The Scopes Monkey Trial
An Interview With Someone Who Was There In 1925
John D. Boren
August 1979 Interview with J.D. Boren
Introduction and Close by Maxie Boren
Download File And Listen To Interview - MP3
Maxie Boren: This is Maxie Boren, and the date is May 6, 2003. Fran and I are in Amarillo, Texas. I’m preaching at a gospel meeting for the Bell Avenue church of Christ, and my good friend, John McMath, and his friend, Les, are going to help me do a little introduction to my dad’s interview here. My father attended the Scopes evolutionary trial in 1925, and in my growing up years I heard him make reference to it on a number of occasions. I never did really show that much interest in it because I wasn’t that well informed concerning the trial, but as time went by and I did some study and research, I learned more about the trial myself and became very interested. I was privileged on three occasions to go to Dayton, Tennessee and preach in gospel meetings, and Fran and I went through the courthouse, which is still there, where the trial was conducted. So that, of course, makes it more interesting to us, too. In listening to the tape, Dad said some things that brought back my memory and said some other things that I was unaware of. He was interviewed by Mike Gibson, who was a representative of the Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City, in August of 1979 (Dad was 81 years old at the time; he lived to be nearly 95). But, we thought it might be a good idea to make a recording of this on CD, make it available to our children and, in turn, to anyone else who might be interested in it, because it is a very engaging tape, and it gives quite a bit of personal insight into what took place at that trial. So, with that in mind, we will now give you that tape.
Mike Gibson: This is Mike Gibson of the science division at OCC (Oklahoma), and I’m visiting this morning on August 21, 1979, with J.D. Boren at his home in Duncanville, Texas. Brother Boren, who for many years was a gospel preacher and has had many rich experiences, is going to share with us experiences that he had concerning the Scopes trial in 1925. Several years ago I became aware that Bro. Boren had attended that trial, and wanted to get him to share with us various aspects of his viewpoints and about the things that happened to him on that occasion. We are visiting with him this morning with this tape, and we are just now going to turn over to him and let him begin remembering some things for us, and maybe at an appropriate time we might ask some questions of him.
Darwin's Monkey Trot On Display In
The Scopes Trial Museum At The
Rhea County Courthouse In Dayton, Tennessee
Other Pictures Below
J.D. Boren: I think, Mike, that it might be appropriate if I were to explain how I happened to get interested in going to Dayton, Tennessee to attend this Scopes evolution trial. The state legislature of Tennessee had passed a law which prohibited the teaching of evolution, that is, the theory of evolution, in any tax-supported school. Of course, this appeared in news, and newspapers jumped on it with all four feet at once! Now it happened that I read in the papers about it and how that the secretary of the American Civil Liberties Union had read one of these articles in some paper and notified the director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Roger Baldwin, about it. He, in turn, then sent articles to all the major newspapers in the state of Tennessee, stating that if they would find some schoolteacher that would cooperate and say that he had taught evolution in violation of the law that the state legislature had passed that they would finance the trial. Now, at that time, there was a George Rappalyea who was a mining engineer and, I believe, employed by the city of Dayton at that time. He was also a superintendent at a Sunday school there in a denomination in Dayton, but he immediately resigned as superintendent of the Sunday school, and his own preacher, as he called pastor, also joined in with him. Well, they knew John Thomas Scopes. He was a very popular young football coach there in a local high school, and he had been sitting around in the drugstore talking about this law that had been passed and more or less poking fun at it, and he was accidentally dragged into it because Rappalyea and the others contacted him immediately as the logical man. Having gone as far as he did, he agreed to be, you might say, the guinea pig. Well as this all came out in the paper, it created within me a desire to go to Dayton, Tennessee and attend this Scopes evolution trial because, first of all, I had been writing articles on science in the Bible for some time in a little religious periodical called Ribbles Ripple, published by Bro. Sam Ribble, long since passed on to his reward, and I was writing a book on science in the Bible at the time and thought this would be a great way to finish it. But then the next thing came up—how can I go? I don’t have the money—I had a wife and 2 little boys and very little income. So finally I decided that if I could write a song that would be catching and be pertinent, I’ll say, and relative to this Scopes evolution trial that I might be able to sell enough of them to make our way. So, I went out and talked to Raymond Fafer, who was the high school band director and a materialist. I thought there would be a chance also to convert him if he would be interested in making this trip, and he was. So, I went out and sat under the shade of a mesquite tree and wrote and wrote and wrote until I finally finished a song that I called, “Darwin’s Monkey Trot.” I then got Mr. Fafer to set it to music. We put a big sign on my model T Ford “Darwin’s Monkey Trot” – LATEST SONG HIT, and we stopped all along the road between Dallas and Fort Worth. I don’t know how many we sold. People would flash their car lights on the car, and see that, and then knowing about the trial coming up and all, and they’d stop and buy them. By the time we got to Conway, Arkansas we had sold out and had to wait there, and sent a telegram down to Houston to have them send us more of them.
And so I got the idea to picture the trial by putting William Bryan on one side and Clarence Darrow on the other side and beneath a parade of monkeys, and Mr. Darrow was holding a big monkey, or chimpanzee, and shoving him over toward Mr. Bryan. Mr. Bryan had in his hand, as you see, the Holy Bible and was holding up his other hand toward Clarence Darrow and saying, “You can’t put this monkey business off on me.” And in the tree just above Clarence Darrow, were two little monkeys with great long tails wrapped around the limbs or branches of the tree. Then the next they’re a little shorter, and then shorter, and then they don’t have any at all, and the male has a club in his hand, and then it comes down to the jelly bean and the flapper right over Mr. Bryan. So that was the picture that would go on the song, which we hoped would be a real catchy one, and it happened to be. I had a cousin by the name of Helen Boren who was in the Chicago Conservatory of Music. I sent her a copy, and she sang it. Here are the words:
A lovely pair, all dressed in hair
Darwin then said, t’was monkey’s fair.
But when I see a girl like you
With cheeks so red and eyes so blue,
I wonder how such things could be
A Jane like you with dimpled knee
Yet on the beach you always tease me
About the sights you see.
Billy said, “Keep up your loving,
boys, monkeys are dead.
Keep up your petting,
girls, don’t lose your head.
Papa was a monkey in a coconut tree.”
Mama was not, so don’t fool around with me.
Just take me down to an old country lane
Or to the movies, it’s just the same.
Cut out the monkey stuff. Tell it to Darwin.
I’m just a snappy, happy little Jane.
Billy said, “Jane, you’re my gal. Just call me pal.
I love you, dear. Let’s make a vow.
Pack up your grip. We’ll take a trip.
For chimpanzees, why give a rip?
When’s through with you and me,
We will lose our coconut tree
And live in peace all of the years
down at Dayton, Tennessee.
. . . And then the chorus again.
So we did sell this song to an extent in Conway, Arkansas, where there was a state teacher’s college, and all the teachers were having a convention there. Mr. Fafer using his trumpet, or coronet, played the thing, and the people just swarmed around, and we sold out. So, we waited and got our new supply and went on to Memphis and sold out again. And we got an option with a music company to sell to Victor Records for $50,000. But before we could ever finish the deal, we went on to the trial, and Mr. Bryan 5 days after the trial died in his sleep, and therefore it had lost its touch and interest, and so the sale didn’t go through.
Now, to get into the trial itself. I think that one of the most interesting things we need to notice is the fact that on the defense was Clarence Darrow, great criminal lawyer and defense attorney from Chicago, who had defended Loeb and Leopold. Then Arthur Garfield Hayes, also of Chicago, and it is interesting that Arthur Garfield Hayes was a Jew, but he was also a regular lawyer retained by the American Civil Liberties Union. Then Dudley Field Malone, he had offices both in New York and in Paris, known as an international lawyer, and whose main practice was that of defending or handling divorce cases. He himself was a divorcee; he had been divorced. Incidentally, Dudley Field Malone was a Roman Catholic. Then the prosecuting attorneys were A.T. (commonly known as Tom) Stewart, the attorney general. With him was Judge Gordon McKenzie, solicitor attorney general, then William Jennings Bryan and Mr. Hicks; they were the main attorneys on the prosecution’s side. The main witnesses that I heard and met most of were Professor Maynard Metcalf of Johns Hopkins University, Professor Horatio Hockett Newman of the University of Chicago, and Curtleth Mathier, who was a chairman at the department of geology at Harvard University, and Dr. Whitaker, who was an Episcopal rector but was on that side of the thing.
Then some of the questions that were asked, which might be of interest before I tell some of the personal things, was Clarence Darrow talking to Mr. Bryan, he says, “Is your mathematics good? Turn to 1Elijah 2. Is your philosophy good? See 2 Samuel 3. Is your astronomy good? See Genesis 2:7.” None of these, of course, pertain to what he was talking about; there’s no such book as Elijah, see. He was actually bluffing and trying to get away with it, but he was unable and unsuccessful because William Jennings Bryan knew something about the Bible. The fact of the business is, an interesting point is, that the night before the trial was to begin on Monday, he spoke on the street corner to several hundred people, and I was one of them. He said that the church had been in existence for some 1900 years, and he went ahead and talked about the church and Christianity and then referred to his little book, “The Prince of Peace.” So I was convinced, almost, that William Jennings Bryan, if he was anything, was a member of the church, and I couldn’t understand. So, when I had the opportunity to interview him, I asked him what denomination he belonged to, and he said, “None at all.” He said, “I don’t believe in denominations.” And before I could finish that part of it, his wife, who was a very beautiful woman, not a wrinkle on her face, and her hair was white as snow, but she was pushed around in a wheelchair, an invalid, and for some reason or another she needed attendance, and that interrupted us, and stopped that part of it right there. Later, I had a very short interview with Mr. Bryan, and he was so worried and concerned about the mannerisms from the defense attorneys, especially Mr. Darrow, that he seemed to be broken up and deeply worried about the whole situation.
But I had an opportunity to interview each and every one of these men, almost. Dudley Field Malone was so cold and illogical in everything that he said that I really broke it off myself, and Arthur Garfield Hayes, this Jew from Chicago, simply said that he didn’t believe that man came from lower order of animals. Dudley Field Malone said the same thing. Clarence Darrow said the same thing, that they were only testing the law and it was ridiculous and absurd for people to accuse them of claiming that man came from the monkey, that they weren’t arguing that at all. But they objected bitterly to prayers being led there, because the first session of the court was opened by a prayer, which was the general practice there in that very courtroom and the courthouse. And so Judge Ralston, who was the trial judge, explained to these defense attorneys, Darrow and his bunch, that that was the custom and the practice and was not being done simply because of this trial. But they still objected. Then they insisted that they allow all religions, Jews and whatnot. And so the next session the judge explained, and told the defense attorneys that they need not object each time the trial began because he would simply state that the objection has been made, but in spite of that objection, so and so will open the court with prayer, and he called on a Unitarian.
Now in the trial, let me just bring out this. Malone was asked by Judge Ralston if, in his opinion, the divine story of creation was reconcilable to the theory of evolution. Dudley Field Malone’s answer was, “Yes.” I want to bring out the fact that the reason that I said, “Yes,” is because that’s all he said. He added nothing to it. He made no explanation to answering yes. Everything he did was to the point. He never wasted a word. I’m going to tell you something that’s not in any book right now that will illustrate that. Judge McKenzie, stocky, old-time politician and stump-speaker, while he was up there speaking, he pointed at Clarence Darrow and Dudley Field Malone and Garfield Hayes you know, and he said, “We don’t need you New York and Chicago lawyers to come down here and tell the fertile brain of a Tennessean how to make his law.” And Dudley Field Malone, who sat just like a statue all the time, never even crossed his legs, sat just like this, all the time, immediately bounced to his feet, and not looking at Gordon McKenzie, but looking directly at the judge, says, “Your Honor, we object to these geographical references,” and he sat down. He said not one extra word. Judge Ralston looked over, and he said, “Well, Judge Malone, if you had known Judge McKenzie as we know him, you would have taken no exceptions whatsoever because I’m sure he meant nothing personal by those remarks.” Whereupon Judge McKenzie replied and said, “Why, no, your Honor, I didn’t mean anything personal. Why, as long as these lawyers are down here, we’ll treat them as guests. Yes, as guests of honor!” Dudley Field Malone immediately bounced to his feet again and looking at Judge Ralston said, “Your Honor, we’re not down here as guests of honor! We’re down here as lawyers in a court of justice,” and down he went. And so it went on like that all the time.
But Darrow, when he would get up, would go sometimes two minutes before he would say a word. He was in his shirtsleeves. He wore suspenders, striped-shirt, elbows were out, both of them, holes in them. He would get up there and walk around and his fingers in his suspenders, like that, looking as vicious as he could, like a villain, look here and look there, and then he’d say something. He had everybody on needles and pins before he’d speak. He was dramatic! So then he’d start in with such a question as I said, “Mr. Bryan, do you think this?” and so on. His arguments, in my opinion, were ridiculous and foolish, of course.
But due to the fact that I had written this song, which brings something else into it, I was given a seat right behind William Jennings Bryan, and then the song was broadcast out of the courtroom.
The whole town was covered with tents. Some of them had been there for several days before the trial began. Scholars were there from Germany and everywhere else, and so they had a great big tent show going on, a stage show, going on every night. They came up and asked me if they could put my song in orchestration and play it down there. I said yeah, go ahead.
Where I was staying, a member of the church who had a, I thought, a hotel when I went there, but it was his own home; he was a member of the church, and he was very wealthy, made cross-ties for the railroad for some 14 states and so on. He had 2 children, a daughter about 21 and a boy about 19. They had invited me to come out there. Well I preached that Sunday morning in Dayton. And a lot of these scholars like Metcalf or whatnot, I don’t know how many, but just a lot of these scholars were there. I used Malachi 2 as a metaphor, you know, to strike out and harmonize science with the Bible. I figured that they might kill me but they couldn’t eat me, so I just got up there like I knew it all and preached. The elder that had introduced me said, “We’ve got Bro. Allen, we’ve got Bro. Nichol, we’ve got Bro. Dunn,” and he began to name a lot of famous preachers. “But we’ve all heard them a lot of times, so we’ve decided to hear a young man from out west Texas.” I began to look around to see who I could see from west
Texas, and then they called my name, and just like that I went up and preached. So after it was over, I was invited to go out to this place.
Well, these scientists, of course, heard me that morning and knew where I was going, and so that afternoon they came out there. And they said, “Now, preacher, the first difference between us is that you and your people go on faith. You just believe this and believe that, but we have to have facts!” I said, “Now, come on. You don’t really mean that.” I said, “All right, let me ask you a simple question. Did you ever see George Washington?” They said, “Why, that’s childish.” I said, “Well, did you? Did you ever see George Washington?” “No!” “Did you ever see anybody that did see George Washington?” “No!” “But you do believe that he crossed the Delaware, and that there was such a man as George Washington?” “Well, of course!” And I said, “Well, how come? You didn’t see him. It’s not a fact, as far as you’re concerned. It’s just faith. You believe there was, and you believe it because of what other people have said and what other people have written. I’ll have you to know there’s been a million times more things written about Jesus Christ and his life and resurrection from the dead than there has about George Washington. Then you accuse me of believing that just because I believe it.” I said, “I have more facts on that than you have for sure about even George Washington.”
So they quit off on that right straight and wanted to know if they could prove one thing wrong in the Bible or two things or three things if I’d admit it was all wrong. And I said, “Sure, just one’s all that’s necessary.” They said, “All right. The Bible says that they took two and two, male and female, of every thing into the ark. We know that paramecium and amoeba, and they began to name all the microscopic life, by the billions. I said, “Yeah, I’ve raised them in little glasses of water and straw, taken eye droppers and put them on slides and projected them out there and studied them, all unicellular life.” And they said, “Well, there’s not male and female.” I said, “You can’t prove that to save your soul. That’s just an assumption. You can’t prove that.” But I said, “Wouldn’t it have been silly for Noah to have taken some amoeba when you can put 7,000 on a pin head and put them in a thimble full of water and stick them up on the wall of the ark when the whole earth was covered with water?” But I said, “That’s not what the Bible said. It said two and two of every living creature, male and female, wherein is the breath of life. They have extemporaneous mouths and so forth. They don’t have breathing organs, lungs and so forth. That’s not what it said.” And so it was that they went from one thing to another, and they came out on the short end every time. I was not as young as I was, and up against these doctors of philosophy and doctor this and doctor that, because I had the word of God, and as long as I’ve got that I think I can whip anybody in the world that opposes us, you know, so I had all the confidence in the world.
So, for that reason after listening to the trial and the arguments where Metcalf, for instance, confused everybody right there in the courtroom, his own attorneys. He confused Clarence Darrow and Dudley Field Malone and all the rest of them, when he gave his definition of evolution. He started out with it’s a change of things, you know, from organism to something else, and then finally he used the illustration of the steam engine! The evolution of things, which is absolutely contradictory to what he was talking about and what they were arguing about and what the trial was about! It had nothing to do with evolution of progress and development of machinery and nuclear power and all these things.
And then every witness that they had on there did the same thing, only they made it worse, until the trial judge made one little notice, I believe, asked Darrow whether he was contending embryonic development from an egg, or for the evolution of man’s more complex forms of life Darrow’s answer was change in animals from simpler forms of life. Well then, isn’t that arguing what Darwin
argued, really? But after listening to all of these arguments by all these different high-powered witnesses, but not one real scientist, I mean, ever testified, I was completely convinced that their case was lost and Bryan had withstood their humiliating, sarcastic tactics of every kind, and I was willing and ready for it to quit just any minute. And I didn’t want to see happen what did happen, especially see Mr. Bryan get on the witness stand. Attorney General Stewart and Judge McKenzie all begged him not to get on the witness stand. But he felt sure that if he took the witness stand and let Darrow and his bunch question him every way they wanted to, he felt sure, first, he could answer them, secondly, that he would be able, in turn, to get Clarence Darrow on the witness stand and there he could finish him off. Which he could have. But they felt, and I felt, personally, that he would never get Darrow on the witness stand, and sure enough he didn’t. And that’s the only time that I really felt sorry, real sorry, for William Jennings Bryan, and just wished to the good Lord that I could have eased up there and taken his place. Clarence Darrow asked him such questions as, “How do you know that the Bible that you read is the word of God, instead of the Quran or some other book?” And his answer was, “I know nothing about competing religions. My religion’s good enough for me.”
That was just like when Darrow asked him, “Where did Cain get his wife?” I guess every preacher in the world has been asked that question a jillion times. I have. Bryan’s answer was, “I don’t know.” Well, I could have told him about the Quran, that you can’t read one chapter in it without finding contradictions, which proves that it is of human origin, whereas the Bible that I use is of divine origin, because the many men that wrote it over such a long period of time, and each one corroborated what the other one said, and there’s no contradiction of any of it. It had to be of divine origin, and so on. There’s plenty of arguments that could have been given, plenty of good answers that could have been given, but Mr. Darrow didn’t. He did all right on the whale business; he said that he believed the Bible said a great fish, but it didn’t make any difference about that.
Mike Gibson: Most of the books depict William Jennings Bryan as having been kind of a broken man, as if he’d really been defeated in this. Did you feel like he’d been humiliated from a legal standpoint, or how did you feel about his spirit at the end of the trial?
J.D. Boren: Well, now I think that they are partially right, in that he had the appearance of a broken man, but it was not because of either the law, the legal side of it, nor because of the Bible itself. I think that he was hurt and deeply concerned about the welfare of Christianity and its future, because he felt it had been damaged. The reason he felt it had been damaged, and to that extent you might say that he lost, was that when Darrow, for instance, made fun of him about something in the Bible, why the crowd applauded and ran by Mr. Bryan up to Mr. Darrow to shake his hand. He got the applause. And when Malone, talking to Mr. Bryan while Bryan was on the witness stand, why he talked about fear. And he said, “We have no fear. We have facts, and we believe in these facts.” And he pointed his finger at Mr.Bryan, and he said, “You are fearing. You’re fearing.” And the people applauded. So they were so many people in that courtroom who were skeptics, agnostics, infidels, atheists, that came there simply to cheer and egg them on, and that was the thing that hurt Mr. Bryan. It wasn’t because he felt that he’d been defeated from a biblical standpoint or from a legal standpoint either one, because the law had not really been tested. Because you see, in the very beginning of this trial, the defense attorney, Mr. Darrow and his assistants, asked the judge to find Scopes guilty, because what they wanted to do was have him found guilty and therefore appeal it to the Tennessee Supreme Court and let them sustain the lower court finding guilty so they could take it to the United States Supreme Court. Because if they could have done that, then you could have taught evolution in every school in the United States if you wanted to, whatever you wanted to teach. There would have been nothing to restrain you, and that’s what they wanted. But the trouble was that Judge Ralston, when they found him guilty, why it just took about 9 minutes or so, and he fined Scopes $100.00.
Well, they appealed immediately up there to the state supreme court, and the state supreme court ruled that if he was going to be fined $100.00 that the jury had to do it, not the judge. Therefore, he reversed the thing and found him not guilty! He found him innocent. Therefore they couldn’t appeal it to the supreme court, and hence it never did go any higher.
A while ago when I mentioned Rappalyea and his preacher who convinced Scopes to enter into this trial, I forgot to state what the preacher said. He made the statement, and I’m sure it’s been recorded by a number of writers, that he did not believe that the Bible had been in heaven and printed on India paper, sewed with silk, bound with calfskin, and tossed out the window.
Now around all over the area around there, people were constantly talking and laughing about which was first, the hen or the egg. You know, if the hen was first, then there was a hen that didn’t come from an egg. If the egg was first, there was a hen egg that didn’t come from a hen and things like that, and there was a lot of frivolous talk, a lot of fun-making and people getting fun out of it. Now, as I’ve stated, I interviewed Mr. Scopes and his father and got very little information. However, Scopes told me that he was scared to death all during the trial, (I interviewed him right at the end of the trial), afraid he would be put on the witness stand, because according to his memory he was not even at school the day he was supposed to have taught that. He was afraid he would be gotten for perjury. That was what he told me. But he went back out there and just told the class [court] that he believed the facts of Darwin are true so he wouldn’t be convicted! But after I interviewed them and interviewed Arthur Garfield Hayes, Dudley Field Malone, and Mr. Bryan, the best interview I had of all of them was this so-called villain who was so vicious in the courtroom, Mr. Clarence Darrow. He agreed to meet me in a grocery store there in Dayton because the man who owned this grocery store had been a long-time friend of Mr. Darrow. So he set the time, and I went down there, walked in, and I told the man running the store who I was. I told him I had an appointment to meet Mr. Clarence Darrow there that morning, and he said, “Oh yes, he’s looking for you; he’s in back in the back of the store.” I went back there, and he was sitting there eating peaches, and he handed out a $20 gold certificate, a $20 bill, to pay for those peaches. Well, I asked him 53 questions that I had written out way ahead of time, and I’ll just give you some of them and give you his answers, because this, to me, is really something, because these are questions you don’t hear, arguments you don’t hear.
I said, “Mr. Darrow, I’ve got all these questions; we may not get through them.” He said, “Take your time.” He was just as friendly and nice as he could be down there, different man than from in the courtroom. He said, “Just go right ahead. Take your time. I’ll answer them if I can. If I can’t, I’ll tell you I can’t.” I said, “All right. How does one go to sleep?” He blinked his eyes and looked funny. “What is sleep? How does one awake?” I said, “You know, Mr. Darrow, I’ll help you a little bit.” I said, “When a man goes to sleep, his eyes are just like they were. Optic nerves are the same. The eyeball is the same. The pupil is the same. The cornea of the eye is the same. The retina is the same. The whole thing is there, but he doesn’t see. He still has his nose, but he doesn’t smell.” Now I said, “What happened?” I said, “I’ll carry this on a little further. What is a dream? What is a nightmare?” I said, “What is memory? Can one forget?” I said, “Before I ask you the next one, Mr. Darrow, I’m going to answer that one. He can’t, because that man who lives inside this body of flesh has a filing cabinet. He sees a snow-capped mountain; he gets a picture through the eyes, the windows of the soul. He immediately files it back there in that filing cabinet.” I said, “Later on you say, hey, what was the name of that mountain where you were at such and such a time? You stop, and you hesitate, but you’re just searching back through that cabinet. After a while you say, oh, that was the Grand Teton.” So I said, “You don’t forget. It may take you a little while to recall. So I explained that part, now you tell me, how does one remember? What is memory?” And he said, “Preacher, before you go any further, let me just say this. The only way that any man can answer those questions that you’ve just asked me is by the Bible. He’s got to believe what the Bible says. The Bible is the only thing that would explain that. Now, I’m not saying that I believe that, but that’s the only book there is that will give an answer to those kinds of questions.” And I said, “You mean, in other words, if the Bible tells you that there is an inner man, the hidden man of the heart, the soul, the spirit, and this is the thing that moves about to this bedchamber of the brain, for instance, when man goes to sleep, moves back in when he awakes” I said, “That’s what sleep is. That’s the way one awakes. The only way on earth that anybody can explain the physical phenomena of sleep and wake, or dreams, or memory, is to admit that man has a soul, a spirit, within that body of flesh, that it’s the man. You see a blind man, that just simply means I can see through the windows of this room here outside. Windows don’t see a thing, but I can see through them. However, if you go over there and paint them solid black, then I can’t see. A blind man, he’s still the same a man, it’s just that the windows are closed and he can’t see through them. He’s still there. He’s not affected at all, because he’s like substance unto the thing that you doubt – God.”
I said, “Now there’s another question. Do you really say there is no God?” He said, “Like Robert Ingersol, I’ll simply say I do not know. I’m not an atheist. I’m an agnostic. I just don’t know.” And so I had a tremendous interview with Clarence Darrow and thanked him very much for it because he admits that the only way that you can explain what a man really is, is by the Bible; there’s no science that can do it.
Mike Gibson: Bro. Boren, most of us have the feeling that since the trial took place in a small town in Tennessee that most of the courtroom would have been full of Bible-believing people, but you said that most of the people that were in there causing the sway of emotion were basically agnostic or infidel of some sort. Would you reflect just a little bit about the jury, and what you thought about them in comparison to the rest of the crowd that was gathered around?
J.D. Boren: Well, I felt like the jury actually, and I understand that the main one of the jury was a member of the church really, but the jury itself, I think, was impartial and fair as to the evidence and testimony presented. From what I could find out, I actually believe that more of them were, I’ll say, religious people than there were agnostics and other skeptics or so on. There were a lot of members of the church in the courtroom, it was jammed full, and especially preachers. I saw preachers from all over there. There were just plenty of them there, but they were not the hand-clapping type. They didn’t clap their hands when Bryan made a point or something; they just listened in modesty. But, just like a certain group anywhere, for instance if there’s for a gay and a gay gets up and says something, then all the gays that are there will really make it loud. That’s the point that I was making, that the skeptics, agnostics, and infidels that were there, and people who believe in evolution, and that would even include some members of the church, why they all made it a point to cheer. Therefore, it looked like and appeared as though the defense was winning the battle hands over, when actually they were not.
Mike Gibson: Was there an atmosphere of discussion in the town as there were a lot of people gathered for this? Were there little pockets of discussion and debate going on out in the town through the week?
J.D. Boren: Oh yes, that’s where I heard all this hen and egg stuff. Every street corner, everywhere was just full of discussion. On the street corners and all around, you found many more people who were Bible believers and who just loved William Jennings Bryan, and who detested Clarence Darrow because of his villainous actions in the courtrooms. Then they’d come out and talk about him, and so out on the street corners it seemed to me that most of the people were for the law itself, and they were certainly for the prosecution, which was Mr. Bryan and his associates.
Mike Gibson: Were Mr. Bryan and Mr. Darrow carrying most of the action, most of the interest in the courtroom?
J.D. Boren: Yes, I think, by far and away, Mr. Darrow was the main attraction. He was the main center in the thing, and next to him, of course, was Mr. Bryan on the other side. And the people, as I said, who loved William Jennings Bryan as a man, as a gentleman, and, as they said, a Christian, and he referred to himself as such. He referred to the church, and he told me in an interview that he didn’t believe in denominations at all, and was a member of no denomination, but I didn’t get to finish with him as to what he meant. But, I believe that they were the two main figures in the trial.
Mike Gibson: Were you there for all the days of the trial?
J.D. Boren: Yeah.
Mike Gibson: Was it hard to get a seat for most people in the courtroom itself?
J.D. Boren: Oh, yeah. There were a lot of people who didn’t have a seat. They were standing all around in the courtroom against the walls.
Mike Gibson: I imagine it was pretty hot in the middle of July in Tennessee?
J.D. Boren: Yeah, it sure was hot, but they had the windows open, and they got by with it anyhow, and I think that’s one reason that Mr. Darrow and, in fact, Mr. Bryan had a fan, and he was in his shirtsleeves, and he was always fanning with his palmetto fan. Darrow was, as I said, in his shirt sleeves.
Mike Gibson: Have you seen, I suppose you have at one time or another, the movie version, or the drama version, called “Inherit the Wind,” that was sort of taken from the Scopes trial? It starred Spencer Tracy and Fredrick Marsh, I believe. Have you ever seen that?
J.D. Boren: No, I sure haven’t, Mike. I wish I had. I’ve had others ask me and tell me about it, but I just haven’t seen it.
Mike Gibson: It’ll be on television again, I’m sure, and I would be interested to see what your reaction would be in comparison to how it looked and what the actual setting was. I’ve read that the courthouse floor was sagging, that a lot of people were afraid it was going to break. Did you ever see anything to that effect?
J.D. Boren: Yes, it would crack sometimes; you’d hear a cracking sound as people were walking around over it. But it was old, and it was packed, as I said, really full of people, and they were standing up around the walls everywhere. I was fortunate that I was given a reserved seat just because of the publicity that I had obtained over this song and so on and was getting all the time, and they took me down the Tennessee River on a yacht and played it on a barge out in front at night. It was very interesting. That was true about the building.
Mike Gibson: Now, you made the trip over with this band director, is that right? How did he react to the trial proceedings?
J.D. Boren: Well, I’ll say he was anxious about everything. He had an anxious feeling, because we slept out at night on our trip up there, and I’d look at the stars and the moon and ask him about them and their complete control and organization, moving at exactly the same time. Scientists could tell you exactly when a comet would appear years ahead of time and so forth—now how did all of that happen? And I had him going pretty good, and I got him to go to church with me that Sunday, but when they called on me to preach, why he hid behind the song book! But, about 10 minutes after I had started, why he was sitting up looking and listening. So, after that he was willing to go with me, and he stayed with me out at the place where I was interviewed by those scientists and all, and he went with me everywhere after that. In the trial, why he was thoroughly convinced himself that Bryan and his side were the victors from every standpoint, so whether he ever obeyed the gospel, he talked altogether different all the way back from Tennessee than what he did going up there.
Mike Gibson: Was there a carnival atmosphere in Dayton itself? There were so many visitors, I read where it seemed that there was almost like a carnival.
J.D. Boren: Well, I’d say there was absolutely a carnival atmosphere there. That’s why I said there were tents all up and down the streets and everything. They had this big tent show, and there was going on a stage show every night. And there was things here and things there; there were all activities all over the place, yes. Just like a circus.
Mike Gibson: The issue, according to the American Civil Liberties Union attorneys, the issue of the trial to them was the nature of that law itself, and I have read where Darrow and others felt that the key issue was separation of church and state of the trial, whereas you stated Bryan felt that what was really at stake here was the future of Christianity and the church in America. Could you elaborate some way upon how you view their attitude during the trial as it related to church and state separation? Did you pick up anything along those lines?
J.D. Boren: Well, I think the issue in the opening of the trial, where somebody was called on to lead the prayer, and the defense attorneys immediately objected, and that was one of the grounds upon which they objected, the separation of church and state; that this was a state law, or trial, that was being tried under a state law, and that religion had nothing to do with it, that there was complete separation between church and state, and that they had no business opening with a prayer, and that that was an infringement on the rights of those who didn’t have any religion, or believe in God or Christ, or the Bible. That was the very beginning of it, and I think that trend followed all the way through, and that’s the reason that each morning of the trial the judge simply had told the defense that you don’t have to object every morning, I’ll state the objection has been made, and we’ll call on somebody for prayer. Yes, I detected that distinction there, and I think that that’s what they were arguing, but Mr. Bryan was not worried about that. He thought every state had the right to pass its own laws; he believed in state rights, but he was concerned about the welfare of Christianity and not really about the law.
Mike Gibson: The problems that we might see today in such a trial if the emotions ran as high, we might worry about the possibility of violence to some of the main characters. Did you ever detect, in all the discussions, any tendency to want to come to blows, or were there any threats against Mr. Darrow or any of the other out-of-town lawyers?
J.D. Boren: Well, there were about three different occasions that they made remarks one about the other, that the next day then the judge talked to them, and they got up publicly and apologized. So that was pretty strong. Dudley Field Malone himself apologized for what he had said, because he realized that he had said enough almost to stir the people of Tennessee’s wrath and indignation to the point maybe of personal attack, and so Judge Ralston reminded him of that fact, that it was something like inciting a riot. And so, he got up the next day and publicly apologized. Well, McKenzie had made these geographical references to New York and Chicago lawyers, and then he had said other things that made them really angry, and then Ralston talked to him. He was a real peacemaker. And so, then Judge Gordon McKenzie got up the next day and apologized for what he had said, so had it not been for Judge Ralston, I’ll answer it that way, had it not been for him, and his peace desires and peacemaking abilities to smooth it over and to get them to stay away from these vicious attacks, which actually were personal—To give you an illustration, Clarence Darrow thanked them for their courtesy, and how nice they had been treated, etc., by all the people, except Tennessee!
Mike Gibson: Before you went to the trial, you might have perceived that Judge Ralston would not have been equal to the task. It’s surprising to me how well he did. He was just a small town judge, wasn’t he?
J.D. Boren: Oh, yes, he sure was a small-town judge, and I, too, was amazed at the way he handled the trial, but I think he’s due everlasting credit because he did keep them in line regardless of their international fame and national fame and the great characters they were, because William Jennings Bryan had been a candidate for the presidency, you know, and all this kind of thing. Clarence Darrow’s fame was known everywhere, and so was Dudley Field Malone and Hayes, and in spite of those characters, why, Judge Ralston was able to keep it smooth and nice. And when they did get out of line, he handled them in such a way that it worked out in the end, but you see when Clarence Darrow made this last statement right toward the end there, that being, except Tennessee - that was another blast at Bryan, don’t you see?
Mike Gibson: Did you realize, you think, at the time that you attended the trial, that you were witnessing such a big event in the country’s history, as far as its relationship to Christianity and to the law in this nation?
J.D. Boren: No, Mike, I really didn’t realize that. I began to feel it more every day and felt it by the time I got there, and after the first day was over, why I could see it really going in that direction. By the time I left there I was thoroughly convinced that it had a tremendous impact, because of the way it ended up. I repeat again, I’m thoroughly convinced that the religious side, I’ll just say Bryan’s side, won a victory that they didn’t expect really to come out the way it did, and Darrow and them were greatly disappointed because they didn’t get it to a higher court. And so actually Christianity in the broad sense was the victor.
Mike Gibson: Have you, over the years, seen a lot of inaccuracies in the telling of the story, or has it been pretty well told?
J.D. Boren: I think it’s been pretty well told as far as the trial itself is concerned, because I’ve read a number of books on it, and articles written by different ones, and I think it’s been pretty accurately told, I really do.
Maxie Boren: One point of interest that I believe all would like to know about is that my dad and the gentleman that accompanied him from Big Spring, Texas, on that long trip, they went in a Model T Ford. That was back in 1925. They didn’t have real nice automobiles like we have today, and of course in those old cars there was no air conditioning, and they were not powerful cars at all. And I do remember how dad told that on some rather steep inclines that the car was not powerful enough in forward gears to make it up the inclines, and they would have to turn their Model T around and back up the hills because the reverse was more powerful than the forward gears.
Things like that I do recall from the stories that he told, and they would sleep out under the stars many times on the way up there, and as he tells in the tape, they financed their trip largely by selling this song that he wrote, which was called “Darwin’s Monkey Trot.” And when he had told that story in my growing up years, I must admit that I took it with a grain of salt, because, those of who knew dad well, he was a marvelous man, but he could somehow embellish stories, and I thought maybe that was a figment of his imagination. But I am here to bear witness to the fact that when Fran and I were in Dayton, Tennessee, on those three occasions and went through the courthouse that down in the basement where they keep memorabilia from the Scopes evolutionary trial that there was a glass case there with a copy of “Darwin’s Monkey Trot” by J.D. Boren, so that authenticated the story that he had told through the years, and I hope especially that our offspring and our grandchildren really will enjoy this tape and hear the voice of their grandfather and know that much of this is historical fact. It gives us a lot of insight into that trial which made history; some very illustrious figures were there. Clarence Darrow was the defense lawyer, and of William Jennings Bryan was on the prosecuting team who tried Mr. Scope at that trial. We today are experiencing a lot of the same type of things, because the ACLU, which was even in existence back then, is still doing all that it can to keep anything pertaining to God and the Bible out of our school system. Prayer has been ruled unconstitutional in the schools, but evolution is free to be taught, it seems like, in the schools throughout our country, and of course that’s an atheistic system when you really analyze it. It’s a crying shame that things have changed so in our nation, and I hope and I pray very fervently that in times to come good people will stand up and somehow we can get legislation passed that will allow at least an equal opportunity for the creation view to be expressed in the training of our children, and that once again we can tell them the difference between right and wrong, and good and evil, and refer to the Bible without being fearful of lawsuits by the ACLU and other organizations of like, ilk, and stamp. So may God bless this hearing of this tape of dad’s interview so long ago to all who would be interested in listening, and I want to express my thanks to Les and to John for making this possible.
Special Thanks: To Laura Smith, of Fayetteville, Georgia, for transcribing the above text from the 1979 interview of J.D. Boren.
An Email From Maxie B. Boren, J.D. Boren's Son 8/5/2008
Scott, for including all this Scope's trail interview on your Web Site. Bless
Dad's heart, he was quite a character, but had a heart of gold, and stood
foursquare for the truth, I'll guarantee you that. He wasn't afraid of anybody
when it came to standing for the truth and the Lord's church. He did an awful
lot of good....never did gain the notoriety of men like
Gus Nichols, Guy N.
Woods, C.R. Nichol, etc., but in his own "niche"
served the Lord faithfully. One accomplishment that meant so much to
him....during his days as a Chaplain in the U.S. Army, he taught and baptized
over 500 young men that otherwise would probably never have come in contact with
the pure gospel. . . .
Please know how much we have learned to love you all since we had the privilege of making your acquaintance! May God always bless you and your family!!!!
Your friends & kinsmen in Christ,
-Maxie B. & Fran Boren
Rhea County Courthouse, Dayton, Tennessee
The Scopes Trial
Here from July 10-21, 1925,
John Thomas Scopes, a county
high school teacher, was tried
for teaching that man descended
from a lower order of animals,
in violation of a lately passed,
state law. William Jennings Bryan
assisted the prosecution: Clarence
Darrow, Arthur Garfield Hays
and Dudley Field Malone the
defense. Scopes was convicted.
Statue Of William Jennings Bryan In Front Of Dayton Courthouse
Scopes Museum In Rhea County Courthouse Basement
The Courtroom Where The Scopes Trial Took Place
(Taken by Scott Harp in 2008)