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Clarence Darrow Left, with John F. Raulston, the judge in the Scopes trial, 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95411).

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Darrow, Clarence (18 April 1857–13 March 1938), lawyer, orator, and author, was born Clarence Seward Darrow at Kinsman, in rural Ohio, the son of Amirus Darrow, a furniture maker and undertaker, and Emily Eddy. He initially attended local public schools and then, in 1873–1874, the preparatory department of Allegheny College; thereafter he taught school in Vernon, Ohio, for three years while concurrently studying law books. In 1877 he enrolled in the law department of the University of Michigan, at which he remained only one year. He then apprenticed at a law office in Youngstown and was admitted to the Ohio bar on oral examination at the age of twenty-one....

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Patrick Henry. Etching by Albert Rosenthal, 1888. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102566).

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Henry, Patrick (29 May 1736–06 June 1799), revolutionary statesman, orator, and lawyer, was born at Studley, Hanover County, Virginia, the son of John Henry, a Scottish-born and prosperous planter, and Sarah Winston Syme, a young widow, also from a family of substantial means. Often mistakenly thought to have been of more humble origins, Patrick Henry was, by birth and estate, a member of the gentry of the colony, if not of the highest rank. After attending a local school for a few years, he received the remainder of his formal education from his father, who had attended King’s College, University of Aberdeen....

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Ingersoll, Robert Green (11 August 1833–21 July 1899), orator and lawyer, was born in Dresden, New York, the son of the Reverend John Ingersoll, a fiery Congregational orator and abolitionist, and Mary Livingston. When Robert was two years old his mother died. His father then moved the family through a dozen or more pastorates in New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. Robert came to reject his father’s gloomy Calvinism but embraced his oratorical style, abolitionism, and his assiduous reading habits. Although the itinerant status of the family limited his formal schooling, Ingersoll was well versed in the classics. He taught for two years at subscription schools in Mount Vernon and Metropolis, Illinois, and in Waverly, Tennessee. Both Robert and his brother Ebon Clark Ingersoll, a future congressman, were introduced to the law and politics when they read law for a few months in the office of Democratic congressman Willis Allen, in Marion, Illinois, where they were admitted to the bar in 1854. Robert served as a legal clerk in various federal, county, and circuit courts in southern Illinois. In late 1857 or early 1858 the brothers moved to Peoria, where they developed a thriving legal practice....

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Maffitt, John Newland (28 December 1794–28 May 1850), Methodist preacher, was born in Dublin, Ireland, to a middle-class family that belonged to the Church of Ireland, a branch of the Anglican church. Information about Maffitt’s family background and early life is decidedly spotty: his parents’ names are unknown, although we do know that his father died when Maffitt was twelve and that his mother shortly thereafter attempted to establish him in a mercantile establishment devoted to tailoring. One account claims he graduated from Trinity College. The teenage Maffitt indulged a love of reading novels and historical romances, however, until a conversion experience in a Methodist meeting at age eighteen or nineteen—accounts conflict on this score—convinced him to become a preacher. The Irish Methodist church did not recognize him as a licensed preacher, and his sporadic attempts at evangelical work both in and beyond Dublin were a mixed success at best. Even so, he displayed a highly melodramatic style, which would personify his later career in the United States. He married Ann Carnic at age twenty. They had seven children; the oldest son, ...