At this point, it happened, three lawyers met in New York City for a conference on some business matters. They were Clarence Darrow, controversialist and defender of unpopular causes; Bainbridge Colby, an eminent corporation lawyer and, like Bryan, a former Secretary of State; and Dudley Field Malone, a leading Catholic layman and a fashionable barrister. Their conversation turned to the Tennessee situation. One said: "It is a shame. That poor teacher, who probably doesn't know what it is all about, is to be sacrificed by the Fundamentalists." Another said: "Someone ought to do something about it. " The third replied: "Why don't we?" Through the American Civil Liberties Union they offered to defend young Scopes. Their offer was accepted.
This was real news! Bryan, three times candidate for the presidency of the U. S., the great Fundamentalist leader and orator, on one side. On the other, three of the nation's most famous lawyers, including Darrow, master jurypleader. The papers were full of the story.
This was the background of Darrow's call to me and of our meeting at his office in Chicago early in the summer of 1925. By telephone, wire and letter we proceeded to assemble a panel of expert witnesses: scientists to testify on the theory of evolution and theologians to give evidence on the history and interpretation of the Bible. In addition to Newman, Mathews and myself, our panel finally included Kirtley Mather, professor of geology at Harvard; Jacob G. Lipman, director of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University; W. C. Curtis, professor of zoology at the University of Missouri; Wilbur Nelson, state geologist of Tennessee; Maynard Metcalf, professor of zoology at Johns Hopkins University; Charles Judd, head of the University of Chicago School of Education; and Rabbi Herman Rosenwasser of San Francisco, a noted Hebrew scholar. All of us, along with our counsel, undertook to go to Dayton at our own expense and to serve without fee.
The trial was scheduled for Friday, July 10. But long before that date the town was crowded with newspapermen, Fundamentalist supporters and others who were just curious. No one was willing to house "the heretics, " that is, the scientific witnesses and defense attorneys. So an old "haunted house " on a hill overlooking the town was fitted out as a dormitory.
When I reached town, I took care not to associate myself at once with the Defense group, and was able to wander about for a time listening to the talk of the local people. For the most part they were extremely partisan to the Fundamentalist cause. But they were apprehensive of the famous Darrow, and they were not yet aware of his plan to present expert testimony on evolution and the scriptures.
That evening I joined the group at the "haunted house " and there met young Scopes for the first time. He was a fine, clean-cut young man, a little shy and apparently overwhelmed by the controversy he had stirred up. He expressed amazement that famous lawyers like Darrow, Colby, Malone and Arthur Garfield Hays (counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union) should come to his defense, and that a group of well known scientists should join them.
Little happened on the first day of the trial beyond the selection of the jury. A panel was offered, and Darrow accepted it without change after a casual examination. But he did bring out the fact that 11 jurors were Fundamentalist church members. All admitted that they knew little about science or evolution. One said that the only Darwin he had ever heard about ran a local notion store. One could not read or write.