Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (Dec. 1, 1922)
. r -
life Btyan of Nebraska Gets
. What He
(From the Kansas City Star, Nov. 26,- 1922.)
"Tho king hvdead. Long live the king!"
They have a situation of that kind in Ne
braska, but they don't say the JvordB because
William, Jennings! Bryan the Commoner"
isn't dead by any means. He's just moved out
of the state, that's all.
But that moving the act of changing the
breezes of Fairview, the Lincoln home of "W.
JM as they call him there, for the palmy shade
of Miami, Pla. has made him dead as far as
active participation in Nebraska politics is con
cerned. So look who's to sft in the guberna
torial chair and rule the roost now no one but
'Brother Charley," his younger kinsman.
"Brother Charley" rode into office at the last
election by 50,000 votes, the largest majority
a governor of Nebraska ever had. Yet the Re
publicans elected their senator in Nebraska by
75,000 votes and they elected a -Republican
6tate legislature, too
How, then, did 125,000 voters happen to cross
over to the Democratic .ballot, put an "X" be--e'de
Charley Bryan's name and- cross hack?
That's the story the story of "Brother
vCharley." , t ,
Some families" seem predestined for certain
careers, the Cantillons for baseball, the Barry
mores for the -stage, the Morgans for a financial
career. Working t along that line, it must just be
natural for a Bryan to ge into politics.
"W. J.'s" and "Charley's" father, , Silas L.
Bryan, was a highly respected district judge in
Illmos and member of the constitutional
convention. "W. J." twice has been a member
of congress, was, secretary of state in the Wil
son cabinet, and three times Democratic nomi
nee for president. "Brother Charley" has been
im; , s," "side lclck" through aU his hardest po
litical battles, and has taken time to mill
furiously in Nebraska - politics on his own ac
count. Silas II, ".Charley's" son, was Democratic
nom nee for Heutenant-govornor of Minnesota
at the last election, and that when- he was only
20 years old. u
ico!?roPier..Charley" first eot into the game in
1896 when "W. J." then only 3.6 years old and
oarely of age to qualify for presidentwas tell
nifi a tnrIlled Democratic convention at the
Uicago Coliseum, "You shall not press down
vn?n t ?, brow of labor this crown of ihorns.
gold ' n crucify mankind upon a cross of
After William McKinley had defeated "W7 J."
o the presidency that year "W. J." strolled
ZL S ,mce and found that ho hatt a small
mater of unanswered mail on his hands that
S fTQre exactly 136,000 postcards, letters
oniv f.1051118 that shouted for replies, with
Iy;lm t0 do the replying. Realizing that the
Mm 58one that a"ended to alone, would tie
lnnL? throueh many political fights to come he
Chiris"OU5? for heIp' and f(Jund that "Brother
diSn Charles W- Bryfln the full and
uigmtled name was in business in Omaha.
the rlf y ??sht t0 b0 in Politics," "W. J." told
younS: v thf family- "He's only seven years
a lnf tTS?11 J am and wo 0uld help each other
thow i y not have him &ive " a " with
wese letters as a starter?"
WeBtfl,Ta8tagroed- "Cliarley" rode on a North
he filL from 0m,aha over to Lincoln. Then
era mu J!ecFarIoB and eleven stenograph
the mnnithr.T- J'" they started to wade into
comn otn ii .t0?k them a year and a half to
C int. V P ta8k" but they finished it. After
Portint Sf?ep "Charley" knew half the im
in cnrrn? m,clans of the country and had been
In thi I s,pondenco with the other half. He was
hm du? oMt life wild horSQS could not set
Bryan? nimn3cmer'' the political organ of the
'oundftri ? ?l a g00d shAre of Democracy, was
Marirft JiV9?1' and "brother Charley" gave
"W j ? , ,o hIs time to that. He helped
tndiono" .s. racoa fr the presidency in 1900
With nm. AMcftme more and more acquainted
With nnir a eame more and more acquainted.
5Th J l,CB as Bhe is nlaved" durintr that tima.
at Uncnin i occuPancy of the mayor's chair
corkinp ir s, years aK ttnd gave the town a
year's nooa administration during his two
He Mo Uro of offlce-
l!,as, ased to run again.
for m' fQ 8afd- "It's back to the side lines
Kme for a while."
ftoro this year of Our Lord, 1922
nf ! n fovernor of the state and Nebraska
in 0a.tbat Part o the 8tat0 tbat la not nurs
ing a grievance over the recent election) is
term nnfgnbm,g tort him when the Impending
term of offlce holding is over. "Watch him go!"
his boosters say. s
What put "Brother Charley" into tho execu-
ri8f? i f Jl Nebraska' when only one man on
n s ticket, the secretary of state, went in with
mml A large share of a quality that baseball
players, football players and William Allen
White come out and out and call "guts."
Nerve doesn't express it, because "nerve" im
plies trying to put, over something that perhaps
the person is not entitled to. Tho one expres
sive word in th's case has been used. Thereader
can take it or leave it.
WHEN THE BRYANS MET HERE
The last time- the writer saw "Brother
Charley," before an. interview a few days ago,
was one morning, a year and a half back, when
the "two brothers, Charley and W. J., were hav
ing breakfast together at the Hotel Baltimore.
Charley and Frank Zehrung another Lincoln
man had both announced for mayor of their
home city, then run for a commissioner's place
Lincoln having the commiss'on form of gov-
efnment, and the law being that the five com
missioners shall vote on a mayor. Charley polled
650 more votes than Zehrung, and Lincoln con
sequently expected him automatically to be
named mayor that being tho town's way of
expressing its preference according to its laws.
Imagine everyone's surprise when tho four com
missioners met and voted, their 4 votes against
Charley's 1, to seat Zehrung in the executive
chair and make Charley commissioner of streets
and public improvements.
Charley's backers came to him and said, "Re
sign, then file a recall petition against Zehrung
.and get him out of there. Then run for the
place again and we'll put you across."
He told "W. J." at breakfast that day what
they wanted him to do.
"Well, you'd win easily enough that way,"
"W. J." said.
"Yes," "Charley" replied. "But I'm going to
win anyway, I am going to beat these, fellows
at their own game and make them like "it."
Ho then changed the subject, but not before
"W. J." shook his head wonderingly nnd said:
"Well I like your nerve."
J.'Charley" had three pet projects-he wanted
to put afcross. One was a municipal coal yard
for Lincoln. The second was a municipal ice
plant. The third was a new market. He d'dn't
care whether he was commissioner of streets or
"mayor or governor of the state, as long as' those
propositions went across. This is how he went
out to get them. "
He introduced a coal yard ordinance before
the council. It was voted down.
Then he circulated through the town six
petitions providing for:
1. A special election nnder the initiative to
proyide for establishing a municipal coal yard
by direct vote.
2. A bond issue for a municipal ice plant.
3. A $20,000 appropriation for a new market.
4. An amendment to the charter to vote for
tho mayor direct. ' ,
5. The recall of Zehrung.
6. The recall of John Wright, commissioner
of public safety.
Ho asked fdr volunteer circulators to put the
petitions out and a throng of townspeople an
swered his call. They got not only enough legal
voters to sign the petitions, but enough to carry
his ideas across the moment they came up at
the polls. That left him "sitting pretty."
' With the signed petitions in his desk like
pleasant little aces in the hole he reintroduced
his coal yard ordinance in the Lincoln council.
"You see," he pointed out to the other com
missioners quietly, "if we have to go to the ex
pense of calling a public election on this mat
ter, I'll just put in the other petitions delud
ing the recall ones at the same time. What do
The other members of tho council retired into
a corner and "thought." Then they came back
and decided to establish a municipal coal yard
in Lincoln. Wherefore, such of the town as de
sired it got coal at the municipal yard last w n
ter at a saving of $4 a ton, with "Brother
Charloy" holding the reins as superintendent of
'the institution'. : . ', . "1
Tho opponorits of tho yard fought tho case to
tho bitter end. Tlicy'carr'od it up to the suj
promo court. of the stato-'rind that body decided
that under Lincoln's then-existent charter tho t'
coal yarduldn't bo. But that was thfs year,
aftqr L'ncoln had had a winter of cheap coal;
"Brother Charley" introduced an amendment
that would firt the charter so" Iho coal yard
would be all right and the coal men, in retalia
tion, circulated petitions proposing a municipal
lumberyard, municipal hardware stores, and
municipally-run institutions to a dogrco that
was laughable. They finally prdsonted, Ihelr
portions with tho required number of names on
thorn and "Brother Charley," rising In council?
sa'd, "Let's look at those names."
The examination was started and caused' a
fur.or in L'ncoln. People corresponding to one
third of tho names on tho coal men'H petitions
could not bo found at all. Many vothors, w'ho.
could bo found, denied they had signed the poti-"
Hions and requested thaUthoir names he scratohed
off it. Enough names were elm mated in those
two ways to prevent tho lumbor and hardware
store amendments from cluttering up tho ballot
on the coal yard, and a vote was hold on that
It went 4,700 to 400 in "Brother CharloW
and tho yard's favor a majority of mof o' than
eleven to one for Bryan's innovation. Tho char
ter was amended, the coal yard came back into '
being, and is selling cheap coal to Lincoln for..
its second winter with "Brothor Charloy" .still
at 4ts helm and grinning cheerfully at tho inter
ests ho beat to establ'sh it.
About the same time or even a little before
he shot across the. d!rect-election-for-mayor
petition by a three to one majority, which only
served to put in indelible ink iho .handwriting
on the wall that said, "This' man is putting
through the innovations that he wants in Lin
coln. What's next on his mind?"
The ice plant was next, and from "Brother
Charley's" desk about midsummer this 'year
came the ominousrustllng of the Ice petition as
he got it out and looked it over looked it over
so audibly that all Lincoln know what was go'ng
on and particularly the ofilcjals of tho Beatrice
Creamery company wh!ch controlled the Ice
situation in the town.
Just as the ico papers were rustling loudest
from "Brother Charley's" office there was a
conference between representatives of tho ice
dealers and -Lincoln's chamber of commerce and
the price of 'cc was cut right in "tho hottest
season of tho year, an unknown proceeding for
any town, any time, anywhere.
The first thing the consumers know about It
was when tho individual ice men announced
from back door to back door that the next book
of tickets, wouldn't cost so much.
"What's the Idea?" the housekeepers asked.w
"We're enabled to take "up a hitch in our
overhead and we're giving the saving to you,"a
few suave ones explained lengthily.
"Charley Bryan," a greater proportion of
blunt ones said curtly.
Lincoln's saving on the deal was $44,000 for
the season ?11,000 for each month $1 -n
month for eaqh family. Tho ice potitlon went
back into 'Brother Charley's" derk. It sUll
rustles whenever a mention is heard of higher
prices for ico, So do the others the moment a
rustle is needed especially tho recall ones.
The result 's that "Brother Charley," as com
missioner of streets in Lincoln, has put through "
as many reforms as he could Jiave done as
mayor. And he "made them like it," as he told
"W. J." ho would.
When Nebraska's Democratic' party faced tile
fall elections this year 'it found Itself split Into
two divisions as evenly as an apple broken
through tho center. One was that the people
called the "wet" branch, led by Gilbert M.
Hitchcock, sen 'or senator, from Nebraska, and
a power In Democratic circles at Washington.
The other was the "dry" crew guided by
"Brothor Charley," dry as the Sahara Desert
on tho liquor question, dry as "W. J." ever has
been Or will bo, which is saying it all in nine
It became apparent that if the party wanted
to have any luck before the voters at the polls
the two forces would have to get together and
present some sort of unified front against the
Republ'can onslaught. The time for filing for
the primaries approached and neither HItchcoek,
who was slated to run for senator, nor "Brother
Charley," who was supposed to be the guberna
torial choice, turned in .their names,
"Charley," speak'ng through The Commoner,
suggested a way that tho two branches could
Continued on Page 12
. M, , .
Powered by Open ONI