Mary was the daughter of James Henderson and Ida Mae Harmon Black of Troy. When her mother married insurance executive Martin Folmar in the late 1920s, they moved to Birmingham and resided in unit 201 of the Altamont Apartments on Highland Avenue.
Harmon graduated from Phillips High School in 1933 and continued her studies at Arlington Hall Junior College in Arlington, Virginia. She returned to the state to enroll at the University of Alabama and joined the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. Her chapter sponsored defensive end Paul Bryant on the 1934 Alabama Crimson Tide football team's trip to the 1935 Rose Bowl. Bryant later described the Corolla beauty as, "the best looking gal you or I ever laid eyes on... and she had an automobile."
Mary Harmon and Bear Bryant dated, then secretly married June 2, 1935, in Ozark, Dale County so Paul wouldn’t lose his UA football scholarship. She had graduated earlier that year and he graduated in 1936 just as their daughter, Mae, was born. When he enlisted in the Navy in 1941, she and her daughter moved in with her parents. Another child, Paul Jr was born in December 1944. She remained in Birmingham with the children while he was coaching at the University of Maryland in 1945, but moved with him to Lexington, Kentucky in 1946 and to College Station, Texas in 1954.
Throughout her husband's coaching career, Mary Bryant filled the role of "team mom", and paid special attention to the reserve players. After he returned to Tuscaloosa in 1958 she began riding the bus with the second and third-stringers to games at Legion Field.
- Haise, Judy (February 2014) "Mary Harmon Bryant’s Birmingham Ties." The Jefferson Journal