W. C. Bradley Company
The W. C. Bradley Company's history parallels the economic history of Georgia over the twentieth century. The company and its owners, the Bradley and Turner families, have also been central to the prosperity of Columbus, as it has developed from a commercial center for agricultural products to a center for textiles and industry to the current diversified economy that includes education, technology, and cultural resources.
In 1917 D. Abbott Turner married Bradley's only daughter, Elizabeth. Turner, becoming Bradley's trusted confidant and heir, assumed a leadership position within the Bradley Company. Bradley selected Turner's son, William ("Bill"), to be the future leader of the company when Bill was just eight years old. Bill Turner assumed this role in the early 1950s, after graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology and serving in the navy. He was assisted by Lovick Corn, the husband of his sister Elizabeth (or Betty). In 1987 Turner and Corn stepped down, passing active leadership to Stephen Butler, their nephew, and Brad Turner, Bill's son. These two, along with other family members, continue to lead the business while remaining active in the community.
In 2004 Char-Broil announced that it would begin outsourcing the production of grills to a factory in the south of China by the end of 2006, a move that required the elimination of 500 full-time and up to 1,000 seasonal jobs.
The Bradley Company's other two manufacturing divisions, Lamplight and Zebco, were acquired by the company in 1998 and 2001 respectively. Lamplight, based in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, produces lamps and oils that are sold as the brands Lamplight and Tiki. Zebco, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a leading designer and marketer of fishing tackle, including the brand names Rhino, Quantum, Lew's, and Martin. Both of these divisions conduct much of their manufacturing overseas, with the merchandising, management, order processing, and fulfillment taking place domestically.
In 2001 the company formed W. C. Bradley Real Estate. Previously the company had owned land and had been involved in commercial and residential development, but its interest was limited to the initial sale of developed properties. The new division actively involved itself in the development of malls and subdivisions and the adaptive reuse of historic properties. In 2003 the division built (at a cost of about $22 million) the Synovus Centre, an office building and parking deck complex adjacent to the corporate campus for Total System Services Incorporated, a division of Synovus, along the Chattahoochee River in Columbus. The division was also involved in the redevelopment of Uptown Columbus and with the building of lofts and apartments for Columbus State University students. The redevelopment of the Pillowtex factories on the site of the historic Eagle and Phenix Mill complex began in 2003.
The Bradley Company, along with its related entity, the Bradley-Turner Foundation, is a major benefactor of educational, cultural, and social service efforts in the Columbus area. The company has been recognized by its employees and by the Georgia Department of Labor as a good place to work because of its emphasis on community support and servant leadership.
William B. Turner, The Learning of Love: A Journey toward Servant Leadership (Macon, Ga.: Smyth and Helwys, 2000).
Laura McCarty, Georgia Humanities Council
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.