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  Darrow, Clarence Seward
NameClarence Seward Darrow
Chicago, Illinois , United States
Born April 18, 1857
DiedMarch 13, 1938 (80 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedDr. Cynic
Nov 20, 2006 12:48pm
Tags ACLU - Agnostic -
InfoClarence Darrow was born in Kinsman, Ohio, on 18th April, 1857. His father had originally trained as a Unitarian minister, but lost his faith and Clarence was brought up as an agnostic. An opponent of slavery, Darrow brought up his son as a supporter of reformist politicians such as Horace Greeley and Samuel Tilden. Another important influence was the radical journalist, Henry George.

After an education at Allegheny College and the University of Michigan Law School, Darrow became a member of the Ohio bar in 1878. For the next nine years he was a typical small-town lawyer. However, in 1887 Darrow moved to Chicago in search of more interesting work.

As a young lawyer, Darrow had been impressed by the book Our Penal Machinery and Its Victims by John Peter Altgeld. The two men became close friends and shared a belief that the United States criminal system favoured the rich over the poor. Later Altgeld was elected governor of Illinois and controversially pardoned several men convicted after the Haymarket Bombing.

In 1890 Darrow became the general attorney to the Chicago and North Western Railway. However, during the Pullman Strike Darrow felt sympathy for the trade unions and offered his services to its leaders. He defended Eugene Debs, president of the American Railway Union, when he was arrested for contempt of court arising from the strike. Although Debs and his fellow trade unionists were convicted, Darrow had established himself as America's leading labour lawyer. Over the next few years Darrow defended several trade union leaders arrested during industrial disputes. Darrow also became involved in the campaign against child labour and capital punishment.

In 1906-7 Darrow successfully defended William D. Haywood, leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), when he was charged with murdering Frank R. Steunenberg, the former governor of Idaho. He also defended the labour leaders charged with dynamiting the Los Angeles Times building.

Although Darrow supported Allied involvement in the First World War he represented several people charged with anti-war activities. Darrow was especially critical of the Espionage Act and the way it was used to imprison left-wing trade union activists.

Darrow's liberal views were based on the belief the social and psychological pressures were mainly responsible for an individual's anti-social behaviour. In 1924 he agreed to take the Leopold-Loeb case, where two wealthy students had kidnapped and murdered a young boy. Darrow insisted that his clients plead guilty and then saved them from the death penalty by using expert witnesses to show how Leopold and Loeb were not completely responsible for their actions.

Darrow's most famous case was in 1925 when he defended John T. Scopes, a teacher accused of teaching the evolutionary origin of man, rather than the doctrine of divine creation. His main opponent in the case was the former presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan, who believed the literal interpretation of the Bible. Although it is claimed that Darrow outshone Bryan during the trial, Scopes was found guilty.

Darrow also played a prominent role in the Sweet Case (1925-26), where he successfully defended a black family who had used violence against a mob trying to expel them from a white area in Detroit. Darrow also worked on the Scottsboro Case, where nine young black men were falsely charged with the rape of two white women on a train.

Darrow wrote several books including Crime, its Cause and Treatment (1925), The Prohibition Mania (1927) and The Story of My Life (1932). Clarence Darrow died on 13th March, 1938.

Vote totals for elections in which was nominated for the Hall of Fame for Great Americans (1900-1965): 1965-0.


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