A great homecoming for native son


John Bryan, Jr.. the former CEO of the Sara Lee Corporation , returned to his native West Point, Mississippi, today to discuss his new book which traces his ancestry to the 13th century.


He announced the proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit the Bryan Public Library which was a benefactor of the Bryan family for several generations.

Today was pretty special for our little boomer gang  since Johnny and Neville were the leaders of our church youth group.  We were a bunch of clueless kids, destined to become Hellions if not for the wise council of the Bryans.

Johnny and his wife Neville, lived in West Point until the late 60s. He became president of Bryan Brothers which later merged with Sara Lee, necessitating a move to the Chicago area.

A graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, his resume is impressive. He is affiliated with the French Legion of honor, the World Economic Forum, and was a member of the board for Sara Lee, Goldman Sachs, General Motors, British Petroleum and Bank One.

John H. Bryan is a philanthropist and art collector. He serves as campaign chairman for two major civic improvement projects in Chicago: Millennium Park and the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Estimates place the combined budget for these two capital projects at over a billion dollars.


As CEO of Sara Lee Corporation he administered a major corporate gift of impressionist, post-impressionist and modern art to museums around the world. The “Sara Lee Millennium Gift” consisted of major and underappreciated artworks collected by Sara Lee founder Nathan Cummings. The catalogue of this gift represents works by Renoir, Monet, Matisse, Rodin, Degas, Leger, Dufy, Moore and others from the period 1870 – 1970.

Known for his classic Southern cadence, Bryan was quoted by the Chicago Tribune in reference to the Millennium Park project. When asked how he got contributions for these vast projects he replied, “You just wrap them in a cloak of civic pride”.

Bryan currently resides in Lake Bluff, Illinois on Crab Tree Farm. Since his purchase of the farm, Bryan has restored many of its structures to 19th century standards using techniques and materials that were available at the time of their original construction.

What a fascinating man.  He has maintained his small town charm through all his successes and international exposure.   His mama would be proud.  She was the one who instilled in him a fascination with genealogy and history and he was able to incorporate her notes and collected stories in the book.

4 thoughts on “A great homecoming for native son

  1. Sorry I missed seeing Johnny and Neville! What wonderful memories I have of them both….and a reminder to us all of the importance of our hometowns and the people who guided us in our formative years! We certainly had some of the best!

  2. Yes Olivia…got a chance to visit with Neville and told her how important they were to our development. I remember seeing them and how they interacted with each other in the old days. Kind of became a benchmark to me – I couldn’t find that. Glad you did. But I’m not dead yet….

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