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Freethought Today · May 2017

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Darrow statue to inherit the lawn

'Scopes Monkey Trial' defense attorney to be honored in July

A statue of "Scopes Monkey Trial" defense attorney Clarence Darrow will join that of his legal counterpart in the 1925 case outside the famous courthouse in Dayton, Tenn., this summer.

Darrow is the lawyer who defended John T. Scopes against creationist prosecutor Williams Jennings Bryan, a three-time presidential candidate.

The sculptor is Zenos Frudakis, who is a member of FFRF and will speak at FFRF's 40th annual convention in Madison, Wis., the weekend of Sept. 15-17. The installation of the statue is expected to take place on July 13, with the dedication on July 14. That is also the first day of the Scopes Trial Play and Festival.

A sculpture of Bryan was installed in 2005 and is on the south side at the front of the Rhea County Courthouse. The Darrow statue will be placed adjacent to the Bryan statue on the north side.

"Ralph Green, president of the Rhea County Historical and Genealogical Society, said the statue will make for a more complete story of the trial," writes Ben Benton of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "He said it lends authenticity to the play, which relies 'about 90 percent' on the trial transcripts. Green said historical society members felt Darrow would balance the story and give visitors to Dayton a look at the 'two giants,' who faced off over topics that still stir controversy and drew the world's eyes and ears to a small town in Tennessee."

But many people in the conservative town are not in favor of the Darrow statue, writes Benton.

"Bill Hollin, a 23-year Rhea County commission veteran, is opposed to the Darrow statue because of his own religious beliefs and because he sees no reason to celebrate the man who lost the trial and whose opponent contributed so much to Dayton. 'There's a lot of people in the community that oppose it,' Hollins said."

"That's strange, to put a statue of a liberal in Dayton," Mike Scott told the Times Free Press. "But you can't tell which side is the right unless you see the left."

In July 1925, Dayton High School teacher John T. Scopes went on trial for violating state law by teaching that human beings evolved from a "lower order of animals." Scopes was convicted and fined $100, but the decision was reversed two years later by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The case raised debate on issues such as separation of church and state, academic freedom and the relationship between science and religion.

In 1977, the National Park Service named the Rhea County Courthouse a National Historic Landmark.

The events of the trial were made into the 1960 movie, "Inherit the Wind," a fictionalized version of the trial starring Spencer Tracy as the Darrow character and Fredric March as the Bryan character.

Please look for more information on this Darrow statue project in FFRF's May appeal, arriving via U.S. mail.