William Jennings Bryan


William Jennings Bryan : biography

March 19, 1860 – July 26, 1925


Bryan County, Oklahoma is named after him.Oklahoma Historical Society. , Chronicles of Oklahoma 2:1 (March 1924) 75-82 (retrieved August 18, 2006). Bryan Memorial Hospital (now [https://www.bryanlgh.org/ BryanLGH Medical Center]) in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Bryan College, located in Dayton, Tennessee, are also named for William Jennings Bryan. The William Jennings Bryan House in Nebraska was named a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1963. A $4,000 scholarship for Creighton University students participating in Speech and Debate at the university is named after William Jennings Bryan. The Bryan Home Museum is a by-appointment only museum at his birthplace in Salem, Illinois. Salem is also home to Bryan Park and a large statue of Bryan. Omaha Bryan High School and Bryan Middle School in Bellevue, Nebraska are named for him. He is also honored by having an elementary school in Mission, Texas named after him, Bryan Elementary School on a street named after him, Bryan Street.

Bryan was named to the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1971. A bust of him was dedicated as part of the Hall of Fame in 1974 which currently resides, like other members of the hall of fame, in the Nebraska State Capitol.

He has been honored by the United States Postal Service with a $2 Great Americans series postage stamp.

Background and early career: 1860–1896

William Jennings Bryan was born in Salem, Illinois on March 19, 1860, to Silas Lillard Bryan and Mariah Elizabeth (Jennings) Bryan.

Bryan’s mother was of English heritage. Mary Bryan joined the Salem Baptists in 1872, so Bryan attended Methodist services on Sunday morning, and in the afternoon, Baptist services. At this point, William began spending his Sunday afternoons at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. At age 14, Bryan attended a revival, was baptized, and joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In later life, Bryan said the day of his baptism was the most important day in his life, but at the time it caused little change in his daily routine. He later left the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and joined the larger Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.

His father, Silas Bryan, of Scots-Irish and English ancestry,Asked when his family "dropped the ‘O’" from his O’Bryan surname, he replied there never had been one. Bryan Memoirs of William Jennings Bryan; Kessinger p. 22-26. Likewise there never was a "T" at the end of the name. was an avid Jacksonian Democrat. Silas won election to the Illinois State Senate, but was defeated for re-election in 1860. He won election as a state circuit judge, and in 1866 moved to a farm north of Salem,Paolo E. Colletta, William Jennings Bryan: Colletta: Volume 1, Political Evangelist, 1860-1908 (University of Nebraska: Lincoln, 1964) pp. 3-4. living in a ten-room house that was the envy of Marion County.Paulo E. Colleta, William Jennings Bryan: Volume 1, Political Evangelist, 1860-1908, p. 5.

Until age ten, Bryan was home-schooled, finding in the Bible and McGuffey Readers support for his views that gambling and liquor were evil and sinful. To attend Whipple Academy, which was attached to Illinois College, Bryan was sent to Jacksonville, Illinois in 1874.

A young Bryan Following high school, he entered Illinois College, graduating as valedictorian in 1881. During his time at Illinois College, Bryan was a member of the Sigma Pi literary society. He studied law at Union Law College in Chicago (which later became Northwestern University School of Law). While preparing for the bar exam, he taught high school and met Mary Elizabeth Baird,Paulo E. Colletta, William Jennings Bryan: Volume I, Political Evangelist, 1860-1908, p. 21. a cousin of William Sherman Jennings. He married her on October 1, 1884,Paulo E. Colletta, William Jennings Bryan: Volume I, Political Evangelist, 1860-1908, p. 30. and they settled in Jacksonville, which at the time had a population of two thousand.

Mary became a lawyer and collaborated with him on all his speeches and writings. He practiced law in Jacksonville from 1883 to 1887, then moved to the boom city of Lincoln, Nebraska. In Lincoln, Bryan met James Dahlman and they became lifelong friends. As chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, Dahlman would help carry Nebraska for Bryan in two presidential campaigns. Even when Dahlman became closely associated with Omaha’s vice elements, including the breweries as the city’s eight-term mayor, he and Bryan maintained a collegial relationship.B.W. Folsom, No More Free Markets Or Free Beer: The Progressive Era in Nebraska, 1900–1924 (1999), pp. 57-59.

In the Democratic landslide of 1890, Bryan was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, from Nebraska’s First Congressional District. The growing prohibitionist movement entered the election of 1890 with its own slate of candidates. In the three-way race in the First Congressional District, Bryan received 6,713 more votes than his nearest opponent. This was a plurality of the vote and was 8,000 votes short of a majority of the vote. Nonetheless, Bryan was elected and was only the second Democrat to be elected to Congress in the history of Nebraska.Paulo E. Colletta, William Jennings Bryan: Volume I, Political Evangelist, 1860-1908., p. 48. However in his re-election race in 1892, Bryan was re-elected by a 140-vote majority in a two person race. He ran for the Senate in 1894, but a Republican landslide led to the state Legislature’s choice of a Republican for the Senate seat.