Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Monkey Trial

Calvert City, KY— In 1925, Tennessee Code Annotated Title 49 (Education) Section 1922, otherwise known as the Butler Act, was signed into law by the governor of Tennessee. Hidden behind the notations, parentheses, and boring name of the act, was something big. In a sense it outlawed the theory of evolution.
The bill was introduced by representative, farmer, and father of ten, John Washington Butler, who was concerned about what his children were being taught in school. It prohibited the teaching that man came from lower origins. The ACLU at once wanted to challenge the law. But to do that, they had to have someone who had broken it. A group of men asked John Scopes to meet them in a drugstore.
John Scopes was not a biology teacher, but, for a few days, when that teacher had been sick, this sports coach had taken over the job. During that time he had taught from a textbook which taught evolution.
The case was to be held in Dayton, a small town with failing industry. Both sides brought in some of the biggest names in the nation. Former Secretary of State and candidate for president, William Jennings Bryan, along with the original boy named Sue, Mr. Sue Hicks, for the prosecution, and Clarence Darrow, for the defense.
Darrow took Scopes defense without pay. He was best known at the time for a defense which he had put up just the year before. Arguing against the death-sentence for two murderers who had killed a fourteen-year-old boy just for the thrill of it.
At once everyone came flocking to see. Reporters, vendors, pickpockets, and even a little monkey named Joe-Mindy, who brought his golf clubs with him, but was unable, due to his immediate popularity, to be able to play while in Dayton. He occasionally rested from his antics with free drinks from the drugstore where the whole scheme had been planned. He remains my favorite part of the trial.
The jury was sworn in after some back and forth, the judge prepared to preside, and everyone who was paying attention knew that not just John Scopes, but also evolution and creation was on trial. Perhaps that is why the title of the book in which the official court-record is found is called The Greatest Trial in the World.
 Andrew C. Abbott

No comments:

Post a Comment