It’s hard to write about Bill Bradford specifically, because Bill was always more interested in others than he was in himself. He was the consummate newsman, always after a story, always having something more to query or to add to a story someone else was writing. In the three years that I wrote for Liberty, he made me feel as though I was his favorite writer, and that whatever article I was working on was essential to the next issue.
After his death, as I read email stories about Bill that circulated among his friends,. I realized that he had a knack for making everyone feel that way. Not because he was duplicitous in any way, but because he was sincerely interested in every story. Every article was essential to the next issue of Liberty. He couldn’t do without us.
He was a kind but thorough editor. His queries were always cogent and his edits always made the article better. And his headlines! He was the master. IISplish Splash, I Was Taken to Jail” about my daughter’s arrest for throwing water balloons, and IIHail Mary, Full of Smack” about a woman named Maria who smuggled heroin into the U.5. inside her stomach: those are two of my favorites. My brief experience with Stephen Cox tells me that he will be just as thorough and just as kind, but I will miss the long conversations with Bill as he made enthusiastic research suggestions or talked about obscure old movies and radio shows.
In 1991 I gave a talk at the Eris Society meetings in Aspen, Colo. Entitled IIConfessions of an English Major,” it was about my experience as a politically incorrect but morally erect graduate student at the University of Florida. Afterwards Bill talked to me enthusiastically about my speech, both the content and the delivery, and suggested I should run for president on the Libertarian ticket.
“We need someone like you,” he said. “You’re a woman, you’re married, you go to church, you like raising your kids, and you’re intelligent besides. We need you to demonstrate that Libertarians aren’t just druggies and anarchists.” I took it as a compliment but thought nothing more about it until the week before Labor Day, when Bill started calling me from the Libertarian Convention every few hours to say, IIGet out here! We need to nominate you!”
I was in Utah, taking my firstborn to her college orientation, and wouldn’t leave her. But I love being able to tell people, “The Libertarian Party wanted me to run for president, but I had to take my daughter to school”
The fact that Bill was serious about nominating me says a lot about his attitude toward liberty. He knew that liberty isn’t just for anarchists, or technocrats, or druggies, or men, although that is the impression the media seem to have of libertarians. Bill knew that libertarian principles are as relevant for religious stay-at-home moms as they are for pot-smoking single males. He also believed that a libertarian political victory was possible. His wasn’t just the purist, out-of-the-ashes-of- anarchy libertarianism, but a workable, electable libertarian style of limited government.
That’s why politics were so important to him, and why he cringed when libertarians began their talks by saying, “The first thing I would do as president is let all the prostitutes and drug dealers out of prison.” The first thing Bill would have done is teach correct principles so that people could govern themselves. Letting victimless criminals out of prison would naturally follow.
There was one thing Bill loved more than Liberty, and that was his wife Kathy. He even watched “Survivor” because he knew she enjoyed the show. Kathy understood the drive of a newsman, and her unwavering support made Liberty possible. I miss their
Bill knew that libertarian principles are as relevant for religious stay-at-home moms as they are for pot-smoking single males.
Christmas letters that usually began, “We were too busy to do anything this year,” then went on to chronicle a spectacular motorcycle ride from Washington to Colorado or a camping trip in Hawaii.
In recent years, they really were almost too busy to travel. The last time I saw Bill was at the Liberty Editors Conference at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas. Kathy was very ill that weekend, .and I was touched by Bill’s concern for her. He didn’t care whether Liberty’s booth was manned or not; he left the conference several times to check on her in their hotel room. I’m sure his last thoughts were not about the next issue of Liberty but about his dear wife. No tribute to Bill Bradford would be complete without a tribute to her as well.