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The summer of 1925 brought a few days of national concentration to the city of Dayton. A world-famous politician and famous defense lawyer got off separate trains to be greeted by welcoming crowds eager to be in the public spotlight.

Community leaders in Dayton had jumped at the chance to bring new life to their once prosperous city, now in financial distress. The city’s swift response to an appeal by the American Civil Liberties Union had set The State of Tennessee in motion against John T. Scopes. There was no local outcry about the evolution being taught in schools. In fact, one wonders even today if such teaching actually took place at Rhea Central High School. Instead, there was a lot of enthusiasm to bring people, money, and attention to the city and maybe even find an entrepreneur interested in a business venture here.

A procedural technicality resulted in the invalidation of the guilty verdict of the eight-day trial. The ACLU found itself without a base of appeal, but the city of Dayton had been forever changed by the lawsuit. The townspeople had fallen in love with William Jennings Bryan. His death in Dayton during the week following the trial sparked a public outcry to commemorate the man who had endeared himself to the locals.

Bryan, a staunch Christian, had made it clear in his will that some of his money would be used for religious education, possibly administered by the Presbyterian Church as part of the training of young men. The people of Dayton played a prominent role, which led to the opening in 1930 of the William Jennings Bryan Memorial University, known today as Bryan College. The four-year liberal arts college stuck to teaching Bible truths as the teachers prepared educators, engineers, and business professionals. But the founders did not stay with the proposal for a school for men. I know because my mom was in first class.

Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series of articles that I have titled “The City and the Dress”. These articles will share today’s connection and close relationship between Rhea County and Bryan College. The college, which is the living legacy of William Jennings Bryan, continues to have an impact on our region.

The opening of the college not only led to the sought-after investment which would become an economic engine for the county, but also led to an influx of educated faculty who would provide higher education opportunities locally and who would contribute to spiritual leadership in the county. community. . From its inception, Bryan College also provided musical and theatrical performances, which contributed to the cultural enrichment of the region. Journal articles will focus on the financial, educational, cultural and spiritual impact of Bryan College on the quality of life in Rhea County.

Bryan doesn’t have ivory towers filled with distant professors, but rather has unassuming offices and classrooms that are day homes for our neighbors, practice buddies, devotees and friends. It is temporarily home to the thousands of students who come to Dayton to prepare for adulthood. Flowing academic dresses add to the grandeur of scholarly celebrations, but khakis, plaid shirts, capris, jeans, and sweaters are the everyday attire for students and faculty alike.

This series will introduce you to people whose lives have been changed by their experiences at Bryan College and who in turn have changed our community.

You’ll meet those who came to Dayton as a teenager, fell in love, married classmates, and chose Rhea County as their home. Now, decades later, they tell stories here raising children and enjoying interesting careers in Rhea County schools, businesses and industries. One article will feature Annalyn and Caleb Ebersole, Nathan and Erika Snyder and Nathan and Kristen Lorensen who are just three of the many couples that fit into this category.

You will meet local people who have chosen Bryan College as their place to continue their education after graduating from Rhea County High School and Rhea County Academy. The undergraduate and master’s degree programs provided advanced education that prepared graduates for local positions. Jonathan Hostetler, finance manager at Southern Silk Mills; Angie Price, director of human resources at Bryan College; and Frank Sheddan, director of the now-retired Rhea County High School’s beloved group, will be featured in this article.

Locals from the 1920s helped found the school and four locals from 2021 are among those governing the school as members of the board of trustees. Meet Ralph Green, Lebron Purser, Jeff Smith, and Brad Harris in an article dedicated to their role in connecting the dress dress.

An article will highlight Margie Legg’s work in developing and maintaining a close relationship between college and community. Margie, Executive Assistant to the President / Director of Community Relations and her husband, Ray, a recently retired professor at Bryan, will share important events in school life since arriving in Dayton in the mid-1980s.

Vice President of Advancement and Athletics, David Holcomb is a native of Rhea County and graduated in 1994 from Bryan College. After working in another state for several years, Holcomb returned to Dayton to take a leadership role at Bryan. He will share facts about the Rhea County Scholarship, Graduation Program, and Sports Scholarships that should be of particular interest to local readers.

The series continues next weekend starring Dr. and Mrs. Doug Mann, the president of Bryan College and his wife. The two Manns graduated from Bryan College over 25 years ago and are now back in Dayton where he has assumed the leadership role of college president. Ms. Mann is from Dayton. Discover Dr. Mann’s vision for the advancement of the school and for a strong community bond.

I encourage you to do more than just read this series of articles on Bryan College. Learn more about the school by going up the hill for a soccer game or a musical concert. Meet and greet students in your church, local stores, and restaurants. Offer true Rhea County hospitality to those who come to Bryan College temporarily or to those who, once here, made Rhea County their home. Read about and be part of the “The Town and the Dress” connection.


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