Civic activist, former Virginia Gazette staffer William Bryant passes away at 78

Staff writer

William “Bill” T. Bryant, who strove to make Williamsburg a better place through years of civic activism and advocacy, has died at age 78.

Bryant was a Portsmouth native who came to Williamsburg to attend the College of William and Mary and never left.

Fellow community activists said the gentle man with a long pony tail left an indelible mark on the community.

“Not only was he a civic activist in the real, best sense of the word, he was a writer and historian who cared about the community,” said Wilford Kale, a local writer.

Kale first crossed paths with Bryant when both men were young journalists in Williamsburg in the early 1970s. Bryant reported for The Virginia Gazette, where he would rise to editor, and the Daily Press.

Bryant had a talent for connecting people with ideas, and he had a hand in founding or participating in many local advocacy groups, forums and committees — among them the Williamsburg Peace Initiative, Citizens for Community Progress, All Together Williamsburg and the Coalition for Quality Growth.

He led the Friday Luncheon Group, a regular meeting of local leaders and activists who discuss issues facing the Williamsburg area, for about 30 years.

Bryant, who died May 12, also had a talent for connecting with people on a personal level, said Beth Haw, who founded Citizens for Education with Bryant.

“When he sat with you, he listened,” Haw said, adding that Bryant often had a scrap of paper handy for note taking.

Haw noted that Bryant had a particular passion for education. In addition to advocating for better schools, he also spent years as a tour guide for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, and sought to make history engaging for young people.

“He felt history was quite important for students and he had a gift for storytelling,” she said. “He was very involved with the youth and education.”

A mentor to many people, Bryant was a conversationalist who possessed a great intellect and a positive, peaceful demeanor. He taught speech and debate at Walsingham Academy.

Bryant also was a prolific writer, writing volumes of poetry, as well as books about Nat Turner’s Rebellion and his experiences as a museum tour guide, according to an online obituary.

Bryant is survived by his wife Dorothy Aldhizer Bryant, sister Janice Lotterhos (Lieb), sons David and Michael as well as several grandchildren and a great-granddaughter, according to the obituary.

A celebration of his life will be held at 2 p.m. June 1 at Bucktrout Funeral Home and Crematory, 4124 Ironbound Road.

“He was a hero for the community and education,” Haw said. “We have lost a real wonderful light in our community.”

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, jojacobs@vagazette.com, @jajacobs_

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