May 25, 1925

If ever there were a manufactured case, it was the Scopes “monkey trial.” The fledgling American Civil Liberties Union put an ad in a Chattanooga, Tenn., newspaper, offering to support anyone accused under the state’s new law banning the teaching of evolution. Dayton businessman George Rappelyea saw a chance to put his town (population 1,800) on the map and recruited schoolteacher John Scopes to serve as defendant.

• Some 3,000 visitors descended on Dayton in July 1925 to see famed defense lawyer Clarence Darrow square off against three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan (pictured above), who served as both prosecutor and expert witness on the Bible.

• Darrow asked the jury to return a guilty verdict so the law could be challenged on appeal, and he got his wish after only nine minutes of deliberation. The state supreme court later reversed the conviction but upheld the law, which remained on the books for 40 years.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.