Rich Bradley, a leader of public radio journalism in Illinois, died July 3. He was 83.
Bradley helped found what is now NPR Illinois in Springfield as its first news director. He read the first newscast when the station debuted in 1975 on what was then WSSR-FM.
Bradley also developed a journalism cooperative of Illinois stations known as the Illinois Public Radio Network. In 1985, he helped found what is now the Public Media Journalists Association. He later received the organization’s Leo C. Lee Award, which honors people and organizations that have made “significant contributions to public radio journalism.”
“Rich was instrumental in launching so many journalism careers — including mine,” journalist Peggy Boyer-Long told NPR Illinois for its obituary for Bradley. “… He always encouraged us to do our thing and find our own way. And we grew because of that. I never could have become a political journalist without him.”
After a 35-year career in public radio, Bradley retired in 2009. The Illinois House of Representatives called Bradley an “Illinois broadcasting legend” in a resolution commemorating his retirement.
He was “the public radio historian for Springfield,” Brad Swanson, a former PD and GM at NPR Illinois, said in the obituary. “He was an almanac of dates and events, people and places. He had an uncanny recall ability and, as a storyteller, he could keep students and staff enthralled for hours.”
Bradley developed State Week In Review at the station in 1975 and hosted it since its inception. The program, modeled after PBS’ Washington Week in Review, is still airing.
He got his start in radio while attending Southern Illinois University. He worked part-time at WSIU in Carbondale and went on to work at various commercial stations. He worked as managing editor for the Illinois News Network before joining Sangamon State University to help start WSSR, which became NPR Illinois.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library interviewed Bradley extensively in 2011 and 2012 about his life and career.