55 Facts About Clarence Darrow


Clarence Seward Darrow was an American lawyer who became famous in the early 20th century for his involvement in the Leopold and Loeb murder trial and the Scopes trial.


Clarence Darrow was a leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union and a prominent advocate for Georgist economic reform.


Clarence Darrow defended high-profile clients in many famous trials of the early 20th century, including teenage thrill killers Leopold and Loeb for murdering 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks ; teacher John T Scopes in the Scopes "Monkey" Trial, in which he opposed statesman and orator William Jennings Bryan; and Ossian Sweet in a racially charged self-defense case.


Clarence Darrow was born in the small town of Farmdale, Ohio, on April 18,1857, the fifth son of Amirus and Emily Darrow, but grew up in nearby Kinsman, Ohio.


Clarence Darrow's father was an ardent abolitionist and a proud iconoclast and religious freethinker.


Clarence Darrow was known throughout the town as the "village infidel".


Emily Clarence Darrow was an early supporter of female suffrage and a women's rights advocate.

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The young Clarence Darrow attended Allegheny College and the University of Michigan Law School, but did not graduate from either institution.


Clarence Darrow attended Allegheny College for only one year before the Panic of 1873 struck, and Darrow was determined not to be a financial burden to his father any longer.


Clarence Darrow studied there for only a year when he decided that it would be much more cost-effective to apprentice in an actual law office.


Clarence Darrow was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1878.


Clarence Darrow married Ruby Hammerstrom, a journalist 16 years his junior, in 1903.


Clarence Darrow opened his first law office in Andover, Ohio, a small farming town just ten miles from Kinsman.


Clarence Darrow did not have much business when he first moved to Chicago, and spent as little as possible.


Clarence Darrow joined the Henry George Club and made some friends and connections in the city.


Clarence Darrow slowly made a name for himself through these speeches, eventually earning the standing to speak in whatever hall he liked.


Clarence Darrow was offered work as an attorney for the city of Chicago.


Clarence Darrow worked in the city law department for two years when he resigned and took a position as a lawyer at the Chicago and North-Western Railway Company.


In 1894, Darrow represented Eugene V Debs, the leader of the American Railway Union, who was prosecuted by the federal government for leading the Pullman Strike of 1894.


Clarence Darrow severed his ties with the railroad to represent Debs, making a financial sacrifice.


Clarence Darrow saved Debs in one trial but could not keep him from being jailed in another.


Also in 1894, Clarence Darrow took on the first murder case of his career, defending Patrick Eugene Prendergast, the "mentally deranged drifter" who had confessed to murdering Chicago mayor Carter Harrison, Sr.


Clarence Darrow helped organize the Populist Party in Illinois and then ran for US Congress as a Democrat in 1895 but lost to Hugh R Belknap.


Clarence Darrow joined the Anti-Imperialist League in 1898 in opposition to the US annexation of the Philippines.


Clarence Darrow represented the woodworkers of Wisconsin in a notable case in Oshkosh in 1898 and the United Mine Workers in Pennsylvania in the great anthracite coal strike of 1902.

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Clarence Darrow flirted with the idea of running for mayor of Chicago in 1903 but ultimately decided against it.


From 1906 to 1908, Clarence Darrow represented the Western Federation of Miners leaders William "Big Bill" Haywood, Charles Moyer, and George Pettibone when they were arrested and charged with conspiring to murder former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg in 1905.


In 1911, the American Federation of Labor called on Clarence Darrow to defend the McNamara brothers, John and James, who were charged in the Los Angeles Times bombing on October 1,1910, during the bitter struggle over the open shop in Southern California.


The plea bargain Clarence Darrow helped arrange earned John fifteen years and James life imprisonment.


Two months later, Clarence Darrow was charged with two counts of attempting to bribe jurors in both cases.


Clarence Darrow served as his own attorney for the remainder of the trial, which ended with a hung jury.


Clarence Darrow took the latter because he had become convinced that the criminal justice system could ruin people's lives if they were not adequately represented.


In more than 100 cases, only one of Clarence Darrow's clients was executed.


Clarence Darrow became renowned for moving juries and even judges to tears with his eloquence.


Clarence Darrow had a keen intellect often hidden by his rumpled, unassuming appearance.


Clarence Darrow stunned the prosecution when he had his clients plead guilty in order to avoid a vengeance-minded jury and place the case before a judge.


The trial, then, was actually a long sentencing hearing in which Clarence Darrow contended, with the help of expert testimony, that Leopold and Loeb were mentally diseased.


Clarence Darrow's closing argument was published in several editions in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and was reissued at the time of his death.


Clarence Darrow later argued that emotion is necessary for the decisions that people make.


Clarence Darrow had the families issue a statement insisting that there would be no large legal fees and that his fees would be determined by a committee composed of officers from the Chicago Bar Association.


In 1925, Darrow defended John T Scopes in the State of Tennessee v Scopes trial.


Clarence Darrow's closing statement, which lasted over seven hours, is seen as a landmark in the civil rights movement and was included in the book Speeches that Changed the World.


The Scopes Trial and the Sweet trial were the last big cases that Clarence Darrow took on before he retired from full-time practice at the age of 68.


Clarence Darrow still took on a few cases such as the 1932 Massie Trial in Hawaii.


Clarence Darrow entered the racially charged atmosphere as the lawyer for the defendants.

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Clarence Darrow reconstructed the case as a justified honor killing by Thomas Massie.


Clarence Darrow criticized the idea that humanity knows what qualities it would take to make humanity "better," and compared humanity's biology experiments unfavorably to those of Nature.


Clarence Darrow considered accepting, and even seemed prepared to announce his candidacy, but ultimately declined to run.


Clarence Darrow was appointed in 1905 by newly elected Chicago mayor Edward Fitzsimmons Dunne to serve in the position of "Special Traction Counsel to the Mayor", assisting Dunne in his attempts to resolve the city's traction problem.


Clarence Darrow died on March 13,1938, at his home, in Chicago, Illinois, of pulmonary heart disease.


Today, Clarence Darrow is remembered for his reputation as a fierce trial attorney who, in many cases, championed the cause of the underdog; because of this, he is generally regarded as one of the greatest criminal defense lawyers in American history.


Clarence Darrow was briefly mentioned in an episode of the award-winning drama Breaking Bad.


Clarence Darrow shared offices with Edgar Lee Masters, who achieved more fame for his poetry, in particular, the Spoon River Anthology, than for his advocacy.


The papers of Clarence Darrow are located at the Library of Congress and the University of Minnesota Libraries.


The Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center of the University of Minnesota Law School has the largest collection of Clarence Darrow material including personal letters to and from Darrow.