Don Bryant was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Margerie and Vaughn Bryant. His father was a news correspondent for the Associated Press. Don has one full brother, Vaughn, older than he, who is now a professor of anthropology at Texas A & M, and one half-brother, Jim, who presently flies for UPS. When Don was still an infant, the family moved from Rio to Santiago, Chile. Because his nanny in Chile spoke only Spanish, it became his first language as a toddler. Then they moved to New Orleans when he was about three years old. He lived in New Orleans for about five years. Their completely different accent influenced his English speech. Then, as the family followed his father when work took him to a new location, they moved to Texas. Here, his dad worked in public relations.
His parents divorced in 1956. In Austin, his mother, Marge, met and married Jim Woodworth, an Alaskan, who was a professional hunter/guide in Kodiak. Don went to Alaska with them. Marge and Jim homesteaded on the Kenai River, near Sterling, Alaska. Jim wrote a book titled “The Kodiak Bear.” In his book, he used “Monarch of Dead Man’s Bay” as one chapter title. Later, another author used the same title for his book about a Kodiak bear. Jim also wrote articles for the pre-Alaskan magazine called “The Alaska Sportsman.”
In 1959, Don went back to Texas. After about a year, he went to live with his brother, Vaughn, who was in college. In 1961, Vaughn and Don went to Europe by ship, where they were supposed to go to school. His brother studied in Germany and Don went to school in France. The school was for foreigners, to teach them French. Don says he lasted about a week. He knew no French when he started his classes, and the teachers spoke only French. So, Don started hanging out at the beach with the Swedes, who all spoke English.