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John Scopes

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 4 months ago

John Scopes


John Scope was a man arrested on May 25, 1925 for violating Tennessee's Butler Act. This act prohibited Scope, a teacher, from teaching evolution in Tennessee public schools.


John Thomas Scope was born August 3, 1900 in the town of Paducah, Kentucky. He went to high school in Illinois, and eventually received his law degree from the University of Kentucky. After his schooling, he moved to Dayton, Tennessee where he worked as Rhea County High School's football coach, and on occasion as a substitute teacher.


Scopes did not unintentionally break the law, he was instead persuaded to do so. A group called the American Civil Liberties Union (or the ACLU) would pay for a case against the Butler Act, saying it was unconstitutional, if they could find a teacher in Tennessee willing to be put on trial for breaking this law. “I didn’t violate the law.” He told a reporter and explained that he just skipped the evolution lesson.


A group of businessmen, looking to gain publicity for their town, Dayton, approached Scope. When he was unsure they argued that the schools are required to teach out of a textbook that has a chapter about evolution. They reasoned that by requiring this textbook, they were also requiring the teachers to break the law. After hearing this, Scopes finally agreed to participate.


Scopes lawyer was Clarence Darrow, America's top criminal lawyer. And againist him was William Jennings Brayn who happened to be a politician and an anti-evolutionist.


Scopes once said,"The town was filled with men and women who considered the case a duel to the death. Everything I did was likely to be noted." His trail began on July 10, 1925.


"Your honor," he said, "I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can." This was the first thing that he said under oath.


After going to trial, Scopes was found guilty and fined a sum of $100. The American Civil Liberties Union offered to pay the fine for him. Soon after the case was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The Tennessee Supreme Court also found the Butler Act to be constitutional, but overturned Scopes's conviction. This was do to the small technicality that the judge had set the fine amount instead of the jury. In 1967 the Butler act was repealed by the Tennessee legislature.


After the trial Scopes admitted that he was in fact innocent, and had never taught the lesson on evolution. His lawyers had just coached his students on what to say if they happened to take the stand. This shocking detail was revealed to the reporter William Kinsey Hutchinson, who decided not to file his story until after the verdict of the appeal case was in.


After the trial, Scopes left Dayton, Kentucky for the University of Chicago. Here he got his master's degree in geology. After this, he spent almost the rest of his life in the oil industry, spending most his time in either the U.S. or Venezuela. On October 21, 1970, at the age of 70, Scopes died of what was believed to be a stroke.


Scopes trial was the first trail that was put on the radio live.


When it came to the end of his life, Scopes wrote an autobiography, Center of the Storm that came out in 1967. The way he interrupted his life can be summed up in a quote. "A man's fate, shaped by heredity and environment and an occasional accident. It is often stranger than anything the imagination may produce." There was also a movie made on his trail called Inherit the Wind by Stanley Kramer. It came out in the 1960s.



Picture Sources:

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Sources and External Links:

John T. Scopes


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