William E. Bradford, USAID program officer and volunteer reader, dies at 96

By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 9, 2011; 8:20 PM

William E. Bradford, a retired program officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development who had a long second career as a volunteer reader for people with blindness and dyslexia, died Jan. 19 at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington. He was 96 and had congestive heart failure.

Mr. Bradford read for more than 30 years for Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, a national nonprofit group that records textbooks for university and high school students. He also read for many years for the Washington Volunteer Readers for the Blind, which he had served as president and coordinator.

"Working seven days a week, he has probably recorded more words on tape for blind listeners than anyone else in the country," according to a 2003 profile of Mr. Bradford in Washingtonian magazine.

Mr. Bradford began his career as an economist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the 1940s. He worked as a statistician for the War Production Board and, eventually, joined USAID, where he was an expert on Latin America.

He retired from the federal government in the late 1960s but continued working as a consultant for a decade. He worked in countries including Paraguay, Peru, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Brazil.

William Elliot Bradford was born in Phoenix and grew up largely in Southern California.

A precocious child who was promoted to fifth grade at age 7, he was asked by psychology professor Lewis Terman - creator of the Stanford-Binet IQ test - to participate in Terman's Genetic Studies of Genius, a long-term research project that followed the lives of 1,500 children into adulthood.

He graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1934 and later studied economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture graduate school and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

In the late 1940s, he became serious about singing after enrolling in Vermont's Trapp Family Music Camp, run by the Austrian-born family immortalized in the film "The Sound of Music." Mr. Bradford sang baritone and bass in choral groups throughout his life, including for many years with the Washington Choral Society and the Metropolitan Chorus.

His first marriage, to Jeanne Millard, ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Ann Wood Shanahan of Washington; a daughter from the first marriage, Ann Drummond of Micanopy, Fla.; six children from the second marriage, Denis Bradford of Chelmsford, Mass., Alison Bradford of Barrington Hills, Ill., Edith Jickling of Washington, Lane Reilly of Charlottesville, Ann Marie King of Fountain Hills, Ariz., and James Bradford of Takoma Park; 12 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

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