In June 1965, Ev Cooper’s Life Extension Society (LES) offered the opportunity to preserve one person free of charge, stating that "the Life Extension Society now has primitive facilities for emergency short term freezing and storing our friend the large homeotherm (man). LES offers to freeze free of charge the first person desirous and in need of cryogenic suspension." Bedford did not take this opportunity, however, but later used his own funds. Bedford suffered from kidney cancer that had later metastasized into his lungs, a condition that was untreatable at the time. Bedford left $100,000 to cryonics research in his will, but more than this amount was utilized by Bedford's wife and son in court, having to defend his will and his cryopreservation due to arguments created by other relatives.
Bedford's body was frozen a few hours after his death due to natural causes related to his cancer. His body was preserved by Robert Prehoda (author of the 1969 book Suspended Animation), Dr.
Dante Brunol (physician and biophysicist) and Robert Nelson (President of the
Cryonics Society of California). Nelson then wrote a book about the subject titled We Froze the First Man. Compared to those employed by modern cryonics organizations, the use of cryoprotectants in Bedford's case was primitive. He was injected with dimethyl sulfoxide, a compound once thought to be useful for long-term cryogenics, so it is unlikely that his brain was protected. Vitrification was not yet possible, further limiting the possibility of Bedford's eventual recovery. In his first suspended animation stages, his body was stored at Edward Hope's Cryo-Care facility in Phoenix, Arizona, for two years, then in 1969 moved to the Galiso facility in California. Bedford's body was moved from Galiso in 1973 to Trans Time near Berkeley, California, until 1977, before being stored by his son for many years.
Bedford's body was maintained in liquid nitrogen by his family in southern California until 1982, when it was then moved to Alcor Life Extension Foundation, and has remained in Alcor's care to the present day. In May 1991, his body's condition was evaluated when he was moved to a new storage dewar. The examiners concluded that "it seems likely that his external temperature has remained at relatively low subzero temperatures throughout the storage interval." The date of Bedford's cryopreservation, January 12th, is now known as "James Bedford Day", and is celebrated every year.