Bryan accompanied his mother on the Runaway Scrape and after her return home visited the battlefield at San Jacinto and enlisted in the Texas army as orderly for Alexander Somervell. Bryan attended school at Chocolate Bayou in 1836 and 1837 and in May 1837 entered Kenyon College, where he graduated in 1842. He returned to Texas and studied law in the Brazoria law office of William H. Jack until failing eyesight ended his law studies. Soon after the outbreak of the Mexican War, Bryan enlisted in a Brazoria volunteer company and was in service under John C. (Jack) Hays east of the Rio Grande until he had to return home with his brother, Stephen S. Perry, who had become ill. In 1847 Bryan was elected to the Texas legislature. He served six years in the House (1847-53) and four years in the Senate (1853-57). On October 20, 1858, he married Laura H. Jack, daughter of William H. Jack. She accompanied him to Washington, D.C., where he represented the Western District of Texas in the Thirty-fifth Congress, 1857–59. His testimony before the House probably caused the collapse of the impeachment case against John C. Watrous. Bryan moved to Galveston in 1860 and operated ranches in Galveston and Brazoria counties. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1860, and as chairman and spokesman for the delegation led in the split from the convention.
A leader in the movement for secession, Bryan associated himself with Oran M. Roberts. George M. Flournoy, John F. Marshall, and Williamson S. Oldham in calling for the election of delegates to the Secession Convention. During the Civil War, early in 1862, Jefferson Davis sent Bryan to visit the governors of the Trans-Mississippi Department to reconcile the clash between civil and military authorities. When Bryan requested active field duty in May 1863, General Edmund Kirby Smith made him confidential adjutant general. Later Bryan helped organize the Texas Cotton Bureau. He was offered a place on Davis's staff and was later appointed by Pendleton Murrah as Texas representative at the headquarters of the Trans-Mississippi Department. After the war, Bryan lived at Galveston except for a time spent in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1873, 1879, and 1887, serving as speaker of the Fourteenth Legislature in 1874. In May 1873 he was a charter member of the Texas Veterans Association and from 1892 until his death served as its president. He was also a charter member and vice president of the Texas State Historical Association. He moved to Austin in 1898 and died there on June 4, 1901. He was buried in the State Cemetery.
30° 15.914, -097° 45.627
Texas State Cemetery