Bryan descendants impressed with visit to college, Dayton
May 19, 2010
Eighty-five years after William Jennings Bryan died in Dayton, two of his great-grandsons including one bearing his name, visited the town forever linked with Bryan’s last crusade.
From left are Dr. Livesay, Bill Forsyth, and Al Forsyth, pictured with a bust of the Forsyth's great-grandfather William Jennings Bryan.
William Jennings Bryan “Bill” Forsyth of Albuquerque, N.M., and his older brother, Al Forsyth of Logan, Utah, came to Dayton to visit Bryan College, the Rhea County Courthouse and other sites connected with their great-grandfather’s visit in 1925.
Al explained that this is the fifth trip the two have made in recent years, combining their love of exploring America’s back roads with efforts to learn something about their famous ancestor. This was Al’s second trip to Dayton, having visited with his family in the mid-1990s.
“I was impressed with how the museum (in the courthouse) has grown,” he said. “It’s very nice.”
They met with Bryan College President Dr. Stephen D. Livesay, who discussed plans to create a museum devoted to honoring Mr. Bryan, for whom the college is named. “I invited them to come back and bring their families when we dedicate the museum,” Dr. Livesay said. “They seemed eager to do that.”
The brothers reminisced about their grandfather, William Jennings Bryan Jr., whom they called “Pippi.” “Pippi told us of taking a recording of his father’s voice to a recording studio and having them analyze it to see if they could find anything unusual,” Al said. “He was very excited to tell us that (Bryan Senior) had a unique voice with no bass tones. It rang like a bell, so it would carry very far.”
Bill added that when their mother was a young girl, Bryan Jr. took her to hear his father speak. “She and Pippi were walking about three blocks away, and she said she could hear him very well.”
More closely related to Dayton, the brothers said their grandfather didn’t talk too much about his father or the Scopes Trial. But he did tell them about his going swimming with John Scopes and members of Scopes’ defense team during breaks in the trial, even though Bryan Jr. helped with the prosecution.
When the movie “Inherit the Wind” was released, Bill said his mother told them that because of the portrayal of the elder Bryan, “the family was leaning toward bringing a lawsuit for defamation against the producers, but didn’t.”
Before leaving the Bryan campus, they visited the college archives which include pictures and artifacts related to William Jennings Bryan. One picture they had never seen before caught their attention because it shows their mother standing beside William Jennings Bryan at his outdoor Sunday school class in Miami, Fla.
Bill complimented the college’s Bryan collection, and laughed that it is housed in the same room as a collection of writings by journalist H.L. Mencken, who had a deep animosity toward Mr. Bryan.
Following their visit to the college, the Forsyths had lunch at the Magnolia House with Chancellor Jeff Stewart, whose grandfather Tom Stewart was the lead prosecutor during the Scopes Trial, and with Tony McCuiston, who for 19 years portrayed Clarence Darrow in Dayton’s Scopes Trial reenactment.