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Bryant William Bailey (July 29, 1868 – February 3, 1961)[1][2] was a businessman, politician, and journalist who became a leading figure during the 1890s in the short-lived Populist Party in the U.S. state of Louisiana.

Bryant William Bailey
Sheriff of Winn Parish, Louisiana
In office
June 24, 1908 – 1912
Personal details
Born(1868-07-29)July 29, 1868
Winn Parish, Louisiana, USA
DiedFebruary 3, 1961(1961-02-03) (aged 92)
Political partyDemocratic-turned-Populist-returned-Democrat
Spouse(s)Penelope Dickerson Bailey
ResidenceWinnfield, Louisiana
OccupationBusinessman; Banker
Oilman; Journalist
After leaving the office of sheriff of Winn Parish, Bryant Bailey was vice-president and then president of the Bank of Winnfield from 1913 to 1933.

Early yearsEdit

Bailey was born and briefly educated in Winn Parish to immigrants from Georgia. In October 1890, he moved from his family property to the parish seat of Winnfield to become the manager of a branch store of the local Farmers Union Cooperative Association. By 1894, he was owner of the Bailey Hotel in Winnfield. In 1902, Bailey drilled the first oil well in Winn Parish,[3] a year after the first such structure had been undertaken in the state in 1901 near Jennings in Jeff Davis Parish in southwestern Louisiana.[4]

Populist PartyEdit

Prior to 1890, like most Louisiana voters at that time, Bailey was a Democrat. Thereafter, he joined the Populist Party, which claimed to represent the "common man" against the entrenched "interests." Soon Bailey emerged as a regional leader of the Populists. The party's Louisiana branch was organized on October 2, 1891, at a convention of delegates from seventeen parishes held in Alexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish in central Louisiana. In addition to Bailey, another leading Populist at the founding convention was Hardy L. Brian, a Grant Parish native then residing in Winnfield.[5]

The national Populists offered their first presidential nominee in 1892, General James B. Weaver of Iowa, who won four states, mostly in the American West. From 1893 to 1907,[3] Bailey edited his Winnfield Comrade newspaper in Winnfield, which became the ancestral home of the Democratic Long political faction.[6][7] Longism was considered an outgrowth of the early Populist movement; indeed some viewed Huey Pierce Long, Jr., as a "radical populist."[8]

In both 1894 and 1896, when the Populists endorsed the Democratic nominee, William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska, for U.S. President, Bailey was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States House of Representatives on the Populist ticket. In 1898, Bailey was the only Populist delegate to the Louisiana State Constitutional Convention held that year in Baton Rouge. He refused to sign the final document, which after ratification remained in effect until 1921.[6] This Constitution contained the grandfather clause allowing whites whose fathers or grandfathers were registered to vote as of January 1, 1867, to be exempt from the literacy test otherwise given to potential African American voters.[3] The grandfather clause, which spread to other states including Oklahoma, was subsequently struck down in 1915 in the case Guinn v. United States as a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[9]

Winnfield civic leaderEdit

By 1904, the Populist Party had disbanded. In 1908, Bailey was elected to a single term as a Democrat to the office of Winn Parish sheriff. In 1913, after his tenure as sheriff, Bailey began a 20-year stint as vice president and then president[3] of the Bank of Winnfield.[6] Bailey also worked to establish the Northwest Louisiana Game and Fish Preserve. He obtained state legislative funds to build a dam on Saline Lake, a part of Saline Bayou near the boundary of Winn and Natchitoches parishes.[3][10] Bailey worked for improved roads and was partly instrumental in securing the wide city streets of Winnfield. He was influential in removing livestock from municipal streets.[3]

Bailey was a member of the Methodist Church and the Masonic lodge. He and his wife, the former Penelope Dickerson (January 30, 1872–February 25, 1961), are interred at the Winnfield City Cemetery. Mrs. Bailey died twenty-two days after her husband's death. There is no indication of any children.[11]


  1. ^ Winnfield City Cemetery records, Winnfield, Louisiana
  2. ^ A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography lists Bailey's lifespan as 1866– February 5, 1962.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Zachariah and Bryant Bailey". Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  4. ^ "Heywood, Walter Scott". A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography. Louisiana Historical Association. Archived from the original on 2010-02-25. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  5. ^ "Joel Sipress, "A Narrowing of Vision: Hardy L. Brian and the Fate of Louisiana Populism"". Archived from the original on 2008-11-23. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c "Bailey, Bryant W." Louisiana Historical Association, A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography. Archived from the original on 2010-10-13. Retrieved February 4, 2011. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  7. ^ A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography in its sketch of Bailey uses Elizabeth Daniel, "The Louisiana People's Party," Louisiana Historical Quarterly, XXVI (1943) and William Ivy Hair, Bourbonism and Agrarian Protest: Louisiana Politics, 1877-1900 (1969).
  8. ^ "History: Huey Long". Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  9. ^ "Guinn v. United States (1915)". Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  10. ^ "Saline Lake and Saline Bayou". Archived from the original on 2011-04-11. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  11. ^ "Winnfield City Cemetery". Retrieved February 4, 2011.