William Jennings Bryan
As the U.S. Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan oversaw the negotiations for the Panama Canal and had other successes, but he resigned his post in protest in 1915. A pacifist committed to neutrality in World War I, Bryan disagreed with President Wilson’s choice to send a belligerent letter to only Germany (and not Britain, who had been transporting munitions) after the sinking of the Lusitania…Willaim Jennings Bryan, a fundamentalist Christian, assisted in the prosecution of John Scopes, a teacher defended by Clarence Darrow. Bryan famously took the stand to defend a literal interpretation of the Bible and Darrow overwhelmed him. (Scopes was found guilty and fined, a conviction later overturned.) Bryan died five days after the end of the trial, and the memory of him as a predominately religious figure sometimes looms larger than his legacy as a political reformer. Many things he championed, including an 8-hour work day and a graduated income tax, became part of American life.
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