John Thomas Scopes Sr.


John Thomas Scopes Sr.

Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky, USA
Death 21 Oct 1970 (aged 70)
Shreveport, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, USA
Burial Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky, USA
Plot Addition Old, Section 7, Lot 104
Memorial ID 3526 View Source
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Educator, Defendant in Court Case. He received world-wide notoriety after defending the right to teach Charles Darwin's theory of the evolution of man in a high school biology class. To teach the class, he had used the “Civic Biology” by George Hunter, which was published in 1914. In 1925 the State of Tennessee had passed the Butler's Act, which stated only the Biblical views of Adam and Eve in the garden could be taught in state-funded public schools, thus by teaching Darwin's theory, he had broken the law and being arrested in May of 1925. The “Scopes Trial” or “Scopes Monkey Trial,” as it was called in newspaper headlines, was formally known as The State of Tennessee vs John Thomas Scopes. Well-respected statesman and religious activist, William Jennings Bryan was the assistant prosecutor, while Thomas A. Stewart was lead prosecutor. The defend team consisted of Clarence Darrow, John Neal, Arthur Garfield Hays, Dudley Field Malone to name a few. Each member of the defense team was awarded monetarily for their part in the trial, as the American Civil Liberties Union, or the ACLU, had announced that it would finance this case, challenging the constitutionality of the Butler's Act. He had only a little role in the trial as it was a battle of the lawyers. With the jury deciding in minutes, Scope was found guilty of breaking the Butler's Act and ordered to pay a misdemeanor fine of $100, which would be the equivalent of over $1,500 today. The fine was overturned with the appeal in a higher court case. He could have been tried all over again, on exactly the same charge, had the prosecution not taken the Tennessee Supreme Court's advice to enter a nolle prosequi, which means "we could start proceedings, but we don't want to". The trial's coast-to-coast publicity, especially from the press coverage, brought hardships on Scopes for years; the trial was the first to be broadcast on radio. The fall of 1925 he entered a geology graduate program in the University of Chicago in Illinois. With his career in education over, he relocated to Kentucky. Attempting a career as a public servant, he ran for a Kentucky congressional seat, but was not elected. Finally, he accepted a position as an expert in the oil industry relocating to Texas and becoming very successful. He married and had two sons. Becoming an executive in the gas and oil industry, he relocated to Shreveport, Louisiana. The only son of a Kentucky farmer's five children, he attended the University of Illinois before becoming ill. Later, he returned to college, earning a degree in law and a minor in geology from the University of Kentucky in 1924. After graduation, he became a football coach and substitute schoolteacher at Rhea County High School, but was only there less than a year when the trial began. The Butler's Act remained on the books in Tennessee until May 18, 1967, after a teacher sued for the freedom of speech under the United States Constitution's First Amendment. In June of 1967 he published his autobiography, “Center of the Storm: Memoirs of John T. Scopes.” He died of cancer. The trial was the subject of the 1960 film “Inherit the Wind” and later in 1965, it was a NBC made-for-television film with Dick York starring as Scopes in both.

Bio by: Linda Davis



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 29 Aug 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 3526
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Thomas Scopes Sr. (3 Aug 1900–21 Oct 1970), Find a Grave Memorial ID 3526, citing Oak Grove Cemetery, Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .