Bill Bradbury, who served as Oregon’s secretary of state from 1999 to 2009, passed away on April 14, 2023, at the age of 73. He was known for his contributions to the state’s voting system, environmental issues, and salmon restoration. He also ran for governor in 2010 and was appointed to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council by Governor Ted Kulongoski. Bradbury battled multiple sclerosis for more than 40 years, but never let it stop him from pursuing his passions and serving his community. He died after unexpected medical complications during a six-month, around-the-world cruise with his wife of 36 years, Katy Eymann.
A Life of Public Service
Bradbury was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1949, the third child of William and Lorraine Bradbury. His parents were both killed in a car accident when he was nine years old, and he moved to Pennsylvania to live with his aunt and uncle. He graduated from the University of Chicago Laboratory High School in 1967 and attended Antioch College in Ohio, where he studied communications. He moved to Oregon in 1969 and worked as a news reporter, director, and producer in Bandon, Eugene, and Portland.
Bradbury entered politics in 1980, when he was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives from Curry and southern Coos County. He moved to the Oregon State Senate in 1984, where he served as the senate majority leader in 1986 and the senate president in 1993. As a legislator, he focused on environmental protection and economic development. He worked to pass legislation to establish Small Business Development Centers at community colleges around the state, to develop the Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program (STEP), to provide relief for displaced timber workers, and to prevent offshore oil drilling off the Oregon Coast.
Bradbury left the Oregon Legislature in 1995 and founded For the Sake of the Salmon, a regional non-profit organization that sought to restore salmon stocks and watershed health. He also served as a board member of several environmental groups, such as the Nature Conservancy of Oregon, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, and the World Salmon Council.
In 1999, Governor John Kitzhaber appointed Bradbury to be Oregon’s secretary of state, following the resignation of Phil Keisling. Bradbury was elected to two full terms in 2000 and 2004. As secretary of state, he oversaw the state’s elections, audits, archives, corporations, and administrative rules. He established Oregon’s vote-by-mail system, which has significantly increased voter participation since 2000. He also helped create Oregon’s online political campaign contributions system, ORESTAR, which gives the public access to campaign finance information.
Bradbury ran for governor in 2010, but lost to Kitzhaber in the Democratic primary. He continued his public service by accepting an appointment from Kulongoski to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a regional body that develops energy policies and fish and wildlife programs for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. He served on the council until 2018.
A Life of Optimism
Bradbury was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1982, a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system. He experienced symptoms such as fatigue, numbness, vision problems, and difficulty walking. He used a cane, a scooter, and a wheelchair to get around. He also underwent several treatments, including chemotherapy and stem cell therapy.
Despite his condition, Bradbury never gave up on his dreams and goals. He maintained a positive attitude and a sense of humor throughout his life. He often joked about his disability and used it as an opportunity to educate others about MS. He also participated in various activities that brought him joy and fulfillment, such as sailing, skiing, hiking, biking, traveling, reading, writing, playing music, gardening, cooking, and spending time with his family and friends.
Bradbury was an inspiration to many people who admired his courage and resilience. He received numerous awards and honors for his achievements and contributions to Oregon and beyond. Some of these include the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Hope Award (2001), the Audubon Society of Portland’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2008), the Oregon League of Conservation Voters’ Tom McCall Legacy Award (2010), Antioch College’s Horace Mann Award (2011), and an honorary doctorate from Willamette University (2012).
Bradbury is survived by his wife Katy Eymann; his children Kate Bradbury (Jason) Brownell; Nick Bradbury; stepchildren Jesse Eymann (Katie) Hultin; Ben Eymann; grandchildren Henry Brownell; Lucy Brownell; sister Kathy Bradbury; brother Jim Bradbury; and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
A Life of Legacy
Bill Bradbury was a visionary leader who made a lasting impact on Oregon and the world. He was a champion of democracy, a protector of the environment, a friend of the salmon, and a fighter for justice. He was also a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, and uncle. He was a man of integrity, compassion, and generosity. He was a role model for many people who aspire to make a difference in their communities.
Bradbury’s legacy will live on through his family, his friends, his colleagues, his supporters, and his admirers. He will also live on through the policies and programs he helped create and implement, such as the vote-by-mail system, the ORESTAR system, the STEP program, and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. He will be remembered as a person who cared deeply about Oregon and its people, and who worked tirelessly to make it a better place for everyone.
Bill Bradbury cause of death was not the end of his story. It was the culmination of a life well lived. He left behind a legacy that will endure for generations to come. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him and loved him.