In Memory

Odra W. Bradley

Bradley, Dr. Odra W.

Dr. Odra W. Bradley, age 100 of St. Joseph, went home to be with our Lord, Wednesday, November 11th, 2020.

MEMORIAL SERVICE: Saturday, December 5th, 11am, St. Francis Baptist Temple, St. Joseph. Services under the direction Bullock Family Funeral Chapel, St. Joseph, MO.

Former principal of Tech High was a talented listener and mentor to many

World Herald writer Emily Nitcher

Dec 9, 2020


Odra Bradley had a talent for listening.

Whether it was a former student, co-worker or family member, Bradley would listen deeply and then ask questions to guide the person in the right direction, said Julie Cook, his stepdaughter.

"He got the person to think about their role in the situation," Cook said. "He almost always made you think you were on the good-guy team and you were headed in the right direction and with just a little more effort on your part you would get it turned around."

Bradley died Nov. 11 in Missouri. He was 100. A memorial service, with seating limited due to COVID-19, was held Saturday. Bradley's family said another memorial service will be held in Omaha in the coming months. 

Bradley was the first Black high school principal in the Omaha Public Schools, according to World-Herald archives. He was the principal of Technical High School from 1971 through the school's closure in 1984.

"We couldn't go anywhere in Omaha without someone knowing him," Cook said.

Former co-workers and students said Bradley was exactly the kind of leader Tech High School needed during an extremely difficult time. Cook said Bradley could turn any upset person "into putty" in his hands. 

In 1973, the U.S. Department of Justice accused OPS of racial discrimination. When a federal court mandated busing in 1976, Tech saw an enrollment bump, but the increase didn't last. Increasing white flight and declining enrollment at the school led to its closure. 

Tech High had the lowest enrollment of any Omaha high school, the largest building, and the most expensive operating cost per pupil. It also was only a mile and a half from Central High School.

“Politically, it was easier to kill off Tech than Central High,” Bradley told The World-Herald in 1984.

The Tech school building, located at 30th and Cuming Streets, is now used as OPS headquarters.

Thomas Warren, president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Nebraska and former Omaha police chief, said he chose to attend Tech High because of Bradley and the leadership team he created at the school. 

Warren said Bradley had a calm demeanor and would listen, learn and take in different points of view.  

After Tech closed, Bradley was the principal of the district's three individualized study centers before retiring from OPS in 1989.

Bradley then went on to be the director of multicultural affairs at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he focused on one-on-one counseling to keep minority students from dropping out of school.

Students agreed to tell Bradley and his office if they encountered academic, personal or financial problems. Bradley sometimes made home visits to check on a student or talk with parents. 

At the time, Bradley told The World-Herald that some people might criticize a long talk and a hug as emotion over substance. "But man," he said, "that is potent."

Former students and co-workers said they sought advice and wisdom from Bradley decades after Tech closed. Many considered Bradley to be a mentor. 

"He was there for everyone," said former co-worker and friend PJ Freeman.

Gene Haynes, the retired principal of North High School, considered Bradley a mentor. He said he would call Bradley seeking advice when he was principal at North.

Bradley was a man of great courage and intellect who cared about the livelihood of students, staff and the community in which he lived, Haynes said. 

"Odra was the type of person that would give the students the shirt of his back and likewise with the staff and community," Haynes said. 

Bradley was preceded in death by his wife, Maureen Bradley; son Jeffrey Bradley; three sisters and five brothers. He is survived by daughters Sonja Collins, Julie Cook and Jill Mumford; son Steven Mumford; and seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.