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Kelly Bryant (August 28, 1908 – October 1975) served as the Democratic secretary of state of the U.S. state of Arkansas from 1963 until his death nearly thirteen years later. He was one of three statewide politicians born in Hope, the seat of Hempstead County, in southern Arkansas. The others are former Governor and U.S. President Bill Clinton and former Governor and unsuccessful 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Kelly Bryant
Arkansas Secretary of State
In office
January 1963 – October 1975
GovernorOrval Faubus
Winthrop Rockefeller
Dale Bumpers
Preceded byNancy J. Hall
Succeeded byGeorge O. Jernigan Jr.
Personal details
Born(1908-08-28)August 28, 1908
Hope, Hempstead County
Arkansas, USA
DiedOctober 1975 (aged 67)
Place of death missing
Resting placeMemory Gardens Cemetery in Hope, Arkansas
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Sutton Bryant
ChildrenBetty Bryant Brockway
One of three statewide Arkansas politicians born in Hope

Defeating four RepublicansEdit

Bryant was elected to seven two-year terms as secretary of state, Arkansas' principal record-keeping agency, which processes election returns. Usually the office attracts little attention from the public or the media.

In 1964, when U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Governor Orval E. Faubus were elected, Bryant defeated the little-known Republican challenger, Charles R. Watson of Arkadelphia, the seat of Clark County in south Arkansas. Bryant received 389,295 votes (73.1 percent) to Watson's 143,263 (26.9 percent). Watson won only in often Republican-leaning Searcy County in the northwestern portion of the state.

In 1968, Bryant faced a stronger Republican candidate in Lynn A. Davis, who ran on the Winthrop Rockefeller ticket. Though Rockefeller narrowly won his second term, the Democrat Bryant defeated Davis, who would later be the United States Marshal for the Eastern District of Arkansas and had been Rockefeller's choice to head the Arkansas state police. The Arkansas State Senate, however, refused to confirm Davis' appointment. Bryant received 320,203 votes (54.7 percent) to Davis' 265,510 (45.3 percent). Davis won thirteen of the state's seventy-five counties.

In 1970, Bryant defeated the Republican former State Representative Jim Sheets of Benton County in far northwestern Arkansas. Bryant polled 360,209 votes (62.3 percent) to Sheets' 217,752 (37.7 percent). Sheets won only in Searcy and Benton counties. It was a particularly Democratic year both nationally and in Arkansas, as newcomer Dale Bumpers ended Governor Rockefeller's political career.

In 1972, Bryant defeated Jerome F. "Jerry" Climer, the former clerk of Pulaski County, which includes the capital city of Little Rock. Bryant received 366,079 votes (59.4 percent) to Climer's 250,532 (40.6 percent). Climer carried only two counties, Searcy and his own Pulaski. In the campaign, Climer questioned why Mrs. Bryant was hired as a $11,500-per-year employee in the secretary of state's office. Climer had been appointed to fill the vacancy as clerk late in 1970 shortly before Rockefeller vacated the governorship. Climer, who has extensive credentials in the field of public administration, served as an aide to two Arkansas congressmen and went on to establish two Washington, D.C.-based "think tanks", the Congressional Institute and the Public Governance Institute.

Bryant won his first, third, and last terms as secretary of state in 1962, 1966, and 1974, respectively, without Republican opposition. No Republican held the office since Reconstruction until 2010, with the election of Mark Martin, a former state representative from Prairie Grove in Washington County.

Personal lifeEdit

Grave of Kelly Bryant in Memory Gardens Cemetery south of Hope

Bryant was married to the former Elizabeth Sutton (February 19, 1912 - July 7, 1997), a native of Marianna, the seat of Lee County along the Mississippi River in eastern Arkansas. She was the daughter of O. C. Sutton and the former Florence Dorsett. Mrs. Bryant, like her husband, had resided for many years in Hope and Little Rock, where she worked in various capacities in the state capital, including the offices of the secretary of state, state treasurer, and Arkansas General Assembly. Mrs. Bryant graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1934 and was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Business and Professional Women's Club, Arkansas Democratic Women, Junior Auxiliary, the Cosmopolitan Club, and the Arkansas Historical Society.

Mrs. Bryant died in a nursing home in Murray, Kentucky, the residence of their daughter, Betty Bryant Brockway. The Bryants, who were Methodist, are interred at Memory Gardens Cemetery south of Hope.


Election Statistics, 1968, 1970, 1972, Little Rock: Secretary of State

Political offices
Preceded by
Nancy J. Hall
Secretary of State of Arkansas
Succeeded by
George O. Jernigan Jr.