High school dropout becomes ‘Jeopardy!’ champ

David Bradley, an Atlanta carpenter and writer, and also a high school dropout, is the new “Jeopardy!” champion.

Bradley beat an emergency room physician and a naval officer to win in Friday’s episode.

Competing on "Jeopardy!" was a life-long dream for Bradley, who has taken an unlikely path to earn a coveted spot in the country’s popular and highly competitive quiz show. Bradley, 55, is a high school dropout. He was kicked out of high school for skipping too many classes. His senior year GPA was 1.6.

Bradley will try to hold onto his championship status 7:30 p.m. Monday.

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On Friday night, Bradley was first to press the buzzer on the first clue in a “literary military” category: In 1968, Richard Hooker published this book subtitled, “A Novel about Three Army doctors.”

Bradley responded correctly: “What is 'MASH'?”

He continued to do well in the quiz show where all of the answers come in the form of a question. He didn’t hesitate when Vice President Joe Biden himself (via video) provided a clue about portraits in his office in the West Wing featuring the country’s first two vice presidents. Bradley pressed the buzzer: “John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.”

He entered the final clue with $17,000, and holding onto a relatively modest lead over his competition. He was one of two contestants to correctly answer the clue about classical music. (Clue: This is the title of a ceremonial march comes from a line in Shakespeare that continues "of Glorious War!" Answer: Pomp and Circumstance). He bet $10,000, bringing his total winnings to $27,000. In the end, he beat the reigning champion by just $200. But it was enough.

Although Bradley can not reveal how he does in future shows, he said in a recent interview the experience gave him an even deeper appreciation for the game show.

“The experience left me with such respect for the crew, the other contestants who were all so wickedly smart,” he said in an interview. “I watch it now with increased respect.”

He also demonstrated just how much knowledge a person can acquire even if one doesn’t follow a traditional path of going to school.

Although he was uninterested in school as a teenager, he always had a thirst for knowledge and a love for reading. After high school, he worked in construction, and for several years he worked hanging sheet rock. All the while, he frequented yard sales and thrift stores, buying books on a variety of subjects. Many, he said, turned out to be college text books — science, history, physics. He read them all.

He also watched "Jeopardy!" almost every week night, answering the questions with ease.

“It would be after work, and I would be on the couch drinking beer and watching 'Jeopardy!' and my buddies would say to me, ‘You should go on the show,’” he recalled.

Twenty-five years ago, long before interested contestants took online tests, Bradley did in fact fill out a 3-by-5 index card indicating his interest in being on "Jeopardy!," but never heard back.

By the time Bradley was in his 40s, he found himself getting laid off repeatedly. He decided it was time to carve out a new profession. At age 45, he started going to college. He graduated from Georgia State University when he was 50. Inspired by a history class during his senior year, he wrote the book “Martyrs of Guale: An Addison Kane History-Mystery,” which is available on Amazon.

He continued to work in construction, mainly as a carpenter, while also devoting many hours to writing. He also continued to watch "Jeopardy!" almost every week night.

About a year ago, Bradley took the "Jeopardy!" online test, one of the of tens of thousands of people across the country who take the test every year.

He also enjoyed meeting Trebek, the host of the show in its 32nd season in syndication, with 25 million viewers each week.

“Alex is as warm and genuine and funny and human as you wished he would be,” he said.

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