Clarence Seward Darrow (April 18, 1857 – March 13, 1938) was an American lawyer and leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union, best known for defending teenage thrill killers Leopold and Loeb in their trial for murdering 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks (1924) and defending John T. Scopes in the Scopes Trial (1925), in which he opposed William Jennings Bryan (statesman, noted orator, and 3-time presidential candidate). Called a "sophisticated country lawyer", he remains notable for his wit and agnosticism, which marked him as one of the most famous American lawyers and civil libertarians.
Clarence Darrow was born in rural northeastern Ohio on April 18, 1857. He was the son of Amirus Darrow and Emily (Eddy) Darrow. Both the Darrow and the Eddy farms had deep roots in colonial New England, and several of Darrow's ancestors served in the American Revolution. Clarence's father was an ardent abolitionist and a proud iconoclast and religious free-booter, known in town as the "village infidel." Emily Darrow was an early supporter of female suffrage and a women's rights advocate. Clarence attended Allegheny College and the University of Michigan Law School but did not graduate from either institution. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1878. The Clarence Darrow Octagon House, which was his childhood home in the small town of Kinsman, Ohio, contains a memorial to him.
Darrow began his career reading law in Youngstown, Ohio, where he was first admitted to the profession by Judge Alfred W. Mackey. He opened his first practice in Andover, Ohio, and then moved to Ashtabula, where he became involved in Democratic Party politics and served as the town counsel. In 1880 he married Jessie Ohl, and seven years later he moved to Chicago with his wife and young son, Paul. There, he worked for the city government as a lawyer and made a mark for himself speaking at Democratic rallies and other speaking engagements. He was a close friend and protege of Illinois Gov. John Altgeld and helped secure a pardon from the governor for the anarchists who were imprisoned for the Haymarket Square bombing. With Altgeld's help, Darrow became a corporate lawyer for the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company, a major Midwestern railroad. In 1894 Darrow represented Eugene V. Debs, the leader of the American Railway Union, who was prosecuted by the federal government for leading the Pullman Strike of 1894. Darrow severed his ties with the railroad to represent Debs, making a financial sacrifice. He saved Debs in one trial but could not keep the union leader from being jailed in another.