Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)
would become famous for his defense performance in
two highly publicized 1920s trials: Leopold & Loebl
(wealthy Northwestern students who killed fourteen year
old Bobby Franks for fun in 1924) and the 1925 "Scopes monkey trial"
(about a teacher who disobeyed Tennessee's Butler
law that prohibited teaching Darwin's theory of
evolution in the state's schools).
In 1903 Darrow was a respected attorney but
not yet a celebrity. His role in the defense
of Iroquois Theater owners and employees was behind-the-scenes
work on quashing indictments, while
Levi Mayer took the lead. Darrow never
appeared in court during an Iroquois trial but reportedly held the view that
as Chicago had disregarded building and fire
codes for decades it was
unjust to lay the sins of a generation upon the
shoulders of a few.
That viewpoint likely met
with disapproval in some quarters. His
ex-wife, Jessie Ohl Darrow, was a member with one of
the fire victims,
in the Independent Penwomen's Club.
Though he spent time at the
university, Darrow passed the Ohio bar exam without
having graduated from college or law school.
In 1888 he moved his wife and son to Chicago and
became house counsel for a railroad company. In 1894
he started down the path to fame as the defender of
the infamous when he jettisoned his railroad
employer to defend Eugene Debs, a union railroad
chieftain, in a federal suit. Things were going
well until 1911 when Debs was charged with jury
tampering (bribery) and the resulting verdicts were
mushy enough that his labor pals dropped him as
quickly as he had dropped management seventeen years
earlier. Tit for tat and all that, but not a problem
for Darrow who switched to criminal law and became a
star. In more than one hundred defense cases in
Chicago, he would lose only one.