Until its repeal in 1967, a Tennessee law banned teaching evolution in school. In 1925, the "Scopes Monkey Trial" had decided the matter. The trial was a set-up from the start: a young teacher, John Scopes, had agreed to be accused of giving an evolution lesson in order to test the law. The contest riveted the press, who came to the small town of Dayton to watch the match between former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and the most famous defense attorney of the day, Clarence Darrow. Some believed no less than the modern world was at stake. Others thought the whole thing a publicity stunt.
For journalist H. L. Mencken, the trial was both. In a series for the Baltimore Sun, he was hardly impartial, firming supporting his friend Darrow against what he saw as narrow-minded rural fundamentalists.