tall, erect, manly and of commanding presence and figure. He was always dignified and commanded the respect of others wherever he moved.”
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