Lillard gift boosts Bryan collection

June 3, 2014

lillard1smOak Ridge attorney Harry Lillard has donated his collection about William Jennings Bryan to Bryan College, noting the college’s commitment to honor the legacy of Mr. Bryan.

Attorney Harry Lillard stands with a portrait
of William Jennings Bryan and books he recently
donated to Bryan College.

Mr. Lillard said his grandfather began the collection when he purchased Bryan’s first book, The First Battle, an account of Bryan’s first campaign for the presidency in 1896. His grandfather, a businessman and lawyer in Benton, Tenn., attended the Scopes Trial in Dayton in 1925, where Bryan assisted the prosecution.

He pointed out that Bryan’s father, Silas Lillard Bryan, was a distant relative of his branch of the Lillard family, which helped spark interest in the famed statesman and orator.

While Mr. Lillard’s father was an engineer rather than a lawyer, he too shared an interest in Bryan and collected books about Bryan, passing them on to Mr. Lillard, who has practiced law in Oak Ridge for more than 50 years.

The family connection as well as their shared profession as lawyers piqued his interest in Bryan, he said.

When he realized his daughters did not share his interest, he decided to donate his collection to Bryan College. “I remembered that the citizens of Dayton had erected a college to Bryan’s memory and thought, ‘the perfect place for these is in the library of Bryan College.’ If my grandfather and father were living, they would agree that that’s the thing to do.”

Bryan President Stephen Livesay said Mr. Lillard’s gift is especially appreciated as the college seeks to enhance its Bryan-related resources. “Historians have described William Jennings Bryan as one of the most influential individuals in American history. Bryan College is planning to develop a museum and research center focusing on Mr. Bryan and his many contributions. Gifts such as this help bring that dream a step closer to reality.”