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Dr. Preston Bradley (1888-1983), clergyman, author, and lecturer, is widely known as the founder and Pastor of the Peoples Church, Chicago, Illinois. In 1912, Dr. Bradley withdrew from the Presbyterian ministry to establish an independent church based on a creed of "the Good, the True, and the Beautiful." The Peoples Church affiliated with the Unitarian Conference in 1922, accepting full fellowship in that church body the following year. From an original membership of 67 persons, the Peoples Church grew to be the largest Unitarian congregation in the United States. In 1926, after meeting in north side theaters for thirteen years, the congregation dedicated the Uptown Temple, an auditorium structure seating more than 1700 people. Dr. Bradley occupied his pulpit for over 50 years and was the Dean of Chicago clergymen.
Born in Linden, Michigan, Dr. Bradley attended Alma [Michigan] College and studied law before entering the ministry. Among his honorary degrees were a D.C.L. from Hamilton College of Law [Chicago, Illinois], an L.L.D. from Lake Forest [Illinois] College, and a D.D. from Meadville Theological Seminary [Chicago, Illinois]. He served on the Illinois State Teachers College and Normal School Boards for many years. He was a founding member and past president of the Isaak Walton League of America, an organization devoted to conservation of natural resources. A noted orator, Dr. Bradley made numerous addresses every year throughout the United States. He conducted a number of radio series, including book reviews, news commentaries, and religious programs. In addition, his sermons, prayers, and inspirational essays have been col1ected in a number of popular books including: Courage for Today, 1934; Mastering Fear, 1935; Power from Right Thinking , 1936; Life and-You, 1940; New Wealth for You, 1941; Meditations, 1941; My Daily Strength; and Happiness Through Creative Living, 1955. His autobiography, Along the Way, written with Harry Barnard, was published in 1962. Dr. Bradley also edited The Liberalist, a monthly magazine published by the Peoples Church.
Dr. Bradley occupied a unique position in Chicago. In addition to his religious leadership of the Peoples Church and its large radio congregation, he was active in civic affairs. He served on the Chicago Council against Racial Discrimination and on the Mayor's Committee on Race Relations, A life member of the Art Institute of Chicago, he was also a trustee of the Municipal Art League. Starting in 1925, Dr. Bradley was a member of the Chicago Public Library Board. Under his direction the Peoples Church has served as a community forum offering lectures and institutes on a wide variety of topics. The Church also sponsored the Uptown Players, a drama group directed for many years by Dr. Brad- ley's adopted son, named Bradley Griffin. In 1962, Chicago honored Dr. Bradley for his fifty years of service with a testimonial dinner and citation.
Dr. Bradley was married to Grace Thayer in 1915. She died in 1950, and their adopted son, James, died the following year. In 1952, Dr. Bradley married June Haslet, and they continued to reside in Chicago. He continues as Pastor of the Peoples Church with the assistance of the Reverend Virgil A. Kraft until 1976. When asked whether he intended to retire upon completion of 50 years' ministry, Dr, Bradley replied, "I do not intend to retire. I look forward to many more years. There is work to be done. I want to do it."