Bryan's Heritage

William Jennings Bryan University was chartered in 1930 and admitted its first class in the fall of that year. Its stated purpose was, and is, to provide “for the higher education of men and women under auspices distinctly Christian and spiritual.” In 1958 its name was changed to William Jennings Bryan College and in 1993 was shortened to Bryan College.

The Timeline

July 1925
Dayton, TN
Why Dayton?
Why Dayton sign

William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) came to Dayton in 1925 for the Scopes Evolution Trial when he expressed the wish that a school that would teach truth from a Biblical perspective might be established on one of Dayton’s scenic hills.

July 10-21, 1925
Rhea County Courthouse
World's Most Famous Court Trial
Rhea County Courthouse Trail

By far the most celebrated court case in Rhea County and perhaps in all of Tennessee history was the case of the State of Tennessee vs. John Thomas Scopes, which took place in Dayton's Rhea County Courthouse.

July 10, 1925
Dayton, TN
The Scopes Trial begins.
William Jennings Bryan
William Jennings Bryan
July 19, 1925
Dayton, TN
The Verdict

John Scopes is pronounced guilty and fined $100.00.

July 26, 1925
Dayton, TN
Post-Trial (Bryan's Death)
Post Trail Newspaper

On Sunday, July 26th, Bryan drove from Chattanooga to Dayton, was called upon to deliver the morning prayer at the First Southern Methodist Church, and that afternoon died in his sleep. Five days later he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery underneath the inscription “He kept the Faith.” 

August 8, 1925
Dayton, TN
William Jennings Bryan Memorial Association
William Jennings Memorial Association

Following Mr. Bryan’s death in Dayton on July 26, 1925, a national memorial association was formed to raise funds for the establishment of an educational institution in Bryan’s honor to be located in Dayton, Tennessee.

January 1, 1930
Dayton, TN
Beginnings and Beliefs
Beginning of Bryan College

William Jennings Bryan University is chartered. The first class is admitted that fall. The name was changed to William Jennings Bryan College in 1958 and was shortened to Bryan College in 1993.