Girard Bryant

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Lincoln high school
Lincoln High School, where Bryant served as teacher and principal. Courtesy of the Black Archives of Mid-America.

Girard Bryant was a highly respected teacher and school administrator in Kansas City for 45 years. As a community leader, he took an active part in major social issues of the day, particularly education, race relations, health care, and law enforcement.

Girard Thompson Bryant was born in St. Louis, on May 7, 1905, and attended Sumner High School there. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1926, a master’s degree in history and education from the University of Kansas in 1938, and a doctorate in education from Washington University in St. Louis in 1963.

Bryant came to Kansas City in 1926 to teach at Western Baptist Seminary and later at the Kansas Vocational School in Topeka. He became a teacher in the Kansas City School District in 1930 and remained with the district until 1964. During his long tenure he filled many positions, including teacher and vice-principal at Lincoln High School, and dean of Lincoln Junior College.

In 1954 Bryant received a Fulbright grant to teach for a year at the Prasarnmitr College of Education in Bangkok, Thailand. When he returned to Kansas City in 1955, he was appointed vice-principle of the newly-integrated Manual and Central High Schools. In 1960, he joined the Kansas City Junior College staff as assistant dean and dean of instruction. When the Metropolitan Community College system was launched in the 1960s, Bryant served as director of planning and research. In 1970, he was appointed president of Penn Valley Community College. He served for one year and then retired.

In addition to his year in Thailand, Bryant periodically taught at other colleges and universities elsewhere in the country, including Florida A & M University, in Tallahassee; Prairie View A & M University, in Texas; Lincoln University, in Jefferson City, Missouri; and Atlanta University. From 1957 to 1960, he was a visiting lecturer while a doctoral candidate at Washington University, in St. Louis.

Before he retired in 1972, Bryant was on the boards of more than twenty-five community organizations, including the Urban League, the Harry S. Truman Foundation on National and International Affairs, the Kansas City Crime Commission, the Paseo YMCA, the Black Archives of Mid-America, the Kansas City Mental Health Association, Research Medical Center and several other hospitals. He was a member of the Board of Police Commissioners from 1965 to 1969, a time of nation-wide racial friction. He was chairman of the Committee on the Practice of Democracy, a civil rights organization in Kansas City in the 1940s, and a founder of Fellowship House, an organization to promote racial understanding.

Bryant was active in many professional organizations. He was a charter member and president of the Kansas City chapter of American Federation of Teachers. He was also active in the Governor’s Education Conference, the UMKC Urban Education Planning Board and the Missouri Historical Society.

When he arrived in Kansas City, he worked briefly for the Kansas City Call, writing news and sports articles. In later years, he wrote book reviews for the Kansas City Star and was a frequent contributor to the Letters to the Editor column.

By 1981, health problems led Bryant and his wife, Louise, to move to Los Angeles, where their two daughters lived. He died there on September 5, 1993. At his request, his body was returned to Kansas City and buried in Mt. Moriah Cemetery beside his wife, who died in 1991.

Acknowledgement: 

A version of this article previously appeared at http://www.kchistory.org/content/biography-girard-bryant-1905-1993-educa...

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