WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN, 1860-1925
- William Jennings Bryan was one of Nebraska's most influential politicians and a famous and powerful speaker. Born in Illinois, Bryan studied law in college and moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1887 to set up a law practice. In 1890 he was elected the first Democratic congressman from Nebraska. He was United States Secretary of State for President Woodrow Wilson from 1913 to 1915, and an editor of the Omaha World-Herald from 1894 to 1896. William Jennings Bryan was the candidate of the Democratic Party for president of the United States in 1896, 1900, and 1908, but he lost each time. Known as the "Great Commonor," Bryan showed his concern for the working man and woman by helping bring about several changes in the way our government works. Some of them are:
- Bryan was the first candidate for president to go out and meet the people during an election campaign. This was called "whistle-stop campaigning."
- Bryan wanted U.S. senators to be elected directly by the voters in each state instead of by state legislatures. The U.S. Constitution was amended in 1913 to let the people vote for senators.
- Bryan thought women should have the right to vote. By 1920 the Constitution had been amended so women could vote.
- Bryan believed the U.S. government should help make sure people's money would not be lost if banks went broke. In 1933 the U.S. Congress finally passed a law that provided government insurance for bank accounts.
In 1902 Bryan and his family built a house called "Fairview" in Lincoln. It is located on the grounds of Bryan Memorial Hospital and is open to the public.