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Joseph R. Bryson Papers

Identifier: SCU-SCPC-JRB

7 linear ft. of papers, 1917 to 1953, chiefly date from 1947 to 1953 and document Bryson‟s congressional service. The records are divided into four series: Public, Personal, Clippings and Photographs.

Public Papers: Public Papers relate to Bryson‟s congressional service and are divided into Legislative Files, Invitations, Press Releases, Speeches, and Voting Record.

Legislative files, 1930 to 1953 (mostly 1948 to 1953), include bills introduced by Bryson, related correspondence, research and reference materials, and speeches delivered on the House floor. Topically arranged, broad subjects include agriculture, budget, commerce, Communism, labor, taxes, and textiles. Specific topics include federal funding for education, reaction to the Hoover Commission Report, Bryson's work on the Judiciary Committee, his efforts toward prohibition of alcohol from 1944 to 1952, his travel to Europe in 1948 and 1949, and reaction to the Vatican Ambassadorship in 1951 and 1952. In addition, the first folder of this series contains correspondence from Bryson's early years in the S.C. Senate, 1930 to 1932, and a document detailing Bryson's accomplishments in the S.C. House, 1921 to 1924, and S.C. Senate, 1929 to 1932.

Speeches, 1940 to 1952 and undated, include drafts and final copies of speeches Bryson delivered before civic and community groups. Speeches delivered on the House floor are filed by topic in the Legislative files.

Voting record consists of official U.S. House copies of roll calls and records of Bryson's votes.

Personal Papers: Personal papers consist of materials relating to Bryson‟s personal life and family and are divided into General, Book Transactions, Bryson Family, Campaigns, Law Practice, and National School of Law.

General and Bryson Family files consist primarily of correspondence between Bryson and his children, wife, mother, other family members, and personal friends. Included are condolence letters received by Mrs. Bryson following Bryson‟s death and memorial speeches delivered on the House floor. The series also includes posthumous certificates of recognition and appreciation bestowed on Bryson by various civic groups. Materials relating to Mrs. Bryson and to the Bryson children are filed under Bryson Family.

Book Transactions, 1945 to 1946, consist of orders and correspondence relating to Bryson‟s activities as a trader and seller of rare books.

Campaigns, 1938 to 1952, include correspondence, speeches, radio addresses, blotters, and posters from Bryson‟s successful U.S. House campaigns. Two folders concerning the 1952 Democratic National Convention in Chicago include correspondence, the Democratic Platform and comparisons to the Republican Platform, and speeches. Three more folders from the 1952 election cycle detail some of the activities, publicity efforts, and policy documents (including “How South Carolina has benefited from Two Decades of Federal Democratic Administration”) of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Two months out from the general election, the Speakers Bureau of the DNC asked Bryson to speak on behalf of the National Democratic Party ticket. He responded enthusiastically, “Indeed I am anxious to be of every possible assistance and am available for whatever assignments are given. Any reasonable notice will find me ready and anxious to do my utmost in behalf of our Party.”

Law Practice, 1927 to 1939, consists of correspondence and financial papers relating to Bryson‟s law practice, Bryson, Bowen & Pyle.

National School of Law, Washington, D.C., includes materials relating to Bryson‟s teaching duties there between 1947 and 1952. Included are copies of examinations and correspondence with school officials relating to Bryson's teaching duties.

Clippings: Clippings consist of a general file and files concerning James F. Brynes, Bryson‟s campaigns, prohibition of alcohol, and obituaries, which includes articles concerning Bryson‟s sudden death, events immediately following, and filling of his House seat.

Photographs: Found here are photos of Bryson, family members, and public officials, along with a folder of official photographs from Bryson‟s two European trips in 1948 and 1949.


  • 1917 - 1953



Library Use only


8.75 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Joseph Raleigh Bryson [1893-1953] represented the Fourth District of South Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1939 until his death in 1953. A conservative Democrat, Bryson is perhaps best remembered for his unwavering opposition to alcohol. In 1941, Bryson wrote, “Personally, I have always been sober and never have taken a drop of intoxicating beverages. I have never voted for or otherwise approved of the sale of liquor either legally or otherwise. I promise you, here and now, that I shall fight liquor as long as I live, both publicly and privately.”

In addition to his strong stand on prohibition, Bryson was “a champion of states rights, of the farmer, of the common man, [and was labeled] „Mr. Textiles‟ for his work in the interest of the textile workers in the South.” [Tallahassee Democrat, December 1951] In a 1946 campaign speech, Bryson said, “I favor labor...I know far more about the viewpoint of the actual worker than many parlor pinks who always are shedding crocodile tears over labor. I think labor should have a living wage and more. I think workers should have security.”

Bryson was known throughout his tenure in the U.S. Congress for his strong moral stand on issues in which he believed. Sam Rayburn said of Bryson, he “typified morals. He typified the Christian gentleman. He practiced what he preached. He was a good Christian and a great American.” He was also a wonderful storyteller with a terrific sense of humor.

Bryson was born on January 18, 1893, near Brevard, North Carolina. Before he was ten years old, he moved with his family to Greenville, South Carolina, where he worked in a textile mill and attended public schools. He graduated from Furman University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1917. Bryson served in the U.S. Army during World War I and held a commission in the Infantry Officers Reserve Corps from 1919 until 1934. Following the war, Bryson entered the University of South Carolina School of Law, graduated in 1920 and immediately began practicing law in Greenville.

Bryson represented Greenville County in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1921 until 1924. In 1928, he was elected to the State Senate, where he served on the Judiciary and Commerce and Manufactures Committees. Bryson took an active role in supporting the interests of textile workers and in sponsoring measures calling for biennial sessions of the Legislature, improved educational facilities, and highways. In 1938 Bryson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until his death in 1953. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1941.

Among the House committees on which Bryson served were Education, World War Veterans, and Territories and War Claims, but he is noted primarily for his work on the Judiciary Committee. He served as Chairman of the subcommittee on Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights, as well as of committees on Claims and Naturalization and Immigration. One of the first issues Bryson addressed following his election to the House was the sale of alcohol to United States servicemen. In a 1941 speech, Bryson said, “My to oppose to the utmost the liquor traffic which serves to destroy national strength and unity.” Throughout World War II, Bryson viewed alcohol as one of the biggest threats to national defense and security.

In 1948, with members of the House Armed Services Committee, he represented the House Judiciary Committee on a tour of Europe. He returned to Europe in 1949 to examine the plight of Eastern European refugees. As in the General Assembly, Bryson continued to focus on matters affecting textile workers and cotton farmers, along with prohibition.

In his private life, Bryson was an avid collector of rare books, especially those which dealt with religion and philosophy. His personal library contained more than 300 Bibles, and he sold and traded books throughout the United States.

Joseph Bryson died unexpectedly on March 10, 1953, suffering a stroke while attending a dinner given by the Cotton Textile Manufacturers' Association. He was remembered by his colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee for his “scholarly devotion to his work, his Christian charity, his kindly and unfailing sense of humor, and his humanity, [which] made him dear to all who came in contact with him.” He was succeeded by Robert Ashmore of Greenville.


Donated by the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina.


Copyright of the Joseph R. Bryson papers has been transferred to the University of South Carolina.

Processing Information

Processed by Sarah Foss, 1998; additions by Mai Nguyen and Lori Schwartz, 2009.

Repository Details

Part of the South Carolina Political Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA

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