Bradley, the former Tempe mayor and
successful builder who helped start
several community churches, including
Arizona Community Church, was remembered
by his long-time friend and business
acquaintance Doug Ross as a determined
man who enjoyed a good negotiation, and
who couldn’t walk away from a
Bradley died last week at age 76. He is
survived by his wife of 53 years, Ellen,
as well as three children and eight
Visitation was scheduled from 4 to 8
p.m. Friday, Feb. 2, at Carr-Tenney
Mortuary, 2621 S. Rural Road. A memorial
service to celebrate Bradley’s life will
be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, at
Grace Community Church, 1200 E. Southern
Ave., one of three local churches
Bradley helped create.
“Elmer Bradley was a builder by trade
and the kind of guy who loved to get
projects going,” recalled Ross, who met
Bradley in 1970 when Bradley purchased
the Chicago-based Christian publishing
company Success With Youth Publications
and relocated it to Arizona.
Ross came to Arizona with the company
and began a long-time association with
Bradley. He managed Success With Youth
Publications for Bradley and later
purchased the business from him.
Along the way, Ross became active in
Grace Community Church and, with Grace’s
founding pastor Guy Davidson and
Bradley, helped found Arizona Community
Church at the northeast corner of Rural
and Knox roads in Tempe.
Davidson stepped down from his duties
after suffering a stroke at age 70
several years ago. He was succeeded in
the senior pastor position by Jeff
Such was his faith that Bradley built
the eight-acre Arizona Community Church
campus with six buildings, including a
900-seat sanctuary, for just under $3
million before the new church even had a
congregation. Its campus complete,
Arizona Community Church opened for
services on Easter Sunday, 1998.
It has grown continuously since then.
“How would I describe him? He was
determined, he thought big. He was a
risk taker,” Ross said.
And Bradley enjoyed the art of
negotiation, Ross said.
Ross recalled a trip he and Bradley made
to Chicago for a Christian conference
when Bradley unexpectedly walked into a
Chicago-area Cadillac dealership and
began negotiating for a new car. After
dickering for a long time, Bradley
offered a price that was about $400 less
than the dealer wanted, Ross said. When
the dealer refused to budge, Bradley
walked out of the negotiation.
Bradley wasn’t at all dismayed by the
failed talks, Ross explained. “ ‘It’s
the fun of the deal,’ he told me,” Ross
recalled. “That was Elmer Bradley. I
asked him how he would have gotten the
car back to Arizona and he said, ‘You
would have driven it!’ ”
On another occasion, Ross and Bradley
talked about opening a Christian
bookstore to complement Success With
“One day at lunch, we sketched out on a
paper napkin how it would be laid out,
with the bookstore up front and the
publishing business in the back,” Ross
The pair continued to dream about the
plan but nothing definitive was said.
“Until one day, I was driving by the
property we’d looked at and there were
stakes in the ground,” Ross said.
The Carpenter Shop bookstore on Southern
Avenue west of Mill Avenue remained in
business for a number of years.
Bradley tried politics in the 1960s. He
lost his campaign for the mayor’s job in
Tempe in 1966 to Rudy Campbell but tried
again in 1968 and won a two-year term.
In the mid-1970s, he chaired the Billy
Graham Crusade in Phoenix, Ross
When Pastor Davidson and Ross suggested
founding Arizona Community Church, “He
(Bradley) said, ‘Read my lips: No new
churches,’ ” Ross remembered.
“It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of
time,” Ross said.
But Elmer Bradley always appreciated a