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Joseph Perry Bradbury

Joseph Perry Bradbury was born to Asa and Electa Bradbury on Feb. 21, 1838. Perry, as he was known to friends and family, was born in Kygerville, Ohio and for the first 17 years of his life, he helped his father with their Gallia County farm. The Bradburys were ardent foes of slavery and Bradbury’s family operated a station on the Underground Railroad, with young Perry occasionally assisting as a conductor of fugitive slaves on their way to the north.

In 1854, the U.S. Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which established the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and gave the territorial legislatures the power to decide whether each would permit slavery. Bradbury, a fervent abolitionist, moved to Kansas to assist the Free State Movement. He assisted on expeditions with John Brown and James H. Lane, leader of the Free State Movement to protect pro-abolition residents.

Enlisting in the U.S. Army in August 1857, Bradbury joined an expedition sent by President James Buchanan against the Mormons in Utah. He served as quartermaster and marched with Gen. A.S. Johnson to Salt Lake Valley, Utah. After his discharge in June 1859, he again joined the U.S. Army, where he helped transport heavy artillery from Utah to Fort Walla Walla in the Washington Territory. After his discharge, he traveled to San Francisco and the nearby mines to seek his fortune panning for gold.

In March 1864, Bradbury gave up gold mining and returned to Ohio by way of Panama. On May 2, 1864, he enlisted in the 141st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. This regiment was formed at Gallipolis to serve for 100 days and served guard duty at Charleston, W.Va., until it returned to Gallipolis on Aug. 25, 1864.The soldiers were mustered out on Sept. 3, 1864.

In the fall of 1864, Bradbury began the study of law with his uncle Joseph Bradbury in Pomeroy. In April 1866, he was admitted to the bar. That fall, he and his uncle formed a legal partnership that continued until 1872.

Bradbury served as prosecuting attorney of Meigs County from 1869 to 1873. On Oct. 25, 1875, he began serving as judge of the Court of Common Pleas of the Seventh District, Third Subdivision. For 10 years, Bradbury decided civil and criminal cases in this court. In 1884, he was elected to a four-year term as judge of the Fourth Circuit of Ohio. Beginning his term on Feb. 9, 1885, he served until 1889 and heard appeals of cases from the lower courts of Ohio.

In 1888, Bradbury defeated three other candidates to be elected Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio. He was elected to a five-year term, which commenced Feb. 9, 1889, and he was re-elected in 1893 to a six-year term, as 1892 legislation increased the membership of the Supreme Court from five to six justices and changed the term of office from five to six years.

Bradbury’s opinions are included in volumes 46 to 61 of the Ohio State Reports. Of particular note is Board of Education v. State. In this 1894 case, the Court declared a statute enacted by the Ohio General Assembly unconstitutional. The statute, passed on April 13, 1893, required the Board of Education of Marion Township in Fayette County to levy a tax for the purpose of paying $197.76 to its former treasurer, A.C. Lindsey. Bradbury, in the majority opinion, ruled that the General Assembly may determine the truth of the facts of the claim, but they did not have the authority to require payment by the Board of Education. Such an action would prevent the board from contesting the claim in a court of justice.

Prior to 1913, Supreme Court Justices picked their own Chief Justice. Bradbury served as Chief Justice from Feb. 9, 1893 to Feb. 8, 1894, and from Feb. 8, 1899 to Jan. 8, 1900. Bradbury did not seek re-election in 1899, ending his term on Jan. 8, 1900. He returned to Pomeroy and resumed his law practice.

Bradbury returned to judicial service when he was elected judge of the Court of Common Pleas of the Seventh District, Second Subdivision for a six-year term. He was defeated by Charles E. Peoples in 1910. After retiring on Dec. 31, 1910, he formed a law partnership with Albert P. Miller that continued until his death.

Bradbury married Dot E. Woods of Racine, Ohio, on May 28, 1871. After a long illness, she died Oct. 7, 1882. On Oct. 2, 1883, Bradbury married her sister, Emma L. Woods. No children were born from either marriage.

Bradbury died on July 17, 1915. His funeral was held on July 19, 1915 at his house in Pomeroy and he was buried at Beech Grove Cemetery in Pomeroy.

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b. Feb. 21, 1838

d. July 17, 1915

67th Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio

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