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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Bryan, William Shepard

by Harry Mckown, 1979

20 Nov. 1827–11 Dec. 1906

William Shepard Bryan, judge, was born in New Bern, the son of John Heritage Bryan and Mary Shepard Bryan. The Bryan and Shepard families had lived in New Bern for generations and had been active in local, state, and national affairs. John Heritage Bryan served as a trustee of The University of North Carolina, sat in the state senate, and represented North Carolina as a Whig member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1825 to 1829.

John H. Bryan moved his family and his law practice from New Bern to Raleigh in 1839, and William S. Bryan read law in Raleigh with his father after his graduation from The University of North Carolina in 1846. In 1850, Bryan received the M.A. degree from the university. In December of that year he moved to Baltimore, Md., where he was admitted to the bar in 1851. He married Elizabeth Hayward of Talbot County, Md., in 1857.

Bryan established a distinguished law practice in Baltimore and in 1883 was elected to the Baltimore city seat on the court of appeals, the highest state court in Maryland. During his tenure as judge, Bryan devoted himself to the work of the court, winning respect for both his mastery of the law and his command of the detailed work of judicial administration. Bryan left the court in November 1898 and lived in retirement with his son, William Shepard, Jr. He died in Baltimore.


Baltimore Sun, 18 Mar. 1892, 29 Nov. 1898.

William Shepard Bryan Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

Daniel L. Grant, Alumni History of the University of North Carolina (1924).

Additional Resources:

Lemmon, Sarah McCulloh. The Pettigrew papers vol. 2. Raleigh [N.C.]: State Dept. of Archives and History. 1988. xix, 579. (accessed December 17, 2013).

"William Shepard Bryan, Jr. (1859-1914)." Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series). Maryland State Archives. (accessed December 17, 2013).

The Lowmans in Chemung county. Printed by the Commercial press, 1939. 194.

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