GREENSBORO, N.C. — Any Greensboro native knows, Bryan Boulevard is a road that many people travel on daily.
However, Joseph M. Bryan, the namesake of the road, is more than just a boulevard cutting through the west of the city; he was, in fact, one of the biggest philanthropists the city of Greensboro has ever had.
“Joseph Bryan is a name you see all over Greensboro. So, folks are like, “Who was this guy?”” Greensboro History Museum's Curator of Community History, Glenn Perkins said.
From parks to roads, the Bryan name is everywhere —but the businessman, Joseph McKinley Bryan, didn’t start out in Greensboro.
Bryan was born in Ohio in 1896 and he eventually made his way to New York City in the 1920s. There, he amassed his fortune at the New York Cotton Exchange, and it was there he met his connection to the Gate City.
“In New York at the time, he meets a young lady who is from Greensboro, NC, and her name is Kathleen Price, now Kathleen’s father is a guy named Julian Price, and Julian Price is the director of Jefferson Standard Life," Perkins explained.
A life insurance agency located in the iconic building that adorns the downtown cityscape of Greensboro —the Jefferson Standard Building.
Joseph and Kathleen wed and, years later, moved down to Greensboro where Bryan immediately went to work.
“One of the first things he does in that regard is to encourage them to buy a radio station so they buy this radio station called WBIG which stands for We Believe in Greensboro which is kind of the flagship station here in the city," Perkins recalled.
For years, Bryan kept working for the Jefferson-Pilot Corporation until the day he passed in 1995 at the age of 99, by that time, his legacy was cemented.
“He has this constant devotion to Greensboro and this continued association with the company and one way he builds the quality of life in Greensboro is contributing to different things, Bryan Park we know. Universities have benefited a lot from his contributions, including Guilford College, North Carolina A&T, and UNCG, which of course named a Business school after him," Perkins said.
From academia to sports, Joseph Bryan was a philanthropic force for the city of Greensboro. So next time you take Bryan Boulevard to cross the Gate City, now you know where it got its name.