"WIZARD OF WORDS"
An Introduction to Brann The Iconoclast
by William R. Carr
A list of notable Americans would be incomplete without the name of W. C. Brann, the Great Iconoclast, somewhere near the top. Yet his name is conspicuously absent from most such lists. Few, if any, history books, reference works, or lists of men of letters mention him. But, if there was ever an American worth remembering, Brann is such a man. Yet evidence of his existence is difficult to find. Though Brann's complete works—twelve volumes of them—were published in 1919, the blinds have since been tightly drawn on his public memory. Mainly because of Brann's jaundiced view of the Negro race (altogether too forthrightly expressed by the Iconoclast), he is considered far too politically incorrect for contemporary Americans to gracefully handle. Thus, in spite of the richness of his wit and wisdom on a vast array of other subjects, he his considered by many best forgotten.
When this article was written, I only knew of one book about Brann. This was Brann and the Iconoclast, a biography, by Charles Carver, published in 1957 by the University of Texas. Then, much later, I found "The Best of Brann The Iconoclast, edited by Roger N. Conger (1967, Texian Press). Another work has recently been published, O damnit!, A lexicon and Lecture from William Cowper Brann, The Iconoclast, by Jerry Flemmons (published 1998, by the Texas Tech University Press).
Only two quotes in The Great Quotations, compiled by George Seldes, attest to Brann's existance and quotability:
"A heretic, my dear sir, is a fellow who disagrees with you regarding something neither of you knows anything about."
"No man can be a patriot on an empty Stomach."
In 1898—a little over a hundred years ago—a newspaper publisher was "terminated with great prejudice" on the streets of Waco, Texas. Perhaps it is time to take a second look at this once widely celebrated Texan and American patriot. The following is dedicated to the memory of William C. Brann.
*see END NOTES for titles.
[Back to Pridger's Index]
That Gun-toting, Man-bating Brann
Brann, the Politically Incorrect
Wisdom of the Apostle
Brann vs. Baylor
The Unforgettable Brann
'Nearer My God to Thee'
It was a typical Spring day in the bustling town of Waco. The streets were crowded with Friday's early evening activity. The saloons and shops where busy. Men stood on corners and in doorways in idle conversation. Women bustled in and out of shops. Children played their idle-time games, running and laughing. The sounds of horse's hooves, and the rattling of wagons and buggies, could be heard. A streetcar clanged and jostled in its tracks, stopping now and then to discharge or load passengers. There was no hint of tension in the air. There was no indication that trouble was brewing.
Two men, W. C. Brann and W. H. Ward, (familiar figures on the streets of Waco) were seen walking side by side, talking amiably as they ambled down Fourth Street. They were well dressed men, appropriately appointed in the style of the day. They were tall, Texas men, lean and handsome, in wide-brimmed hats. They were proud and exuberant men, full of life, ambition, and purpose. They were men with dreams—men with promising futures. Their joint prospects were about to undergo a radical and abrupt change.
The two had just passed the door of the business office of one Tom E. Davis—a real estate man. When they were perhaps ten paces beyond, in front of the adjoining newsstand, Davis emerged from his office door, revolver in hand. Without warning, he fired into the back of one of the two men walking away from him. The bullet penetrated deeply into the one he knew as W. C. Brann. At the sharp report, followed almost immediately by several others, the men, women, and children in the street scrambled for cover, diving into doorways and ducking behind corners. They knew the sound all too well. As recently as the previous November 19th, a similar shooting had occurred, killing two, permanently maiming another, and injuring an innocent by-stander.*
The wounded man both heard and felt the shot that would kill him within hours. But he neither dove for cover nor knelt for mercy. He turned to face his assailant, drawing his Colt as he did so. Above the haze of blue smoke, he immediately recognized his adversary—a bitter enemy of long-standing. One can only imagine the thoughts that must have flashed through Davis's mind as he unexpectedly made eye-contact with the gaping bore of Brann's weapon. He didn't have much time to reflect, for no sooner had that startling discovery been made, than Bann's pistol began to bark. When it did, Davis felt a searing pain in his breast, and the killer, who had thought he'd accomplished his dastardly deed in relative safety, went down.
The Waco Weekly Tribune, of Saturday, April 2, 1898,
continues the account:
"...the first shot was fired by Davis, and it was immediately returned by Brann. Ward got between the two and in the firing he was shot in the right hand. Davis fell at the first shot from Brann's pistol and writhed in agony. He soon recovered presence of mind and raising himself upon his elbow returned fire, Brann standing off shooting into the prostrate form, while Davis with unsteady aim was returning the fire. Every bullet from the 'Aposles's' pistol found lodgment in the form of the duelist engaged with him. All was excitement. It was an hour, 6 P.M. when South Fourth Street was crowded, and the rapid report of the pistols caused a sampede of pedestrians, each of which feared contact with a stray bullet... Police Officer Sam S. Hall... standing... not forty feet away... turned at the first report, and seeing the duel in progress, bravely made his way toward the men... Officer Dave Durie was across the street, and he started also, but Officer Hall reached them first, but too late. Each man had finished shooting, Davis had fallen back upon the pavement and his pistol rolled from his hand. Brann was standng pistol in hand, its six chambers empty, looking upon the lengthened form of his antagonist. He had not spoken. Wounded in three places, blood was soiling his linen and clothes. He was yet upon his feet, and Officer Hall, not knowing how serious were his wounds, started with him the the city hall...
"Davis was wounded in many places. Bullets had plowed their way through flesh and bone, and unable himself to move, blood flowing freely from various wounds, his friends lifted him tenderly and gave him comfort as best they could, surgeons responding quickly to the call.
"Ward had been in the midst of the fray, but received but one wound, in the hand. He was between the two men at one time and then sought safety against the wall. When the smoke cleared away he went to the Old Corner drug store to have his hand dressed. Here he was arrested later by Deputy-Sheriff James Lockwood.
"During the shooting... a musician... was struck in the sole of the right foot... and a street car motorman... was struck in the left leg by a bullet. Neither of these injuries are serious."
*On November 19th, 1897, Judge George Bruce "Big Red" Gerald killed the Harris brothers, (J.W. and W.A. Harris) in a spectacular shoot-out that contributed to "Six-Shooter Depot" becoming a Waco nickname. J.W. Harris was the editor of the Waco Times-Herald. Gerald, had written a hotly worded letter to the editor after Brann was mobbed. Harris failed to print it, then failed to be able to produce it when Gerald demanded its return. This minor circumstance grew into a deadly street duel in which both brothers were killed and Judge Gerald lost an arm. Brann described Col. Gerald as "a wonderful old man...over sixty...straight as a pine... a light mustache and chin beard, and eyes the color of the blue you see in old china. He don't know what fear is... thinks it is some kind of disease like smallpox or appendicitis..."
Had the above account been taken from a pulp western, or quoted from the script of a Hollywood B movie, the hero would have recovered and gone on to star in other shoot-em-ups. But this is not fiction, and our hero, having walked away from the scene victorious, died early the following morning.
Though the shoot-out would have done a John Wayne western proud, Hollywood has not seen fit to immortalize this once renowned Texan, and son of the Illinois prairie. Yet he was the stuff of which folk heroes are usually made. It was a gunfight, of the Hollywood-honored western variety—and it was a tragedy that removed two men from the face of the earth, and left widows and children grieving. More than that—many believed, (as I have come to believe)—the tragedy deprived the world of one of its truly great men. Though few have heard of him today, the death of William Cowper Brann—a.k.a., the "Great Iconoclast;" the "Apostle;" the "Wizard of Words;" the "Texas Terror," was a loss felt far and wide in 1898. Brann, to be sure, was an exceptional person—a giant of heroic proportions, according to many—tragically cut down in the prime of his life at the age of 43.
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THAT GUN-TOTING, MAN-BAITING, BRANN
Had Brann been a mere saddle-tramp, an outlaw, or even a Texas
lawman, western history buffs and Hollywood scriptwriters and producers would
certainly have celebrated him long ago. But Brann was a newspaper publisher.
More than that, he was a man of letters who, had he lived, would almost
undoubtedly have left an indelible mark upon our literary landscape. He
published a newspaper called The Iconoclast—a paper which enjoyed an
unprecedented popularity and circulation for its place and time. Even so, a
handsome cow-town gun-slinging publisher, it would seem, would make the perfect
western pop-hero of the type Hollywood once loved. That Hollywood failed to
adopt Brann as one of its own is evidence that he was even then too hot to
handle, in a political sense. There's less chance Brann would catch Hollywood's
fancy now. Todays westerns, when produced at all, seem carefully crafted to
convey social messages in accordance with contemporary sensitivities. Brann
would be most difficult to revise into compliance. So, Brann, for all his
accomplishments, his colorful life and death, has been long forgotten. Yet the
following description paints the picture of a character literally tailored to be
"The slouch-hatted, gun-toting, beer-drinking, woman-worshiping, man-baiting Brann of Texas... developed the colossal courage and fighting fearlessness that gave his poet's soul the reach and stature, the strength and vigor, to raise himself above the mere music of his words...
"Had Brann lived! ...We should have heard the man who against petty politicians and occasional pugilists, out-thundered Carlyle, turn his roaring guns against the blood-guilty heads that bade wholesale rape and gaunt hunger stalk rampant in a gory world."
Milo Hastings wrote the above words in the Preface to The Complete Works of Brann the Iconoclast. It may seem curious that there should be such a thing as "The Complete Works" of a forgotten western hero. But, yes! Despite Brann's foreshortened career, his works fill twelve volumes. They comprise a veritable treasure trove of late nineteenth century journalistic Americana. This legacy was fortuitously preserved for posterity by the loyal wife who survived him, Carrie Martin Brann, (or Mrs. W.C. Brann as she preferred).
Incredibly, the literary meat and potatoes, chitlin's and caviar, encompassed in those twelve volumes are the work of a mere three or four year period. When one samples that fare, and savors the rare and rich tidbits scattered throughout, amidst much of the coarser less palatable fare, one wonders what Brann might have produced had he lived on to old age. And one cannot but wonder why such a man has been forgotten. Still, those published works, as they appeared week after week in the Iconoclast, riveted a nation a hundred years ago. They are, in and of themselves, ample evidence of genius and accomplishment. Forget the western street drama, Brann is well worth reading today for the words he cranked into publication—for no editorial writer has come close to him since in either substance or popularity, with the possible exception of H.L. Mencken. Yet Brann's works and name have been stricken from the pages of America's Who's Who of letters.
Why, if Brann was so great, has he been forgotten? To again
quote Milo Hastings:
"Brann offends, shocks and outrages, is suppressed, damned, forcibly ignored and laboriously forgotten, because though the lark sings in his words, 'the buzzard is on the wing.' ...Brann left nothing unsaid, and because of that fact was locked out of colleges, libraries, encyclopedias and halls of fame."
In short, not only was Brann exceedingly brilliant, he was, even in his own time, what we would today call politically incorrect. And he was scathingly honest and forthright when it came to stepping on political and ecclesiastical toes. Brann's editorial pen alternately soared into God's heaven and dove into society's gutters. He destroyed the icons of dishonest politicians, greedy capitalists, hypocritical ministers, and overrated literary celebrity. He wrote for a mass market, and in doing so had to strive to get, and to hold, the attention of both saints and sinners. And he succeeded! For his readers included both the high and low of literate society. His mission was to raise them all, and right wrongs and misconceptions, through the raw power of his words. "In him was embodied the philosophy of Carlyle—the brilliance of Voltaire,—the withering sarcasm of Desmoulins—the poetry of Ingersoll." Abbott wrote in the Graphic.
Brann ought to be remembered and restored to his rightful place in American history, literature, and folk culture. Regrettably, such a restoration is unlikely in the near future. Newspaper editors are seldom remembered. Their works are seldom considered memorable literature, if qualified as literature at all. Brann's editorializing is perhaps the exception, but there are still many who would like to see his memory remain forever buried.
Mainstream academia, like Hollywood, would recoil in alarm at the suggestion that Brann might be worth a second look. To the politically correct of his day, Brann was an embarrassment, and he'd be even more embarrassing to the even more narrowly focused politically correct forces of today. Brann was not for the faint of heart of the 1890's, nor is he for the faint of heart of the 1990's. He can be appreciated, if perhaps not thoroughly approved, only by the truly open-minded. The degree of open-mindedness required is not likely to be found in the halls of contemporary academia. If Brann were to be mentioned in classrooms today, it certainly wouldn't be to acknowledge his wisdom nor honor his memory.
It is sadly ironic that the home town Brann adopted, and so loved, has particular cause to suppress his memory. The sordid business which led to his death is a stain on the record of Baylor University, which is Waco's crown jewel. And Baylor is, and always has been, a fine and proud institution—but it has had its scandals.
Click on the images for a larger view.
It has belatedly (2006), come to my
attention that Waco now
commemorates the Brann - Davis shooting with an historical marker. A
similar marker commemorates the Gerald - Harris shooting (pictured
elsewhere on this page).
And speaking of movies, a motion picture about Brann the Iconoclast was
produced in 1950, with Roger N. Conger staring as Brann. The picture was
filmed on Fourth Street where the actual action took place. The area was
devastated by a 1953 tornado, so the buildings no longer exist.
The motion picture was most probably strictly a local effort and never widely shown or distributed.
Mr. Conger is a historian and third generation resident of Waco. He edited The Best of Brann The Iconoclast, published in 1967 by the Texian Press of Waco.
Texian Press has more recently published (revised edition - 1998), A Pictorial History of Waco, with a reprint of highlights of Waco history, by Conger.
Our thanks to Jesse Greene for this information.
What amounts to a rather small historical incident, unfortunately, amounts to a rather embarrassing stain on the proud history of Baylor. For Baylor, a Christian University that produced Baptist ministers, was at the very epicenter of the chain of events that led to the shoot-out on that fateful April day in 1898. It is quite understandable that neither Waco nor Bayor would be eager to have Brann's memory resurrected. It can be said that Baylor University put Waco on the map, and Brann brought them both briefly to the national stage. (More recently, of course, the Branch Dividian tragedy brought Waco again to the attention of the world.)
One reason I find Brann so interesting, and worth revisiting, is that the political debates and wrangling of the 1890's, as well as several social and economic issues then current, have many parallels in the issues of today. Brann discoursed on money and free trade, morals and hypocrisy. He knew the errors of both the gold and the silver advocates, and the bankers and industrialists who did battle against labor. He saw the communist folly in pitting labor against capital, and thus against itself, in counterproductive strike actions. He saw the folly in Prohibition, (then a "local option"). He was a populist who knew the errors of the Populists, and a democrat who knew and exposed the folly of both Democrats and Republicans.
The "Apostle" carried on an editorial sparing match with both politicians and preachers, writers and editors, whether obscure or of national renown. He sometimes jousted with windmills, but most often did battle against Ignorance and Stupidity, Vice and Avarice—on real issues, both local and national. He took them head on like a Spanish bull, goring his way into a herd of bleeding oxen. Grabbing a tiger by the tail was great sport to Brann. If he couldn't tame the beast, he could at least tie a painful knot or two. He detested both political dishonesty and religious hypocrisy. He particularly hated the bigotry and intolerance that existed under the protective banner of pretended Christianity.
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BRANN, THE POLITICALLY INCORRECT
Brann was a liberal and universalist, a humanist and progressive, and a reformer in the days before the political left took those handles over under the guise of modern political liberalism. Most of today's liberal minds, however, would undoubtedly just as soon Brann's work never again see the light of day. For Brann was also an American nationalist and patriot of the first order. And he wrote in sometimes coarse terms, in what he knew to be a crude and cruel, but still delightful, world. Spiritually, Brann was a Deist in the mold of Jefferson and Paine, and a Christian as Jefferson described himself a Christian. Some thought Brann had socialist leanings, but this was not so. He merely recognized that predatory capital needed to be brought under some sort of control in order for capitalism work to the benefit of the the nation.
Today, of course, Brann would be (and is!), condemned as a racist—for he spoke his mind in the accepted lingo of the day. He refused to be either mealy-mouthed or effeminately sensitive in his rhetoric. But his views on race were in accordance with the overwhelming majority of honest men of his time. The freedom with which he was able to express himself is a freedom that no longer exists in this land of the free and home of the brave—at least without fear of severe censure, provoking riots, or being brought up on some sort of charges.
While Brann would go to bat for the weak and down-trodden of any
race, he held strong views about the racial composition he thought necessary to
the survival of a great nation of self-governing citizens. He hated mean-hearted
bigotry with a passion, but would have withheld the voting franchise from both
the Negro and women.
"National decay and racial retrogression may be inferred... (when) solving the race problem for God and the South by giving to the typical American of the future the complexion of a new saddle and the perfume of a Republican powwow... When white people lose their racial pride they've nothing left that justifies the appointment of a receiver. We hear a lot about 'race prejudice,' and I want to say right here that there's just enough of it in my composition to inspire an abiding faith that the white man should be, must be, will be, lord paramount of this planet. I promise you that when you elect me to the presidency, nothing that's black, yaller or tan gets an office under my administration... There's lots of good in the Senegambian—lots of it; but not in a thousand years will he be fit for American sovereignty. Half the white people are not fit for it, else instead of a wooden-headed hiccius doctius we'd have Billy Bryan in the presidential chair today... I like the negro in his place and his place is in the cotton patch, instead of politics, despite the opinion of those who have studied him only through the rose-tinted lorgnette of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'..."
Such sentiments, freely expressed in a widely read paper today, would cause the wrath of hell to descent upon the offending editorial offices, and the town guilty of hosting them sacked and burned. A Brann of today would have his career curtailed much earlier than the Brann of a century ago—if not by Judge Lynch or his Leaden Messengers, by Justice Riot, prompted by overwhelming media condemnation.
But Brann had equally harsh words for some of his white
brethren. Above he expressed the view that "Half the white people are not
fit" (for "American sovereignty" and the vote), and he continues:
"I also like the Anglomaniac in his place, and that is the geographical center of old England, with John Bull's trade-mark seared with a hot iron on the western elevation of his architecture as he faces the rising sun to lace his shoes. As between the n(egro) and the Anglomaniac, I much prefer the former... the Anglomaniac is an ass superlative... The first is faithful to those who feed him; the latter is a sneaking enemy to the country that has conferred upon him every benefit."
Railway Age once printed, "Brann is not an Englishman... 'all Englishmen in this country repudiate his every utterance.' To which Brann replied: "Thanks, awfully; that's the highest compliment ever paid an American sovereign by a British subject."
Of course, the "Anglomaniacs" to which Brann referred, were Americans who believed our national destiny unequivocally intertwined with that of the British Empire. Brann had the political insight to foresee the inevitability of Europe's great war. He knew an Anglo-American alliance would eventually draw the western world into a terrible conflict. Indeed, within only a few years, as Brann had feared, we joined Great Britain in "the war to end all wars"—and preserve the scope and power of the British Empire. America didn't join the conflict easily, nor jump in when the first shot was fired, but the fact that it would had been established long before. Only a few discerning individuals where capable of seeing it. As Brann knew, the conflict would have more to do with money and international finance than democratic ideals.
As for women, there was never a man who loved them more dearly,
desired so ardently to believe in their innate purity, and put them upon a
higher moral pedestal than Brann. But he wrote:
"No; I wouldn't give women the ballot—not in a thousand years. I want no petticoats in politics—no she-senators or female presidents; but I'd do better by woman..." (elsewhere, he wrote) "...The Teuton does not take kindly to female suffrage, believing, and rightly too, that the hand that wields the sword should sway the scepter..."
Brann felt that only men could be base enough to successfully wallow in the dirty toughs of politics, make dishonest politicians, cutthroats, and blood-thirsty warriors. He forever held women to higher standards and higher callings, not the least of which was caring for, and educating, their children. He wouldn't give them the vote, (unless perhaps it could be proven womankind as a whole truly wanted it—and Brann felt, or at least he hoped, women had too much native intelligence for that) but he would free womankind from the nonsensical social restraints which had forever borne them down and made them the drudges of unworthy men. He felt that enfranchising women would pull them down to the baseness he so detested in so many of his fellows, and he couldn't countenance the thought.
Brann sallied forth and took on such Goliaths as Henry George, renowned author of Progress and Poverty, against the idea of the "Single Tax"—and Robert Ingersoll, whom he felt wasted a considerable amount of his talent in Quixotic tirades against the mere superficialities of religion. Brann felt Ingersoll should rise above such things and channel his genius down more constructive avenues. The Apostle admired both men, but that didn't prevent him from revealing what he believed their errors on the pages of the Iconoclast.
Perhaps the only cardinal sin of which Brann was never accused,
at least to my knowledge, was that of anti-Semitism. Nor was he ever guilty of
it. In fact Brann defended the Jews from the only kind of anti-Semitism that
existed to any degree in this country in his day—that of Christian bigotry.
Brann sang the praises of Jews for the benefit of his Christian brethren.
"The Jew is a good citizen. He is seldom a crank... All his influences are cast upon the side of law and order. He is exceptionally tolerant of other people's opinions, whether religious or political... Down-trodden, despoiled, outraged in other lands, he appreciates the political and social equality here accorded him, as no other race could do."
Ironically, at the very time Brann was writing that the Jew "...makes no attempt to breed bitterness among the different races and people in the land where he may chance to live..." the Jews' reputation was about to change dramatically, and he would be at the epicenter of conflict throughout the next century. International Zionism was gaining steam. Theodor Herzl wrote The Jewish State in 1896, and convened the first Zionist Congress in 1897. The Jewish socialist party, the Bund, was formed in Russia also in 1897.
Political Zionism would soon be instrumental in bringing about the very Anglo-American alliance Brann was so adamantly against. The famous Balfour Declaration of Nov. 2, 1917, which drew the Zionists to the British cause (through the promise of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, as the spoils of war) automatically made de facto "Anglomaniacs" of wealthy American Jews, who then used their considerable influence to gain our entry into the war on England's behalf—the war Brann had known was brewing between the European powers.*
Brann felt strongly that our national interests where not
synonymous with those of England—that in fact, England ought to be considered
a potential enemy. But the same Balfour who later delivered the Jews to Great
Britain's cause was, even as Brann wrote, laying the groundwork for the
Anglo-American alliance. Brann wrote:
"Balfour recently declared in the House of Commons that in case England became involved in war she would have the sympathy of Uncle Sam—that 'combined with the United States, Great Britain could stand against any conceivable combination of powers.' When it is remembered that England hasn't a friend among the continental powers of Europe, that she may yet be called upon to fight the better part of them, and possibly deal at the same time with an ugly revolt in India, and that even with the loyal support of all her dependencies she is not considered a match for Russia, the sweeping nature of this compliment can be understood... This reminds me that when Cleveland run his little Venezuelan boundary bluff in the humble hope that it would again land him in the White House, the Canadians threatened to come over and eat our eagle, and London papers predicted that Uncle Sam would humbly sue for peace after a British warship had dropped a few shells into his coast cities. Gadzooks, mon; how we have grown during the past few months! But since Uncle Sam is thus officially recognized as the bull of the woods, why should he tie himself up by means of an inequitable arbitration treaty with a third-class power? Why not tell 'our transatlantic cousin,' in the language of Jefferson, that we desire 'peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none'... Why? Because we have in this country a scabby little gang of Anglomaniacs... whose imbecility and cowardice it has become fashionable to imitate—because we are afraid of being called 'jingoes' by some flannel-mouthed white-livered English-loving lickspittle whom it were a disgrace to every decent dog in Christendom to call a lousy cur..."
Additionally, though Brann was a friend and defender of the Jew, he was no friend of the "devil of the money power," international plutocrats, and financiers—those combined forces which are today collectively referred to as the "international bankers," (now considered a "code word" for Jewish bankers when used by conspiracy theorists and American patriots) any serious criticism of whom tends to invite charges of anti-Semitism. If Brann were alive today, I have no doubt that he'd be on an Anti-Defamation League's "watch list," as well as a few other lists.
Brann's most wickedly cutting remarks were reserved for his
local enemies at Baylor University. It was ultimately his uncanny ability to
raise local hackles, in that "Six-Shooter Depot" of Waco, that proved
"These intellectual eunuches, who couldn't father an idea if cast bodily into the womb of the goddess of wisdom..."
"If there be yet a God in Israel or sense of decency or justice remaining in the human heart, I can come precious near making that pseudosacrosanct institution tuck its fleabitten tail between its hinder legs and flee unto the mountains of Hepsidam, where the lion roareth and the whang-doodle mourneth for its first-born. Sweet Christians, if you want peace, I prithee go cork yourselves."
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*Ref: "Zionism" and the "Balfour Declaration," Britannica CD version, 1997. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. 1997.
"Yellow" Journalism, or Red-Blooded Americana?
Last issue of Brann's Iconoclast
Brann was born in Humbolt township, in Cole county, Illinois on January 4, 1855. His father was the Reverend Noble J. Brann, a Presbyterian minister. Brann's mother had died when he was two and a half, and Reverend Brann placed his son with a Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins, a Cole county farm family, with whom he remained for ten years. At age ten Brann stole a freight train from under the nose of watermelon-eating train crew, and made it almost to Mattoon, (some ten miles to the south) before the conductor, who had been asleep in the caboose, was able to climb forward over the cars and grab him by the ear. Though Brann always referred to his foster parents affectionately, he left their care early in search of adventure in 1868, at the age of 13.
His first job was as a bell boy at a hotel in a nearby town. Before the age of 21 he learned the trades of painter and grainer and printer's devil; had been a traveling drummer; a fireman on a Texas freight; a breakman on International and Great Northern; worked as a semi-professional baseball pitcher; an opera company manager, and a newspaper reporter. Finally, after the required period of self-education, he became an editorial writer. As such, he is said to have become well known throughout Illinois and Missouri before finally settling in Texas. At one point, according to at least one account, he was ordained a Baptist minister, but to quote Brann himself: "I came very near being a Baptist... but reneged when an attempt was made to baptize me in cracked ice on a winter's day."
For an untutored farm boy from the prairie lands of Illinois, Brann could by then already be considered something of a success, merely "driving a pen" for others. At any rate, he was making a living, and successful enough by 1877 to take a wife in the person of a Miss Carrie Belle Martin, on March 3, at Rochelle, Illinois. In December of the same year, Inez Martin Brann, his first child, was born. Yet years of struggle and poverty remained before he would become known as the Great Iconoclast and enjoy a degree of editorial freedom and financial success.
Brann worked as a reporter for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1883, then moved on to the Galveston Evening Tribune. In May 1889 he became an editorial writer for the The Galveston Daily News. While there he tried his hand as a playwrite, writing three plays said to have gained some degree of popularity. Cleon was an historical drama, and Retribution, was a melodrama. Retribution was presented at the San Antonio Grand Opera House in 1893. One of his plays, That American Woman, was later published, (1941) by the University of Texas Press. But Brann was soon back at an editor's desk. In 1890, while working at the Houston Post, his first daughter, Inez, tragically died of suicide by a morphine overdose.
It was July of 1891 when the first issue of Brann's Austin Iconoclast appeared in Austin, Texas. Unfortunately, the enterprise failed after only a few issues. Interestingly, one of Brann's admirers is remembered by today's world, and may have owed some of his success and writing style to W. C. Brann. William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, was at that time a drug clerk in Austin, according to Hastings. (According to Charles Carver, in Brann and the Iconoclast, Porter was a bank teller.) Having literary aspirations of his own, Porter jumped at the chance to get into publication. Purchasing Brann's press and the Iconoclast name for $250.00, Porter attempted to keep the paper alive with his own brand of journalism. The Iconoclast faired no better in O. Henry's hands than in Brann's, however, and failed after only two issues. Later on, in 1894, Porter started a humorous weekly called The Rolling Stone. It too failed, and he became a Houston Post reporter before ultimately becoming a literary icon in his own right. According to Milo Hastings: "As Brann read his Homer and his Carlyle, his Shakespeare and his Ingersoll, so Hubbard and O. Henry read their Brann."
Meanwhile, Brann had resumed editorial work at the Globe Democrat at St. Louis, and later at the Express of San Antonio, and the Houston Post. In the Summer of 1894, Brann and his family settled in Waco, Texas, where he went to work as an editorial writer for the Waco Daily News. He obtained permission from William Porter to resume the Iconoclast name and reestablished the publication in 1895. His renewed effort was successful from the first issue.
That a newspaper like the Iconoclast could have attained much success at all in a small western town, alongside 15 already established periodicals, was amazing. That by the time of Brann's untimely death, the Iconoclast had attained a circulation of 90,000 was nothing short of miraculous. (Some claim the readership was as high as 120,000 at its peak.) The Iconoclast enjoyed a readership that rivaled many of the big city dailies and magazines of the time, and Brann's name, along with that of his paper, gained national and international renown. The Iconoclast was read in many countries around the world in addition to around the nation. He was reviled by many, but loved by many more. But even many of his most ardent detractors never missed an issue of the Iconoclast, for if they weren't being "roasted" they wanted to know who was. Additionally, Brann had become a much sought-after lecturer, and traveled far and wide speaking to a surprising assortment of groups, in addition to carrying on his publishing and editorial duties.
That one man could carry the burdens he had assigned himself is ample evidence that the man was nothing short of what we would today call a workaholic genius. For Brann was his own writing and editorial staff. He literally wrote the entire content of most issues of his paper. He hired a hand or two to help with the mailing, and had a lecture tour and business manager, but what Brann put into print was the rawest essence of his amazing writing ability. It passed through no additional editorial processes, but went straight from his pen to the typesetter and printer.
Brann had failed previously, when he had had some financial backing. This time he had no backing, but he had learned a hard and profitable lesson. Outrage and sensationalism would sell the new Iconoclast. Brann stepped on toes. He particularly relished seeing shady politicians squirm, exposing dishonesty and hypocrisy at every opportunity, of which there were many. In the category of hypocrisy, he delighted in taking on the preeminent preachers of the country—especially those for whom it was a business. If their specialty was terrorizing congregations with hell-fire and brimstone, he delighted in lighting fires to their own coat tails. If they railed against Catholic, Jew, or Pagan, he invoked the teachings of their own professed "Saviour"—His lessons of compassion and tolerance—to expose their lack of "saving grace." In between times, he lectured the politicians in Washington on how they might solve the problems of governance, and addressed the on-going degradation of republicanism and freedom.
Brann had plenty to say about issues that still concern us today, and therein lies his current value, and why he should be remembered and read. What he said will not please everybody, of course, for in many ways we have not changed all that much in a century's time. In other ways, we've changed to a degree that would both shock and disappoint Brann if he were to return. Though Brann was outrageous—and to that he owed much of his success—but there was much he wrote of value and substance with deserve a second look.
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WISDOM OF THE APOSTLE
"Where reason sits enthroned God reigns"
"We may call that power the devil which is forever at war with truth, is the father of falsehood, whether it be an active personality or only a vicious principle."
On national decline:
"When Rome began to mock her gods, she found the barbarians thundering at her gates. When France insulted her priesthood and crowned a courtesan as Goddess of Reason in Notre Dame, Paris was a maelstrom and the nation a chaos in which Murder raged and Discord shrieked..."
"Character no longer counts for aught unless reinforced by a bank account... Men are sent to Congress whom God intended for the gallows, while those he ticketed for the penitentiary sprout inanities in fashionable pulpits. The merchant who pays his debts in full when he might settle for ten cents on the dollar is considered deficient in common sense... Why is this? It is because the old religious spirit is dormant if not dead; it is because when people consider themselves but as the beasts that perish, they can make no spiritual progress, but imitate their supposed ancestors..."
"To the American patriot familiar with the rapid development of this country it seems that the hour must assuredly come when its lightest wish will be the world's law... but... despite the rapid increase in men and money there are startling indications that Uncle Sam has already passed the zenith of his power. 'First freedom, then glory, when that fails, Wealth, vice, corruption—barbarism at last.'
"Freedom we have won, and glory, yet both have failed—we have become, not the subjects of native Caesars, but the serfs of foreign Shylocks."
On God and religion:
"God does not reveal himself to beasts, nor to men of brutish minds. How can those who have no ear for music, no eye for beauty, hear the melody of the universe or comprehend the symmetry of the All? ...To make them understand a message God would have to typewrite it, add the seal of a notary public and deliver it in person."
"...There never was a religion instituted upon the earth that the priesthood failed to transform into arrant folly, to debase until it finally fell into disrepute... Dogmatism begat Doubt, and men began to study the Bible, not to search out its wisdom and its truth, but its folly and its falsehood. They represent the recoil from one extreme to the other—from blind belief to unreasoning skepticism, from intellectual slavery to liberty degenerated into license. Instead of judging the Bible by God they judge God by the Bible, and finding by this ridiculous formula that he is little better than a brutal maniac, they reject him altogether and try to account for the creature without the Creator, to explain an effect without an efficient cause. If we could but muzzle the dogmatists Infidelity would quickly die.
"The essentials of the Christian religion do not depend upon the inerrancy of the Scriptures... Is it necessary that the Creator should violate his own laws to convince us that he does exist? ...When this great globe hangs motionless in space... and not till then, will I relinquish faith in an intelligent Architect and acknowledge lawless Force the only Deity."
On the science of money:
"We hear a great deal about the 'science of money'... there's no 'science of money' any more than there's a science of harvesting hoop poles or fighting flies... A dollar, whether it be made of gold, silver or paper, is simply an order which the people in their official capacity give against all the wealth, actual and potential, of the nation; and unless the holder can get it promptly redeemed in food and clothing, he's in a terrible bad fix."
Brann deplored the the rising costs of government and the prison
industry. He went to bat for labor, and he went to bat for capital. But he
wanted honest, responsible capital that fairly compensated labor. He deplored
the mal-distribution of wealth:
"...And when we so amend industrial conditions that each can find employment at profitable prices, we do more to eliminate crime and foster morality than have all the prophets and preachers..."
"No man can be either a patriot or a consistent Christian on an empty stomach—he's merely a savage animal, a dangerous beast."
"The concentration of wealth in the hands of the few and the impoverishment of the common people... has ever been the herald of moral decay and of national death... Shall the average American Citizen be a Slave or a Sovereign?"
"It is time that capital and labor realized that their interests are really comutual, as interdependent as the brain and the body; time they ceased their fratricidal strife and, uniting their mighty forces under the flag of Progress, completed the conquest of the world and doomed Poverty, Ignorance and Vice... Unless labor is employed, capital cannot increase—it cannot concentrate. Unless property rights are held inviolable and capital thereby encouraged to high enterprise, labor is left without a lever with which to lift itself to perfect life and must sink back to barbarism."
Brann was an American nationalist, jealously proud of his flag
and country but also often ashamed of the lack of quality of his
representatives. He deplored government forever increasing the scope of it's
"We're governed entirely too much—Officialism is becoming a veritable Old Man of the Sea on the neck of Labor's Sinbad. About every fifth man you meet is a public servant of some sort, and you cannot get married or buried, purchase a drink or own a dog except with a by-your-leave to the all-pervading law of the land... and if the police don't cut you down in time to put you in jail the preachers will send you to hell. ...We have so many laws and so much legal machinery that when you throw a man into the judicial hopper not even an astrologer can tell whether he'll come out a horse-thief or only a homicide..."
"I admit that I haven't much respect for the law—there's so much of it that when I come to spread my respect over the entire lot it's about as thin as one of Sam Jones's sermons...
"We are bowing down before various pie-hunting political gods and electing men to Congress who couldn't tell the Federal Constitution from Calvin's Confession of Faith...
"Our patriotism has been supplanted by partisanship, and now all are for a party and none are for the state. On July 4 we shout for the old flag and all the rest of the year we clamor for an appropriation..."
On patriotism, "jingoism" and the stock market:
"We have 'progressed' from the manly independence and fierce patriotism of our forebears to a namby-pamby foreign policy... to the anserine cackle of 'jingoism' whenever an American manifests a love of country or professes a national pride. What is 'Jingoism?' It is a word coined by enemies of this country and used by toad-eaters... Who are those who recalcitrate about jingoism? They are people who have never forgiven Almighty God for suffering them to be born American sovereigns instead of British subjects... They are the people whose god is the dollar, their country the stock exchange, and who suspect that a foreign policy with as much backbone as a scared rabbit would knock some of the wind and water out of their bogus 'securities.' ...who would sell their citizenship for a copper cent... pleading for peace at any price... Because this nation is dominated by the dollar—is in the hands of those who have no idea of honor unless it will yield somewhat to eat, no use for patriotism unless it can be made to pay."
On immigration and suffrage:
"...We've got to grade up or we're gone. Only superior Intelligence is capable of self-government—Ignorance and Tyranny go hand in hand. You may theorize until the Bottomless Pit is transformed into a skating park... but the condition of the hewers of wood and the drawers of water will never be permanently bettered while Ignorance and Vice have access to the ballot-box... The rebound from the monstrous doctrine of the divine right of monarchs has hurried us into equal error..."
On public education:
"Teach a boy to read and you confer on him the open sesame to all knowledge. If he be worthy an education, he will then secure it without further assistance from the State. ...Our ornate public school systems represent a mistaken effort to transform sows' ears into silken purses at public expense."
On political economy and the expense of the prisons:
"Knowledge is power. When those who vote fully understand that every dollar expended by government, federal, state or municipal, must be created by the common people—that first or last, labor must furnish it forth—we'll cease having billion-dollar Congresses... we'll cease making so many needless laws and paying aspiring patriots fat salaries to harass us with their enforcement; ...we'll cease building so many palatial prisons where thieves and thugs may be cared for at the expense of honest people, but will divide criminals into classes—those who should be peremptorily hanged, and those who should be whipped and turned loose to hustle their own hash. Nothing knocks the sawdust out of false sentiment so quickly as the realization that it's an expensive luxury and that we must pay the freight."
Brann accumulated plenty of enemies, but he accumulated many more friends. In spite of what sometimes appeared hatefulness in print, good people recognized in Brann a champion of good. But Brann also spoke to the lesser of good in people, that which stirred them and stimulated thought. He was often wicked, in the best of ways, and reached out to thousands otherwise untouchable by more refined journalism. Had Brann lived, there is no telling what he might have produced—what he might have become. Alas! we will never know. Had he lived to be eighty years of age, he would have died in 1933. He would have been a contemporary to many of our parents and grandparents. But he died in a blaze of gunfire in the streets of Waco in 1898. It was a sorry loss.
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BRANN vs. BAYLOR
"Revolvers, Ropes, and Religion"
In addition to being known as the "Six-shooter Depot," Waco was the "Athens of Texas." Before Brann came to town, Waco had been best known as the proud home of Baylor University. After Brann's arrival, Waco became much more widely known as the home of the lively Iconoclast newspaper and its fiery editor. While Brann would have liked nothing better than to sing the praises of Baylor, and stay on the right side of its venerable administration, he found it impossible to do so. He wasn't one to automatically worship at the feet of college administrators merely because they cloaked themselves in the lordly garments of academia and Christian righteousness. He had a problem with hypocrisy, and soon observed that Baylor had at least its fair share of the breed. Brann hadn't hastened to sanctify the Iconoclast by glorifying Baylor. In fact, Brann's reputation had preceeded him, and he found his paper boycotted by Baylor official edict even before it had a chance to get its feet wet. Brann, bit back with stinging words and the Iconoclast literally mushroomed into national prominence. This being so, the university administration, and some at city hall, increasingly came to resent Brann's presence. They found his growing influence and popularity alarming, and siezed every opportunity to undermine his standing in the community and discredit his words. He was attacked as a sinner, an atheist, an anarchist, and finally as a "Pope-lover" and secret member of the Jesuit order.
Thus, relations between Brann and the Baylor faculty where strained from the beginning. Waco was a too small for an Iconoclast of Brann's audacity and a Christian university to coexist without a certain amount of conflict. For some time the conflict was rather innocuous and sometimes even almost amiable, at least on Brann's part. But relations went from not so good to worse. Eventually, they got much worse.
Things really turned sour when Baylor University, and an organization called the American Protective Society, (A.P.A.) imported a lecturer by the name Joseph Slattery in April of 1895. Brann attended Slattery's lectures. Slattery, an ex-Catholic priest married to an ex-nun, (who was reputed to have been kicked out of the Church for reasons of gross immorality) proceeded to "roast" the Catholic Church unmercifully. Brann, to be sure, was no more a proponent of Catholicism than he was a champion of the Baptist cause. But he was a champion of truth and decency, and Slattery slandered Catholic nuns in a most shocking and unforgivable way. The Apostle was outraged. Slattery, knowing of Brann, (for Brann had already "roasted" him in the Iconoclast) also disparaged him before the audience, charging that Brann had been whipped by a one-armed man and run out of San Antonio with his tail between his legs. Brann then arose, pointed his finger at Slattery, and said, "...You lie and you know it, and I refuse to listen to you." He then turned and walked out amid the hoots and hisses of many in the audience. He came close to being mobbed right then. Brann then hired the same opera house and replied to Slattery. He also replied on the pages of the Iconoclast, of course. He roasted Slattery, and Baylor for having invited him to town.
Relations took another dive when a scandal surfaced in the Summer of 1895 at the university concerning a certain young female student named Antonia Teixeira. She was an orphan from Brazil who had been taken under Baylor's wing at the age of eleven. Taken into the chief administrator's household, at age 14 she was found to be, ah—with child. Such things do happen sometimes—even in upstanding Christian colleges.
But Brann considered the manner with which the administration subsequently handled the matter deplorable. It was deplorable. They dumped her without bothering to find out who the guilty party was. In fact, they protected the guilty party and falsely accused the girl of being a "willful bawd" and of having had an amorous affair with a negro. The Iconoclast took up the young lady's cause and, in so doing, publicly exposed a lack of morality, or at least criminal negligence, on the part of the young lady's guardians. Baylor suffered a humiliating black eye before the entire nation, indeed the world, thanks to exposure it enjoyed at Brann's hand. Discretion might well have proven the better part of valor in the case, but Brann was incapable of conforming to that mold. When the guilty were free and the innocent condemned, Brann could not be silent. The Brann-Baylor relationship was thus soured beyond reprieve. However, it remained for another "affair" to turn the relationship really ugly—and ultimately deadly.
In taking Baylor to task for catering to the likes of Slattery, and again in the wake of the sex scandal, Brann made a comment to the effect that Baylor was manufacturing "ministers and Magdalens." This gave Brann's enemies the handle they would flay him with, by making people believe Brann had equated all of Baylor's female students with Magdalen—an outrageous and unforgivable insult that required action. That Brann's remark was intended as a jab at the University's administration, no longer mattered to some.
To the use of that single word, "Magdalens," are attributed two mob actions against the Apostle, as Baylor's male "students" finally answered the call on October 2, 1897. In the first instance, Brann's home was invaded by a mob who sought to kidnap him. Not finding him there, they found him in town and proceeded to administer their brand of "saving grace" with ropes, revolvers, and cudgels. He was trussed, pistol-whipped; striped; spat upon; pulled around the campus with a rope around his neck; almost lynched; (when the students found their bucket of tar and feathers had been hidden, apparently by a Brann partisan) and finally forced to sign a "confession" and apology.
Bloody and shaken, Brann was then ordered to leave town before sundown. In the second instance, on October 6, he had been waylaid at gun-point in the hall of an office building. He was caned down into the street and then horse-whipped almost senseless, reminded the while that he had a redemptive train to catch. Of course, Brann didn't leave town then either. After recuperating for a few days with his "head in a sling," as he put it, he fought back with his pen with renewed vigor and with devastating, (ultimately suicidal) effect. He continued to publish the Iconoclast and "roast" the parties who were giving Baylor University a bad name, and him an exceptionally hard time.
Things might have quieted down a little, but one of Brann's friends was so outraged at Brann's treatment he wrote a hotly worded letter expressing his feelings. This was Judge George B. Gerald. He delivered the letter to J.W. Harris, editor of the Waco Times-Herald. Harris failed to print the letter, and could not return the letter when Gerald demanded it. This seemingly minor problem ultimately ended in the deaths of Harris and his brother W.A. in a shoot-out with Gerald on November 19, 1897.
The man who killed Brann had a daughter in attendance at Baylor, and had outspokenly joined the frenzied chorus demanding Brann's banishment. Apparently frustrated at Brann's failure to make tracks, he took it upon himself to send Brann on a permanent journey. He succeeded by shooting a brave man in the back. As a reward, Brann's own six-shooter answered, joining that powerful refrain to which he had referred when writing of cowards and gun play "...bullets sweetly singing 'Nearer My God to Thee.'"
So Brann was killed and his murderer immediately repaid in Texas change, a judicial transaction Brann himself had often held was necessary when nothing else would do. The only justice, beyond that of the moment, was that Brann died in peace, and his murderer died a few hours later less pleasantly. Both bereaved families paid an equal price, and the world lost a great man.
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THE UNFORGETTABLE BRANN
Along with the mourning which followed Brann's death, words of condemnation and praise reverberated around the nation in the editorial prints. From sea to sea, from the Rio Grande to the Canadian border, editors and journalists remembered Brann the Iconoclast. Some were sad, some were mad, and others glad. A few seized the opportunity to step on his memory, smugly secure in the knowledge that his virile pen had been stilled forever. But even some of his detractors rose to eloquence on the occasion of his passing, admitting a great loss, and praising his genius. Words of praise were many—in fact it would be difficult to imagine a single mortal ever receiving more numerous and glowing eulogies than were heaped upon Brann in the days and weeks following his death.
Here are the kind of comments that appeared in papers across the
"His faults were human; his virtues Godlike." "They could better spare the whole State of Texas than William C. Brann." "He was a hater of shams and defied every form of fraud, hypocrisy and deceit." "Every evildoer and hypocrite feared him, while the upright men and virtuous women had a champion in him." "Brann was an intellectual giant." "In the tragic death of W. C. Brann the world has lost the most versatile pen the century has produced..." "Stilled is the heart that stood alone, defiant, a bulwark 'gainst the wave of corruption that is engulfing our land." "His faith was broad as the universe—deep as infinity. He loved purity; he hated hypocrisy; and for this he died—a martyr." "Scorning the sensual, always against the vulgar, in much the manner of Carlyle, Brann struck the gaffes of truth deep into the sides of wrong in high places, and exposed rottenness wherever found." "Brann attacked hypocritic preachers, snide politicians, shoddy social people, and shyster lawyers."
Though from Coles county, in Illinois, Brann was a Southerner,
and recognized as such in Texas and elsewhere. Born and raised near the home of
Abraham Lincoln, who was of Kentucky origin, some associated Brann with
Kentucky. William Marion Reedy, of The St. Louis Mirror, was one. In the
April 7, 1898 issue, he wrote:
"His mind was on a Texas scale; he knew no meaness. His was of Kentucky origin and he was tainted with Kentucky's Quixotism. He loved liberty... His following included all the thinking followers of Bryan and his work had no little effect, in its powerful music and color, upon many people to whom Bryanism represented the political abomination of desolation... He died as he expected to die, without any cringing to his enemies... He partook of the qualities of the men who immortalized the Alamo. He was the first man who identified Texas with thought... With all his faults as I see them, I can think of him only as worthy of being buried in some high place, to the strains of Sigfried's Funeral March..."
Another, perhaps more reticent about singing Brann's praises, was Elbert Hubbard, editor of the Philistine. Nevertheless his praise was published in the April 14th issue of The St. Louis Mirror. It appeared under the unlikely title of:
"BRANN, THE FOOL"
"It's a grave subject. Brann is dead. Brann was a Fool. The Fools were the wisest men at Court; and Shakespeare, who dearly loved a Fool, placed his wisest sayings into the mouths of men who wore the motley...
"Brann shook his cap, flourished his bauble, gave a toss to that fine head, and with tongue in cheek, asked questions and propounded conundrums that Stupid Hypocrisy could not answer. So they killed Brann.
"...Discreet and cautious little men are known by the company they keep. The Fool was not particular about his associates; children, sick people, insane folks, rich or poor—it made no difference to him. He sometimes even sat at meat with publicans and sinners.
"...he became a clergyman—a Baptist clergyman.
"But no church was big enough to hold such a man as this ...So the Fool had to go.
"Then he founded that unique periodical, which, in three years attained a circulation of 90,000 copies. This paper was not used for pantry shelves, lamp lighters, or other base utilitarian purposes. It cost ten times as much as a common newspaper, and the people who bought it read it until it was worn out. All the things in this paper were not truth; mixed up amid a world of wit were often extravagance and much bad taste. It was only a Fool's newspaper.
"In this periodical the Fool railed and jeered and stated facts about smirking Complacency, facts so terrible that folks said they were indecent. He flung his jibes at Stupidity, and Stupidity sought to answer criticism by assassination.
"...they smote him with the flat of their hands, and spat upon him. It was their intention to hang the Fool...
"His enemies held prayer-meetings, invoking Divine aid for the Fool's conversion—or extinction. One man quoted David's prayer concerning Shimmei: 'Bring Thou down his hoar head to the grave in blood!' And others still prayed, 'Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.'
"But still the Fool flourished his bauble.
"Then they shot him.
"No more shall we see that lean, clean, homely face, with its melancholy smile. No more shall we hear the Fool eloquently, and oh! so foolishly, plead the cause of the weak, the unfortunate, the vicious. No more shall we behold the tears of pity glisten in those sad eyes as his heart was wrung by the tale of suffering and woe.
"...His children are fatherless, his wife a widow. Brann the Fool is dead."
The Mirror, St. Louis, April 14th, 1898
In 1898—one hundred years ago, on what we now call April Fools' Day—a Brave Heart was cut down. For all Brann's enemies who called Waco home, they were but a relative few compared to his friends. His funeral was more heavily attended than any other that city had ever known. Brann was laid to rest in Waco's Oakwood Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Carrie, and two children—daughter Grace, and son, William Carlyle.
Brann's friends desperately wanted the Iconoclast newspaper to live on in his memory, and they wanted to continue his work. But they soon apparently determined any attempt to fill Apostle's shoes would be hopeless folly. They must have realized that no one among them, nor any combination of them, would ever be up to the task. Without Brann, the fire would be gone, and the Iconoclast would become a pale shadow of what it had been. W. H. Ward, and the Iconoclast employees issued only one edition of the Iconoclast following Brann's death. It was a fitting memorial to the man—and Brann's Iconoclast closed its doors forever.
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END NOTES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The current writer begs forgiveness of those readers who would wish to see Brann's quotes referenced with footnotes pointing to the volume and page from whence taken. But this work is intended as a simple introduction, rather than an attempt at true scholarship. It is, however, the ambition of this writer to provide a more scholarly treatise in book form in the future
Here is the complete index to Brann's Works: INDEX TO THE TWELVE VOLUMES OF BRANN THE ICONOCLAST.
Brann's works are long out of print and difficult to find. A collection of his writings, THE WRITINGS OF BRANN THE ICONOCLAST, was later reissued in 1938. However, the following work about Brann can be found in used book stores, and may actually still be in print.
Brann and the Iconoclast, by Charles Carver, University of Texas Press, 1957. This is a very good book about Brann but... Though Carver treats Brann somewhat sympathetically and fairly, it is difficult to read this book and feel much sympathy for the Great Iconoclast. The reason is that it deals primarily with those sensational issues which led to Brann's death. And while one may agree with Brann on many things, it almost seems that he deserved what he got.
The Best of Brann the Iconoclast, Edited by Roger N. Conger, 1967, Texian Press, Waco, Texas. A compilation of some of W. C. Brann's best essays, with a Foreword by Mr. Conger some brief introductory comments heading most of the essays.
O damnit!, A lexicon and Lecture from William Cowper Brann, The Iconoclast, by Jerry Flemmons (published 1998, by the Texas Tech University Press http://www.ttup.edu). (Available form Amazon.com) I have recently (Jan., 2000) purchased a copy, and it is a fitting celebration of Brann on the centennial of his death. The dedication page reads:
"For all practicing William Brann iconoclastic
...And those few old historian Baptist soreheads
Who can neither forgive nor forget."
Buy O dammit! by Jerry Flemmons
Those interested in learning more about Brann the Iconoclast, will be happy to learn that his works are being re-published on the information superhighway, thanks to the endeavors of Project Gutenberg volunteers, and the University of Virginia Electronic Library. Volumes I, X, and XII of The Complete Works of Brann The Iconoclast are now available and may be found on several web sites. A web search will readily produce them.
In October of 2006, I heard from Jesse Greene of the Waco area. I had heard that there had been a motion picture made about Brann back in 1950, but had been unable to locate any information about it. Mr. Green kindly provided a still shot from the movie, as well as a photo of Roger N. Conger, the Waco historian who starred as W. C. Brann in the movie. The production was apparently a small local production on local history and never widely shown or distributed. Unfortunately, due to copyright issues, I have not included them on this page. Mr. Green provided photographs, taken by him, of the Judge Gerald-Harris shooting historical marker, and the Brann-Davis shooting historical marker in Waco, which have been added to this page.
Books About Brann the Iconoclast
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Copyright © 1998 by William R. Carr.