James A. Bryan is a North Carolinian. His father, John A. Bryan, was a prominent planter and politician of Duplin County. There on his father's farm, James was born, in 1853. The family settled in North Carolina about two hundred years ago, and there their descendants still reside. The Bryans were prominent figures during the Colonial period, and in the Revolution they fought stoutly for American Independence. They were among the framers of the first State Constitution, and on through the succeeding generations they have been conspicuous in the affairs of the Old North State. A sturdy, conservative race they are, modest and unpretentious, but staunch in principle and unswerving in devotion to duty.
James was brought up on the farm, where so many of America's greatest men have had their early training. The conditions existing, just after the war, and at the time was of school age, did not permit of his receiving an elaborate education, but such schooling as the country wherein he lived afforded he received, which, together with night study after working hours, gave him a fairly good education. When he was twenty-one, however, he left the farm for Wilmington, where he becme a salesman in a shoe store. After some years there he was attracted by the fine climate and growing advantages of Florida, and in 1882 removed to Jacksonville. For three years he was employed with A. Ames Howlett & Company, jetty contractors. He became attached to this business, and in 1885, branched out in it for himself, and became a general contractor. He afterwards became active in the development of the phosphate industry in Florida, and erected one of the first plants for mining it in the State, that of the Alafia River Phosphate Company, which is one of the best known. He was for two years the Superintendent for this Company, and got the contract for doing a great part of their dredging. In 1894, he, in company with M. S. Cartter and others, organized The Florida Dredging Company, of which he is General Manager, with headquarters at Tampa. They take contracts for dredging all over the State, and in Georgia, and their equipment for rapid and thorough work is of the best. (See The Florida Dredging Company elsewhere.) He was married, in 1880, to Miss Anna B. Dolbey, of Constantia, New York. They have four children, two boys and two girls. His uncle, the Rev. Doctor R. T. Bryan, is the well known missionary to Shangai, China, and is the youngest LL. D. from the University of North Carolina.