Clarence Seward Darrow (1857-1938) born on April 18.

Clarence Darrow was the most famous American lawyer of his time, and in all probability, the most famous ever. He was well known for his humanitarian believes and his wit. Among some of his more famous trails were the Scopes Monkey Trial, defending the right of teachers to teach evolution in the schools, and the Leopold and Loeb murder trails, in which he succeed in getting two infamous killers life sentences rather than death row (Darrow was greatly opposed to the death penalty). Another important trail was the trail of Ossian Sweet, a black man tried in front of an all white jury for the murder of 11 white men (in self defense); yes, Darrow won the case.

Darrow was a leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and was an open supporter of workers right to unionize (a controversial subject at the time). Early on in his career Darrow was accused of trying to bribe jurors; while he was never convicted of this, the final agreement with the courts required that he never practice law in California again. This lost him the patronage of the labor unions, sparking his move from a labor lawyer to a criminal lawyer, a job at which he was overwhelmingly successful.

Some quotes:

"Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt."

"When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become president; I'm beginning to believe it."

"I had grown tired of standing in the lean and lonely front line facing the greatest enemy that ever confronted man -- public opinion."

"Even if you do learn to speak correct English, whom are you going to speak it to?"

"If you lose your power to laugh, you lose your power to think."

"Chase after the truth like all hell and you'll free yourself, even though you never touch its coattails."

"To think is to differ."

"History repeats itself. And that's one of the things that's wrong with history."

"Whenever I hear people discussing birth control, I always remeber that I was the fifth"

"Some day I hope to write a book where the royalties will pay for the copies I give away."

"I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure -- that is all that agnosticism means."

"Laws should be like clothes. They should be made to fit the people they serve."

"As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever."

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with a lot of pleasure."

"At twenty a man is full of fight and hope. He wants to reform the world. When he is seventy he still wants to reform the world, but he knows he can't."

"I have suffered from being misunderstood, but I would have suffered a hell of a lot more if I had been understood."

"The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children."

"You can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man's freedom. You can be free only if I am free."

"I don't believe in God because I don't believe in Mother Goose."

There is a story of Clarence Darrow winning a case by distracting the jury during the prosecutor's summation. He smoked a cigar in which he had placed a wire to prevent the ashes from falling off. With each puff the ashes grew longer...and the jury would sit a little further foward in their chairs. When would the ashes fall? They never did. However brilliant the prosecuter's closing words were, the jury never heard them. They were too busy watching the ash on Darrow's cigar.
Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero.