The Brady family is fortunate that there are numerous resources and records to turn to that provide insights into the motivations and accomplishments of my father, David Ralph Brady. His parents, David and Maggie, settled in Richmond, Indiana where they ran a hotel. He had two older brothers, Carl and Paul, and a younger sister, Ruth. Growing up in Richmond reinforced the values and work ethic found in a small town some 70-odd miles from Indianapolis. 

At the turn of the century, if you wanted to succeed, you had dreams and parents who reminded you that while playing basketball with the infamous Weeb Ewbank, had some lessons to teach, but working at the local steel mill would allow him to go to Indiana University and open up broader opportunities.

  David’s university focus may have been engineering, but his involvement in sports constantly reminded him that the equipment he used was primitive. And living in a small town didn’t offer much of an opportunity to get attention for some of the ideas for products that he and his brother Carl thought could be safer, better made, more affordable and therefore more profitable.

  That realization turned into a move to the fastest growing metropolis in America—Detroit…here we come. The two brothers, Carl and David, formed the “Brady Research Bureau”. David, the engineer, in short order discovered that working in a shoe store would provide income, but also generate new concepts, perhaps patentable engineering ideas about improving the design, materials, comfort and possible manufacturing of footwear.

  That led to an interest in improving the safety of foot ware for athletes. The first major patent came in 1935 when he and the Detroit Lions trainer Abe Kushner co-designed a shoe that increased walking comfort and style for everyone. That led to new patents for a "safety" baseball shoe and a similar football shoe that were used by professional teams in 1939.


  The diverse interests and focus of Carl and David resulted in separate research opportunities. David continued his work on sports ideas. The Detroit Lions All Star lineman, Jack Johnson, adopted David's more effective and safer knee-brace. That patent was followed by a modern football helmet to compete with the recently designed helmet by Riddell.

  During WWII David while still in the shoe business, volunteered to work in the medical research department of Detroit’s Wayne College, now known as Wayne State University. That relationship generated his most important and successful idea…a surgical bandage that would not stick to a soldier’s burns. During the war, it is estimated that tens of thousands of lives were helped by this incredible advancement.

  Following the war, David's broadening contacts reinforced that he was achieving success on two fronts, he especially enjoyed his evenings working on ideas that would improve lives. His day job and his wife Mary’s job at Packard Motor Car Company gave them the resources and confidence to think "outside-the-box".

  It doesn’t get more diverse that being a sales person for Matthew Bender, a publisher of law libraries and other professional publications. Once again serendipity brought him the opportunity to help someone who went on to distinguish himself. Richard Austin, a young law/accounting graduate didn’t have the resources to buy the requisite library of law books. David loaned Austin the money to start his practice.

  Richard Austin went on to serve as Michigan’s Secretary of State for over 20 years. Some years later while lecturing at Wayne State I had the pleasure of meeting Austin, when he learned of the connection with my father, David Ralph Brady, he expressed emotional and heartfelt gratitude for his help in starting his career.

  When a career is spent “tinkering” with ideas that can make a difference, even a small difference, it builds confidence and contacts. Others seek you out knowing that sometimes a breakthrough comes from a minor change in design.

  In the late ‘50s David formed a new company Brands Laboratories Inc. that continued until his death in 1966. He was working on a refinement of a system that would bring real wood back into the interior of high-end vehicles, and the use of black-light for outdoor signs, and the value of upgraded insulation for rail-road cars.

  His eternal curiosity, his “drive” was the core essence of David Ralph Brady. It seems to be a trait that is part of his children and subsequently their children. It seemed to come naturally rather than from a job description. I’ve benefitted from his trait, as have my children. My most predominant and prevailing memory is that he was curious and fidgety, a busy, busy man, always seeking an opportunity for creative improvement. It provided satisfaction and reward.

  That “creative essence” is what prompted The David R. Brady Scholarship at the Wayne State University Medical School for students targeting “Sports Medicine”.



Read an article about David R. Brady that was published in Wayne State University's MEDLegacy.


David's Story Continues. Next: Baseball

  • 2/5/14 UPDATE: Be sure to read our revised introduction. Plus, images of Brands Laboratories business card added.
  • 11/1/14 UPDATE: New updates and information has been added to the Football and Baseball sections of the website.
  • 2/4/14 UPDATE: Read the recent article published in Wayne State University's MEDLegacy about David R. Brady, titled "Rennasiance Mystery Man". Click here
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