A Godly Hero (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
Michael Kazin wants to rescue William Jennings Bryan’s popular image. Historians have long been aware of the progressive reforms Bryan supported during his years on the national political scene. However, few rate his achievements as favorably as Kazin, whose narrative of Bryan’s positive contributions to American political life is a valuable corrective to most Americans’ image of Bryanif they remember him at allas the bigoted fundamentalist portrayed in Jerome Lawrence’s frequently revived play Inherit the Wind (1955).
Bryan grew up in southern Illinois, where his father, a small-town lawyer and judge, inculcated Christian religion and ethics in his son. Kazin stresses throughout his biography that Bryan’s reform ideas stemmed from his religious beliefs, not from secular sources. In 1881 he graduated from Illinois College in Jacksonville, where studying geology and biology briefly shook his belief in biblical inerrancy; in 1883 he graduated from Union College of Law in Chicago. In 1884 Bryan married Mary Baird; they had three children. Unlike most women of the time, Mary continued her education after marriage, studying law and being admitted to the Nebraska bar in 1888, after the family moved there. She was a significant partner and helpmate to Bryan throughout his political career.
In 1890 Bryan won election as a representative in a year when Democrats took control of the House. Half of the Representatives were freshmen,...
(The entire section is 1816 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
Booklist 102, no. 11 (February 1, 2006): 18.
Christianity Today 50, no. 6 (June, 2006): 64-65.
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(The entire section is 62 words.)