Why I Am An Agnostic And Other Essayshark

CLARENCE SEWARD DARROW was born in Kinsman, Ohio, the fifth of eight children, on April 18, 1857. Darrow's parents, who were freethinkers and abolitionists, instilled in their son a fierce independence and a devotion to learning. Following a year of study at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, and another at the University of Michigan law school, Darrow was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1878. After prac­ticing in Ohio for nine years, Darrow moved with his wife and son in 1887 to Chicago, where he was appointed cor­poration counsel to the City of Chicago and later attorney for the Chicago and North Western Railway. He resigned this position in 1894 to devote himself exclusively to labor and political cases.

Darrow became the defense lawyer in several famous trials, including those of William D. "Big Bill" Haywood, accused of a plot to assassinate the former Idaho governor, Frank B. Steunenberg (1907); of the McNamara brothers, charged with trying to blow up the Los Angeles Times building (l 911); and of schoolteacher John Scopes, on trial in 1925 for defying the Tennessee state law forbidding the teaching of evolution. In what became known as the "Monkey" trial, Darrow's opposing counsel was William Jennings Bryan, thrice unsuccessful candidate for the presidency and, in Darrow's eyes, the champion of religious bigotry. Applying his remarkable oratorical powers, Darrow exposed Bryan as an ignoramus and a fanatic; nevertheless, Scopes was convicted and ordered to pay a nominal fine, although the conviction was later reversed.

Darrow's philosophy was deterministic: human beings are controlled by their feelings, emotions, and desires; this is the result of heredity and environment. Darrow rejected the con­cept of inherent sinfulness, arguing that people should be treated with compassion rather than with vindictiveness. A popular lecturer and writer, Darrow, in several works, in­cluding those in the Blue Book series, decried religious dog­matism and a fundamentalist interpretation of the scriptures, while upholding the values of individual liberty and social justice.

Clarence Darrow died in Chicago on March 13, 1938. Clarence Darrow's published works include the novel An Eye for an Eye (1905), Crime: Its Cause and Treatment (1922), and The Story of My Life (1932).

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