Joseph M. Bryan Papers

ca. 1920-1995. 1 box (10 folders), ca. 30 items.MSS. COLL. #128

NOTE: The numbers cited in parentheses, e.g. 1:5, refer the researcher to the Series#:Folder# in which that name or topic will be found.


This collection consists of items removed from the office of Joseph M. Bryan Sr. (1896-1995). Bryan was a key figure in the Jefferson-Pilot Corporation and a prominent local philanthropist. Included are pamphlets, books, awards, and photos of Bryan and his acquaintances.

Arrangement: This collection is arranged in four series by document type. The series are: Awards, 1970-1980; Miscellaneous, 1995; Photographs, ca. 1920-1995; and Printed Materials, 1934-1992.

Provenance: The materials in this collection were removed from Bryan’s office in the Jefferson Standard Building. They were donated by the Joseph M. Bryan Estate after his death and assigned the accession numbers 1995.162.1-13.

Processing: This collection was organized and the finding aid was prepared by intern Kate Hayworth in June 2013.


Joseph McKinley Bryan was born in Elyria, Ohio, in 1896. His parents’ divorce separated him and his four siblings, and he eventually went to live with two aunts. He briefly attended Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts at age 18 before dropping out due to lack of funds. At this time, he entered the care of his uncle, William Bryan, a physician and Chief of Staff at Staten Island Hospital.

Joseph Bryan subsequently joined the Army, becoming a sergeant during World War I and treating sick and wounded soldiers in France. At the age of 27, he became the youngest member of the New York Cotton Exchange and also spent time in Haiti managing the holdings of a cotton broker. Bryan married Kathleen Price after meeting her in New York in 1927, and the couple had three children: Kay, Nancy, and Joseph Jr.

In 1931, the family moved to Greensboro, where Bryan took a job with Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company at the urging of Kathleen’s father, company president Julian Price. He eventually served as a director of the Jefferson-Pilot Corporation and as a member of the board until 1993. Bryan worked to establish the company’s communications arm of newspapers and radio stations, and brought the first television station to the Carolinas.

Known for his philanthropy, Bryan gave over $10 million to Duke University Medical School for Alzheimer’s disease research after Kathleen died of the disease in 1984. He continued to go to his office in the Jefferson Standard Building every morning until the week before his death at age 99 in April 1995.

Biographical Sources: “Joseph M. Bryan, Sr.,” Bryan Park, accessed June 18, 2013,; Rodengen, Jeffrey L. and Richard F. Hubbard, Jefferson Pilot Financial, 1903-2003: A Century of Excellence. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Enterprises, Inc., 2003.


The types of materials in this collection include photographs, a plaque, and a desk calendar, as well as printed materials such as books, a certificate, magazine covers, pamphlets, and programs. The awards Bryan received serve as reminders of the philanthropic contributions he made on a local and national level (1:1). Photographs document some of Bryan’s acquaintances, from former Greensboro Mayor Jim Melvin (1:1) to his uncle Dr. William Bryan (1:3). A number of pamphlets include a packet of information on SALT II, a State of the Union address made by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, and a brochure on the Jefferson Standard Building (4:3). Bryan’s book collection contains volumes signed by presidential authors John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter (4:1). Also included are framed magazine covers displayed in Bryan’s office (4:2).


1. Awards. 1 folder (2 items). 1970-1980.

Among the items in this series is a Certificate of Appreciation to Mr. and Mrs. Bryan from Duke University dated May 11, 1980. The other item is a laminated plaque in recognition of the “generous contribution” by Mr. and Mrs. Bryan to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the Department of State. The plaque is dated May 12, 1970, and signed by William Rogers, the Secretary of State.

2. Miscellaneous. 1 folder (1 item). 1995.

A desk calendar in a leather case is the sole item in this series. The first calendar page is Wednesday, April 26, 1995. Printed on the inside are the words: “R. S. Dickson & Co., Investment Securities, New York, Charlotte….”

3. Photographs. 5 folders (8 items). ca. 1920-1995.

Within this series are photographs of Bryan and his acquaintances. One photo shows him and former Greensboro Mayor Jim Melvin walking across a UNCG soccer field (3:2). A framed clipping from the News & Record shows Bryan and former Senator Lauch Faircloth together (3:3). Additionally, the series includes a framed portrait of Dr. William Bryan, M.D. (1860-1932), Joseph Bryan’s uncle who helped raise him and gave him the loan that allowed him to become the youngest member of the New York Cotton Exchange (3:4). The collection also contains a photo of Hugh Shearman, Bryan’s best friend, oil partner, and shooting buddy, in hunting attire with an unidentified woman (3:5). The folder of unframed photos includes an image of Richardson Preyer and Jimmy Carter on a tennis court with a faded message on the verso, a 1993 photo of Bryan, Jim Melvin, and ___ Stonecipher in Bryan’s office, and two photos of Bryan’s office, presumably taken just following his death (3:1).

4. Printed Materials. 3 folders (17 items). 1934-1992.

Contained within this series are a variety of printed materials from Bryan’s office. Nine books are filed with the Rare Books. Of special interest are those that contain autographs by the authors, who include Sam Snead and Clement Conger as well as Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter (4:1). Also of interest is a framed Time “Man of the Year” cover featuring Bryan (no date, 4:2). It is not a framed magazine, as the Time logo is printed on the glass and the image of Bryan rests behind it, but was probably prepared by Time and presented to Bryan. Another magazine cover is taken from the August 1992 issue of Business Life, featuring a picture of Bryan taken in his office, with the framed Time cover visible in the background (4:2).

A number of pamphlets in this series include the North Caroliniana Society imprint “William Clyde Friday and Ida Howell Friday” (1984) signed by authors Georgia Kyser and William B. Aycock, which also includes a personal note from Friday to Bryan (4:3). Friday also signed “Frank Porter Graham and Human Rights” (1983), a pamphlet he authored. Other highlights among the pamphlets include a “State of the Union Message…Jan. 8, 1964” from the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, and a pack of information relating to “SALT II” (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) in a White House folder (4:3). The series also holds a floor plan pamphlet of the “Jefferson Standard Building,” where Bryan’s office was located, and a program from a St. Andrews, Scotland presentation with remarks from golfer Bobby Jones (4:3).


11Awards (1970-1980)
21Miscellaneous-- Desk Calendar (1995)
31Photographs (1980s-1995)
2Photographs-- Bryan, Joseph M. and Jim Melvin (no date)
3-- Bryan, Joseph M. and Lauch Faircloth (1992)
4Photographs-- Bryan, Dr. William, M.D. (ca. 1920)
5-- Shearman, Hugh (no date)
41Printed Materials-- Books (1934-1991)
2-- Magazine Covers (?-1992)
3Printed Materials-- Pamphlets