Probably the most celebrated American lawyer of the 20th century,
Clarence Darrow worked as defense counsel in many widely publicized
trials. He was notable as a defender of the underdog and civil
Clarence Darrow was born on April 18, 1857, near Kinsman, Ohio.
He attended Allegheny College and the University of Michigan
briefly before being admitted to the Ohio bar in 1878 at the age
of 21. In 1887 he moved to Chicago, where he soon was appointed
city corporation counsel and later the general attorney for the
Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. He resigned this position in
1895 to defend Eugene V. Debs, president of the American Railway
Union, and other union leaders who had been arrested on a federal
charge of contempt of court over difficulties arising out of the
Pullman strike of 1894. Through this trial Darrow established a
national reputation as a labor and criminal lawyer.
In 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him an
arbitrator in the Pennsylvania anthracite coal strike. In 1907 he
secured the acquittal of labor organizer William D. "Big Bill"
Haywood for the murder of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg.
After World War I he defended war protesters charged with
violating state sedition laws.
The two most famous trials in which he participated took place
in the 1920s. The first of these trials was the notorious Leopold-Loeb
murder case of 1924. He saved Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb
from execution--but not from prison--for the murder of 14-year-old
Robert Franks. [In the 1959 movie Compulsion, based on
this case, Darrow was portrayed by Orson Welles.] In July 1925
Darrow defended high school teacher John T. Scopes, who was
charged with violating Tennessee law by teaching evolution.
[The photograph below was taken at the Scopes trial, which was
the first trial to be broadcast live, on radio.] The prosecuting
attorney in this famous "monkey trial" was William Jennings
Bryan. Bryan died a few days after the trial. [The well-known
play, Inherit the Wind, is a fictionalized version of
this trial; in various movie versions of the play Darrow has
been portrayed by Spencer Tracy, Jason Robards and Jack Lemmon.]
His life was the subject of a one-man stage production starring
He died in Chicago on March 13, 1938.