John Bryson

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John Bryson
John Bryson official portrait.jpg
37th United States Secretary of Commerce
In office
October 21, 2011 – June 21, 2012
PresidentBarack Obama
DeputyRebecca Blank
Preceded byGary Locke
Succeeded byPenny Pritzker
Personal details
John Edgar Bryson

(1943-07-24) July 24, 1943 (age 79)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationStanford University (BA)
Yale University (JD)

John Edgar Bryson (born July 24, 1943)[1] is the former United States Secretary of Commerce, the 37th person to hold the post since its establishment in 1913. Prior to this, he served as the chairman, chief executive officer and president of Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison and as director of The Boeing Company. He co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council with fellow Yale alumni in 1970.

The Senate confirmed Bryson as Secretary of Commerce by a 74–26 vote on October 20, 2011.[2] He was sworn in on October 21, 2011. Bryson took a leave of absence in June 2012 for medical tests due to seizures that were related to successive hit and run vehicular accidents. On June 21, 2012 Bryson resigned because, "the work that [Commerce employees] do to help America’s entrepreneurs and businesses build our economy and create jobs is more important now than ever and I have come to the conclusion that I need to step down to prevent distractions from this critical mission."[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Bryson was born in New York City. His father operated a sawmill.[4] He graduated from Cleveland High School in Portland, Oregon, in 1961.[5] He received his bachelor's degree from Stanford University in 1965 and his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Yale Law School in 1969.


In 1970, with other recent Yale Law graduates, Bryson helped found and served as legal counsel for the Natural Resources Defense Council.[6][7] From 1976 to 1979, Bryson served as chairman of the California State Water Resources Control Board, and from 1979 to 1982, he served as president of the California Public Utilities Commission. In 1983 Bryson worked for the law firm of Morrison & Foerster in the San Francisco office. Bryson joined Edison International in 1984,[8] and served as director from 1990 until his retirement on July 31, 2008.[9]

Bryson was a director of The Boeing Company, W. M. Keck Foundation, and The Walt Disney Company, and a former Director/Trustee for three Western Asset Management funds at Legg Mason. He serves or has served on a number of educational, environmental and other nonprofit boards, including chairman of the California Business Roundtable, a trustee of Stanford University, a trustee of California Institute of Technology, co-chairman of the Pacific Council on International Policy, and chairman of the Public Policy Institute of California.[10][11]

Secretary of Commerce[edit]

Then-Secretary Bryson, along with President Barack Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk at a press conference in the rose garden of the White House in March 2012.

On May 31, 2011, President Barack Obama nominated Bryson to succeed Gary Locke as the United States Secretary of Commerce.[12] Citing Bryson's environmental views, United States Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, put a hold on his nomination in July.[13] The Senate later reached a unanimous consent agreement to vote on Bryson's nomination, and the Senate confirmed Bryson by a 74–26 vote on October 20, 2011.[2] He was sworn in on October 21, 2011, becoming the 37th Secretary of the Department of Commerce.[14]

As Secretary of Commerce, Bryson co-chaired the White House Office of Manufacturing Policy with Gene Sperling.[15]

2012 traffic accidents and resignation[edit]

On June 9, 2012, Bryson was involved in a pair of car crashes in San Gabriel, California and Rosemead, California, which were investigated as possible felony hit and run. He is said to have been found unconscious at the site of the second crash. A Department of Commerce spokesperson confirmed he was involved in a crash, and said Bryson had suffered from a seizure.[16][17][18][19][20] Los Angeles County prosecutors announced on July 3, 2012, that no criminal charges would be pursued.[21]

On June 11, Bryson announced in a memo that he was taking a medical leave of absence. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank began serving as Acting Secretary of Commerce.[22]

On June 21, 2012, Bryson announced his resignation from the post of Secretary of Commerce.[23]

In July, it was reported that Bryson would not be criminally charged for the collisions, as they resulted from the cognitive effect of unexpected seizure.[24]

Later life[edit]

Bryson joined the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as a Distinguished Senior Public Policy Scholar in October 2012.[25]


Bryson is married to Louise.[26] Their four daughters graduated from the Polytechnic School in Pasadena, California.[4] Bryson and his wife both served on the school's Board of Trustees.[26] Bryson and his wife reside in San Marino, California.[27]


  1. ^ John E. Bryson 1943-, Reference for Business', Encyclopedia of Business 2nd edition
  2. ^ a b All 51 Democratic Senators and both independents voted for confirmation, but the Republican caucus split 21-26 against. See Obama confirmations, 2010, U.S. Senate roll call no. 176 (112th Cong. 1st session) or Washington Post votes database (112th Congress, 1st session, vote 176)
  3. ^ "Letter from Secretary Bryson to Commerce Employees". Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  4. ^ a b Gold, Scott; Mather, Kate; Blankstein, Andrew (June 11, 2012). "Commerce Secretary Bryson faces tests after hit-and-runs". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ Pope, Charles (May 31, 2011). "John Bryson brings Portland roots as nominee to lead Commerce Department". The Oregonian. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  6. ^ Ex-Environment Activist Will Take Helm at Edison, Larry B. Stammer, Michael Parrish, Times staff writers, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 1990
  7. ^ Edison International Chairman John E. Bryson to Deliver UCLA Anderson Commencement Address, June 16 Archived 2011-12-21 at the Wayback Machine, UCLA Anderson, May 16, 2006
  8. ^ Schiffman, Betsy. "John Bryson: Green At Heart, Greener In The Wallet". Forbes.
  9. ^ John E. Bryson Archived 2006-03-14 at the Wayback Machine, Edison International
  10. ^ John E. Bryson, Bloomberg Businessweek
  11. ^ John E. Bryson Archived 2011-08-14 at the Wayback Machine, Public Policy Institute of California
  12. ^ Obama makes it official, Alexander Mooney, CNN, May 31, 2011
  13. ^ Senator vows to block Commerce nominee Bryson
  14. ^ Press Release, John Bryson Sworn In as 37th Secretary of Commerce
  15. ^ "John Bryson will co-chair White House's manufacturing policy office".
  16. ^ "Hit and Run Traffic Collision Investigation Involving U.S. Secretary of Commerce". Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department/San Gabriel Police Department. June 10, 2012. Archived from the original on June 12, 2012.
  17. ^ Brian Day (June 10, 2012). "Breaking: U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson suspected of felony hit-and-run following San Gabriel Valley crashes". Pasadena Star-News. Archived from the original on July 29, 2013.
  18. ^ "Commerce Secretary John Bryson accused in hit-and-run crashes". Los Angeles Times. June 11, 2012.
  19. ^ Heavey, Susan (June 11, 2012). "U.S. Commerce secretary investigated for hit-and-run car crash". Reuters.
  20. ^ "Commerce agency: Secretary John Bryson had seizure linked to crashes". The Los Angeles Times. June 11, 2012. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
  21. ^ Faturechi, Robert; Blankstein, Andrew (July 4, 2012). "John Bryson, former Commerce secretary, won't be charged in hit-runs". Los Angeles Times.
  22. ^ "White House: Bryson to take medical leave". USA Today. June 11, 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  23. ^ O'Keefe, Ed (June 21, 2012). "John Bryson resigns as commerce secretary, citing recent seizure". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
  24. ^ "California: No Charges for Ex-Commerce Secretary". New York Times. July 4, 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  25. ^ Wilson Center (2012). Secretary John Bryson Joins Wilson Center. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  26. ^ a b "L.A. Now". Los Angeles Times. June 11, 2012.
  27. ^ "John e Bryson and Louise H Bryson (Trustees) and Bryson (Trust) | 1370 Woodstock Road, San Marino, CA 91108".

External links[edit]

Civic offices
Preceded by President of the Public Utilities Commission of California
Succeeded by
Business positions
Preceded by Chief Executive Officer of Edison International
Succeeded by
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by Chairperson of Pacific Council on International Policy
Served alongside: Robert Tuttle
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by United States Secretary of Commerce
Succeeded by
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Cabinet Member Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Cabinet Member
Succeeded byas Former US Cabinet Member