Dayton, Tennessee, a small hill town thirty-four miles northeast of Chattanooga, was the scene of the famous Scopes trial, held July 10–21, 1925. The world’s most famous courtroom drama before Watergate was initiated by Dayton businessmen, who hoped to put their town on the map, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which wanted a test case of a new Tennessee anti-evolution law. But the original issue of academic freedom was lost (Scopes, a teacher charged with breaking the law, was never put on the stand) as evolutionist Darrow and creationist Bryan waged a bitter battle before the world. The following report was written from Dayton.
Attendance was good (forty-four present; only seven absent) at the Dayton Rotary Club meeting just before the fiftieth anniversary of the trial that made the town famous. When a visiting reporter mentioned that he had come to cover the celebration, Mayor Paul Levengood, an ordained Southern Presbyterian minister said, “We hardly ever mention the trial anymore unless someone like you comes around and asks. They made a circus out of Dayton.” Then the Rotarians heard a talk on credit unions.
City manager Clyde Roddy, 65, a deacon in the First Baptist Church (attendance about 250; largest of eight churches in Dayton, including a Catholic congregation), was an eyewitness. “It was strictly a publicity stunt,” he said. “Dayton just happened to get it before some other town did. It didn’t accomplish anything here. We’ve been embarrassed over things written then and since, outsiders calling us stupid hillbillies.”
(One of the few Scopes reporters still alive is Warner Ragsdale, Sr., retired political editor of U. S. News and World Report, who is a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring, ...1
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