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Bryant, James Fraser (1877–1945)

James Bryant.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-B3067

J.F. Bryant was born in Glen Allan, Ontario, on May 19, 1877, and educated at Upper Canada College, Queen’s University, and the University of Manitoba, graduating with a Master’s degree in Classics and a Bachelor of Laws. He became a partner in the Regina law firm Allan, Gordon, Bryant and Gordon in 1907 and a year later married Myra Boyd, also of Regina. He chaired the Regina Public School Board and later served as president of the Saskatchewan School Trustees. In 1917, he established the Bryant Oratorical Competition which introduced thousands of high school students to the art of public speaking. Also during his presidency, the Trustees came out in opposition to religious teaching and in favour of English as the sole language of instruction in the province’s public schools—issues which Bryant brought with him when he entered politics in the mid-1920s.

A lifelong Conservative, Bryant served the party in several capacities in Regina and eventually as provincial president from 1922 to 1925. He ran unsuccessfully in the 1925 provincial election but, over the next four years, continued to raise the issues of sectarianism in the public school system and corruption in government. Such attacks helped defeat the Liberals in the 1929 election; Bryant won a seat at Lumsden, and Premier J.T.M. Anderson gave him two portfolios—Public Works, and Telephones and Telegraphs—in his new administration. Bryant established himself as one of the most important members of the Cabinet. He helped rewrite the School Act to ban religious symbols from public schools and to strengthen the position of English as the language of instruction and administration. He worked on the agreement which gave the province control over its lands and natural resources held back by Ottawa since 1905. As well, he led the government’s attempts to create a less corrupt public service.

Bryant lost his seat in 1934 and accepted an appointment to the bench as a judge of the District Court in Saskatoon, a position he held until his death on September 18, 1945.

Patrick Kyba

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