John Scopes


On October 21, 1970, John T Scopes evolved into the spirit world after a battle with cancer. Scopes was the defendant in the so called Scopes Monkey Trial that took place in Dayton Tennessee in July, 1925. In March 1925, Tennessee had passed the Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools. Tennessee had not thought this law through very well as most textbooks contained the theory and were still being used after the law was enacted. This created a contradiction that the American Civil Liberties Union (who at the time was still concerned with American civil liberties) took issue with. The ACLU offered to defend anyone charged with violating the Butler Act.

A group of businessmen in Dayton, Tennessee thought that this issue could be used to gain some publicity and tourism for the town. They recruited Dayton High School teacher John T Scopes to be the patsy for this scheme. Scopes publicly announced that he had taught evolutionary theory and was subsequently arrested and indicted. The trial, as hoped, was a media circus. Both the prosecution and defense brought in “celebrity” attorneys. Evangelical firebrand, William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution, and agnostic libertarian, Clarence Darrow for the defense. For his last witness, Darrow called Bryan to the stand and grilled him on obscure biblical questions related to the creation of mankind. Darrow’s summation was described as a world class oration, but it was not enough to save Scopes from a guilty verdict. He was fined $100.

Photo By Smithsonian Institution Photographed by Watson Davis -


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