October 19, 1936 – January 18, 2021
Artist and musician Dr. Billy Joe Bryant, 84, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family on the morning of Monday, January 18, 2021. Bill Bryant was born on October 19, 1936 in the north Shreveport region of Agurs—the youngest of four brothers (Charles, Tom, and Howard)—to Mack and Goldie Bryant.
He attended Byrd High School and received his B.A. in Art at Centenary College, studying under artists Don Brown and Willard Cooper. He also enjoyed the experience of music, travel, and camaraderie as a member of the Centenary College Choir.
Following college, Bill served eight years in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged as a captain in 1967. While stationed in Washington D.C., he met his wife of 58 years, Alice Louise Peck, while taking classes with painter Richard Lahey at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University where he eventually earned his M.A. in Art. He then began his career as an art teacher, working at Louisiana College.
After three years in Pineville, Bill and his family moved to Pennsylvania where he earned his D.Ed. at Penn State University, after which he taught for two years at the University of Kentucky, Lexington and then two years at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky.
In 1976, Bill moved his family back to Louisiana where he began his teaching career at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, retiring as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Fine and Graphic Arts in 2004.
Throughout his life, Bill Bryant was immersed in a spectrum of art and music activities. In addition to teaching in the classroom and serving as Coordinator of the Art Department for several years, he took NSU students on yearly summer painting trips to such places as Italy, Spain, Mexico, Nova Scotia, and one of his favorite art destinations, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.
He was a member of the Hoover Watercolor Society and participated as artist and juror in many regional exhibitions. Combining his drawing talent with his famous sense of humor, Bill was also a contributing cartoonist for the Natchitoches Times for many years with his armadillo-themed comic strip.
Having grown up listening to old time string band music, Bill became heavily involved in the folk music revival, learning to make and play mountain dulcimers during his time in Kentucky. For over three decades, he performed with The Back Porch Band, which was an integral part of the Natchitoches Northwestern Folk Festival.
In 2001, he was inducted into the Louisiana Folklife Center’s Hall of Master Folk Artists for his dulcimer craftsmanship. In fact, Bill was as much of a woodworker as he was a painter, making all kinds of musical instruments and furniture. His legacy of art and music lives on with his children and grandchildren as well as with students and friends.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents, three brothers, and first child, Mary Louise Bryant. He is survived by his wife Alice Peck Bryant of Natchitoches; son Benjamin Peck Bryant and his wife Christina of Metairie, LA; daughters Amanda Kingsley Bryant of Charleston, SC, and Emily Adeline Bryant of Bloomington, IN; grandchildren Frances Yi Ling Bryant of New Orleans, Spencer Joseph Bryant of Metairie, Benjamin Curtis Leach and his wife Chanel of Charleston, Nathan Calder Leach and Eva Marie Leach of Charleston; great-grandson Everett Carter Leach of Charleston; and numerous nieces and nephews.
The family would like to thank Hospice of Natchitoches for their care during Bill’s final weeks. A Celebration of Life event will be held later in the year when people can safely be together again. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Bill’s name to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, 230 East Ohio Street, Suite 500, Chicago, Illinois 60611 or pulmonaryfibrosis.org/ways-to-give/donate-now.