Gloria Bradford was the first African American to graduate from the University of Texas School of Law. Heman Sweat was actually the first African American to attend the Law School, however, he had to drop out due to medical reasons, but not before telling Bradford, ” You’re going to make it.” In May 1954, she did just that.
Bradford grew up in Houston. After completing high school, she obtained a B.A. degree from Prairie View A&M in 1949. Following her graduation from Prairie View, she worked as an intern at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Bradford began post-graduate work at American University in 1950 and also served as a member of the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
Her roommate at Howard University School of Law encouraged Bradford to apply to the University of Texas School of Law for the 1951-1952 school year. Initially, administrators questioned whether she was a Texas resident. Since Bradford, a registered Texas voter, had previously paid a poll tax of $1.50 giving her voting privileges, she was considered a resident and ultimately admitted to the Law School.
During her first year of law school, Bradford had the opportunity to meet Thurgood Marshall, who was attending a state convention in Austin.
Following graduation, Bradford practiced in Houston with the firm of Dent, Ford, King, and Witcliff where she was involved in both civil and criminal practice. In October 1954, she became the first African-American woman to try a case in Harris County District Court.
Bradford stayed in private practice for about six years before moving to New York to work as a sales representative for Law Research, Inc, the first computerized research firm in the country. Bradford later settled in California where she remained. She worked as a sales manager for Encyclopaedia Americana for a number of years before retiring.