March 13, 1925 – Tennessee Passes Anti-Evolution Law

On this day in history, Tennessee passed “The Butler Act” prohibiting public school teachers from denying the Biblical account of man’s origin. The law also prevented the teaching of the evolution of man from what it referred to as lower orders of animals in place of the Biblical account. You can read the full text of the law here. The bill was passed by the Tennessee House of Representatives that January on a 71-to-5 vote, and by the Tennessee Senate on this date by 24 to 6. It was signed into law by the governor on March 21.

William Jennings Bryan was 65 when he joined the prosecution team in the Scopes trial.

William Jennings Bryan was 65 when he joined the prosecution team in the Scopes trial.

The law was challenged later that year in a famous trial in Dayton, Tennessee called the Scopes trial (or “Monkey Trial”) which featured a confrontation between prosecution attorney and fundamentalist religious leader, William Jennings Bryan, and noted defense attorney and religious agnostic, Clarence Darrow. You can read an article about the trial here.

Clarence Darrow was 68 when he agreed to act as John Scopes' defense attorney. At the time, he was the most famous criminal defense lawyer in the country.

Clarence Darrow was 68 when he agreed to act as John Scopes’ defense attorney. At the time, he was the most famous criminal defense lawyer in the country.

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