DAYTON, Tenn., July 27, 1925 (UP) - William Jennings Bryan, the crusader - grim of feature in death as he was in life - rests today in the camp of his friends and followers here, the victim of his last great battle.
The city of Dayton, its stores closed in honor of his memory, and its people offering as one whatever aid is possible for the stricken widow, is in mourning.
Today the great Commoner, whose voice for 30 years has winged to the far reaches of the earth the doctrines he has espoused, lies on an undertaker's cot in the home of his friend, Richard Rodgers.
Tomorrow the body will lie "in state" in the parlor of the Rodgers' home, where all who but a few days ago trudged in from far and near to see him fight in the Scopes trial, may pay him final homage in death.
Wednesday his widow will take him to Washington for funeral on the green slopes of Arlington Cemetery, last resting place of many American heroes.
The Southern Railway offered to furnish a special train for the trip to Washington but Mrs. Bryan declined. "It would be too much show," she said simply. So the body will be taken in her care on a special car only.
The funeral service in Washington probably will be held Friday.
Bryan's body was discovered prone on the bed of his room, when James St. Cartney his chauffer went to waken him shortly after 4 o'clock. A call to Mr. Bryan brought no response. Examination disclosed that death had killed the golden voice and the vigorous character which had thrilled American politics since that day in 1896 when the boy orator from the Platte made the spectacular "cross of gold" speech on free silver that suddenly brought him national fame and the nomination for the presidency.
Sunday morning, Mr. Bryan opened with prayer the services of the First Methodist Church south of Dayton. He appeared in good health, wearied by his fight of the last two weeks, but with the fire of the crusader still flaming in his speech. Returning to the Rogers home, he ate a heavy dinner. He complained afterward that he was tired and sleepy, so he went to his bedroom for a nap. That was some time after 2 o'clock. Two physicians who were called as soon as his death was discovered, Dr. A.C. Broyles and Dr. W.F. Thomason, said that he probably had been dead for an hour.
Sue Hicks and John McCartney, Bryan's chauffeur, were the last to converse with Bryan before his death.
"About 1:45, Mr. Bryan called me on the telephone and we talked for a few minutes" Hicks said. "He had prepared and was having printed in booklet form a speech to be presented to the Scopes jury in case the necessity should arise.
"Bryan conversed freely about his speech and said he was having several copies sent me for distribution among friends. Near the end of our conversation Mr. Bryan complained of feeling ill, but passed it off lightly with the remark that he would be fit as a fiddle after a few hours sleep.
"I offered to have a physician visit him, but he laughed and said there was no need for any alarm. 'It's just a little bad feeling, Sue,' he told me. 'I'll be all right in a few minutes.'
"We hung up and the next I heard he was dead."
Bryan occupied a room in Roger's one-story house and slept in a room connected with the front porch, Hicks said. When the Commoner retired, at about 2 p.m. his wife seated herself on the front porch to read the newspapers.
Approximately half an hour later Mrs. Bryan heard a faint groan in her husband's room and went to investigate. With her went McCartney, the chauffeur and Bryan's personal attendant.
Bryan seemed to be asleep and when aroused expressed surprise at the alarm.
"I must be talking in my sleep," Mrs. Bryan said he told her with a laugh.
At the insistence of McCartney and Mrs. Bryan, Bryan allowed cool cloths to be placed on his head and then urged them out of the room.
"Better wake up about 4 o'clock," he told them.
Mrs. Bryan returned to the porch and her paper, taking up a seat where her husband as he lay in bed was visible through a screen door. Frequently she would turn and look to see if he was all right.
Bryan apparently slept soundly. Tiptoed visits of Mrs. Bryan to the door served only to strengthen her belief that her husband slept and was in reality, as he had so firmly protested, "perfectly all right."
Shortly before 4 p.m. the champion of the common people, who had thrilled Dayton to applause when he rose in the courtroom and plead that Christianity should prevail, lay in his bed, still apparently asleep, and his wife turned to her papers, content that her husband had recovered completely from his slight indisposition.
A few minutes after 4, McCartney entered Bryan's room and called him. The Commoner did not awake and McCartney shook him.
"He didn't awaken, so I shook him again," McCartney told the United News. "Then I placed my hand on his forehead to see if he was all right and he felt cold to my touch.
"I jerked the sheet aside and felt his face. It was cold, and then I knew he was dead.
"Mrs. Bryan sat just outside the door reading and I called her. 'Mrs. Bryan, I'm afraid something has happened to Mr. Bryan,' I told her.
"She dropped her papers and her face went white. She knew he was dead before she came in and touched him.
"Darling, Darling," she called and went to his side and shook him. He didn't answer and she fell across the bed, crying. I went in and helped her away and out on the porch, where she dropped into a chair, I yelled for Mr. Hicks and some of the others - I don't remember it all very distinctly, it was such a shock - and somebody, I don't know who, came running.
"His lawyer friends went into his room and came out solemn faced. One of them cried a little. We called a doctor, but he couldn't do anything but tell us something we already knew, that Mr. Bryan was dead."
After an examination the physician pronounced Bryan's death due to a stroke of apoplexy.
The sheer was pulled over his face while the physician turned his attention to Mrs. Bryan, who was near collapse. After the first hysterical outburst Mrs. Bryan bore up bravely and in an adjoining room lay faintly sobbing in bed while preliminary arrangements were made for disposition of her husband's body.
Bryan's death was as great a shock to Dayton as to the woman who had fought patently by his side during his many years of battle.
News of the catastrophe - it was that to Dayton - spread like fire before a stiff wind, and a few moments after the discovery had been made a silent crowd stood solemnly about the residence.
E.E. Robinson, at whose soda fount Bryan had sipped sodas when the heat made the fighting of his last battle doubly hard, was in the first little group to gather before the house where Bryan had died.
Reverently, he passed the news to passersby and before many minutes the crowd had swollen to a large gathering. Inquiries were made and sympathies expressed, and still the crowd lingered on seemingly unable to comprehend the import of this latest development which had placed Dayton so prominently before the world.
The famous Scopes evolution case, with its charges, countercharges and sensational high spots was forgotten while the fact of Bryan's death was silently borne home to the people who gave him his last adulation.
Bryan's followers on the little mountain town greatly outnumbered those in opposition to his views, but among the group outside the Roger's home were to be seen those few of the mountain villagers who had opposed him.
All bowed respectfully in the presence of the death of the Commoner and forgot for the moment their differences.
The Commoner put in an unusually hard day Saturday, which may have been an immediate contribution cause to his death.
With Mrs. Bryan and McCardy, he drove to Winchester, 100 miles away, speaking en route. At Winchester he was the guest of Judge Raulston, trial judge of the Scopes case. In the afternoon he addressed a huge crowd. The trip, frequent speaking, and the usual importunate admirers taxed Bryan's strength, and when it came time to leave for Dayton he said he felt too tired to make the trip back by automobile.
Accordingly he sent Mrs. Bryan and chauffeur back with the car and took the 6 o'clock train from Winchester to Chattanooga alone. Arriving in Chattanooga about 8:30 p.m., he went to a hotel, where he spent the night.
Because every one, including himself, believed he had passed through the strenuous days of the evolution trial without suffering the least detriment to his health, Bryan's death came as a tremendous shock.
Only a few hours before the end, he had talked with friends of the big battle ahead in connection with the Scopes case. "The fight that we have made here will be transferred to a greater scope," he said, referring to movements in several southern and western states to enact anti-evolution legislation.
Friends suggested he take a brief vacation before continuing the fight, but, enthusiastic over his recent victory in obtaining the conviction of Scopes, Bryan refused to rest.
At the time of his death, one of Bryan's chief ambitions was for the creation of the proposed Bryan University in Dayton. He had planned to confer today with the promoters of the proposed college with the idea of arranging a financial program and the curriculum. After the conference he was to have addressed a mass meeting at Dayton courthouse. This was to have been the final demonstration of Dayton in his honor before he left.
Less than five hours before he died, the Commoner had been the center of interest at the Southern Methodist Church, where he led the congregation in prayer. Later he conferred with C. Wesley Hicks, choir director on the music for the sermon on "What Shall I Do With Jesus?" which Bryan was to have delivered last night. Bryan asked that two hymns be sung. "One Sweetly Solemn Thought" and "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go."
Following the services practically every member of the audience shook hands with him.
"I am glad he died in peace and without suffering." Mrs. Bryan said. "Mr. Bryan, as you know, was a colonel in the Spanish-American war. He often expressed a wish to be buried in Arlington and no doubt we will bury him there."
The body will lie in state at the court house, where Bryan so vigorously championed the teachings of the Bible in the evolution trial, and the simple folk of the Tennessee mountains who cheered and acclaimed him at every word, will be given a last opportunity to view him.
Tentative arrangements are for the body to remain there until Tuesday night when it will be shipped to Washington for burial. Telegrams of condolences and sympathy poured in upon the bereaved widow from all parts of the nation today.
The bitter words that passed between the principals in the Scopes trial were forgotten and Bryan's opponents came forward with statements testifying to their high regard for him.
"I am pained to hear of the death of Mr. Bryan," said Clarence Darrow, chief defense lawyer in the evolution trial who subjected Bryan to a merciless examination on his knowledge of the Bible and scientific subjects.
"I have known Bryan since 1896 and supported him twice for the presidency. He was a man of strong conviction and always espoused his cause with ability and courage.
"I differed with him on many questions but always respected his sincerity and devotion. I am very sorry for his family and for his friends who loved him."
Bryan's three children, William Jennings Bryan, Jr., of Los Angeles, Cal., Mrs. Ruth Bryan Owens of Mount Vernon, Ohio, and Mrs. Richard L. Hargraves, all are on their way to Dayton. They are expected to arrive Tuesday.
H. E. and Sue Hicks, Wallace C. Haggard and Judge J.G. McKenzie, allies who fought side by side with Bryan during the Scopes trial, kept an all-night vigil over the body of their dead colleague.