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William Jennings Bryan Passes Away

Today in Masonic History William Jennings Bryan passes away in 1925.

William Jennings Bryan was a American politician.

Bryan was born in Salem, Illinois. Until the age of 10 Bryan was home schooled. At the age of 14, Bryan was sent to Whipple Academy in Jacksonville, Illinois. Also at the age of 14, he was baptized in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Of his baptism he would later say it was the most important day in his life. Bryan attended Illinois College and graduated in 1881. During his time at Illinois College, Bryan was a member of Acacia Fraternity, a Masonic affiliated fraternity.

While studying for the bar, Bryan would teach school. He would begin practicing law in 1883 before moving to Lincoln, Nebraska.

In the 1890 Democratic Landslide, Bryan was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He would be reelected again in 1892. In 1890, the prohibitionist movement had begun and Bryan was a part of it.

In 1896, Bryan started his first of three attempts to become President of the United States. In his campaign, Bryan displayed an innate talent for oratory. He would give many speeches about his belief that the Silver Standard should be brought back in the country. In his "Cross of Gold" speech he attacked wealthy easterners who, in Bryan's opinion, cared nothing for the working class people of the mid-west. He would receive the Democratic nomination for President, he was and continues to be the youngest nominee of any major political party at the age of 36.

In 1900, Bryan would run for the second time for President. This time he ran on an anti-imperialism platform. Republicans would mock Bryan as indecisive and a coward. L. Frank Baum satirized Bryan viciously when he based the Cowardly Lion from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Bryan. Bryan would lose the 1900 election and his control in the Democratic party would be weakened.

In 1908, Bryan made his final run for the White House. He campaigned, among other things, against corporate domination, urging that all corporation contributions be made public before election day, and that failure to cooperate be made a penal offense. Over all three presidential elections, Bryan received 493 electoral votes, the most of any candidate in American history who never won the presidency.

From 1913 to 1915 Bryan would serve as Secretary of State for Woodrow Wilson.

Starting in 1916, Bryan would campaign for Women's suffrage and for prohibition. In 1918 Bryan helped to pass the 18th Amendment prohibiting alcohol in the United States. In 1920, Bryan refused to support the Democratic candidate for president since he felt the man was "not dry enough".

In 1918, along with the 18th Amendment, Bryan became an anti-evolution activist. Bryan opposed Darwinian evolution in part because of his creationist beliefs. He also felt that Darwinism had a social element, that it involved the stronger (or wealthier) parts of society pushing out the weaker (or poor) parts of society. Bryan lobbied states to not teach evolution in the class room. He also participated in the 1925 Scopes Trial.

Bryan would pass away just five days after the Scopes Trial ended on July 26, 1925. He would pass away from diabetes and fatigue.

Bryan was a member of Lincoln Lodge No. 19, Lincoln, Nebraska.