Ninety-one years ago this week a pivotal event took place in a tiny berg called Dayton, Tennessee. Here two famous men went toe-to-toe on an issue that has divided the country for decades. That event is often called "The Scopes Monkey Trial," and what happened from July 10-21, 1925 still reverberates in our society.
Unfortunately, there is more misunderstanding than understanding about the trial. A stage play and a movie, Inherit the Wind, have created a worldwide misconception about what went on during those hot July days. When writing my book 30 Events That Shaped the Church (Baker Books, 2015) I chose to dedicate a chapter to the Scopes Trial. At the time, I knew the event was important but had done little research on it. I gathered information and soon was captivated by the situation, the time period, the characters, the issue, and the impact the trial had on the United States.
What few know is that the "Trial of the Century" was nothing more than a misdemeanor, a low level crime just a hair more serious than an infraction. Yet the case went international. John T. Scopes, a little known high school teacher and coach, volunteered to be the defendant in a trial case funded by the ACLU to challenge the Butler bill. The Butler bill, a new state law, made it illegal to teach that humankind evolved from a lower form of life. It also made illegal to contradict the Genesis account of the creation of humanity. Governor Peay signed the bill stating his belief that it would never be implemented. He was wrong.
I've continued my research into the Scopes trial and have learned many fascinating things. One incident is at the heart of my newly released short nonfiction, Unspoken: The Scopes Trial and the Final Speech of William Jennings Bryan. Here's the blurb:
Three time presidential candidate, reformer, publisher, former secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan looked forward to delivering the prosecution's summary in the trial of John T. Scopes. It was one of the reasons, perhaps the major reason, he served on the prosecution in the "Trial of the Century." The speech was never given in court. Clarence Darrow and the defense team out maneurvered Bryan. The "Commoner" would die five days later, but not before placing the speech with a publisher who printed and distributed the work shortly after Bryan died. The speech and the book were Bryan's last words to the world about education and evolution. Now, almost a century later, author Alton Gansky takes a close look at Bryan's last speech and reflects on the man, the trial, and the unspoken speech.
The e-book is available today at Amazon.com and will be available on other e-book carries soon. There will be a print book available in one or two weeks. I've priced the book at $2.99.