JUSTICE A.F. BRAY
In 1935 Governor Merriam appointed Bray to the Superior Court of Contra Costa County. He served until 1947, when Governor Earl Warren named him Justice of the District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. He became a presiding judge in 1959. Bray was president of the California Conference of Judges in 1951 and 1952, a member of the Justice Council, and member of the Committee on Juvenile Justice. Although he officially retired in 1964, Justice Bray remained active, serving part-time both the appellate court and the Supreme Court until he was ninety-three.
His close friend Wakefield Taylor of Martinez, also a retired appellate court justice, has said Bray was one of the state's finest trial judges: A "tremendous individual" who "wrote many significant decisions."
After receiving his law degree, Bray practiced in San Francisco for two years. He then moved to Martinez, joining the firm of J. E. Rodgers, later Rodgers and Bray. In 1914 he became an Assistant District Attorney for Contra Costa County. He also served as City Attorney for Martinez, Concord, and Pinole.
In 1976 he received the University of California Medal as the outstanding living alumnus of Hastings. Justice Bray was an active supporter of the University. He was a past president of the U.C. Berkeley Alumni Association and chairman of the board of Hastings College of the Law.
Spending seventy years in the field of justice did not prevent Bray's becoming a leader in civic and philanthropic organizations in Martinez and beyond. Associated with: the Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, California Public Health Association, Martinez Community Hospital, Martinez Masonic Lodge, Commonwealth Club, and Richmond Elks, he received many honors.
In 1913 Bray married Leila Veale, daughter of Richard Raines Veale, the highly respected sheriff of Contra Costa County known throughout the Pacific Coast for his firmness and courage. Leila Veale herself had been the first editor of the Alhambra High School Torch in 1909. She maintained her interest in literature and child welfare throughout her life, being active in the Well Baby Clinic and founding the first P.T.A. in Martinez. She and Judge Bray both had a great impact on their community. They were married seventy years.
Judge Bray was instrumental in having the first two bridges built across Carquinez Strait. From the 1880's on, the federal government had opposed attempts to bridge San Francisco Bay and adjacent navigable waters because of the engineering problems involved. Bray, at the time attorney for the American Toll Bridge Company, traveled to Washington, D.C, to convince the authorities the technology to build one was available. Military necessity, he argued, made a connection necessary. Therefore, construction began on a cantilever-type span over Carquinez Strait between Crockett and Vallejo. The second span was the low-grade Southern Pacific railroad bridge connecting Martinez and Benicia, replacing the famous train ferry. In recognition of his contributions toward this achievement, Bray, the Southern Pacific's local counsel, was master of ceremonies at the dedication of the bridge.
Not only did Judge Bray help make history. He recognized the importance of preserving records of our past. In 1950 Bray was Landmarks Committee Chairman of the Contra Costa Development Association, which he had founded in 1936. By April 1951 Bray initiated an organization meeting of the Contra Costa Historical Society at Nick's Place in Martinez. Dr. C. L. Abbott, County Coroner, was the speaker. Elected first president of the Society, A. F. Bray served for thirty years, handing over his office to Carol Leland in 1981. As President he indicated that "the organization was to preserve for future generations the intensely interesting history of our County and the many articles of Contra Costiana which otherwise would be lost."
Bray remained on the Board of Directors of the Contra Costa County Historical Society until 1985, achieving a full and impressive career with that group. Bray also helped organize the Martinez Historical Society (1973). He frequently served on the Board of Directors and was a Supporting Director at the time of his death. He was a member of the California Historical Society, the California Heritage Council, E Clampus Vitus, the Pony Express Centennial Celebration Committee (1960) and the County Bicentennial Committee (1976).
With his keen intellect, spirit of service, and breadth of interests, A. F. Bray led a wonderful life. There is no doubt he left his mark on Contra Costa County.
Source: Contra Costa County Historical Society