John Scopes to be major focus at 2016 Scopes Festival

28th Annual Scopes Festival to take closer look at John Scopes

John Scopes was almost the forgotten player in his famous trial in 1925, but he will be a major focus of the 28th annual Scopes Festival July 15-17.

John Scopes (wikimedia)

John Scopes (wikimedia)

Scopes was overshadowed by the famous attorneys who argued the case – William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow – but two of his grand-nieces are expected to attend the festival to meet guests and answer questions about their famous relative. In addition, two authors of books about the trial will be on hand.

Nancy Rose and Lisa Rennegarbe, of Bowling Green, Kentucky, Scopes’ grand-nieces, will be at the festival to talk with guests, particularly during a display of news photographs taken during the trial. Ms. Rennegarbe and Ms. Rose knew their great-uncle from family gatherings during their childhood. Scopes, a very private individual after the trial, was a family member, not a celebrity, to his extended family, and Ms. Rennegarbe and Ms. Rose will help interested persons understand more about this famous defendant.

Also, Jerry Tompkins, editor of D-Days at Dayton: Reflections on the Scopes Trial, is planning to attend the festival. Mr. Tompkins collected essays from a number of lawyers and scientists involved in the Scopes Trial. Mr. Tompkins, a friend of Scopes, was a minister and a correspondent for Science News, who primarily wrote about evolution issues.

Another special guest will be Susan Epperson, whose challenge of an Arkansas law prohibiting teaching evolution in public schools was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1968. Mrs. Epperson taught biology at Little Rock Central High School and challenged the constitutionality of the law after a biology textbook containing a chapter on evolution was adopted for the 1965-66 school year.

In 1968, the Supreme Court ruled that the Arkansas law, which had been modeled after Tennessee’ Butler Act, violated the First Amendment’s establishment of religion clause and was therefore unconstitutional. Courts have since held that teaching creation science is unconstitutional in a number of cases.

And Randy Moore, author of The Scopes Monkey Trial, a new release by Arcadia Publishing in the “Images of America” series, and the soon-to-be-released A Field Guide to the Scopes Trial, will be present to meet guests and autograph copies of his books. Dr. Moore, professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, has done extensive work documenting locations and finding “the rest of the story” about individuals who were involved with the Scopes Trial.

“This is an exciting opportunity for persons interested in the trial to meet individuals who knew John Scopes and to learn some of the fascinating stories about what happened following the trial,” said Tom Davis, festival chairman. “The photo exhibit will be open from 10 a.m. until noon on Saturday, July 16, in the General Sessions Courtroom of the Rhea County Courthouse, and it is free to the public.”

More than two dozen news photographs, collected by Dr. Todd Wood, president of Core Academy of Science, will be on display. The pictures include scenes from Dayton and images of trial participants and many have not been seen since they were published in 1925.

Ms. Rennegarbe, Mr. Tompkins and Dr. Moore will be at the festival throughout the weekend of July 15 to 17, and Dr. Moore will have his books for sale. All proceeds from Dr. Moore’s books will go to the Rhea County Historical and Genealogical Society.

The photo exhibit is sponsored by First Bank of Tennessee and is presented in cooperation with Core Academy of Science.