J.W. Bradley

Jacob “J.W.” Bradley was born on 29 June 1930 and raised in Petros, Tenn., a small Appalachian coalfield community in the Cumberland Mountains. J.W. married Emma “Kate” Hobbs in 1951.

As an adult, J.W. worked several jobs. At eighteen he got a job working as a coal miner at Rosedale, Tenn. Later J.W. became an electrician at the K-25 nuclear processing plant in nearby Oak Ridge, Tenn., which provided important direct contact with power industry practices. In the 1970s he became concerned about the practice of layer-loading coal – a method where poor quality coal was covered over by higher quality coal and all sold at the market price of the higher quality coal. Bradley claimed that TVA knowingly purchased layer-loaded coal as a source for local steam power plants (including K-25). In 1975, he traveled to Washington, D.C. to appear before a Senate oversight committee hearing on this issue.

Both J.W. and Kate wanted to give back to their community, which at the time only had a prison, and not much else. They co-founded Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM) in response to the strip mining that was devastating the area around their home. Around this same time, Kate Bradley was working to secure land for a local health clinic. J.W. and Kate received encouragement and support from the Student Health Coalition. The health clinic Kate helped open remained in Petros for many years. SOCM remains in effect, renamed Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment.


Related Content:

On the Bradley’s motivation to organize a community clinic in Petros, Tenn.

Kate Bradley frames the initiative to organize a local health council and community clinic as a direct response to the Petros health fair’s preliminary identification of needs. She details early fundraising efforts, including Pat Kalmans’ key role in securing grant… Continued

On closing the Petros Clinic

Kate and J.W. Bradley share about their decision to close the Petros Clinic amidst ongoing, relentless threats from Dr. Chester Caster and the community. Follow this link for access to the full-length interview. Recorded October 2017 in Wartburg, Tenn. Continued

Overcoming adversity from Morgan County

Kate and J.W. Bradley discuss the Morgan County Health Council, from its formation around the same time as the Coalition’s health fair in Petros, Tenn. to the challenges Morgan County officials created for the clinic. These hurdles were in no… Continued

Kate Bradley on a problematic provider’s attempt to take over the clinic in Petros

Kate Bradley describes the internal conflict that arose with the doctor, Chester Caster, who came to Petros after Rick Davidson. He rallied for clinic opposition among community members and made irate threats against her in what was a futile (albeit… Continued

“Radical Hearts” and their dress code

Margaret Ecker reminisces with the Appalachian Student Health Coalition at a gathering in 2013.   Her story about the students’ dress code was influenced by the clip below of Kate and J.W. Bradley, where they discuss what their community said about the  students… Continued

J.W. Bradley lobbying for strip mining legislation

John Williams recalls J.W. Bradley’s tenacity while lobbying Congress in support of strip mining regulation, which in 1976, was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter.   Full footage of the 2017 ETRC panel featuring John Williams, John McArthur, Lark… Continued

Lobbying for the Rural Health Clinic Act

Kate Bradley recalls lobbying for Medicare’s funding of Nurse Practitioners (NPs), a motion that later became known as the Rural Health Clinic Act. Others involved in the effort included Irwin Venick, Wanda Lang, Bill Corr, and Byrd Duncan. Follow this… Continued

Interview with Kate Bradley and J.W. Bradley by Evangeline Mee, 11 August 2012, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

This interview with J.W. Bradley and Kate Bradley is a follow up to interview U-0803. J.W. Bradley was born in Petros, Tenn., a coalfield community in the Cumberlands. He served as deputy sheriff in Petros. He was one of the… Continued

ETRC’s lawsuit against Davidson County Health Department

John Williams shares ETRC’s successful lawsuit against the Health Department in Davidson County. The effort was collaborative alongside other environmental organizations, including Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), and initiated as a means to mandate the monitoring and enforcement of water… Continued

J.W. and Kate Bradley Papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

Records, correspondence, and printed material related to the involvement of J. W. Bradley with Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), an organization founded to support community issues arising from the increase in strip mining in Eastern Tennessee during the 1970s and… Continued

“Community knows best”

Margaret Ecker facilitates a discussion among Irwin Venick, Bob Hartmann, and Joe Little about the philosophies and guiding principles of the SHC. All agree a central facet of the Coalition’s approach was a collective understanding of the local community’s role… Continued

Lewis Lefkowitz on the Student Health Coalition’s key accomplishments

Lewis Lefkowitz recalls what facilitated the Student Health Coalition’s (SHC’s) success. He discusses the organization’s framework of community mobilization and agency, and furthermore highlights the leadership legacy of Kate and J.W. Bradley. Recorded on December 1, 2015.   Full footage… Continued

Article: “Higher Appalachia Coal Taxes Asked,” from the New York Times

Stuart, Reginald. “Higher Appalachia Taxes Asked.” New York Times, June 22, 1974. Read article online. Continued

Formation of Mountain Peoples Health Council (MPHC)

Kate and J.W. Bradley ponder who first suggested Petros, Stoney Fork, and Norma band together to form the Mountain Peoples Health Council (MPHC), why, and how it was made possible–in large part thanks to Rick Davidson’s role as the first… Continued

On the SHC’s provision of hope as fuel for systemic change to rural healthcare

Kate and J.W. Bradley share sweet reflections of the friendships made during the Student Health Coalition’s (SHC’s) community organizing efforts in rural Tennessee, and explain that the organization’s leader, Bill Dow, gave them hope to change what they’d always been… Continued

“I will always be grateful for the gifts that the work and the people of those summers gave to me.”

[Story contributed by Angela Carroll Healy, M.D.] Dear All, Seeing the videos and reading the memories of other Coalitioners has made me want to share what working with the Student Health Coalition (SHC) meant to me. I was a Brooklyn… Continued

Findings of the 1971 land ownership study and subsequent legal action

John Gaventa elaborates on initial findings from the 1971 land ownership study and what transpired in response. With documented evidence of inequitable corporate control over land and natural resources (due in large part to unfair property taxation practices and the… Continued

The Bradleys move to Wartburg, Tenn.

Caryl Carpenter describes Kate Bradley’s fierce commitment to making Petros a better place, naming several other community initiatives beyond the clinic. Kate, however, shares that she feels they failed and explains their decision to leave for Wartburg, Tenn. in 1993.… Continued

Perry Steele on the summer of 1972

[Story contributed by Perry Steele, 15 May 2017]  I was finishing my sophomore year at Vanderbilt. Nixon hadn’t drafted me. For some reason Professor Scott suggested I could be a community organizer. Having no other plans for the summer, I… Continued

Interview with Kate Bradley and J.W. Bradley by Evangeline Mee, 29 May 2012, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Topics discussed in this interview with Kate Bradley and J.W. Bradley include: birth in Petros, Tenn.; life history overview; coal mining father; history of Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM); women’s role in SOCM; relationship of Vanderbilt University medical students; Student… Continued

Key players in the health fair and early days of the clinic in Petros, Tenn.

Caryl Carpenter, Rick Davidson, and Irwin Venick meet with Kate and J.W. Bradley to discuss the Petros health fair and community clinic. They list several of the early players involved with both, including Wanda and Gary Lang, Bob Hartmann, John… Continued

“We had to work with one hand and fight with the other”

Kate Bradley narrates the process by which Mountain Peoples Health Council (MPHC) acquired land to build the Petros Clinic. She describes the stiff political atmosphere in Nashville, where she went to plead her case before a judge, and explains why… Continued

Maureen and Boomer on the Coalition’s Legacy

Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey discuss Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), tax equalization, and “getting to the root of problems (not just providing services).” Recorded in Nashville, Tenn., May 2013. Continued

Bill Dow as a community organizer in Appalachia

Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey reflect on Bill Dow‘s character and personal philosophy about community organizing. They describe him as an other-oriented person driven by creative, actionable service and mutually respectful relationships best illustrated by his perception of and… Continued

On the Petros Clinic’s connection to Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary

Kate Bradley briefly discusses the Petros Clinic’s connection to Brushy Mountain Prison and recalls her memory of James Earl Ray’s escape. Follow this link for access to the full-length interview. Recorded October 2017 in Wartburg, Tenn. Continued

On the joy and impact of living with local families in East Tennessee

Rosie Hammond shares the highlight of her SHC experience: living with and getting to know local families. She names several from her time in Briceville, White Oak, Petros, Stoney Fork, and Rose Creek, Tenn., including (but not limited to) the… Continued

The Legacy of the Petros (Tenn.) Health Clinic

In the 1970s, Petros was a small community of 1400 on the eastern border of Morgan County.  Unemployment in the county was high, in part because there were only 3 manufacturing firms that did not provide enough jobs to replace… Continued

Highlights from J.W. Bradley’s collection of papers

Biff Hollingsworth, archivist at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library’s Southern Historical Collection, comes across some highlights from J.W. Bradley‘s recently donated collection of papers. The first is a newspaper clipping of J.W., president of Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM), with… Continued

On the Petros Health Council’s response to altercation with Dr. Chester Caster

Kate Bradley discusses the local Petros Health Council’s response to an altercation with the clinic’s doctor, Chester Caster. He tirelessly incited clinic opposition among community members and rallied to take over, but Kate’s determination to protect the clinic was stalwart.… Continued

Bob Hartmann on his follow-up visits with the Bradleys in Petros, Tenn.

Bob Hartmann discusses the informal nature of community organizing characteristic of the Coalition’s work, both prior to and following summer health fairs. He shares the story of his and others’ regular visits back to communities during the academic year, highlighting… Continued

On the resourcefulness, work ethic, and generosity of people and communities in the mountains

Margaret Ecker describes what impressed her most about people and communities in the mountains, highlighting Byrd Duncan’s role in establishing and maintaining the Briceville Clinic. She also mentions J.W. Bradley and Marie Cirillo. Rosie Hammond reflects on other characteristics, such… Continued

More on local opposition to the Petros Clinic

Kate Bradley expands on the issues she explains are often characteristic of small, rural communities and how such things as ignorance and jealousy impeded their efforts to build a community clinic in Petros, Tenn. She describes a few specific examples… Continued