Remembering William Jennings Bryan
It might surprise you to learn that I feel a lot of affection for William Jennings Bryan.
Bryan, who died 80 years ago today, is best remembered for being on the wrong side of the evolution-creation debate in the Scopes Monkey Trial. But Bryan's heart was in the right place; remember that in those days evolution was often championed by those who thought it somehow proved that light-skinned people were superior to dark-skinned people.
Among the issues where I believe Bryan is on the right side of history are women's suffrage, direct election of senators, and an income tax where the rich pay more than the poor. Inherit the Wind was a fictional play (its writers tried to make that perfectly clear by changing the Bryan-like character's name to Matthew Harrison Brady) that made no claims of historical accuracy, and yet many people alive today think it portrays an accurate picture of the man. It would be great for more people today to learn more about Bryan's life. A good place to start is at the Smithsonian Archives.