Bradshaw, Lillian Moore (1915–2010)

By: James Karney

Type: Biography

Published: June 16, 2021

Updated: June 16, 2021

Lillian Moore Bradshaw was a librarian and local government official known for her thirty-eight-year career at the Dallas Public Library where she served as director from 1962 until her retirement in 1984. Bradshaw, the daughter of Harry M. and Mabel E. (Kretzer) Moore, was born on January 10, 1915, in Frederick, Maryland. Encouraged by both parents, she was a voracious reader as a child and teenager; her father frequently brought home books borrowed from the public library in Washington. D. C., for Lillian and her younger sister Gladys on his regular trips to the city. She attended school in Frederick and later Hagerstown, Maryland, where the family moved to live with her mother’s parents following the death of her father in 1927. Lillian Moore graduated from high school in Hagerstown in 1933, and she attended Western Maryland College on a scholarship from 1933 to 1937. She majored in history and earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1937. Following graduation from Western Maryland, Lillian and her mother moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she enrolled in the Library School at the Drexel Institute of Technology and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in library science in 1938.

Lillian began her forty-six-year career as a librarian at the Utica (New York) Public Library where she worked from 1938 to 1943 as an assistant and assistant head of the adult services department. With the intention of participating in the war effort as a librarian in the U. S. Army, she moved to Baltimore in 1943. While there she joined the staff of the city of Baltimore’s public library, the Enoch Pratt Library, and worked as an adult librarian and assistant coordinator of young adult services from 1943 to 1946. At a library-sponsored dance for servicemen Lillian Moore met her future husband, William Theodore “Brad” Bradshaw, a Texan serving as an officer in the United States Coast Guard. Following his return from World War II service in the South Pacific, the couple married on May 19, 1946, in Maryland and returned to Dallas where he resumed employment with the Dallas Fire Department and rose to the rank of battalion commander.

In the fall of 1946 Lillian Bradshaw began a thirty-eight-year tenure with the Dallas Public Library. Her first months were spent as manager of the Sanger Branch in South Dallas, but she was soon assigned to the Central Library to serve as Coordinator of Reader’s Advisory. At that time, she was the first married woman to work at the Central Library. In the coming decade she served as circulation department head and coordinator of adult services before her promotion to assistant director in September 1958. Bradshaw was then unanimously appointed director by the library board on February 28, 1962. A short-lived controversy over two allegedly obscene books, From the Terrace (1958) by John O’Hara and A Hell of a Way to Run a Railroad (1956) by Peter Arno, raised by council member Joe Moody, incited Bradshaw’s strident defense of intellectual freedom, and she threatened to resign her new post if forced to remove the books. However, in mid-March the city council confirmed her appointment and an $11,000 annual salary and also voted to not withdraw the books. They passed a resolution stating in part that it, “sees no need for evoking the doubtful policy and practice of attempting to censor library activities from the City Council table,” and the measure passed by a vote of 8–1 with Moody dissenting.

During her years as director, the Dallas library system underwent unprecedented expansion and transformation opening eighteen branch libraries and in 1982 a new Central Library. She was the first woman department head for the city of Dallas and was one of only three female directors of a large public library in the United States. In 1974–75 she was one of five finalists for the position of Librarian of Congress. She served as president of the Texas Library Association from 1964 to 1965 and the American Library Association from 1970 to 1971.

For twenty-two years Bradshaw oversaw the planning and construction of eighteen neighborhood branch libraries throughout the growing city and a new Central Library, later renamed the J. Erik Jonsson Library in 1986. At the time of its opening, the 646,733-square-foot Central Library was hailed for its then cutting-edge online materials catalog and state-of-art audio-visual department. Bradshaw was known locally and nationally for her determination, charm, and political savvy, and for her ability to develop relationships with the city’s political, business, and civic leaders with whom she fundraised and promoted the library services.  Bradshaw was a founding board member of the Freedom to Read Foundation and in 1967 wrote an enduring and thoughtful article, “The 3 R’s of Censorship” for the English Journal.  Assessing her four decades of work at the Dallas Public Library, historian and author A. C. Greene observed, “She is the one who brought the Dallas library system into the modern age.”  Similarly, Brooke Sheldon, dean of the Texas Woman’s University School of Library and Information Studies, appraised the library’s national reputation at the time of Bradshaw’s retirement saying, “… the Dallas system was generally recognized as one of the best, if not the best, public library system in the country.” 

Bradshaw was active in the library profession and served as an elected or appointed officer in state and national organizations. In the Texas Library Association, she served as president (1964–65), chair of the Public Libraries Division, and in the late 1960s chaired a legislative task force that authored and guided through passage of the Texas Library Systems Act in 1969. In addition to service as president of the American Library Association (ALA) in 1970–71, she served as an officer in the Public Library Association, the Library Administration Division, and was a member of or chair of various ALA committees from the 1950s to 1970s. In Texas she served on the advisory board of the newly-established University of Texas at Dallas, the board of the Association for Graduate Education and Research, Texas Woman’s University library school advisory board, and was a director in the Texas Municipal League. In 1974–75 she was one of five finalists nominated by the American Library Association for the position of Librarian of Congress but, wishing to remain in Dallas, withdrew her name from consideration.

During her years as director, Bradshaw was sought after and respected for her contributions beyond the library to civic and city affairs in Dallas. She served on the influential Goals for Dallas committee, organized in 1964 by Mayor J. Erik Jonsson, and during the project’s first major conference (held in Salado in 1966), she was tasked with driving Juanita Craft to the event. For the city of Dallas, she chaired a committee on employment of women in municipal government and served six months as interim director of the city’s Municipal Court Department. She retired as library director in January 1984 but was asked to stay for a year as a special assistant to City Manager Charles Anderson to coordinate the city’s planning for the 1984 Republican Convention and act as Dallas’s liaison to the Republican party for their national nominating convention held in the city on August 20–23, 1984. Bradshaw retired from the city of Dallas in December 1984.

Post-retirement Bradshaw served on local educational and philanthropic boards in Dallas.  She was a founding board member of the Dallas County Historical Foundation and assisted in the establishment and fundraising for the Sixth Floor Museum. She also served on a citizens committee that examined the city’s Municipal Court Department and throughout her retirement continued to support and work with Friends of the Dallas Public Library.

During and following her distinguished career, Bradshaw was recognized for her achievements and contributions in the field of librarianship. The Texas Library Association named her Librarian of the Year in 1961, awarded her the Distinguished Service Award in 1975, and in 2002 named her a Texas Library Champion during the association’s centennial year. She received honorary degrees from Drexel University (1978), Western Maryland University (1987), and Southern Methodist University (1990). Drexel further recognized her in the alumni association’s Drexel 100 Alumni Hall of Fame in 1992, and the library school awarded her the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1970. In 1993 the Freedom to Read Foundation placed her on their Honor Roll for service as a founding board member. The School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University established the Lillian Bradshaw Endowed Chair in Library Science in 1986. The fourth floor gallery in Dallas’s J. Erik Jonsson Library was renamed in her honor in 2003.

Lillian Moore Bradshaw passed away at age ninety-five on February 9, 2010, in Arlington. Her husband William “Brad” Bradshaw had passed away in August 1979.  The couple had no children during their thirty-three-year marriage. They are interred in Abbey Mausoleum at Restland Memorial Park in Dallas.

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Lillian Bradshaw, Oral Histories Collection, Recorded May 11, 1998, Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (, accessed November 25, 2018. Lillian Moore Bradshaw: an oral history interview. August 17, 1998, conducted by Gerald Saxon, Dallas History & Archives Division, Dallas Public Library. Lillian Moore Bradshaw: an oral history interview, Dallas, Texas: April 17, 2002, conducted by Bonnie Alice Lovell (, accessed May 26, 2021. Lillian Moore Bradshaw, “The 3 R’s of Censorship vs. the 3 R’s of Freedom to Read,” The English Journal 56 (October 1967). Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1962; August 17, 2003; February 12, 2010. Michael V. Hazel, The Dallas Public Library: Celebrating a Century of Service, 1901–2001 (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2001). Frank Lee, Lillian Moore Bradshaw and the Dallas Public Library: From the Innocent Voyage to the Razor's Edge (Ph.D. dissertation, Texas Woman’s University, 1990). Janet R. Moltzan, “The First 100 Years of Texas Library Champions,” Texas Library Journal 78 (April 15, 2002).

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James Karney, “Bradshaw, Lillian Moore,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

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June 16, 2021
June 16, 2021

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