A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan

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Author: Joe Creech
Date: May 2007
From: Journal of Southern History(Vol. 73, Issue 2)
Publisher: Southern Historical Association
Document Type: Book review
Length: 657 words
Lexile Measure: 1480L

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A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan. By Michael Kazin. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Pp. xxii, 374. Paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-0385-72056-4; cloth, $30.00, ISBN 978-0-375-41135-9.)

There is a telling moment in Michael Kazin's outstanding new biography of William Jennings Bryan. In 1916 the Great Commoner, while vacationing in the swamps of northern Florida, met with John Reed, a Greenwich Village radical who, it seems, wanted to interview this graying champion of the people and opponent of American intervention in the Great War. According to Kazin, while "both Bryan and [Reed] were great idealists who agreed on most political issues," Reed subsequently wrote a scathing report in Colliers of a man utterly adrift--out of touch with the political mainstream, "reduced... to little more than a sideshow for yokels and Bible-thumpers" (pp. 244, 243).

This encounter between the old evangelical and the young secular left epitomizes for most of us our historical memory of Bryan: a rudderless man, at best a simpleton...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A163705326