Why another book about the Scopes Trial?

By Randy Moore, co-author of Images of America: The Scopes Monkey Trial

When Bill McComas and I began considering whether to write a book for Arcadia Press about the Scopes Trial, we were somewhat skeptical. Why another book about the trial? We had both been to Dayton several times, knew what happened at the trial, and had grown tired of seeing the same photographs and the same stories about the trial. What new information could we add? Any book about the Scopes Trial must include some familiar photographs (e.g., Scopes’ conviction), but what new photos could we find?
Bill and I knew that we would have to do much more than search the familiar sources for what we needed. We began by returning to Dayton, where we were able to examine old scrapbooks during our meetings with several long-term residents of the area. What stories had they been told about the trial by their families and friends? We then searched the archives of the Rhea County Historical and Genealogical Society, Bryan College, several libraries, and several other organizations, and spoke to several of Scopes’ relatives. We were able to confirm many of the stories we had been told, and found several “new” and informative photos and documents.

For example, we found:
The exam given by Scopes to students in the biology class in which he was the substitute teacher in late April 1925 (p. 32). There has long been a controversy regarding whether Scopes actually taught evolution when he substituted for biology teacher William F. Ferguson in this class, and this exam sheds light on that controversy.

The first press-pass issued to a reporter covering the trial (p. 44). That pass went to Nellie Kenyon, who later became a famous journalist.

Candid photos of Bryan outside the church in which he would make his last public appearance (p. 60) and beside the house in which he would die (p. 48).

A photo and scrapbook entry about Joe Mendi, a chimp who entertained crowds during the trial (p. 71).
The summons issued to Scopes’ students (p. 73).

A photo of Scopes and Sheriff Robert “Bluch” Harris discussing Scopes’ arrest, in front of Robinson’s Drug Store (p. 29).

The last photograph of Bryan, taken along the road during his drive from Chattanooga to Dayton on the morning he died (p. 98).

A photo from Scopes’ years in Venezuela after the trial (p. 106).

Scopes’ discussions of how he supported Socialism as a young man, as well as how, by the late 1960s, he rejected governmental involvement in education.

Photographs of Scopes’ friends and acquaintances from his days in Dayton (p. 91), as well as at Scopes Trial Day in 1960 (109-113).

Photographs taken at Scopes’ last public appearance (p. 120).
We also hoped to find documents and photographs to help illustrate the context of the Scopes Trial. How did it originate? What happened to Scopes and the law used to convict him? Important here were conversations with Jerry Tompkins, a retired minister and writer who was a close friend of John and Mildred Scopes. Tompkins also knew Susan Epperson, the plaintiff in Epperson v. Arkansas, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that laws banning the teaching of evolution (such as the one used to convict John Scopes) are unconstitutional. Jerry arranged for a luncheon meeting between Scopes and Epperson (p. 120), at which Tompkins noted, “What John started in 1925, Susan was able to finish.”

It was then our challenge to weave all of this information into a concise, accurate, well illustrated story that does justice to John Scopes, his trial, Dayton, and the many people and events associated with those famous events from 1925. We hope that have done a good job, but readers will be the judge of that.
Randy Moore
Dayton, Tennessee
June 2, 2016