Earl Bradley had a saying: “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.” Now that both he and his wife, Billye, have gone to be with the Lord, that saying has taken on new significance. The Bradleys, who started and operated a successful iron foundry in Texas, have blessed RTS and other ministries through their giving.
“My parents were very generous, cheerful givers,” says Leslie Keffer, the Bradleys’ daughter. “They were always interested in helping others and especially in kingdom work. They felt like in giving to seminaries, that was their way to multiply their dollars because seminaries are training people who are going out and influencing so many others.”
The biggest influence on Billye’s life was her grandparents, whom she went to live with after her parents divorced at age 2 and her mother went to work. “They were godly people who raised her to know the Lord, and she never remembered a time when she didn’t believe,” Leslie explains. Earl, on the other hand, didn’t come to faith in Jesus until after marrying Billye, having been raised in the Christian Science belief system.
After working in sales in the iron foundry business for many years, Earl “couldn’t find a job that could pay what he needed to take care of his family, so he decided he needed to start his own business,” Leslie says. The genesis of what became EBAA Iron took place in 1964 in the Bradleys’ garage near Dallas.
“Father bought a drill press from Sears, drilled the holes, tapped them, put the screws in, and sold them and shipped them,” recalls Leslie, who was barely 8 years old at the time. When he outgrew the garage, Earl rented a Quonset hut that he also outgrew. In 1973, as God blessed the business, the Bradleys moved to Eastland, 90 miles from Dallas, as according to Leslie, Earl had another saying: “’Neighbors don’t like foundries, and foundries don’t like neighbors,’ so they decided to find a place a little more remote.”
EBAA made its mark by manufacturing joint restraints and flexible expansion joints for water distribution pipelines as well as wastewater pipeline systems. As unglamorous as that sounds, the Lord blessed the Bradleys financially. “They knew exactly where it came from, and that they had a responsibility and privilege, and found great joy in being able to help ministries,” Leslie says.
One of those ministries is RTS, as Earl and Billye were good friends with RTS chancellor emeritus Dr. Ric Cannada and his wife, Rachel, as well as longtime RTS staff member Bob Bailey and his wife, Amanda. When Billye passed away in March at age 89 (Earl predeceased her in 2005), Dr. Cannada was invited by the Bradley family to speak at her graveside service.
“Two couples who are some of the closest friends to the Bradley family told me separately, and each couple initiated these comments more than once on my visit, that they knew how much Billye loved us and RTS, and that she talked a lot about all that RTS is doing to serve the Lord,” Dr. Cannada notes.
The Bradley family continues an active presence in the leadership of EBAA Iron. Leslie Keffer’s husband, Jim, runs the sales company; her brother E.T. Bradley is president of the foundry division, running all the production; and her brother Jeff Bradley is vice president of the sales company.
Also, the three Bradley siblings co-own EBAA, and each has a child working in some aspect of the business. As Earl and Billye’s iron-willed legacy continues, the kingdom of God benefits.
For more information about EBAA Iron, including an archive video in which Earl tells the story of how he started the foundry, visit www.ebaa.com.