(28.) WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN (1860-1925)
“The Silver Tongued Orator of the Platte”
Democrat Bryan/Arthur Sewall, 1896-Bryan/Adlai Stevenson, 1900
Defeated by Republican William McKinley/Garret Hobart, 1896
and McKinley/Theodore Roosevelt, 1900

After graduation from law school, Bryan moved to Nebraska and took great interest in the political life of the state. His talent as a speaker made him prominent in the Democrat Party and he was elected to Congress and identified himself with the Silver Bloc. He was a power in the party for 30 years, although he was defeated for the senate and in subsequent elections. His famous “Cross of Gold” speech won him the Democratic nomination for president. In the campaign Bryan made 600 speeches in 27 states, many of which advocated free coinage of silver. He also talked anti-imperialism and the League of Nations.

Bryan served as Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson, but he was a zealous pacifist and resigned as protest against Wilson’s Lusitania policy.

Bryan was editor of the Omaha World Herald and he had a long association with the Chautauqua, appearing on its programs all around the country. He gained widespread publicity in prosecution of J. T. Scopes in Tennessee, who had violated a state law by teaching evolution in the public schools. It was there that Bryan confronted the famous district attorney, Clarence Darrow. Bryan’s religion was Fundamentalist. He died five days after the Scopes trial closed.