Economist William Donald Bradford was born on June 19, 1944, in Gadsden, Alabama. Bradford was born to Ollie Mae Dobbs and George Joel Bradford, the fourth of six children. When Bradford was one year old, his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Bradford’s father was a Baptist minister and the owner of a barbershop. Bradford attended Cleveland’s Wooldridge Elementary School, Rawlings Junior High School and East Technical High School where he was enrolled in advanced placement courses.
Prior to attending Howard University in 1963, Bradford earned a living as a barber, saving money for college by cutting hair in his father’s barbershop. At Howard University, Bradford was a member of the football team playing linebacker and joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He graduated with his B.A. degree in economics in 1967. In 1968, Bradford attended Ohio State University and was one of only two African Americans in the school’s M.B.A program. After graduating with his M.B.A degree in finance in 1968, Bradford remained at Ohio State University and earned his Ph.D. in finance in 1971.
From 1972 to 1980, Bradford served as the associate professor of finance at Stanford University’s School of Business. Bradford was also a visiting economist for the Federal Home Loan Bank board and a visiting professor of finance and economics at Yale University’s School of Organization and Management. From 1989 to 1990, Bradford was a visiting professor of finance for New York University, the University of California, Los Angeles and Ohio State University. In 1992, Bradford served as Acting Dean of the University of Maryland’s College of Business and Management. From 1994 to 1999, Bradford then served as dean and professor at the University of Washington’s School of Business Administration, where he was awarded the dean emeritus honor.
Bradford, the author of numerous scholarly articles, is a professor of business and economic development and a professor of finance and business economics at Washington University’s School of Business Administration. His studies include a minority business survey for the State of Washington, a study of minority venture capital firms and a study of black family financial management.