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William James Bryan

William James Bryan (October 10, 1876 – March 22, 1908) was an American politician, attorney, and prosecutor who was a Democratic U.S. Senator from the American state of Florida. Bryan's stint in the Senate was brief, having been appointed to fill a vacancy the day after Christmas of 1907 — less than three months before his own death at the age of 31.

William James Bryan
United States Senator
from Florida
In office
December 26, 1907 – March 22, 1908
Preceded byStephen Mallory II
Succeeded byWilliam H. Milton
Personal details
Born(1876-10-10)October 10, 1876
Orange County, Florida (now Lake County, Florida)
DiedMarch 22, 1908(1908-03-22) (aged 31)
Washington, D.C.
Political partyDemocratic


Early yearsEdit

William James Bryan was born in Orange County, Florida, (now Lake County, Florida) on October 10, 1876. He was the son of a planter named John Milton Bryan and his wife, the former Louise Margaret Norton.[1] Bryan counted one of his great, great grandfathers as an early pioneer from England to the Province of North Carolina.[1] His grandfather had first moved from North Carolina to Florida and his father had become prominent in the politics of the state.[1]

Bryan attended public schools, graduating from Osceola High School of Kissimmee, Florida.[1] He studied extensively at home and gained admission to Emory College in Oxford, Georgia (forerunner of today's Emory University) at the age of 16.[1] Bryan graduated from Emory with a B.A. degree in 1896.[1]

Following graduation, Bryan taught school for one year and worked on a plantation for another, all the while studying for law school.[1] Bryan then enrolled in the law department of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, from which he graduated in 1899.[2]

Bryan was admitted to the bar later in 1899 and began the practice of law in Jacksonville, Florida.[2] Bryan initially opened a partnership but separated from his partner to open his own private office the following year.[1]

In 1903 Bryan married Janet G. Allan, the daughter of a staff officer to Stonewall Jackson during the American Civil War who had gone on to become a mathematics professor at Washington and Lee University.[1] The couple had two children.[1]

Political careerEdit

In 1902 Bryan was elected as Duval County solicitor in its Criminal Court of Record.[2] He was re-elected to this office in 1906, remaining in that capacity throughout 1907.[1] Bryan assumed office in May 1903 and took action to ensure the enforcement of the Florida legislature's prohibition against Sunday operation of saloons and oversaw a crackdown against gambling in Jacksonville.[3]

Bryan achieved prominence in the Florida Democratic Party during this interval, serving on the party's State Committee and elected as a delegate to the 1904 Democratic National Convention in St. Louis, Missouri.[1]

On December 26, 1907, Bryan was appointed to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Stephen Mallory II.[2] Bryan traveled to Washington, DC to take the seat on January 8, 1908,[4] thereby becoming the second youngest member in the body's history, following Henry Clay.[2]

Death and legacyEdit

About a month after his arrival in the nation's capital,[4] Bryan was stricken with typhoid fever, an illness which caused his premature death on March 22, 1908, at the age of 31.[2] Bryan was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida.[2]

Bryan's older brother, Nathan Philemon Bryan (1872–1935), would be elected to the United States Senate in 1910 and served a full term in Washington before becoming a Federal Circuit Court judge.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "William James Bryan," National Cyclopedia of American Biography: Volume 14. New York: James T. White and Co., 1910; pp. 236-237.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "William James Bryan," Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-Present. United States Congress,
  3. ^ James Taliaferro, "Address of Mr. Taliaferro of Florida," William James Bryan (Late a Senator from Florida): Memorial Addresses, 60th Congress, 1st Session: Senate of the United States, May 2, 1908; House of Representatives, May 3, 1908. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1909; p. 43.
  4. ^ a b Taliaferro, "Address of Mr. Taliaferro of Florida," p. 44.
  5. ^ "Nathan Philemon Bryan," United States Congress,

Further readingEdit