When the late William R. Bradford Jr. bought this newspaper from his father in 1946, it wasn’t simply because he came of age. Make no mistake: The son of the founder of the Fort Mill Times was born in 1916 with ink in his veins, but William Bradford Sr. didn’t just hand over the reins.
Bradford Jr. first went to Davidson College and earned his degree. Then he learned the ropes like any other journalist does – by getting himself hired at one newspaper, taking that job as far as he could and then getting a job at another to soak up the next level of experience.
Both of those newspapers were in the Carolinas, not terribly far from Fort Mill. So when the time came in 1946 to buy his hometown newspaper it wasn’t like he had to get reacquainted with the area. By all accounts William Bradford Jr. was a publisher of the people. He had friends from all walks of life here and treated everyone with respect.
It’s no surprise then that Mr. Bradford, when you look at the portfolio of his 97 years on this earth, was part of every sector of Fort Mill life. From the school board to the magistrate bench, as a leader in Boy Scouts, the Chamber of Commerce and his church, Mr. Bradford, who passed away Sept. 27, was Fort Mill. He even wrote a book about the town’s history and continued to update it up until just a few years ago.
Along the way, he nurtured his newspaper into the post-war era, growing it from a circulation of 300 to more than 2,500, keeping pace with the expanding Fort Mill Township. The Fort Mill Times, already an institution in town for its social news and local sports coverage, became known in journalism circles across the state as Mr. Bradford led crusades that helped the “little guy” – the average citizen – win some major battles. Most notably, he led the charge against a poultry processing plant that emitted a nauseating odor and successfully fought for a replacement of the bridge that connects York and Lancaster counties on Doby’s Bridge.
That bridge now bears Mr. Bradford’s name.
His newspaper earned many prestigious South Carolina Press Association Awards and set the standard every succeeding publisher tried to follow. To date, the Fort Mill Times has won more SCPA awards than any other non-daily paper in the state.
This is National Newspaper Week. It was that same week in 2006 that Mr. Bradford graciously accepted our invitation to write a piece for a special page we were putting together to mark the occasion. That turned out to be the last piece he ever wrote for the Times. He wrote about taking over “a rundown” newspaper, building it back up and using it to help further the interests of a “developing” town.
We thank you, Mr. Bradford, for ushering the Fort Mill Times into the modern age and for keeping the tradition alive. We hope we’ve made you proud.