Clarence Seward Darrow, 1857 - 1938

portrait of Clarence Darrow
1922 portrait by Herzog Studio, Rockford, Illinois

Born: 18 April 1857, Kinsman Township, Trumbull County, Ohio
Died: 13 March 1938, Chicago, Illinois

Darrow's parents both had New England roots back to the Revolution; his father was an abolitionist and free thinker who was known as the "village infidel", his mother an early advocate of women's rights. Darrow attended Allegheny College and the University of Michigan Law School, but didn't graduate from either. He joined the Ohio bar in 1878 and started a practice at Andover and Ashtabula, Ohio, where he joined the Democratic Party and made a name as a speaker. He moved to Chicago in 1887 and became a protege of Illinois Governor John Altgeld who helped him get a position as counsel to the Chicago and Northwest Railroad. He gave up this lucrative position to defend labor leader Eugene W. Debs following the Pullman Strike of 1894, becoming one of the nation's leading labor lawyers until a 1911 case at Los Angeles in which the defense attempted to bribe the jury. Darrow had to stand trial twice over this: he prevailed once and the second case ended with a hung jury, he settled with a promise not to practice law in California. With his labor practice ended he turned to criminal cases, notably defending Leopold and Loeb, two rich Chicago teens who kidnapped and murdered a boy in their neighborhood for the thrill and challenge. A staunch opponent of the death penalty, Darrow got them life in prison while laying the groundwork for insanity as a defense. In 1925 he was brought to Dayton, Tennessee to defend John T. Scopes, a high school science teacher charged with teaching the theory of evolution. He may have been in a position to win the case when he demanded that the jury bring in a guilty verdict so he could appeal the case in a higher court. Alas, when the Tennessee Supreme Court did overrule the Dayton jury it was only on technical grounds rather than establishing the constitutional issues Darrow was arguing.

Biography from Wikipedia and Lawyer Hall of Fame

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