WILLIAM O'CONNELL BRADLEY was born in Lancaster, Kentucky and educated privately. While still in his teens, he served briefly in the Union Army during the Civil War. He later studied law and became Prosecuting Attorney for his home county—Garrard—in 1870. He was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1872 and 1876, for a U.S. Senate Seat in 1876, and for governor in 1887. In 1889 he declined appointment as Minister to Korea, and from 1890 until 1896 he was a member of the Republican National Committee. During his four years as Kentucky's first Republican governor, Bradley met with difficulty securing support for his platform from the Democrat-controlled legislature, which without his approval enacted a number of important bills, including the state's first compulsory education law. Bradley did use his executive power, however, to veto controversial legislation to regulate railroad rates. He went on to win election to the U.S. Senate, serving from March 1909 until his death in Washington in 1914.
Governors' Papers, Kentucky Department for Libraries & Archives, Public Records Division
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2 Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.