Darrow, Clarence, 1857-1938

Alternative names
Birth 1857-04-18
Death 1938-03-13

Biographical notes:

Author, lecturer, lawyer, and reformer.

From the description of Clarence Darrow papers, 1894-1941 (bulk 1910-1935). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71062115

Clarence Seward Darrow, prominent Chicago trial lawyer, was born in Kinsman, Ohio on April 18, 1857. He attended Allegheny College, after which he studied one year at the University of Michigan Law School. He then worked as a lawyer in Youngstown, and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1878. He practiced in Ohio for nine years, before moving to Chicago, where he practiced privately before being appointed assistant corporation counsel for the City of Chicago. For four years he served as Chief Counsel. In 1894 Darrow became the counsel for the Chicago and North Western Railway. He left this job, however, after siding with Unionists who called a strike of the American Railway Union. Darrow defended Eugene V. Debs on a charge of contempt of a federal injunction, and although he lost the case he went on to become one of the nation's leading Labor advocates. In 1907 he secured the acquittal of labor leader Bill Haywood for the murder of former Governor Frank Steuneberg of Idaho. Darrow defended many others accused of murder in the years to come, including Nathan Leopold in 1924 for the murder of Bobbie Franks. His most famous case, however, is perhaps that of Tennessee vs. John Scopes in 1925, in which he defended Scopes in a case involving the teaching of evolution and the constitutionality of a Tennessee anti-evolution statute. Darrow's opposition in that case was great trial lawyer William Jennings Bryan. Darrow had a long affiliation with the Woodlawn neighborhood, residing at 1537 E. Sixtieth Street for a large portion of his adult life. When he died, March 13, 1938, at the age of eighty, his ashes were scattered into the waters of the Jackson Park Lagoon.

From the description of Papers, 1912-1956. (Chicago Public Library). WorldCat record id: 406518575

Lawyer and social reformer.

From the description of Papers, 1913-1944 (inclusive). (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 52250102

Clarence S. Darrow (1857-1938) was a lawyer and social reformer who made his home and practiced law in Chicago. Throughout his life he was an active campaigner for the rights of the individual, especially the underprivileged. Darrow had a national reputation in labor law and was the counsel for labor interests throughout the country. His later legal career was mainly in criminal law. A series of spectacular trials, in particular the Leopold-Loeb case in Chicago, 1924, made him world-famous. Perhaps his most famous case was his defense of John Thomas Scopes in 1925 for violation of a Tennessee law banning the teaching of evolution in the public schools. He wrote several books expounding his views and published many lectures and debates as pamphlets. His essays and short stories were published in popular magazines and small journals.

From the guide to the Darrow, Clarence. Papers, 1913-1944, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

Biographical Note

  • 1857, Apr. 18: Born, Kinsman, Ohio
  • circa 1871 - 1872 : Attended Allegheny College, Meadville, Pa.
  • circa 1875 - 1876 : Attended University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • 1878: Admitted to Ohio bar
  • 1878 - 1887 : Practiced law in Ohio
  • 1880: Married Jessie Ohl (divorced 1897)
  • 1887: Moved to Chicago, Ill.
  • 1889: Appointed special assessment attorney for Chicago, Ill.
  • 1890: Corporation counsel for Chicago, Ill.
  • circa 1892 - 1893 : Attorney, Chicago and Northwestern Railway Co.
  • 1894: Defense attorney, American Railway Union v. United States (Pullman Strike) Defense attorney, Illinois v. Prendergast Unsuccessful candidate for Congress
  • 1897 - 1902 : Law partnership with John P. Altgeld
  • 1898: Defense attorney, Wisconsin v. Kidd, Zentner, and Troiber (Woodworkers' conspiracy case)
  • 1902: Member, Anthracite Coal Strike Arbitration Commission Chief counsel, United Mine Workers of America Illinois state representative
  • 1903: Married Ruth Hammerstrom
  • 1903 - 1911 : Law partner with Edgar Lee Masters
  • 1904: Published Farmington. Chicago: McClurg and Co.
  • 1906 - 1907 : Defense attorney, Idaho v. Haywood (Haywood, Moyer, Pettibone trial)
  • 1911: Defense attorney, California v. McNamara
  • 1912 - 1913 : Defendant, California v. Darrow (Darrow bribery trial)
  • 1918: Traveled to England and France
  • 1920: Defense attorney, New York v. Gitlow
  • 1920: Defense attorney, Illinois v. Person
  • 1921 - 1925 : Law partnership with William H. Holly
  • 1924: Defense attorney, Illinois v. Leopold and Loeb
  • 1925: Defense attorney, Tennessee v. Scopes
  • 1925 - 1926 : Defense attorney, Michigan v. Sweet
  • 1927: Defense attorney, New York v. Greco and Carillo
  • 1929 - 1930 : Traveled to Europe
  • 1931: Narrated and appeared in “Mystery of Life,” a film about evolution
  • 1932: Published The Story of My Life. New York: C. Scribner's Sons Defense attorney, Hawaii v. Massie
  • 1934: Chairman, National Recovery Administration Review Board
  • 1938, Mar. 13: Died, Chicago, Ill.

From the guide to the Clarence Darrow Papers, 1894-1941, (bulk 1910-1935), (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)


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Ark ID:


  • Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Pennsylvania
  • Evolution (Biology)
  • Communism
  • Lawyers
  • Communists
  • Prohibition
  • Labor laws and legislation
  • Anthracite Coal Strike, Pa., 1902
  • Social problems
  • American literature
  • Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining
  • Practice of law--Illinois--Chicago
  • Lawyers--Archives
  • Practice of law
  • Baccalaureate addresses--Valparaiso University
  • Capital punishment
  • Religion


  • Lawyers
  • Authors
  • Lecturers
  • Reformers


  • Woodlawn (Chicago, Ill.) (as recorded)
  • Illinois--Chicago (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Farmington (Ohio) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Illinois--Chicago (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania (as recorded)