James William Bradford was born in Greenwood, South Carolina on April 9, 1914. He attended public schools in Greenwood and attended the Citadel from 1931–1933. He received his Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University School of Law in 1939.
In 1935, at the age of 21, he was appointed Secretary to the U.S. Senate Agricultural Committee. Thereafter, he served as Campaign Manager for Senator Smith in the 1938 campaign in which Senator Smith defeated a challenge from State Senator Edgar A. Brown and Governor Olin D. Johnson to achieve his re-election bid for a fifth term in the U.S. Senate. Later, he served as Chair of Staff to U.S. senator Roger Peace.
He was called to active duty with the United States Navy during World War II and was commissioned as an Ensign in 1942. Subsequently, he served overseas as Commander of an Amphibious Assault Group and took part in the invasion of Guam, as well as major Naval operations in the Leyte and Linguyan Gulfs. He was overseas for 24 months.
On his return to Greenwood, he joined the law firm of Mays, Featherstone & Bradford, but in 1958 he became a partner in the law firm of Grier, McDonald, Todd, Burns & Bradford. He continued with this firm through 1988 when he assumed the position of “Of Counsel” to the firm then known as Burns, McDonald, Bradford, Patrick & Tinsley.
He served in the South Carolina State Senate from 1959 to 1961 and as Director and Vice Chairman of the South Carolina ETV Commission from 1960 to 1975. He was also President or Chairman of the Greenwood Rotary Club, the Greenwood Country Club, and the Greenwood County Bar Association, and was Commander of the Greenwood American Legion Post 20.
One of his principal activities was as Chairman of the Lander College Foundation Board of Trustees, which governed the College while it was owned by Greenwood County. He was a leader in the effort to get Lander College accepted into the state college system, and this occurred during his Chairmanship of the Board. After Lander became state operated, he served as Director and President of the Lander Foundation.
He was a member of the First Baptist Church of Greenwood and served it in many ways, including Chairman of the Board of Deacons and as a Sunday School teacher in the Barracca Men’s Class.
He was married to the late Emily Kennedy McIntosh of Kingstree, South Carolina on November 19, 1941. Their union was blessed by the birth of three sons, James W. Bradford, Jr., Koger McIntosh Bradford, and Charles Sloan Bradford, each of whom is a highly regarded member of the South Carolina Bar.