Wednesday, July 10, 2013


July 10, 1925


Dayton, Tennessee (JFK+50) On this day 88 years ago, John Thomas Scopes*, a high school teacher in this small town located just north of Chattanooga in Rhea County, went on trial for violating Tennessee's recently enacted anti-evolution law.

                          John Thomas Scopes
                       Photo by Watson Davis
                                   June 1925

*John T. Scopes (1900-1970) was born in Texas and lived in Wisconsin and Illinois.  He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1924 with a major in law and minor in geology.  He became football coach at Rhea County High School in Dayton, TN where he also was employed as a substitute teacher.

After the trial, Scopes did graduate work at the University of Chicago and later worked for Gulf Oil Company in Venezuela and United Gas Company.

The Butler Act**, passed by the Tennessee State Legislature in March 1925, made it unlawful to "teach any theory that denies the story of Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible".

Mr. Scopes, in the role of substitute biology teacher at Rhea County High School, admitted to teaching evolution to his class by reading from a chapter of the state Biology textbook.

He was charged with violation of the Butler Act on May 5, 1925 and indicted on May 25.  The Baltimore Sun covered the $500 bail required for Scope's release pending trial. 

The trial, conducted by Judge John T. Raulston, took place at the Rhea County Court House from July 10 through July 25, 1925. 

**John W. Bulter (1875-1952) was a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives 1923-1927.  He also headed the World Christian Fundamentals Association.  

Butler later admitted he knew nothing about evolution but heard that students were coming home from school telling their parents the Bible was all nonsense.

                    Rhea County Court House
                         Dayton, Tennessee
                 Photo by Calvin Beale (2006)

Coming to Dayton, along with a host of reporters and ordinary citizens, was the three time Democratic candidate for President of the United States, William Jennings Bryan. 

Mr. Bryan, a religious fundamentalist, came to assist in the prosecution of the Rhea County science teacher.  The primary prosecutor was Tom Stewart.***

Defending Mr. Scopes was the widely acclaimed defense attorney Clarence Darrow.

The Scopes Monkey Trial came as a result of the American Civil Liberties Union offer to finance a test of the Butler Act along with George W. Rappleyea's**** seizing on the opportunity to bring public attention to Dayton.

Mr. Rappleyea read about the ACLU offer in a Chattanooga newspaper and soon met with town leaders at Robinson's Drug Store to propose the idea of bringing the trial to their town.

After a two week trial, John Thomas Scopes was found guilty but sentence was but a $100 fine.  The fine was never paid and the verdict was later overturned.

***Arthur Thomas Stewart (1892-1972) was born in Dunlap, TN and earned a law degree at Cumberland University.  After the Scopes Trial he served as one of Tennessee's United States senators, but was defeated for renomination by Estes Kefauver in 1948.

                     Arthur Thomas Stewart

****George W. Rappleyea (1894-1966), the chief architect of the Scopes Trial, was born on July 4th in New York City.  He graduated from Ohio Northern College in 1912 with a degree in civil engineering.  He served in the US Army in WWI.

Rappleyea became superintendent of the Cumberland Coal Company in Dayton.  During WWII, he was Vice President of the Higgins Boat Company which made the landing craft used by US forces during the war.

          George Washington Rappleyea
            Photo by Watson Davis (1925)


Brookline, Massachusetts (JFK+50) Mr. & Mrs. Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. of 51 Abbottsford Road here in Brookline, Massachusetts announced the birth of their fifth child and third daughter 92 years ago today, July 10, 1921.

The baby, named Eunice, was delivered by Kennedy family doctor, Frederick L. Good of 64 Commonwealth Avenue.*

*Eunice Kennedy Shriver died on April 11, 2009.

Eunice with Special Needs Children*
      Cape Cod, Massachusetts
            By David Lenz (2009)

*Eunice founded the Special Olympics.