SUMTER, S.C.Arthur Bradley is an active member of the Shriners, assisting in numerous charity projects and fundraisers, organizing and participating in parades, running a charity stock car race, transporting needy children and their families to a hospital three hours away....and, oh yeah, he also manages a thriving tire dealership, Ace Parker Tire Inc.
He has been described as an inspiring leader who approaches all his volunteer work with energy and intensity.
He proves you can run a successful business and spend lots of time in civic service, said State Sen. Thomas McElveen.
For his tenacity and generosity of time and talent in organizing and participating in numerous charity eventsparticularly for the Shriners, which support the Shriners Hospitals for Children in North AmericaMr. Bradley has received numerous accolades and awards.
He now can add the 2013 Tire Business Tire Dealer Humanitarian Award, which was presented to him Nov. 4 at the Tire Industry Association Awards Ceremony during the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
Much like his doggedness to follow through and accomplish a goal, supporters have submitted his nomination for the Humanitarian Award each of the past seven years. His nomination finally got the nod from the United Way of Summit County, Ohio, volunteer services committee, which reviewed the award nominations and selected the winner.
Persistence has paid off in many aspects of Mr. Bradley's life.
He's very energetic, enthusiastic. He has a passion for what he does and it's very evident.... He's very proud about what he does, and he works hard, said Richard Buzhardt, who heads the Jamil Shriner Temple in Columbia, S.C., as its potentate. Someone with a normal energy level probably wouldn't get done what he gets done.
I'm 66 years old. That's why I drink coffee with four sugars, it keeps me going all day, Mr. Bradley joked with Tire Business, adding: I like helping everybody. It makes no difference what race you are, it don't matter to me. And I love helping kids. That's my thing.
His daughter Tammy Coleman, who works in his dealership as the office manager, noted there are Shriners in here all the time to discuss fundraising plans with Mr. Bradley and the whole shop gets involved for months preparing for the annual Shrine Day parade, making the shop a hub of activity for both customers and Shrine business.
We could call it the Ace Parker Tire Shrine Temple, quipped Ms. Coleman.
I got the phone ringing and someone wants to see me, so I'm conducting business three ways. So I'm going this way and that way all the time. But I love it, Mr. Bradley said. The Lord has been good to me. I've been blessed. I've been blessed with good people around me.
He's got a heart about the size of his body..., said Sammy Way, The Item newspaper archivist and historian who has known Mr. Bradley for more than 50 years.
It's not a surprise that he gets involved in lots of community activities because he really thinks more of service than he does of himself. And that's the kind of thing that's always impressed me is that he is willing to give and he asks for nothing.
Not only has Mr. Bradley been praised for his humanitarianism but also for his leadership skills and the talent for recruiting others to get involved in a cause.
He includes you, whether you know it or not, you're being included... but he does it in such a way that you do it willingly and because you want to be a part of it, because the way he explains it is it's good stuff, it's good for a lot of people and its going to help somebody and it will make a difference, Mr. Way said.
Got a problem? He finds someone to help you if he can't...there aren't many people like that. That's one of the reasons people gather around him and they flock to him is because you feel comfortable that something good will happen. You feed off his intensity. He wants to get it done, so you want to go with him.
Mr. Way also praised Mr. Bradley for leading by example.
There are those that lead from behind. Well, you don't have to look for Arthur because you know where he is. He's the one trying to organize and you see how intense and how committed he is to what he's doing and you can't help but want to be a part of it, he said.
He also is a bit of a showmannot only does he drive in a Shriner mini-car in parades and, until recently, raced a stock car for charity events, he also is an Elvis impersonator and recently performed for a Shriner fundraiser.
Most of Mr. Brad-ley's philanthropy revolves around his involvement in the Shriners, which he joined in 2002.
He said after running a dealership for several years and raising a family, it was the right time and right place to get involved in the Shriners.
When my feet hit the ground, I started running and kept on running ever since, he joked. I want to do 150 percent, not just 100 percent, adding, Since 2002 I've been on fire.
The spark for that fire?
It was the way I had grown up that inspired me. I always think about others. I've been blessed all these years and I can give back now to my community, he said.
Becoming a Shriner always had been a dream for him since he was a child watching the Shriners in their ornate fezzes and attire riding around in miniature cars in the local parades.
I loved the parade and hoped that someday I could be a part of the fun. The Shriners love a parade and I now have one of those mini cars and perform at parades all over South Carolina, said Mr. Bradley, who participated in the Jamil Jets mini car unit.
He said he enjoys the delight the silly cars bring to the children along the parade routeand because it draws attention to the Shriners organization, known for its Shriners Hospitals.
There are 22 Shriners hospitals in the U.S., Canada and Mexico that treat children with orthopedic problems, spinal injuries, burns and/or cleft lips and palates. The Shriners support the hospitals through fundraisers so that patients receive free treatment.
Just knowing that every parade that I perform in and every fundraiser that my unit is involved in gives me the satisfaction that I have helped another child to overcome their most difficult obstacle, he said.
I saw what the Shriners are all about and that put a burden on me to help. Putting on events for the kids (in the hospitals) has been rewarding for me, Mr. Bradley said.
He is one of the Shriners Road Runners, transporting needy children and their families to a Shriners hospital for appointments and staying with them until its time to drive home. With the nearest hospital about a three-hour drive to Greenville, S.C., from his hometown of Sumter, one of these runs is an all-day commitment.
It's rewarding to see them walk again and play again. And it doesn't cost them a dime, he said.
As a Shriner road runner, Mr. Bradley takes the temple van to transport children and their families to the Shriner hospital in Greenville. However there have been times when he had to go the extra distance, according to temple officials.
In one case, a child in Sumter was attacked by a dog and suffered scalp and facial injuries, requiring treatment at the Cincinnati Shriners Hospital.
To get him there we had to hire an airplane, a med-evac, and Arthur was very instrumental in helping us do that, said Joe Hilton, recorder for the Jamil Shriner Temple. The Shrine ended up putting up $70,000 to transport this kid from Columbia.... Arthur helped to put tires on (the family's) car, got the motor fixed and took money out of his own pocket.
In addition to participating in parades, Mr. Bradley has organized one of the city's main parades for years.
When the annual parade that marked the start of the weeklong Iris Festival in Sumter was suspended for several years in the early 2000s, Mr. Bradley approached the festival committee about allowing the local Shriners to organize a parade and in 2004 the annual Shrine Day Parade debuted.
That event coincides with the Shriners Spring Ceremony, which brings Shriner units from around the state to participate in the parade. Mr. Bradley organized the parade for seven years and then stepped down due to the time and energy involved. However, he has been recruited to again take over organizing the parade for next year's festival.
I quit for a while, but I'm back again and I'm not going anywhere, Mr. Bradley said. I love a parade. I love bringing people into this town. I love for people to enjoy our little city.
He begins planning for the parade about six to eight months out. About 2,000 people participate in the parade, according to Mr. Bradley. Next May we hope to be a bigger parade. We Shriners love a parade.
His daughter, Ms. Coleman, noted that he gets the dealership staff involved in the parade preparations, from making signs to prepping vehicles.
A lot of vehicles. A lot of floats. It takes organizational skills. It takes leadership skills. And it takes a lot of time because it has to run just right, Sen. McElveen noted.
Mr. Bradley also has organized small parades for the South Carolina Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk held at a local retirement facility.
The reward, for me, is to see them smile and enjoy what they couldn't get out to do, Mr. Bradley said of the elderly residents. I don't expect anything in return. I always tell everybody, 'Hey, look, don't give me anything, I don't want nothing. I just enjoy doing it.'
The Shriners also have participated in the South Carolina Walking Horse Championship held in Sumter, where Mr. Bradley served as director and presented awards to winning entries. Money raised from the event is given to the Shriner Hospitals.
In 2008, Mr. Bradley helped organize the Shriners' first charity car race at the Sumter Speedway to benefit the Jamil Hospital Transportation Fund. For several years he drove his own stock car in the annual race.
We have referred to him as the 'Mayor of Sumter' because of the activities he participates in over there, said Mr. Hilton of the Jamil Shriner Temple. He's got a list of accolades about a mile long.
He noted that Mr. Bradley is not only respected in Sumter, but he's respected throughout our Shrine territory.
The Jamil Shriner Temple is one of three Shriner temples in the state and has 1,300 members. Under the regional temple are local units, such as the Gamecock Shrine Club in Sumter to which Mr. Bradley belongs. He recently served as club president for two years where he oversaw numerous events and fund-raisers. Currently, he serves on the temple's executive board and is a membership ambassador.
Mr. Buzhardt noted that beyond his official duties, Mr. Bradley is always looking for ways to help out, such as cutting grass and trimming shrubs around the Shriner unit's building or fixing a plumbing problem. If there's a problem, he goes and fixes it. Arthur's just that type of person.
He usually recognizes things that need to be done, Mr. Buzhardt said. If he didn't initiate it himself, if there's something that needs to be done, all it takes is a phone call for him to be willing to be involved in whatever he can do or whatever he can organize to help things get done. You won't call him and he says, 'Well, I'm not going to do this or I'm not going to do that.' I've never had that experience at all.
The current president of the Game-cock Shrine Club, Ervin Boy-kin, served as an officer during Mr. Bradley's presidency.
He was like, 'Whatever we need to do to be successful, let's do it,' and he really worked hard, too, he said. He has worked very hard to have fundraisers and to raise money and we all know what's in his heart, he loves helping children. If we didn't have him, I don't know what we would do.
During an interview with Tire Business, the real mayor of Sumter, Joseph McElveen Jr., praised all the service Mr. Bradley gives to his community.
He's not a person that looks for recognition.... He does it out of a generous heart, a spirit of love.... Being from Sumter I'm sure it's based on a strong religious faith and an appreciation from where he's come from and where he is now. Mr. McElveen said.
Basically, if it needs being done, Arthur will get it done. I hate to say it, but it's sort of a dying breed of merchant anymore. They are the backbone of a communityhaving people who love their community and are willing to do whatever it takes to make it a better place without getting paid for it or without expecting something back. We're fortunate to have a number of people like that but it seems like more and more today it's 'What's in it for me' or 'I can't afford to do it because I'll lose some business.'
People are so concerned about 'my corner of the universe' that they don't want to give back anything, lamented Sen. McElveen, who is the mayor's son.
But a thriving community is one where businesses can thrive in places where wheels of commerce can go around. (Mr. Bradley has) proven you can run a successful business. I know he spends lots of time in his business, but he also spends lots of time with his civic service.
Mr. Bradley also has earned the respect of the local newspaper, The Item, which has run numerous articles on his Shriner activities over the years.
He's one of the good faces for Sumter. Definitely a good ambassador, said Ivy Moore, the newspaper's features editor.
If you had to describe him, he's a humanitarian, Mr. Way said. It's unique in the way he does things. There are a lot of people who plan to do and then there are those who do what's planned. He's the kind of person that puts it down and then he does it.... If it's something that needs to be done, he'll do it.
And then he'll go the extra mile, added Kathy Stafford, the newspaper's electronic paginator, who also received Mr. Bradley's help raising funds for her animal shelter.
And he doesn't really solicit attention, and to me that's what makes him a little special in that context because he has worked hard,... Mr. Way said.
Mr. Bradley is well-known in the community, according to the newspaper staff.
And not only well-known but respected, too, in a lot of organizations, Mr. Way said. He has put his thumb print on quite a few things. And you wouldn't know it unless you ask somebody because he's certainly not going to tell you.
Mr. Bradley noted that he is planning a new charity event next year for the Shriners and half-jokingly said he has all 12 months of next year filled up with planning and activities.
That's exactly what he does, Ms. Stafford said. He starts planning and by the time one (project is) finished, he's already started working on the next.
I help people anyway I can. I don't think about myself, Mr. Bradley said, adding, No man can do everything by himself, you need people to help you.
So when the president of his Shriner club calls him, I'll help. I'm not up above doing anything...You don't get by just thinking of yourself.
In all of my experiences, I have found that it takes hard work, determination and dedication to achieve all of your dreams and goals in life, he said.
Mr. Bradley has been working since he was a young boy, growing up impoverished with his mother, two brothers and sister.
I worked through high school. It wasn't easy but it made me appreciate the value of work, he said.
After working odd jobs as a child, he took jobs at a service station and a venetian blind company before joining the Army and serving in the Vietnam War.
After several years working in the local sheriff's department, he decided to switch careers and work in a car dealership to better support his young family. That is where he met his future business partners, Adrian Ace Parker and William Burrows.
In 1980, the three partners opened Ace Parker Tire Inc. in Sumter. Mr. Parker died in 1991, leaving Mssrs. Bradley and Burrows running the dealership.
With all his responsibilities as president of the dealership, Mr. Bradley still finds time to do his charity work.
There's nobody who can't make time to do what they want to in a week. There's always enough time to do something.... There no such thing as 'can't.' You can make time for what you want to do, he said.
Despite all of his commitments, Mr. Bradley's wife Linda, his children Tammy and Timothy and his grandchildren still come first, according to Amanda Boykin, president of the Ladies Auxiliary Shrine in Sumter.
Not only is he very giving and generous with his time and resources with charitable work, Arthur does put family first.... Many times there have been events scheduled or gatherings but that weekend was his family time with the children or the grandchildren.
So Arthur is very dedicated to his wife and family.... He's always this ball of energy. If anything needs to get done, it's 'OK, let's get it done.' But he somehow manages to balance family, his church, his civic work and his business. He does it tirelessly.
They didn't have to be associated with the Shriners, but if someone in the community is disabled, he's been involved with going to their homes and building ramps for them to make their homes handicap accessible. He added a deck and ramp onto the Shrine club so that some of our older members and guests can have access to the Shrine club for events, she said.
So if there's a need and he's aware of it, he's always willing to help.
He jumps in, added her husband, Mr. Boykin.
All we got in life is honor and integrity,...that's where everything else falls into place, Mr. Bradley said, adding, There's no such thing as 'can't' in my vocabulary. Get a goal and try to achieve that goal.... If I was to die tomorrow, I'd be happy.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6127.