Pioneer of Oklahoma Politics, John Bryant

By Brenda Jones Barwick

Published 17-Feb-2011

In the fall of 1979, the Oklahoma political landscape was much different than today. Only 25% of Oklahomans were registered Republicans. The collective mindset was “Don’t register Republican or you can’t vote.” College students were apathetic about politics thanks to Watergate. Oklahoma had one lonely Republican Congressman – Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma City.
In the midst of the comparative handful of Oklahoma Republicans was a rising star at Oklahoma State University. A political science and public administration student, John Bryant, had taken the State Chairman’s helm of Oklahoma College Republicans.
John was passionate about engaging Oklahoma’s young generation with the Republican Party, to align Oklahoma’s electoral representation with its conservative values.  He asked me to join him in this effort as State Vice Chairman of College Republicans. As a University of Oklahoma Journalism student, I indeed did. We embarked on a quest to start College Republican clubs on campuses statewide and in areas unwelcoming to Republicans.
Battling Oklahoma’s 1970’s conventional wisdom provided by parents to college students, which was to only register Democratic in order to vote, John pressed forward.
Rallying on the national scene was Ronald Reagan’s candidacy for President that converged with John’s quest. Thus, John became one of the young conservatives to deliver Oklahoma for what was thought to be Reagan’s long-shot win against incumbent President Jimmy Carter.
As a State Representative in the 1990s, John led public school and education reform by advocating for local communities and parents decide how best to educate their children. He gave crime victims a bigger voice through legislation and led a bipartisan coalition to keep Oklahoma’s water sources free of poultry pollutions.
Even though the above are significant accomplishments, his lasting legacy will be as a pioneer of the Reagan conservative revolution in Oklahoma in a wilderness of college campuses.
In 2008, President Obama lost all 77 Oklahoma counties in what was described nationally as a “landslide” election in his favor.
As we remember the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan and mourn the untimely passing of John Bryant, we can conclude that John was one of the first pioneers in the Republican wilderness of Oklahoma.
NOTE: Brenda Jones Barwick, APR, was an Oklahoma Delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention and is President of Jones Public Relations in Oklahoma City.