Bradley, Albert


Albert Bradley

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Albert Bradley served as Chairman of the Board for the General Motors Corporation from April 2, 1956 until August 31, 1958. His career with General Motors spanned 50 years, including 40 years as an operating executive which involved him in many of the major decisions responsible for the growth of GM into the world's largest manufacturing company. After his retirement, he remained an active member of the GM board until May 1972, serving as chairman of the Bonus and Salary Committee until June 1968, and as a member of the Finance Committee until June 1969.

He and Donaldson Brown are largely credited with establishing the financial operations system and fiscal controls under which the Corporation still operates.

In his book, My Years with General Motors, Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. whom Bradley succeeded as chairman in 1956, wrote, "Mr. Bradley's contribution has spread to a large extent over the whole General Motors' map — particularly in our war effort, in our overseas effort, and in very close coordination between financial control and operations."

As Sloan noted, Albert Bradley had wide experience in all phases of General Motors activities, both operating and financial. Prior to his election as chairman, he served as a member of the board, as an executive vice president, chairman of the Financial Policy Committee and a member of the Operations Policy Committee. Elected to the board in 1933, he had been chairman or a member of all important policy groups of the Corporation, including finance, engineering, marketing, personnel and overseas.

Early Career

Albert Bradley was born in Blackburn, England, on May 29, 1891, and came to the United States with his parents as a child. He began his career with a public utilities company in 1909 where he worked for two years, saving money to enter Dartmouth College, where he first majored in physics and then changed to economics. To help pay expenses during his undergraduate years, he worked as personal secretary to Frank Haigh Dixon, professor of transportation and head of the economics department at Dartmouth, who also directed the U.S. Bureau of Railway Economics in Washington. It was through this association with Professor Dixon that Mr. Bradley got his first experience with the transportation industry. He was graduated in 1915, a Phi Beta Kappa student with the highest departmental honors in economics, and voted by the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration faculty as the graduate most likely to succeed in business.

After graduation, Bradley was awarded a fellowship in political economy by the University of Michigan where he received his Master of Arts degree in 1916, followed by a doctor of philosophy degree in 1917. He majored in economics and finance, but his interest in mechanics drew him into certain mechanical engineering courses. His doctoral degree came simultaneously with an appointment of the faculty of the University of Michigan, but World War I interrupted what could have been a career in education.

In September 1917, Bradley entered government service as a production expert in the Signal Corps. He later was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Air Service, serving as district accounting officer for the Dayton, Ohio district for the Bureau of Aircraft Production. There he became acquainted with the operations of the "Big Three" rubber companies: Goodrich, Goodyear and Firestone — and among other firms, Glenn L. Martin Company of Cleveland and Dayton-Wright, which were important aircraft suppliers at that time.

Bradley was introduced to the automobile industry and the executives who ran it when he was transferred to Detroit, where he was district accounting officer and later assistant district manager Aircraft-Finance.

In the Motor City, his military assignment brought him into almost day-to-day contact with the executives of Ford Motor Company, Fisher Body, Packard, Lincoln and the General Motors' Cadillac and Buick divisions.

His General Motors' Years

After his discharge from the Air Service in May 1919, Bradley joined the staff of the comptroller of General Motors in Detroit, and shortly thereafter, was promoted to the position of assistant comptroller and then to assistant treasurer, transferring to the New York office in 1922. On May 12, 1927, Bradley was appointed general assistant treasurer and on May 9, 1929, he was made vice president in charge of the Financial Staff and associated companies. He also was named the first chairman of the finance committee of Bendix Aviation Corp., in which General Motors then had a substantial financial interest.

Bradley was elected a director of General Motors and a member of the Finance Committee November 6, 1933. After eighteen years in the New York office, he returned to the Detroit office as executive assistant to the president and group executive of the car and truck groups in 1940. He was elected an executive vice president of General Motors on November 2, 1942. On June 3, 1946, Bradley was elected chairman of the Financial Policy Committee.

World War II

During World War II, Bradley assumed substantial respon]]sibilities related to war production by the Corporation. Charles E. Wilson, president of GM at the time, O.E. Hunt, an executive vice president, and Bradley served as what Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., called his "triumvirate" to handle operations policies concerned with the Corporation's all-out war efforts. This group was later expanded into a formal War Administration Committee, and the original three members directed it. As the war neared a conclusion, Bradley helped develop national procedures for swift changeover from wartime to peacetime production to obviate mass unemployment during the turn-around period.

Overseas Operations

Harley Earl and Albert Bradley
Bradley also played a substantial role in GM's operations overseas. He was a member of the Overseas Policy Committee from 1937 to 1944, serving as chairman the last two years. He was a member of a committee that recommended the purchase of Adam Opel, AF, in 1929 and helped direct rebuilding of that GM car manufacturing subsidiary in Germany after World War II.

In 1932, he was chairman of a committee that recommended realignment of Vauxhall Motors Limited's product program. Bradley's committee report, which was adopted, advised expansion of Vauxhall's truck operations and changeover from the production of higher priced, prestige cars to smaller automobiles with a larger market potential in England and other export nations. Bradley also was executive in charge of overseas operations when GM introduced Australia's first mass-produced automobile, the Holden, in 1948.

Interest in American Highway Improvement and Public Safety

Let's Get Out of the Muddle

Long interested in the development of sound and progressive highway policies to advance highway transportation in the public interest, Mr. Bradley served from 1948 until 1956 as chairman of the National Highway Users Conference.

During the post-war period, General Motors produced a film called Let's Get Out of the Muddle which reported on the serious condition of America's highways and the need to take action before the problems became too great. The companion booklet includes an introduction from Albert Bradley.

Upon his retirement as chairman of the Conference, President Eisenhower sent a citation letter to Mr. Bradley. It said in part: "During the years in which you have served as chairman of the Conference, the American people have come to an increased realization of the importance of adequate roads. Through your leadership of genuine 'grass roots' organization, you have made a fine contribution to this understanding. Your efforts have helped greatly in programs that have improved our highways."

Bradley was also a trustee and member of the operating committee of the Automotive Safety Foundation from 1945 to 1948. In 1956 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Citation by the Automobile Old Timers Club for his "long leadership in the development of sound and progressive highway policies" as well as for his other accomplishments during his distinguished career.

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