Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Caught up on columns. This one is very meaningful to me. The Bradley’s, especially Headmaster Leonard; son Leonard who passed away a week ago Monday; and Bobby, my good friend who looked after me in Boy Scouts and at CHMA who was lost at sea flying as NFO in an A6. i shall not forget them. i should add Burke Herron, the faculty advisor in the photo below (taken from the 1959 Adjutant, the Heights’ annual, was a terrific teacher who became a great friend, and was a super human being.
SAN DIEGO – By the time this column is available to readers, news of Leonard Bradley, Jr. passing away will have been published here.
As I have noted in other media, Leonard was a hero to me. His brother, Bobby, was a year older than me, and a close friend. But I thought Leonard was one of the coolest people walking the earth when I was a student at Lebanon Junior High (1956-1958). But of course, my earth at the time was pretty much limited to Lebanon.
Leonard extended his Castle Heights education as a post-graduate for my freshman year and was one of several of the 1959 Heights graduates who helped this reluctant “Goober” adjust. Thinking about it now, it is a wonder I admired Leonard as well as Jimmy Smith. My focus was ratcheted down to football, basketball, and baseball (Oh yes, I did have a frustrated interest in girls). Yet these two seniors who impressed me were not jocks. The previous year, Jimmy was on the golf team before the sport was eliminated from Heights athletics (I wonder how many readers remember the dirt greens on the nine-hole course around the perimeter of the campus).
Leonard worked at Little League and Babe Ruth League games, probably covering them for this paper. I saw him a lot during summers. Like many cadets, Leonard became involved in journalism. JB Leftwich inspired a passel of us to continue that interest after graduation. Leonard started before graduation. He was already working for The Democrat as a part time reporter. Stan Hugenin and Bob Cleveland, along with Leonard, demonstrated being a journalist was okay, and “Coach” JB Lefwich whetted that interest in the following years. Leonard and JB maintained a close friendship until Coach passed four years ago.
Leonard was dapper. I remember him on baseball diamonds wearing an olive green summer suit with a thin tie. The cut was tight with slim lapels, the latest fashion of the time. Often, he carried LP jazz albums usually including Frank Sinatra.
Leonard and Jimmy were academic stars, quiet leaders, and for this naive freshman, super cool dudes, the operative teenage description for superlative in the late fifties.
Jimmy Smith lived a block away from me on Pennsylvania Avenue. He was smart, good looking, and ultimately the coolest guy around, a tough thing to exude in a wool gray military uniform. He, like Leonard, took me under his wing. That extended to Vanderbilt where Jimmy and Kent Russ were responsible for getting me to join them in the Kappa Sigma fraternity five years later.
There were other heroes on the hill for me. Kent, mentioned above, was a post-graduate from Benton Arkansas, played football, and ran track. At Vanderbilt, Kent introduced me to Ralph Boston, one of the most impressive men, as well as an Olympic champion and world record holder in the long jump, I’ve ever met.
John Sweatt was a senior as well. The next year, John, then a postgraduate, befriended this smallest team member in Stroud Gwynn’s single wing. Thinking of John and Kent in the same backfield is scary.
I also looked up to Lewis Cash. Dr. Cash’s garden abutted our back yard. Lewis and Graham, Lewis’ older brother, often played catch with me in their sprawling lot (but never in Dr. Cash’s garden) on the corner of West Spring Street and Castle Heights Avenue even though I was younger. It was apparent, even to this lad, Lewis was brilliant.
I admired John Castro for another reason. John dated Lynn Frazier, one of the prettiest women in Lebanon. Joe Manning, another town boy, always seemed to be enjoying life. Charlie Teasley, a good friend of Jimmy Smith, was simply a great guy. Crockett Carr had the prettiest jump shot ever.
Others seniors also helped me over the hump. I soon enjoyed sports at Heights rather than being a Blue Devil. My teachers inspired me to good grades and taught me to enjoy studying. I learned to be proud of attending Heights. Those 1959 seniors and postgraduates were my catalyst.
I continued to admire Leonard and his achievements throughout the years. He gave me wise counsel when I was considering possibilities at Vanderbilt when he was a professor there. When I last saw him about two years ago in Lebanon, I remember thinking, “He’s still the coolest guy around.”
He will be missed.