Robinson Family Donates Famous Scopes Trial Table

Robinson Family Donates Famous Scopes Trial Table

The Table Where The 1925 Scopes Trial Originated Was Donated To The Tennessee State Museum By The Robinson Family

A conversation which started around a small round table in Robinson Drug Store in May of 1925 resulted in an event that is still discussed today nearly 100 years later.

In 1925, Tennessee introduced a law prohibiting public school teachers from denying the Biblical account of mankind’s origin and to teach instead that man descended from a lower order of animals. The American Civil Liberties Union in New York had advertised in the Tennessee newspapers looking for a teacher that would be willing to be a test case for the new law.

George Rappleyea, a mining engineer for the Dayton Coal and Iron Company, saw the ad and instantly had an idea of how to put the struggling little town of Dayton on the map and boost the local economy.

With his paper in hand, Rappleyea came to Robinson’s Drug Store where he met with a group of influential leaders that regularly had coffee at Robinson’s Drug Store in Dayton and proposed his idea of challenging the law.

Sitting around the little round table (pictured above), Rappleyea convinced the group of businessmen to sponsor a test case challenging the new law. They believed that this would provide an economic boost to the town.  John Thomas Scopes, a local high school football coach, was summoned to the drug store. Scopes had once substituted as a biology teacher briefly. He agreed to be the defendant in the case.

Dayton’s leaders phoned the newspaper in Chattanooga and informed them that a local high school teacher had been arrested and charged with violation the newly passed Tennessee law and the rest as they say is history.

The table where the discussion originated in 1925 remained in the drug store on Main Street but was later moved up to the new Market Street location where it remained until the drug store closed in the early 1980’s.

After the drug store’s closing, the table remained in the family’s possession until it was recently donated to the new Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.

The featured photo above shows the table as it appears today and the bottom photo shows the table in years past with F.E. Robinson (right) reminiscing with Walter White (left) about the trial.

FE Robinson Scopes Trail Table

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Published byDean

Born and raised in Dayton Tennessee, I have served in various public service positions in the past. I have a great interest in the History of our town. This site is a way for me to share some of the great history of the area.

1 Comment

  • Kathy McManus

    September 14, 2021 at 11:36 am

    I remember sitting at that table when I was a little girl and reading the plaque. I didn’t understand it all except it was history and had something to do with Bryan College where my dad went and my Mom’s boss who was in Scopes’s class.

    I’m glad its going to be on display for all to see.

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