It’s the birthday of lawyer and writer Clarence (Seward) Darrow (books by this author), born in Kinsman, Ohio (1857). His father was a Unitarian minister until he lost his faith, when he became a furniture maker and undertaker. But his passion was for books, not business. Darrow wrote, “In all the country round, no man knew so much of books as he and no man knew less of life.” Darrow became a famous lawyer, and he filled his courtroom speeches with literary allusions.
Darrow fought for unions, racial equality, and the poor, and he became famous for defending some of the most unpopular people of his time. In the 1925 Monkey Trial, he defended high school teacher John Scopes for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in a Tennessee school. In “The Crime of the Century,” in 1924, he successfully defended two confessed teenage murderers, Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, from receiving the death penalty. In defending them he said, “You may stand them on the trap door of the scaffold, and choke them to death, but that act will be infinitely more cold-blooded, whether justified or not, than any act that these boys have committed or can commit.”
He wrote the novel An Eye for an Eye (1905), and the nonfiction books Crime: Its Cause and Treatment (1922), The Prohibition Mania (1927), and The Story of My Life (1932).
He once said: “I never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with a lot of pleasure.”