Clarence Seward Darrow

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Darrow, Clarence Seward,

1857–1938, American lawyer, b. Kinsman, Ohio. He first practiced law in Ashtabula, Ohio. In 1887 he moved to Chicago, where he was corporation counsel for several years and conducted the cases that the city brought to reduce transit rates. Later general counsel for the Chicago and Northwestern RR, he resigned (1894) to defend Eugene V. DebsDebs, Eugene Victor,
1855–1926, American Socialist leader, b. Terre Haute, Ind. Leaving high school to work in the railroad shops in Terre Haute, he became a railroad fireman (1871) and organized (1875) a local of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen.
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 and others in connection with the Pullman strike. It was this case that made Darrow famous. The defense was unsuccessful, but he soon renounced his lucrative practice to defend the underdog. During his long career, he took part in some 2,000 trials and was paid nothing for about a third of them.

A staunch opponent of capital punishment, Darrow exerted his tremendous courtroom skill in behalf of those charged with murder; none of his more than 100 murder trial clients was sentenced to death, although he failed to win a reprieve (1894) for Robert Prendergast, who had already been convicted of murdering Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison before Darrow took his case. Darrow procured, in 1906, the acquittal of William D. HaywoodHaywood, William Dudley,
1869–1928, American labor leader, known as Big Bill Haywood, b. Salt Lake City, Utah. He began work as a miner at 15 years of age. In 1896 he joined the newly organized Western Federation of Miners, and in 1900 became a member of the executive
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 and his associates on the charge of murdering former Governor Steunenberg of Idaho. He offended many socialists (with whom he had been popularly identified) by introducing a plea of guilty in his defense of the McNamara brothers in the Los Angeles Times dynamiting case (1911). Darrow was himself tried for allegedly bribing a juror in the trial, but he was acquitted. In the Chicago "thrill" kidnapping and murder trial (1924) of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb (see Leopold and LoebLeopold and Loeb
, notorious American murderers defended by Clarence Darrow in 1924. The gregarious, dominating Richard A. Loeb (1905–1936) and the shy, submissive Nathan F. Leopold, Jr.
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) he saved the defendants from execution.

Long an agnostic, Darrow fought fundamentalist religious tenets in the Scopes evolution case (1925; see Scopes trialScopes trial,
Tennessee legal case involving the teaching of evolution in public schools. A statute was passed (Mar., 1925) in Tennessee that prohibited the teaching in public schools of theories contrary to accepted interpretation of the biblical account of human creation.
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). Pitted against William Jennings BryanBryan, William Jennings
, 1860–1925, American political leader, b. Salem, Ill. Although the nation consistently rejected him for the presidency, it eventually adopted many of the reforms he urged—the graduated federal income tax, popular election of senators, woman
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, he defended without success a schoolteacher charged with violating a Tennessee statute prohibiting teaching that humans are descended from other forms of life. Many felt, nevertheless, that Darrow's examination of Bryan on the witness stand did much to discredit fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. Among Darrow's books are an autobiographical novel, Farmington (1904); Crime: Its Cause and Treatment (1922); and Attorney for the Damned (1957), a collection of his defense summations, ed. by A. Weinberg.

Bibliography

See his autobiography (1932); The Essential Words and Writings of Clarence Darrow (2007), ed. by E. J. Larson; biographies by I. Stone (1941, repr. 1971), M. Gurko (1965), J. E. Driemen (1992), R. J. Jensen (1992), J. A. Farrell (2011), and A. E. Kersten (2011); D. McRae, The Great Trials of Clarence Darrow (2010).