This Day in History--July 21

The Scopes "Monkey" Trial," "Trial of the Century," one of many, concluded in Dayton, Tennessee.

On this day in 1925, Tennessee school teacher John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution to children in Dayton, a little town west of Chattanooga. Teaching evolution violated the state’s anti-evolution law.

The trial was a set-up as a publicity stunt to draw interest, tourists and money to the little town, with many prominent citizens, educators and other professionals in on the game.

The populist politician Williams Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson’s former Secretary of State, was persuaded to join the prosecution team. Liberal defense attorney Clarence Darrow from Chicago defended Scopes pro bono. The well-known journalist H.L. Mencken covered the trial.

The event drew more than 200 reporters from around the world to Dayton. Radio station WGN out of Chicago broadcast the trial, the first time something like this had been done.

Scopes was found guilty and fined $100.


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