Monday, January 29, 2007

An Apostle of the Past


Jan. 28, 1907
Los Angeles

William Jennings Bryan stepped from the Owl train to be greeted by a long-waiting crowd.

“In appearance, Mr. Bryan has changed but little since he was last in Los Angeles,” The Times says. “In his manner, also, there has been little, if any, change, and he greeted his friends with the same fervor and showed the same remarkable talent for remembering names.”

From the Arcade Station, Bryan and his wife were transported by auto to the home of Nathan Cole on Pasadena Avenue. They took the Mt. Lowe railway and in the evening, he addressed a capacity audience at Simpson Auditorium in a benefit for the Lark Ellen Home for Boys.

At 47, Bryan was no longer the fiery orator of his youth, The Times says. Instead, he was a gentle idealist who “talked of the thousand little things that had found his favor on five continents, and a packed audience listened with almost breathless attention.”

“They liked the esthetic idealism of this older Bryan,” The Times says of the audience. “All along the many curving rows of seats, there was a leaning forward, as if to catch some word that had been lost, and a whispering sigh of regret.”

“In soft, sweet periods, reminiscent of ‘Gray’s Elegy,’ he lauded the age of belief, the age of dreams. Touchingly, he quoted from John Boyle O’Reilly, ‘For the dreamer lives forever, but the toiler dies in a day.’ ”

“William Jennings Bryan, making a simple discourse of so pretentious a subject as ‘The Old World and Its Ways’ showed himself still, as in the promulgation of strong beliefs that lie near his heart, the apostle of the past.”

The next day, there was a trip to Santa Catalina Island for the Bryans and 100 guests, followed by banquet hosted by local Democrats. Before leaving for Salt Lake City, he addressed the students of Polytechnic High School and attended a reception at the Chamber of Commerce.

Eighteen years later, Bryan and Clarence Darrow met in Dayton, Tenn., for the Scopes Monkey Trial. He died two days after the trial’s conclusion.

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