Photo on the left was taken in 1965 as the Rev. Charles Jones reflects on Bryan's funeral in Dayton. Photo on the right was taken just after Bryan's death in July of 1925 as his body is returned to the Rogers home for his funeral service. (Photos Collection of Dean Wilson)
William Jennings Bryan attended Rev. Jones Church Service prior to his death
On February 25, 1967, the minister who officiated William Jennings Bryan’s funeral in Dayton passed away. The Rev. Charles Jones passed away in Dayton at the age of 91.
The Rev. Jones was the pastor of Dayton’s Methodist Episcopal Church South, now the First Methodist Church, when Bryan died after the famous Scopes Trial.
Bryan who was a three time unsuccessful presidential candidate, assisted the prosecution in the trial of John Thomas Scopes, a Dayton teacher charged with violating the newly passed Butler Act which forbids the teaching of evolution in Tennessee’s public schools.
At the conclusion of the trial, Bryan stayed on in Dayton for a while traveling around the area making public appearances.
Having already spoke in the Rev. Jones church on July 12, 1925, Bryan returned unannounced two weeks later on July 26, 1925. Bryan sat on the front row and listened to a visiting preacher from Texas. When the service was over, Bryan stood up in front of the congregation and said, “I want to make a request of the choir. I would like for them to sing a couple of hymns for me, Where He Leads Me I Will Follow and One Sweetly Solemn Thought Comes To Me O’er, I’m Nearer Home Today Than I’ve Ever Been Before”.
In an interview a few years prior to his death Rev. Jones stated, “Bryan within an hour of attending the morning service died in his sleep during a nap. He didn’t have any idea he was that near home”.
The Rev. Jones was asked by the widow of William Jennings Bryan to officiate at the “Great Commoner’s” funeral, which was conducted on the front porch of the home where Bryan died and where both he and his wife stayed during the trial.
The home was that of F.R. Rogers, he and his family had temporarily moved out in order to allow the Bryan’s to stay there during their visit to Dayton.
The yard was full of people standing and sitting along the retaining wall of the property, as well as out into the street.
Mrs. Bryan sat right up front in a chair near the porch. During Rev. Jones address, he stated that “The workman dies, but the work is carried on”. Mrs. Bryan asked, “But who will carry on the work?" In reply, the Rev. Jones told her that “As for myself, I will work to carry out the principals for which he fought, bled and died”.
After the funeral service, Bryan’s body was taken by train from Dayton to Washington, where he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
After 46 years in the ministry, the Rev. Charles Jones retired in 1944 but remained devoted to Bryan’s memory.
Rev. Jones was laid to rest in the Buttram Cemetery in Dayton.
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