August 24, 1928 ~ February 9, 2021

Born in: Oklahoma City, OK
Resided in: Arden, NC

Paul Thompson Bryant died Tuesday, February 9, after a period of declining health. He was 92. Born in Oklahoma City, he was the only child of Paul D. Bryant and Lynnis Thompson Bryant. His mother, a schoolteacher, passed away when he was 13, and as part of the WWII war effort, he worked summers from age 14 to 17 as a farmhand in the Oklahoma Panhandle. After graduating from Classen High School in Oklahoma City, he enlisted in the army, where he was sent to Army Music School and assigned to an army band at a base outside Boston. There he had the opportunity to study with renowned brass player John Coffey. On leaving the army, he decided against a career as a professional musician and returned to Oklahoma, where he did undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, earning Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in botany, as well as a Master of Arts in English. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in English at the University of Illinois, writing his dissertation on the work and achievement of Benton MacKaye, who was instrumental in establishing the Appalachian Trail. As a professor and university administrator, he had a long and distinguished career, teaching American literature and nature writing, providing leadership in professional organizations, and authoring three books and 45 professional papers, as well as poems, short stories, and numerous articles.

In 1949, he married Genevieve Dale Bryant, to whom he was devoted throughout his life, caring for her unstintingly during a long illness until her death in 2012 due to CREST syndrome. When he met her in high school, one of his friends remarked that he had finally found someone “smart enough for him.” He loved and revered her for her kindness, courage, and wisdom, and for her gifts as a teacher. Together they had many adventures, including summer stints as fire lookouts in Idaho and as Audubon Society naturalists in the Texas Hill Country. Together they also raised two children in Fort Collins, Colorado, where they were both faculty members at Colorado State University. In 1984, Genny retired and they moved to Radford, Virginia, where he served as dean of the Graduate School at Radford University. After his retirement in 1993, they moved to Fairview, where they found congenial neighbors and made good friends. They gardened, traveled, and volunteered with the Friends of the Library. When Genny’s illness became severe, they moved to another hospitable community, Ardenwoods, where he contributed to communal life by participating in and producing numerous scripts for the Rocking Chair Readers theater group.

In addition to his love for Genny, he had a deep love for mountain wilderness, for literature, and for his children. He lived honorably, always with the goal of making life better for those around him.

He is survived by his daughter Elaine and husband David Smyth of Asheville and his son Christopher Bryant and wife Patti of Arden, who miss him deeply.

A gathering of remembrance for family and friends will be held when it is once again safe to meet in person.


Funeral Home Assisting The Family:

Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian
72 Long Shoals Road
Arden, NC 28704


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  1. Paul and Genny were special people who clearly loved and respected each other. My late husband and I were fortunate enough to be their next door neighbors when they first moved to Fairview. We had many happy visits with them and were lucky enough to be the recipients of wonderful things from their garden and from Genny’s kitchen. We always enjoyed hearing about their adventures across the country and their life in the fire towers.

    They dearly loved their children and were so proud of them. They spoke of them often and always delighted in their accomplishments.

    Goodbye my friend. You will be missed.

  2. I am so sorry for Paul’s passing. I was he and Ginny’s neighbor across Whitaker Rd, until I moved away in 2005. I had the pond. He and Genny were great neighbors. I am glad you have been nearby. I hope you were able to visit during this COVID time.

  3. I am very sad about Paul’s passing. My memories of Paul and Ginny go back to the days when Paul was Dean of the Graduate School at Radford University. My visits, conversations and meals with them in Radford (VA) and Fairview are etched firmly in my memory. My connection with this wonderful couple (difficult to separate them, one from the other) shall remain with me always.

    For the family members, always savor the love and memories. Be comforted by the fact that others also appreciated and loved Paul and Ginny.

    Rest in peace, my friend.

  4. Thank you family for the wonderful obituary that you wrote for your father. I enjoyed reading it so very much and would have enjoyed just one afternoon sitting down and speaking to both your parents. What great people they
    must have been and lived such an interesting life! Rest in all those memories. May God bless you all.

  5. Hello- I’m Rob Fields and I was Genny and Paul’s primary care doctor for many years when I was in Asheville. I cared for them both deeply. I still have a couple of Paul’s books at home in NYC now. He had given them to me as we discussed his transition into administration. They were both beautiful people. My heart goes out to you – his family- as I know he cared and loved all of you so much.

    • Thank you, Rob. They both thought the world of you. Dad was very happy to connect with you again when you came back to Asheville.


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