I met Rodney Bradberry about a year ago when he began to look into the Iron Order MC, the largest law-abiding MC in the world. A new chapter, the Iron Fist Chapter, had been formed in Newnan a year earlier, a chapter with which I and two of my sons are affiliated, and Rodney was interested. The first thing one noticed about Rodney was his ever-present smile.
He began what is called the hang-around phase in which there are no dues, no expectations, and no responsibilities.
Hanging around meant that one attended rides, functions, meetings, and events and got to know members of the club. After several months, Rodney expressed interest in and was invited to become a prospective member.
While the life of a hang-around is easy, the life of a prospect is not. It is a time to prove one’s worthiness, and it is also a time to determine if one really wants to be a member. There are dues, expectations, and responsibilities.
Rodney would pull security duty, insure the safety of the ladies who were married to or friends of the full patch members, would do clean-up, study the prospect manual, perform any and all duties asked of him, and would be subject to questioning at any time and at least some “mild” good-natured harassment. He would be expected, if danger threatened, to stand his ground and to do his part.
He did all things well and became both a brother and a friend to IOMC members both inside his chapter and in other chapters as well. Throughout it all was that big smile.
Each IOMC member receives a road name either chosen by the member or given to him. There is usually a story behind every road name. Rodney’s was given to him by the chapter president. He would be known as “Youngblood.”
At 32, he was the youngest member of the chapter, and he brought with him youthfulness, energy, and optimism. Most of us — and no one that I know of — ever heard him gripe, grouse, or complain.
There was one commitment that did take priority over the Iron Order. If, at a club function where Rodney was absent, someone said, “Where’s Rodney?” The answer was almost always the same. “He’s with his girls today.” That was all that needed to be said. They are beautiful girls, ages 11 and 7.
When the news came Sunday about the car accident that killed Rodney early that morning, the members of the chapter were stunned.
Sunday afternoon we gathered at the clubhouse and just began to talk about this man. Tough men became choked up, voices cracked, tears were shed, and eyes were red and swollen. It was a very emotional and personal time, but it revealed that Rodney was not only respected and liked, he was loved as a brother and as a friend.
Ironically, Sunday was the day the members were to vote on Rodney’s full membership. To be a full patch member requires a minimum six-month prospect period and a unanimous vote.
There was no doubt that Rodney would have been voted in had there not been the accident, but we voted him in anyway.
Youngblood posthumously received his patch. His vest — his “Cut,” as it is called — will be displayed in a place of honor in the chapter clubhouse for all time.
Dozens of IOMC members from all over Georgia and Alabama came to the funeral last Wednesday in Griffin. The sudden and untimely death of Rodney “Youngblood” Bradberry has left a gaping hole in our hearts.
He was our brother ... he was our friend.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]