CHICAGO — Famed attorney Clarence Darrow, inspired by his defense of Patrick Prendergast in Chicago in the 1890s, became attracted to a burgeoning populist movement. The Debs Rebellion, named for labor organizer Eugene Debs, was in full force, and Darrow began to see how judges were under the control of corporations. "The experience left him angry and alienated," author John A. Farrell writes in his biography of Darrow.
What Darrow said in the late 1800s could easily be said of 2017 in the U.S.: "Today the privileged institutions of America, fattened by unjust laws and conditions, boastfully proclaim that monopoly is king." Darrow joined the Cook County central committee of the Populist Party in 1892.
Flash forward 125 years, and you have a redefined populism of a billionaire as president, staking his claim as the leader of working people. How does this take on populism compare to the populism of Darrow? Come hear author Farrell's take on this interesting series of events at the annual Clarence Darrow symposium on the seventy-ninth anniversary of Darrow's death, Monday, March 13.
The title of the program is, "Robber Barons & Populists: Would Clarence Darrow recognize today's Populism?"
The day begins with a brief ceremony and wreath-tossing near the Darrow Bridge in Jackson Park at 10 a.m., where Darrow's ashes were scattered after his death and where, as a bet, he once agreed his spirit would return if it turned out communication was possible from the afterworld. The bridge is closed due to construction, so the ceremony will be just to the east of the Darrow tribute marker. For the past 60 years, through the annual commemoration ceremony and lecture, Darrow's spirit has returnedusually to remind us that his work is not yet done.
Special guest speakers at the Darrow Bridge include Ald. Leslie Hairston, activist Bernardine Dohrn, ACLU of Illinois Associate Legislative Director Khadine Bennett, Jaquie Algee of SEIU Healthcare, and Gene Winkler, adjunct faculty at the Divinity School, University of Chicago.
After the ritual outdoor wreath-tossing, guests will move inside to the Museum of Science and Industry's Rosenwald Room (formerly the Columbian Room) for light refreshments and presentations at 10:45 a.m. by author Farrell.
Darrow, who died March 13, 1938, is remembered for his crusading role as "attorney for the damned" in such controversial cases as the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Leopold and Loeb murder case, and the pardoning of the Haymarket anarchists.
DIRECTIONS: The Clarence Darrow Bridge is behind the Museum of Science and Industry. Since it is currently under constructions, the wreath-tossing ceremony will take place just east of the bridge. Driving south on Lake Shore Drive, pass the light at 57th Drive and turn right at the next light [Science Drive]. You will come almost immediately to Columbia Drive. If you turn left and follow Columbia Drive there is metered parking near the bridge. You may park at meters near the OmniMax Theater and walk south to the bridge.
For more details see www.darrowbridge.org .
JOHN A. FARRELL: John A. Farrell is the author of Clarence Darrow: Attorney For The Damned, a biography of America's greatest defense attorney (2012), and of Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century, the definitive account of House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr.(2002). His most recent biography, Richard Nixon: The Life, will be released March 28. Farrell is a contributing editor to Politico Magazine and a contributor to The Atlantic, after a prize-winning career as a journalist.