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William Jennings Bryan

The Great Commoner

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Three times an unsuccessful candidate for President of the United States, William Jennings Bryan nevertheless had an immense impact on American politics at the turn of the 20th century. Born in Salem IL in 1860, he graduated from Illinois College in Jacksonville IL and practiced law there for four years. In 1896, he caught the imagination of the Democratic Party at its national convention with his "Cross of Gold" speech and won the nomination. He lost the election to William McKinley. He was again nominated in 1900 and lost again. In 1908, he ran against William Howard Taft with the same result.

Under the administration of President Woodrow Wilson, Bryan served as Secretary of State. However, his pacifist leanings brought him into conflict with Wilson as the United States drifted towards World War I and he resigned. He continued to campaign against war and later, the teaching of evolution. His last great public moment was the Scopes Trial in 1925. He died shortly after the trial ended.