Cover photo for Joseph Shepard Bryan, Jr.'s Obituary
Joseph Shepard Bryan, Jr. Profile Photo
1922 Shep 2022

Joseph Shepard Bryan, Jr.

November 8, 1922 — November 22, 2022

Atlantic Beach




J. Shepard Bryan, Jr., dies at 100

Joseph Shepard Bryan, Jr.—a longtime resident and prominent citizen of Jacksonville; former vice president, general counsel, and secretary of Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., and a partner, of counsel, with the law firm of Holland & Knight LLP—died peacefully in his home at Atlantic Beach, Florida, on November 22, 2022. He was 100 years old.

In addition to his career in business and the law, Mr. Bryan was active in a large number of community activities and local institutions, ranging from health-care facilities to educational and cultural organizations. A dedicated Christian, he was recognized for his commitment to interfaith understanding and brotherhood. He was an early and courageous advocate for justice and equal rights for all.

“Shep” Bryan was born on November 8, 1922, in Wilson, North Carolina. He was the valedictorian of his graduating class in 1939 at Dunn High School, in Dunn, North Carolina. He attended Campbell College, Buies Creek, North Carolina (1939-40); and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1940-41), where—as a member of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps—he received the Josephus Daniels Award for Excellence in Naval Science and Tactics. He graduated in 1944 from the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, with a B.S. degree in engineering, and served in World War II as a gunnery officer aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Mansfield (DD 728), which received five battle stars for service in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. The Mansfield was present in Tokyo Bay at the time of the Japanese surrender ceremonies on September 2, 1945. He was discharged from active duty in the Navy in 1947.

Mr. Bryan earned a J.D. law degree from Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1950 and was admitted to the North Carolina bar in the same year. Called back into the naval service during the Korean War from 1951-52, he served as aide and flag lieutenant on the staff of the Commander, Amphibious Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. In 1960, he resigned from the Naval Reserve with the rank of lieutenant commander.

He married artist Mary Ann Shands of Jacksonville on August 10, 1950, which on many subsequent occasions he referred to as “the smartest thing I ever did.” The couple lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from 1950 to 1954, during which time (except for the period of his recall service in the Navy) Mr. Bryan served as assistant research professor of public law and government and assistant director of the Institute of Government at the University of North Carolina. After completing his active military service in 1954, he and Mrs. Bryan relocated with their family to Jacksonville, Florida.

Mr. Bryan was admitted to the Florida bar in 1954, and joined the Winn-Dixie Stores supermarket chain, where he helped organize the corporate legal department. He became general counsel in 1961 and vice president in 1966, and was a member of the company’s board of directors from 1981 to 1991. Beginning in 1967, he also served as a member of the National Panel of Arbitrators for the American Arbitration Association, and for 17 years served as chairman of the Lawyers and Economists Committee of the Food Marketing Institute. He was named Lawyer of the Year by the Jacksonville Bar Association (1989), and Boss of the Year by the Jacksonville Legal Secretaries Association.

After retiring from Winn-Dixie Stores in 1989, he became a partner, of counsel, in the Jacksonville law offices of Holland & Knight LLP, in which capacity he served until his retirement in 2000. He was a member of the board of directors of the Atlantic National Bank and Family Steakhouses of Florida, and served on the advisory board of directors of the First Union National Bank and the Wachovia Corporation.

Mr. Bryan first demonstrated his commitment to education in 1961, when he joined the board of trustees of the Bartram School, on which he served for 13 years. He joined the board of trustees of the Bolles School in 1977, and served for the next 17 years. (He served as chairman of the board of both the Bartram and Bolles Schools.)  In 1963, he was appointed to the Duval County School Board of Trustees. He chaired the United Negro College Fund Campaign in Duval County in 1982, was a member of the board of the University of North Florida Foundation (1976-82), and was an active supporter of Harvard Law School. In 1985, he received the “CHIEF” Award—Champion of Higher Independent Education Florida—from the Presidents’ Council of Independent Schools and Colleges.

He also volunteered his services to St. Vincent’s Hospital, beginning in 1971 as a member of the Community Advisory Board, which he subsequently chaired. When Baptist Hospital and St. Vincent’s merged in 1995, creating the Baptist/St. Vincent’s Health System, he became a member of that institution’s joint board of directors; and when the merger was dissolved in 2005, he became vice chairman of the board of St. Vincent’s Health System. He also served from 1989 to 1999 on the board of directors of the Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.

A member of Riverside Presbyterian Church almost since his arrival in Florida, Mr. Bryan served as a deacon, elder, trustee, and clerk of the session. For his dedication to interfaith and interracial understanding, in 1985 he received the Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He also served on the board of the Riverside Presbyterian Day School, and as president and chairman of the board of Presbyterian Retirement Communities, Inc.—today known as Westminster Retirement Communities—which offers quality residential facilities to senior citizens across the state of Florida.

Among other volunteer activities, he served from 1992 to 1993 as chairman of the board of directors of Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida—a favorite cause of Mrs. Bryan’s, who also served on that institution’s board. He served as chairman of the board of the Arts Assembly of Jacksonville (known today as the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville) and was the chairman of the Jacksonville Symphony Association in 1992, at the time of the orchestra’s historic concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Carnegie Hall in New York City. He also served on the board of the United Way of Northeast Florida, of which he was president and campaign chairman. He was an active supporter and chairman of the Jacksonville Community Foundation (1994-96), and was a founding director of the Jacksonville Film Festival and the Jacksonville International Airport Arts Commission. He also served as chairman of the board of WJCT-Stereo 90 in Jacksonville, and was an early supporter and advocate for the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

Mr. Bryan’s first and overriding passion was his family, of which he was extremely proud. He and Mary Ann had four daughters and a son, whom they raised in Jacksonville. The Bryans moved to Atlantic Beach, Florida, in 1994 in part to be near the ocean—where they had vacationed every summer for many years—and also to provide a welcoming setting for annual family reunions.

In their retirement years, “Shep” and Mary Ann traveled extensively, often visiting with their children and grandchildren, and in later years enjoying special vacations with friends in the U.K. and the highlands of Scotland. The couple was jointly honored in 2004 as recipients of the Founder’s Award from the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville for their many contributions to the arts over the years.

Mr. Bryan is survived by his beloved wife Mary Ann; his brother-in-law Dr. Joseph W. Shands (Anne) of Gainesville; daughter Ann Shands Bryan (Jeffrey Cruikshank) of Atlantic Beach; daughter Dr. Frances Evans Bryan (Dr. Timothy Woods), of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania; daughter Mary Courtney Bryan-Caron (Paul Caron), of Malibu, California; daughter Helen Harris Bryan, of Atlantic Beach; and son Dr. Joseph Shepard Bryan III (Dr. Leisa Bryan), of Phoenix, Arizona. He is also survived by his beloved 13 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren, as well as many nieces and nephews.  

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be sent to the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, 2445 San Diego Road, Jacksonville, FL 32207; Community Hospice Foundation (direct payment to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida), 4266 Sunbeam Road, Jacksonville, FL 32257; WJCT, 100 Festival Park Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32202; Riverside Presbyterian Church, 849 Park Street, Jacksonville, FL 32204; or Community Foundation for Northeast Florida (direct payment to J. Shepard Bryan & Mary Ann Bryan Arts Endowment), 245 Riverside Ave,, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32202.

A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on December 10, 2022, at Riverside Presbyterian Church, 849 Park Street, in Jacksonville.   

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Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Starts at 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

Riverside Presbyterian Church

849 Park St, Jacksonville, FL 32204

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