SPARTANBURG, S. C. —
To spend time with a successful person is like being served a signature dessert — after that last bite, you want more.
Too much dessert may not be good for you, but a conversation with a man who emerged from a small community and rose to remarkable heights while maintaining resolve, balance, and modesty leaves you with an insatiable desire to learn more.
Charlie Bradshaw, born in Florida but raised in Dublin, in Georgia’s midsection, was a small-town athlete who excelled in every competition. Extracurricular activities were as important to him as performance on the field. A touchdown pass, a basket at the buzzer or breaking par on the golf course needed intellectual accompaniment — which is why you saw his name affiliated with the Beta Club and the Spanish Cub. His life could have been the prototype for defining the well-rounded image.
At Dublin High School, Bradshaw was never second fiddle in any sport or activity, but he was blessed with modest aforethought, which led him to extraordinary relationships that would become the foundation for his business philosophy. He had remarkable sales acumen and learned how to make calculated risks, underscore frugalness when necessary, and combine work and play with an accent on faith, hope, and charity.
When it came time for him to choose a college, he chose the University of Georgia. After all, he was a quarterback and quarterbacks flourished in Athens under Wallace Butts, the master of the forward pass. Charlie remembers, however, that his time came during the ’50s when the split-T option was the rage of the college game. Even the pass-happy Butts had a few option sets. At 135 pounds, Bradshaw never intimidated anybody with his size, but his courage set him apart. Butts liked Bradshaw so much that one day in practice, he picked his quarterback up and gave him a lift back to the huddle and exclaimed, “That’s the way the option ought to be run.”
Butts was demanding, but Bradshaw was compatible with the work ethic and the hard-nosed style of football. However, Bradshaw recognized his challenge and took heart when backfield coach Bill Hartman, in a plainspoken conversation, advised him that he would likely excel in a small college environment. Following injury, Bradshaw wound up transferring to Wofford where he made “Little All-America,” throwing passes to a rangy receiver named Jerry Richardson who would play for the Baltimore Colts and would become his business partner. (Eventually, Richardson would become owner of the Charlotte Panthers.) They took Hardee’s and created a national brand, developing almost 500 stores, and were bought out by Trans World Corporation. Charlie would become president of the company, which included Century 21, Hilton Hotels, and Trans World Airlines.
He and his wife, Judy, would spend time in New York but came home to enjoy their family and invest time and resources in the Judy Bradshaw Children’s Foundation. Golf is a central activity in his life, and three grandchildren were awarded athletic scholarships — Brewer and Thomas at Clemson and Collins with the Georgia women’s golf team at Georgia.
This is a man who took a Greyhound bus from Dublin to Athens in the mid-fifties, endured the vicissitudes of the game under Wallace Butts, found fulfilling success at Wofford, and followed the positive tenets of football — the work ethic, leadership, team play — to become one of the leading corporate executives in America.
While he accepts that football is not for every kid and that the game has experienced abuse, it is a game which opened doors for him. It taught him how to interact with people and that a reputation in sports enhances your business reputation. The foundation for his success began in Dublin and at the University of Georgia.