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Joseph M. Bryan Archives

Identifier: MSS 0106

Scope and Contents

Included are manuscripts, photographs, and related ephemeral items. The Archives provides an in-depth look at several areas of Bryan's life.

The Bryan Family History Collection contains items relating to both Mr. and Mrs. Bryan's families. The collection contains correspondence, photographs, diaries and an extensive genealogy. The Civil War, the Indian Wars, World War I and life in Haiti (1919-1921) are some of the subjects covered.

The Joseph M. Bryan Business Papers are especially important to the history of broadcasting and philanthropy. Items relating to Jefferson Standard Broadcasting provide access to historical material previously unavailable. The Bryan Business Papers also cover the benevolence of Mr. and Mrs. Bryan in many fields. Scholars can trace the progress of the Alzheimer's Disease research team as it seeks to identify the gene and chromosome that trigger the dreadful disease. The generosity shown toward educational programs is evident in the large amount of correspondence with local universities.


  • 1858 - 1995


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Some portions of the collection are restricted or unprocessed.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information. Please see our Sensitive Materials Statement.

Biographical or Historical Information

Joseph McKinley Bryan, born on February 11, 1896, was the second son of Bart and Caroline Ebert Bryan. He grew up in a climate of instability and uncertainty, and developed a tough work ethic with a strong desire to educate himself. After serving overseas in World War I, Bryan returned to New York City to take a job with a cotton firm. In 1923 he became the youngest member of the New York Cotton Exchange.

On November 19, 1927, Bryan married Kathleen M. Price of Greensboro, N.C. The need for a nice place to raise a family brought a career change in 1931, when the family moved from New York City to Kathleen's hometown. Bryan joined Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company and quickly moved up the corporate ladder. In 1934 he became president of a subsidiary company which purchased WBIG, Greensboro's only radio station at that time, and saved it from going off the air. The company expanded its broadcasting division in 1945 when it purchased the powerful WBTV in Charlotte. In 1949, WBTV became the first television station to air in North and South Carolina.

Bryan served in various capacities with several large corporations. In addition to being senior vice president of Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company and chairman of the board of Pilot Life Insurance Company, he served as a member of the board of the parent corporation, Jefferson-Pilot until 1993 when he was made honorary and lifetime member of the board. Bryan also served on the boards of NCNB (now NationsBank), Atlantic and Yadkin Railroad and several personal companies. Bryan was one of the original six members of the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame.

In 1984 his wife Kathleen died after a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease. Frustrated by the lack of knowledge in the medical community, Bryan decided to back an experimental procedure at Duke University involving rapid autopsies of victims of Alzheimer's Disease. The initial success of the Duke program prompted him to donate $10 million for Alzheimer's Disease research, which put the Duke University Medical Center at the forefront in the battle against the disease. The direct results of Bryan's gift are already being realized as Duke's research team has identified chromosomes and genes related to the early onset of Alzheimer's Disease. Jefferson-Pilot Corporation Professor Allen D. Roses is presently conducting research on a newly discovered susceptibility gene for late-onset Alzheimer's Disease.

Bryan was also known as a person who believed in civic duty. He was associated with the Rotary Club, Masons, Shriners and many other community groups. He served on several governmental committees, including the Governor's Committee on Low Income Housing and the U.S. State Department's Fine Arts Committee. In 1961 Governor Luther Hodges named Bryan Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections. In 1986, Bryan received the North Carolina Award in Public Service.

The Bryans' long standing record of philanthropy has received national recognition. In 1955, the Bryan Family Foundation was established as a vehicle for their philanthropy. Education was always a priority. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, North Carolina School of Science and Math, Duke University, Greensboro College, North Carolina A and T State University, Guilford College, Bennett College, Belmont Abbey, Converse College and many more institutions have benefited from the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Bryan. UNCG's School of Business and Economics was named in honor of Joseph M. Bryan.

Bryan was an early member of the Augusta National Golf Club, golf's premier golf club and home of the Masters. The Greensboro Jaycees approached him in 1937 to assist in guaranteeing the purse of the first Greater Greensboro Open PGA Tour event, which took place in 1938. He later became Honorary General Chairman for the golf tournament. In 1971 the City of Greensboro named Bryan Park, the new municipal golf complex, in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Bryan.

In the last year of his life, including the day he was admitted to the hospital, Bryan made daily visits to his office. He died in Greensboro on April 26, 1995.


75.40 Linear Feet (104 boxes (15 unprocessed) and 2 scrapbooks)

Language of Materials



Joseph M. Bryan (1896-1995) was an insurance executive, broadcasting pioneer, philanthropist, and important community leader in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The Joseph M. Bryan papers date from 1858 to 1995 (bulk 1900s) and contain correspondence, speeches, photographs, diplomas, publications, newspaper clippings, VHS video and assorted ephemeral items.

Arrangement Note

The Bryan Archives is arranged in the following series: Series 1. The Bryan Family History Collection; Series 2. The Joseph M. Bryan Business Papers; Series 3. Artifacts; Series 4. Audiovisual Materials; Series 5. Color Slides; and Series 6. Oversized Materials. Series 7 is comprised of unprocessed materials. Boxes are numbered beginning with 1 in each series.

Method of Acquisition

Joseph M. Bryan pledged his papers to UNCG in February 1991. The bulk of the Bryan Archives were moved to Jackson Library in November and December 1995.

Offensive Language Statement

The UNC Greensboro University Libraries collects, preserves, and makes accessible unique and historical materials for learning and research. The nature of historical materials is such that some material may represent positions, norms, and values that are offensive and objectionable. These materials represent the opinions and actions of their creators. By providing access to these records in our reading room and through our digital collections, we recognize that archives and rare books can play a vital role in holding those creators accountable and in helping us learn from the past.

Our finding aids and other collection descriptions may occasionally re-use language provided by creators or former holders of the materials, but we strive to place outdated or offensive terminology in context. That said, we recognize that we may not always make the right decision and welcome feedback from all sources so we can learn and adjust our practices. Please contact us at if you encounter problematic language in our finding aids or other collection description. We will review the language and, as appropriate, update it in a way that balances preservation of the original context with our ongoing commitment to describing materials with respectful and inclusive language.

Processing Information

Processed by Archives staff.

Joseph M. Bryan Archives
Archives staff
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Revision Statements

  • April 20, 2021: This finding aid underwent changes in Spring 2021 after a reparative archives review. The following link leads to the legacy version of this finding aid:

Repository Details

Part of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Repository

P.O. Box 26170
320 College Ave.
Greensboro NC 27402-6170 US