At the College Founded in Response to the Scopes Trial, the Administration, Faculty, and Students Have Become Embroiled in a Controversy over “Origins”


The motto of Bryan College is “Christ Above All.” The college, which has an enrollment of between 700 and 800, was originally named William Jennings Bryan College, after the thrice unsuccessful presidential candidate who became a special co-counsel for the prosecution in the Scopes Trial. In addition to “Free Silver,” the “Great Commoner,” as Bryan was fondly called by his supporters, was a fierce advocate for national Prohibition and an equally fierce opponent of Darwinian evolution. Clarence Darrow, who defended Scopes, put Bryan on the stand and, in exposing the great illogic in Bryan’s very literal reading of the Bible, succeeded, as H.L. Mencken viciously quipped, in making “a monkey out of Bryan.”

Nonetheless, Bryan won the case, largely because Darrow was more intent on winning the public debate than in getting a not-guilty verdict. Eventually, the guilty verdict was overturned on appeal, and the state of Tennessee had become…

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