- Historic Sites
Three Weeks In Dayton
The “Monkey Trial” brought two ideologies into a great conflict, and it was very, very hot
June 1975 | Volume 26, Issue 4
Room was made for Mrs. Bryan’s wheelchair outside the rail, and her husband and son, William Jennings, Jr., a Los Angeles lawyer, joined Stewart and the others at the prosecution table. They faced Scopes and the defense attorneys from the opposite sides of the railed enclosure. After much picture taking the gavel banged, and a noisy sort of order settled.
Bryan sat impassively, beating at the hot air with a palm-leaf fan. Across the arena Darrow slumped coatless in his chair and fingered blue suspenders. The heat was oppressive, even with open windows. Perspiration stood on faces, damp spots showed on shirts. The judge and lawyers had stripped off their coats, all except Malone. He sat neat and unruffled, double-breasted coat buttoned, as if he were at a table on a Paris boulevard in spring. Pawing at typewriter keys with damp fingers, press-association men worked in relays to shape a description of the scene.
From the outset the judge and lawyers for the prosecution made it clear to defense attorneys that they must fight in an alien atmosphere. Court opened with a prayer that was not wholly nonpartisan. Then fudge Raulston said: “We are glad to welcome the foreign lawyers for both the state and the defendant.”
After lunch a jury for the trial was selected quickly, only those most open in their prejudice being dismissed. The panel, all white, of course, consisted of six Baptists, four Methodists, one Disciple of Christ, and one who did not belong to a church. There were eleven farmers and one shipping clerk, who previously had taught school.
One white-bearded farmer had been a United States marshal. Three said they had never read any book except the Bible. Another, speaking softly, said he had not read anything; he could not read. He was accepted by both sides.
The jury completed, court adjourned until Monday.
Early Saturday afternoon at the Rogers home, where Bryan was taking a nap after lunch, I was talking with his secretary, W. E. Thompson, when a man came up the walk and asked if Mr. Bryan was there. Thompson replied that he was resting.
“Will you give these to him for me?” asked the man and thrust a bunch of homegrown flowers into Thompson’s hands. Thompson assured him that he would and expressed his thanks. The man turned and walked away. He was one of the jurors.
On Monday the defense moved that the indictment against Scopes be quashed because, among other things, the law was unconstitutional. The lawyers argued this motion all day while Bryan sat silent, waving his fan.
When court began on Tuesday, Darrow raised an objection against opening court sessions with prayer. He said a case involving a contest between science and religion should not be subjected to influences that lay outside a court of law. The lawyers wrangled, Bryan listened, and Raulston overruled the objection, then adjourned to prepare his decision on quashing the indictment.
On his way across the courthouse lawn the judge was joined by Bill Hutchinson of INS, who asked if he planned to read the decision that afternoon. Raulston replied that he would. Hutch then asked: “Will you open court tomorrow with prayer?” And the judge replied: “Yes.”
Obviously if the indictment were to be quashed, there would be no court on the next day. Hutch had his story: the indictment would not be quashed. By the time the judge got back to the courtroom from lunch, Hearst papers and other clients of INS were on the streets in many cities proclaiming that the judge would not halt the trial.
Besieged by protesting reporters, the judge declared he would not read his decision until Wednesday and appointed a committee of correspondents to investigate “the leak.” On Wednesday the committee suggested that the judge forget about the incident. When he pressed for an explanation, Raulston learned that he himself had been the source of the leak. He gave Hutchinson a mild lecture on the evils of tricking judges, then read a ruling denying the move to quash the indictment.
At length the prosecution managed to make its opening presentation. Walter White, county school superintendent, and F. E. Robinson, head of the county board of education, testified that Scopes had admitted he had taught evolution. Two high-school students told what they could remember about the teaching, and one admitted under Darrow’s questioning that the teaching had not caused him to quit his church. This was the state’s case.
Finally, with the odor of roasting beef drifting through the windows from the barbecue pit below, Harrow called his first witness. Dr. Maynard M. Metcalf, a zoologist from Johns Hopkins University, had come to give expert testimony on the theory of evolution.
Metcalf had taught at Oberlin before going to Johns Hopkins and, as a Congregationalist deacon, had taught the Bible. He said scientists were fairly well agreed on the theory of evolution, but not on its details.