by Art Thomas (with Emanuel Haldeman-Julius)
Thanks to CRT President Lanny Swerdlow, those who attended the June 18th CRT meeting enjoyed watching a fine video performance by actor Henry Fonda. Fonda portrayed the great Clarence Darrow doing a splendid job busting religious bunk.
Lanny also read from a couple of news clippings about Darrow in his late years. Then he read a eulogy to Darrow by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, who had published several books by the noted lawyer, that follows:
Clarence Darrow, 80-year-old lawyer, Agnostic, liberal, defender of the "underdog" and fighter for civil rights, died on March 13, 1938. He had lived a full, useful, constructive life. As a speaker, he moved tens of thousands to an appreciation of Freethought and humanism. As a writer, especially in his numerous little volumes which I published during the past 20 years, Darrow reached even a larger audience with his messages of enlightenment and realistic evaluations of supernaturalism.
For two decades, Darrow was a warm friend of my establishment, pouring his writings and speeches into my presses and always refusing to accept a dollar in payment for his contributions. I offered him money numerous times, but he always declined to accept, once even returning a check I had sent him for his part in a debate on religion. He told me many times that speaking and writing for Freethought were efforts he wanted to dive to humanity, without financial rewards. Darrow, the lawyer, is known to most Americans. Darrow, the Freethinker, wasn't as widely known, but the spade work he did for Agnosticism stands out as a career in itself, one that will, in time, be placed along side that of Ingersoll and other mind-liberators. Once, when asked his attitude toward religion, Darrow replied:
I feel as I always have, that the earth is the home and the only home of man, and I am convinced that whatever he is to get out of his existence he must get while he is here.
At another time, Darrow said:
I am an Agnostic because I am not afraid to think. I am not afraid of any god in the universe who would send me or any other man or woman to hell. If there were such a being, he would not be a god; he would be a devil.
Years ago, Darrow debated with several religious leaders in Kansas City. I attended this large gathering and took notes, from which I want to quote the following:
Do you, good people, believe that Adam and Eve were created in the Garden of Eden and that they were forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge? I do. The church has always been afraid of that tree. It still is afraid of knowledge. Some of you say religion makes people happy. So does laughing gas. So does whiskey. I believe in the brain of man. I'm not worried about my soul.
Darrow never pulled his punches when firing away at supernaturalism. He envisaged the passing of Christianity and "all the mythology that has gripped the world so strangely ghrough ignorance and yearning.
We have lost a brave soldier in the liberation war of humanity.
In July 1925, Emanuel and Marcet Haldeman-Julius traveled to, and spent fourteen days at, Dayton, Tennessee to cover the famous Scopes monkey trial.
At this trial, except for Darrow's opening attack on the Tennessee anti-evolution law, the great moment came when Darrow made a monkey out of a creationist. Perhaps better said, Darrow caused the creationist, William Jennings Bryan, to make a monkey out of himself. In Mrs. Haldeman-Julius' words, "...as he was pummeled into one tight spot after another, emerging each time breathless and in amazed chagrin, Bryan flushed, with spots of anger in his cheeks. His whole body sagged. Before our very eyes, he became a beaten man." Bryan died a few days after the trial.
The judge, himself a creationist, realized what was happening and abruptly adjourned court. The next morning he ordered the cross-examination stopped and the record of the previous day's questioning stricken out. However, though officially off the record, the news was printed far and wide, thanks to the coverage of New York Times reporter H.L. Mencken.
Darrow's fame continued as defense attorney in other trials that got world attention, as in the Henry Sweet trial in detroit and the Loeb and Leopold trial in Chicago.