William Bradford was born September 14, 1755, in Philadelphia. He graduated from Princeton University with a bachelor of arts degree in 1772 and a master of arts degree in 1775.
Before beginning his legal career Bradford served in the Revolutionary War from 1776 to 1779, fought in numerous battles, including Valley Forge, and emerged with the rank of colonel in the Continental army. After his tour of duty, he was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar and established a legal practice in Yorktown, Pennsylvania.
Bradford served as Pennsylvania attorney general for an eleven-year period, from 1780 to 1791. He entered the judiciary in the latter year and presided as judge of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for three years.
In 1794 Bradford was selected by President GEORGE WASHINGTON to serve as U.S. Attorney General for one year, the second man to hold this post. He died August 23, 1795, and was buried in Burlington, New Jersey.