Rhea County

The Rhea County Courthouse is pictured above.

In collaboration with the American Humanist Association [AHA] in Washington, D.C., and a well-respected sculptor, a statue of Clarence Darrow could be coming to the lawn of the Rhea County courthouse.

The AHA bills itself on its website as “advocating progressive values and equality for humanists, atheists, and freethinkers.”

Darrow served as John Scope’s lawyer defending his right to teach evolution in his class in the word famous Scopes Trial court case. William Jennings Bryan opposed the teaching of evolution and thought it should be banned from pubic schools. Before the trial, he agreed to represent the World’s Christian Fundamentals Organization as the special prosecutor.

Dayton’s Bryan College, originally named William Jennings Bryan University, was created in the aftermath of the Scopes Trial. Despite Bryan’s untimely passing just days following the trial, his memory has continued to live on in Rhea County.

In 2005, Bryan was memorialized with a statue that sits on the lawn of the Rhea County courthouse.

“Back in 2005, we knew that if the topic ever arose, we’d have to consider adding a Darrow monument as well or else risk be shown in a negative or biased light,” Rhea County Historical Society President Tom Davis said. “We don’t want to stir up controversy or continue the battle from the 1920’s, but rather just recognize it as a major part of our history. I think it will be a unique feature for Dayton and a good idea to have both Jennings and Bryan represented.”

World-renowned sculptor Zeno Frudakis will create the statue. Frudakis resides in Glenside, Penn. He has created monumental works in both public and private collections throughout the U.S. and abroad. His website states he has created monuments of Martin Luther King Jr., Joe DiMaggio, Sir Winston Churchill and several U.S. presidents, among several others.

Frudakis’ recently completed works include life size bronzes of Frederick Law Olmsted for the North Carolina Arboretum at Ashville, N.C.; Ben Franklin for a private client in Dallas, Texas; and Coach Ron Fraser for the University of Miami. A statue of Coach Joe Paterno for State College, Penn., is also in progress.

Additionally, Frudakis’ 16-foot high sculpture of the U.S. Honor Guard is being cast at his foundry for installation at the British Imperial War Museum in Duxford, England, in September. Some Tennesseans may be familiar with Frudakis’ sculpture bust of John Sevier in the public library in Sevierville, Tenn.

“I would really like to create a sculpture of Clarence Darrow for Dayton’s courthouse,” Frudakis said. “It would be fun and his sculptural presence would bring a nice balance to the Dayton, Tenn., experience for visitors wanting to know more about the famous Scopes Trial.”

Davis said he’s in support of the idea and adding to the rich history of the Scopes Trial and Rhea County.

“We’re not advocating a position. We are simply trying to accurately tell the story,” he said.

Frudakis also stressed that he wants to ensure Rhea County the statue would harmonize nicely with Bryan’s statue although he intends on recreating Darrow as he appeared at the time of the trial. The current statue of Bryan depicts him as a younger man, well before he arrived in Dayton for the trial.

The project, which will be funded privately, has already begun fundraising efforts. In addition, Frudakis has already begun work on a small clay model of the statue and is hoping to organize an advisory committee in the coming weeks. The staff would include residents of Dayton to gauge the interest and support for the project.

Further details regarding the plan are ongoing, but all current information indicates the county intends on going through with the proposal. Last month, AHA launched a website to accept donations for the statue of Darrow. For more information or to donate, visit their website at www.americanhumanist.org/darrow.