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Scopes Trial

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

This summer, we visited Dayton, Tennessee as part of a larger trip -- at first, I didn't remember what Dayton is famous for, but there are several signs around town, and one of the main attractions is the Rhea County Courthouse, as this is where the Scopes Trial took place in the summer of 1925:
Rhea County Courthouse

The Tennessee statute -- the Butler Act -- made it "unlawful for any teacher in...the State...to teach any theory that denies the story of the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible...".  So when John Scopes was put on trial for teaching evolution in his science class, the ACLU offered to come up with some money to help his defense.  And one of the (non-ACLU, I think) defense lawyers was Clarence Darrow.

The other side included William Jennings Bryan, who had previously been nominated for president, and was famous for his 'Crown of Thorns...Cross of Gold' speech which he delivered at the 1896 Democratic National Convention).  He was remembered for this speech, and recited portions of it again in 1921 for a recording company; you can listen to it here).  There's a sculpture of Bryan on the courthouse lawn:

William Jennings Bryan Statue, Dayton TN
He died five days after the trial had come to its conclusion.  The community raised money to build a college, and Bryan College is there today.

Scopes was found guilty and fined $100 (the conviction was set aside on appeal due to a technicality).

The following images are from the Smithsonian, and are under no copyright restrictions:
Tennessee v. John T. Scopes Trial: John Thomas Scopes
John T. Scopes

Tennessee v. John T. Scopes Trial: The seven scientists asked to testify for the defense standing in front of the Defense Mansion.
The seven scientists asked to testify for the defense

Tennessee v. John T. Scopes Trial: Outdoor proceedings on July 20, 1925, showing William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. [2 of 4 photos]
William Jennings Bryan (seated, left) being interrogated by Clarence Darrow. Court was being held outside since it was so hot in the courthouse

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