As a former councilman and mayor of Compton, Omar Bradley has always ignited controversy.
The former elected official, who was charged with misappropriating Compton city funds and sent to jail for a three-year stretch, filed an appeal and is now awaiting a ruling by the state Court of Appeals. Currently out on bail, Bradley will be a free man if he wins his appeal–but if the appeal fails, the former mayor will serve eleven months in jail.
Bradley, who said he was charged with allegedly misappropriating $7,100 in city funds during his tenure as mayor, insisted that despite the charges, he paid and covered all his expenses. He insists that from the beginning of his political career, he was made a target. “Have you ever heard of any stings going on in Downey?” Bradley said. “Why is it always in Compton or Carson or some city where black people live that they set up stings?”
Bradley, charismatic and controversial, who possesses the passionate fervor of a country preacher and the suave cool of a street hustler, has chronicled his fascinating life in The King of Compton, an autobiography that delves into his volatile stint running a city once known as “The murder capital of the world.”
As the youngest mayor ever elected in Compton at 33, and one of the most popular (he was elected three times) Bradley said he worked valiantly to improve the beleaguered city. Yet, according to Bradley in his book, jealousy, political intrigue, and cloak-and-dagger subterfuge helped to crumble his tenure as mayor. According to Bradley, many rivals sought to destroy him-but he managed to remain strong despite the attempts.
As mayor for eight years, Bradley said he strove valiantly to improve the city. “I led the rebuilding of the City of Compton after the ’92 riots. Compton had 190 million dollars in destroyed property from the Rodney King rebellion and I was able to generate millions to help rebuild the city. I garnered 30 million dollars to take the city hotel and convert it to the Crystal Park Casino, the first hotel and casino in the State of California. I also went to Wall Street after the ’92 riots and secured funds to repair our sewer system.
“I established the first intermodel transportation system in Compton and I started Operation Clean and Green, a program that employed a number of residents in Compton to clean, plant, and care for the plants and shrubbery at major hub centers in the city.”
Bradley said that he also helped to lower the homicide rate in the Hub City. “When I started as mayor, there were 93 homicides a year. When I left in 2001, there were 31, which was the lowest in the city’s history.”
Growing up in the city of Compton, Bradley said he was no stranger to strife and turmoil. As he entered his teens, drive-by shootings were a regular occurrence and the escalating gang wars between the Crips and the Bloods would eventually make homicide a household name in Compton. He witnessed drugs flood the city and watched his brothers, Henry and Ronnie, both college educated, succumb to the easy lure of money that drugs supplied. According to Bradley, his brothers became “ghetto celebrities” as well as armed robbers. They were eventually sent to state prison to serve out five years to life sentences.
“I vowed never to hurt my mother that way,” Bradley said in his book.
Intent on improving the quality of life in Compton, Bradley, who also worked for the Lynwood Unified School District for over 20 years, said that he first sought to ‘save’ the beleaguered city by becoming a councilman. Bradley said it wasn’t long before he was soon caught up in political strife-strife that would continue during his eventual tenure as mayor.
Running against the powerful Walter R. Tucker, Bradley would lose. Tucker, who would eventually become ill, would have the mayorship taken over by his son, Walter Tucker IV. But according to Bradley, Tucker predicted that Bradley would someday become mayor. Instead, his supporters voted Bradley in as councilman. In the meantime, Bradley witnessed another candidate torpedoed when photos revealed the incumbent being arrested for drunk driving on Compton Boulevard. “I learned a valuable lesson: “Stay my ass away from strip joints and never drink and drive,” said Bradley.
According to the former mayor, bigger foes lurked in the background, notably the federal government. “Before I was even elected, the federal government was out trying to sting me, because they were attempting to destroy black leadership,” Bradley alleges.
Bradley’s book alleges that the Compton Police Department was involved in cocaine trafficking, a discovery that Bradley said made him an enemy of the department and prompted Bradley to bring in the Compton sheriffs.
Bradley said his strong pro-black presence and widespread popularity was a sore spot with the Feds, who hired people to pose as legitimate businessmen to offer Bradley numerous bribes.
Bradley also alleges that he was the target of at least three assassination attempts.
“One time, I was at a nightclub. About five guys came after me in the nightclub. But my brother, Henry, who was my bodyguard, took care of them, he was very adept with his hands.
“Another time, I was pumping gas at a gas station. I was with my bodyguard, and I saw a guy sitting in a green truck in the corner of the gas station. As we got back in the car and drove, he followed us. When we got out of the car, the guy in this same green truck dropped his headlights and sped up. He got right in front of my house, but we were armed. We waved our guns before he did. When he saw us with guns, he kept going.”
Bradley said that numerous threats on his life kept him “strapped.” “I stayed armed until the end of my mayorship. People were leaving dead birds on my porch, and someone had decapitated my bodyguard’s rabbits. They were sending us a message.”
“A friend I had grown up with told me that he had been offered money to kill me,” said Bradley, who said that he had heard of parties attempting to hire hitmen from as far away as Chicago to “take him out.” “They couldn’t find anyone in Compton to kill me,” alleges Bradley. “I was too respected by the gangs in the city.”
“My purpose in writing this book is because I wanted to tell my story,” said Bradley. “So many people have told my story for me. I decided to tell my story for myself.” Bradley said that The King of Compton is one of five books he plans to publish.
And what a book it is–the compelling tell-all is a riveting page-turner full of intrigue, making The King of Compton a hard book to put down. It reads like a hotbed political thriller with enough twists and turns to make even the most savvy political observer break out in a sweat and wipe his brow with a handkerchief.