Darrow statue set for July dedication
DAYTON, Tenn. - A 7-foot-tall piece of history is bound for the home of the Scopes Monkey Trial.
A statue of Clarence Darrow - the lawyer who in 1925 defended John T. Scopes against creationist prosecutor and three-time presidential candidate Williams Jennings Bryan - will be dedicated in July.
Philadelphia sculptor Zenos Frudakis plans to install his sculpture of Darrow on July 13, with dedication on July 14, the day the Scopes Trial Play and Festival begins to celebrate the pair's battle at the Rhea County Courthouse.
A sculpture of a younger Bryan - installed in 2005 - stands on the south side at the front of the courthouse. The Darrow statue will stand opposite him on the north side.
On Friday, Frudakis said he was finishing some of the details of Darrow's face and clothing, complete with nearly chest-high pants and narrow tie. The pose shows Darrow with one hand on his trademark suspenders and the other "making the point."
Frudakis, 65, used photographs and film of the man in action to accurately portray him, he said.
Dayton's Darrow will have uncharacteristically short hair - he was known for the lock of hair that often hung down in his face - because Darrow cut his hair short to stay cooler in the July heat, the sculptor said.
"In doing the piece I told the people in Dayton I would not overwhelm the Bryan statue," Frudakis said, noting the work was paid for through private fundraising and will cost taxpayers nothing.
The Darrow statue will be somewhat simpler than the Bryan statue, with a smaller base but a slightly larger figure. The two pieces will share symmetry and Frudakis hopes to position the new one to complement the existing one.
Bill Hollin, a 23-year Rhea County commission veteran, is opposed to the Darrow statue because of his own his religious beliefs and because he sees no reason to celebrate the man who lost the trial and whose opponent contributed so much to Dayton.
Hollin feels Jennings' lifetime accomplishments, contributions to the community and his role as namesake of Bryan College overshadow Darrow's importance in Dayton.
He said the Rhea County Commission never voted on whether the statue should be installed and opponents' concerns were bottled up in committee.
"There is a lot of people in the community that oppose it," he said, noting that the American Humanist Association helped raise money for the Darrow statue. The nontheistic association strives "to bring about a progressive society where being good without a god is an accepted and respected way to live life," according to its website.
Hollin said he planned no further official opposition to the Darrow likeness but he'll never be a fan.
Ralph Green, president of the Rhea County Historical and Genealogical Society, said the statue will make for a more complete story of the trial. He said it lends authenticity to the play, which relies "about 90 percent" on the trial transcripts.
Green said historical society members felt Darrow would balance the story and give visitors to Dayton a look at the "two giants," who faced off over topics that still stir controversy and drew the world's eyes and ears to a small town in Tennessee.
"The Scopes Trial would not have been what it was without the two of them," said Green, 82. The two attorneys shared a deep concern for the common man, even though they were opposites in other ways, he said.
From July 10 to July 21, 1925, the Rhea County Courthouse was the stage for the trial of Dayton High School teacher John T. Scopes, who was charged with violating state law by teaching that human beings evolved from a "lower order of animals."
Scopes was convicted and fined $100, but the decision was reversed in 1927 by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The case raised debate on issues such as separation of church and state, academic freedom and the relationship between science and religion.
In 1977, the National Park Service named the courthouse a National Historic Landmark, a somewhat rarer designation than being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to which it was named in 1972.
The trial, its issues and whether it's appropriate to erect the evolutionist lawyer's likeness there continue to prompt discussion.
The Eagle's Nest Barber Shop on Second Avenue looks out on the south side of the courthouse, and Bobby Beard has cut hair there for 49 years. He can see the Bryan statue and most of the square as he works.
Beard said he's on Bryan's side of the issues. But he understands the historical significance of erecting a statue of Bryan's opponent in the trial that has brought so much attention to Dayton for more than nine decades.
"To me, it'll just be a historical monument," Beard said.
Evensville resident Mike Scott contemplated the idea while awaiting his turn at the sharp end of Beard's scissors.
"That's strange, to put a statue of a liberal in Dayton," said Scott, who moved to Rhea County in 2009. "But you can't tell which side is the right unless you see the left."
Zeno Frudakis' business partner, Rosalie Frudakis, said the dedication of the Darrow statue will take place on the morning of July 14 to avoid interfering with the Scopes Festival schedule. A firm time will be announced closer to the dedication date.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569.