Sunday, October 25, 2015

When William Jennings Bryan Lay Down And Died

William Jennings is certainly one the United States most colorful historical figures. He was a politician, serving as Secretary of State in the Woodrow Wilson administration. A position his convictions forced him to resign from. But perhaps most amazing of all concerning his political career are his three failed attempts to become president. He ran and was defeated in 1896, 1900 and lastly in 1908. But Bryan was also an outspoken Christian fundamentalist who waged war against "Darwinism" during the latter part of his life, the last battle being his assistance in the defense of John T. Scopes at Dayton, Tennessee's infamous "Monkey Trial."

Strange and perhaps fitting as it seems, Bryan died at Dayton shortly after the trial ended. Stranger still is the premonition Bryan had of his exact manner of death.

In reporting his death, the July 29, 1925 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle had this bit of reportage:

Bryan Last Summer Had a Premonition He Would Die in Sleep
Macon, Mo., July 29 (AP)--William Jennings Bryan had a premonition he would die in sleep.
Last summer he said to Dr. A. C. Hildreth of Macon: "My heart has not been treating me just right. Some time after a big meeting, or an occasion where I have been engaged in some sharp contest, I will lie down to rest and sleep a sleep that will be eternal." 
Nailed it exactly, I would say. Perhaps Bryan having a premonition of dying was not so strange.  After all, he was 65 and tired, suffering from diabetes and heart trouble.

But no, he had a premonition of dying peacefully in his sleep. Exactly the way his premonition had it, after a "sharp contest," which is an accurate description of his toe-to-toe exchanges with prosecuting attorney Clarence Darrow during the Scopes Trial.

It is a strange world....

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