King of Cal: The Legacy of Bradford S. King

What is your favorite Cal tradition? Every alum has one.

From 1984 to 2015, the Cal Alumni Association (CAA) honored young alumni with the Bradford S. King Award for Excellence in Service by a Young Alumnus/a, in honor of its namesake’s commitment to preserving and revitalizing those very traditions that make Cal special. Though this award has since been absorbed into a new slate of annual Berkeley Awards, the legacy it has represented over the past two decades is a tradition worth remembering.

An Oakland Hills native, Brad King came to Cal as a freshman in 1973 after growing up with Golden Bear spirit—both of Brad’s parents went to Cal, graduating during the postwar boom of returning GIs and older students. His father Bill King ’50 and his mother Betty Hampton King ’51 served four-year stints in both the Rally Committee (separated by gender during those times, the Women’s Rally Committee having separate duties) and the Greek system. Brad’s younger sister Bonnie King Hazarabedian ’85 remembers his fervent enthusiasm for the University began before he was old enough to even think about applying to college: “Brad always had an affinity for Cal history and local Bay Area history. I can remember him bringing me to campus on weekends, and he had done research on the historical architecture on campus—the building of Sather tower, Memorial Stadium, North Hall—and he knew who the movers and shakers were in the University’s early years.” So of course when it came time, Brad applied to only a few colleges and promptly chose UC Berkeley upon admission.

On campus Brad quickly became active in spirit activities. He followed in the family tradition of Cal commitment, and spent all four years on the Rally Committee—of which he became Chairman his senior year—singing with the Men’s Octet, and getting elected to the Order of the Golden Bear. He studied Political Science, and adopted leadership roles wherever they were to be had. Brad threw himself into numerous campus projects, one of which was the successful revival of the annual Big C Labor Day work party during which members of the Rally Committee clean up the beloved campus landmark; during this multi-day party, Brad and his fellow members unearthed the brass plaque at the C that had been buried under layers of paint for decades. Brad’s enthusiasm reinvigorated the Cal tradition for his entire family, motivating his older brother, Bruce, ’78, to return to school (and go on to graduate from Cal as well), and transforming his family’s house into the de facto home base for Rally Comm meetings, post-game sleepovers, and morning-after brunches.

After graduating from his beloved University in 1977, Brad grew even more involved with Cal as a young alumnus. While navigating law school at the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law and practicing in San Francisco at a private firm, Brad was simultaneously advising the Rally Committee, serving in the Order of the Golden Bear, establishing the Bay Area Young Blues (affectionately BAYBs for short), and building the Young Alumni Council. Brad also led the refurbishment of the Axe, and worked with fellow Rally Committee alumnus John Larissou on a comprehensive Cal Songbook.

It’s easy to imagine the great things Brad would go on to do in his life after such an extraordinary first five years as a young alumnus. But, Brad never got the chance. In June of 1983, Brad drowned in a white-water rafting accident on a Yuba River trip with his BAYBs. He was 28 years old.

There was little that could be done to ease the tragedy of Brad’s passing, but in the spirit of his tireless devotion to Cal, Brad’s colleagues got to work immediately to ensure that the work he had started came to fruition. His classmates completed the establishment of the Young Alumni Council, a part of CAA’s Board of Directors that aimed for the first time to extend the relationship that students have with Cal beyond their graduation into their lives as young alumni, and the Rally Committee established the Brad King Spirit Award. Brad’s widow Pat Bowes set up the Bradford S. King Endowment for Spirit Groups and Programs to support select undergraduate projects and groups in their drive to fund the types of efforts Brad aimed to resurrect during his years as a student.

Cal had a tremendous impact on Brad’s life, and in turn, Brad left an indelible mark on the University. More than 500 people attended his memorial service in the Redwood Grove at the UC Botanical Garden.

It is that unparalleled spirit, commitment, and moral character that reflect the best of what Cal attracts and furthers in its students. Through the award established in his honor, Brad revitalized the Cal tradition for his family, peers, and generations of Cal students.

Brad King, thank you for your dedication to UC Berkeley. Your legacy will forever be honored by our Cal alumni community.

For a list of previous recipients of the Bradford S. King award, and information on the new Berkeley Awards, please visit alumni.berkeley.edu/awards.

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