Harold Bradley Jr.: Hawkeye Star, NFL Player, and Renaissance Man

Harold Bradley Jr., a University of Iowa alum, excelled in football, arts, music, and civil rights, earning him a permanent exhibit at the Iowa Memorial Union. He played in the NFL, studied art in Italy, and acted in over 20 Italian movies, including alongside Elizabeth Taylor.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Harold Bradley Jr.: Hawkeye Star, NFL Player, and Renaissance Man

Harold Bradley Jr.: Hawkeye Star, NFL Player, and Renaissance Man

Harold Bradley Jr., a University of Iowa alum, embodied the spirit of a true Renaissance man, excelling in football, arts, music, and civil rights. Born on October 13, 1929, in Chicago, just days before the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression, Bradley Jr. grew up on the city's south side with a father who played in the NFL before World War II.

Bradley Jr. enrolled at the University of Iowa in 1946, where he majored in fine arts and made his mark on the football field. As one of the first Black players to compete in the Orange Bowl stadium, he earned the nickname "Orange Bowl Five" and was named MVP of the 1950 Hawkeyes. "He had extremely high points in it... It's not normal, it's not usual that somebody has that kind of football career where he only played professional football for about six years, but he played it at the height of where he could be playing it," said Oliver Bradley, Harold Bradley Jr.'s son.

After graduating in 1951, Bradley Jr. served in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years and played football for the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Devil Dogs. He then went on to play in the NFL for six years, winning two NFL Championship games with the Cleveland Browns from 1954 to 1956 before playing for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958.

Following his football career, Bradley Jr. pursued his passion for the arts. He studied at the University for Foreigners of Perugia in Italy in 1959 and later opened an art studio in Rome with his wife, Hannelore Zacharias, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, whom he married in 1962. Bradley Jr. also acted in over 20 Italian movies, including alongside Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, and worked as a teacher, curator, and producer.

In 1968, Bradley Jr. took a job as curator for the Illinois Arts Council in Chicago. His multifaceted talents and achievements earned him a permanent exhibit at the Iowa Memorial Union and a distinguished alumni award from the University of Iowa. "Fear usually gets a bad rap. But for one iconic University of Iowa alum, it might have made him the international Renaissance man he became... I think that's one reason he tapped into so many things," reflected Oliver Bradley on his father's remarkable life.

Harold Bradley Jr.'s legacy as a Hawkeye football star, NFL player, artist, actor, and civil rights advocate continues to inspire. His permanent exhibit at the Iowa Memorial Union stands as a testament to the indelible mark he left on the University of Iowa and the world at large.

Key Takeaways

  • Harold Bradley Jr. was a University of Iowa alum and Renaissance man, excelling in football, arts, music, and civil rights.
  • He was one of the first Black players to compete in the Orange Bowl stadium and was named MVP of the 1950 Hawkeyes.
  • Bradley Jr. played in the NFL for six years, winning two NFL Championship games with the Cleveland Browns.
  • He pursued his passion for the arts, studying in Italy, opening an art studio, and acting in over 20 Italian movies.
  • Bradley Jr.'s legacy as a Hawkeye football star, NFL player, artist, actor, and civil rights advocate continues to inspire.