He first practiced law in Ashtabula, Ohio. In 1888 he moved to Chicago, where he was corporation counsel for several years and conducted the cases that the city brought to reduce transit rates. Later, as general counsel for the Chicago and Northwestern RR, he resigned (1894) to defend Eugene V. Debs and others in connection with the Pullman strike. The defense was unsuccessful. Darrow soon renounced his lucrative practice to defend the “underdog.” A staunch opponent of capital punishment, he exerted his tremendous courtroom skill in behalf of over 100 persons charged with murder; none of his clients was ever sentenced to death. Darrow procured, in 1906, the acquittal of William D. Haywood and his associates on the charge of murdering former Governor Steunenberg of Idaho. He offended many socialists (with whom he had been popularly identified) by introducing a plea of guilty in his defense of the McNamara brothers in the Los Angeles Times dynamiting case (1911). Darrow was himself tried for allegedly bribing a juror in the trial, but he was acquitted. In the Chicago “thrill” murder trial (1924) of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb he saved the defendants from execution by a plea of temporary insanity. Long an agnostic, Darrow fought fundamentalist religious tenets in the Scopes evolution case (1925; see Scopes trial). Pitted against William Jennings Bryan, he defended without success a schoolteacher charged with violating a Tennessee statute prohibiting teaching that man descended from other forms of life. Many felt, nevertheless, that Darrow's examination of Bryan on the witness stand did much to discredit fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. Among Darrow's books are a novel, Farmington (1904); Crime: Its Cause and Treatment (1922); and Attorney for the Damned, a collection of his defense summations, ed. by Arthur Weinberg (1957).
See his autobiography (1932); biographies by Irving Stone (1941, repr. 1971) and Miriam Gurko (1965).
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