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Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  406 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography

The definitive biography of Clarence Darrow, the brilliant, idiosyncratic lawyer who defended John Scopes in the “Monkey Trial” and gave voice to the populist masses at the turn of the twentieth century, thus changing American law forever.

Amidst the tumult of the industrial age and the progressive era, Clarence Darro
Paperback, 592 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Vintage (first published June 4th 2011)
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Ed Smiley
Jan 11, 2012 Ed Smiley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Darrow is a gargantuan figure, every bit as amazing as his reputation, and this is a wonderfilled biography. Darrow is skeptical, generous and venal, idealistic and cynical, shrewd and reckless, oversexed and loving, progressive and corrupt: a plethora of personality traits tumbling out upon an amazing event-filled life. But if that just seems like a grab bag of random characteristics, Farrell writes with a deft precision, and a fine attention to detail, as well as allowing ample space for Darro ...more
Nov 15, 2014 A. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Clarence Darrow has fascinated me for years. My father is a lawyer and I always tried to imagine that he was some sort of Clarence Darrow crusading against the corporations, the racists and the anti-evolutionary forces if necessary.

I decided to read this book because my father mentioned that he wanted a copy. I figured it would be great book for us to talk about. We haven't done that yet.

Farrell gave me a great appreciation for the complex man that was Clarence Darrow. Yes, he was an amazing la
Jan 18, 2012 Arminius rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
If you are poor, a mobster, a racist, a union member or an oppressed minority there was one lawyer that you would look for if you got in legal trouble during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. That lawyer went by the name of Clarence Darrow.

Darrow received his law admission in Ohio but moved to Chicago where he made his name. He started as a lawyer in Chicago city government where he came under the tutelage of one of the great liberal thinkers of the era, John Altgeld. Altgled impressed up
Mal Warwick
Jan 05, 2015 Mal Warwick rated it it was amazing
He was a radical in the age of laissez faire. “With the land and possessions of America rapidly passing into the hands of a favored few; with thousands of men and women in idleness and want; with wages constantly tending to a lower level . . . with the knowledge that the servants of the people elected to correct abuses are bought and sold in legislative halls at the bidding of corporations and individuals; with all these notorious evils sapping the foundations of popular government and destroyin ...more
May 05, 2015 George rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, ipad

“Darrow was ‘an infidel, a misanthrope, a revolutionist, a hater of the rich, a condemner of the educated and the polite, a hopeless cynic,’ said the New York Sun”—page 185

Four-stars for comprehensiveness; two-and-a-half stars for readability—CLARENCE DARROW: ATTORNEY FOR THE DAMNED, By Joel A. Farrell is slow going and a bit confusing, for much of the book. The pace and the interest does pick up a bit in the last quarter of the book, once it gets to Darrow’s most fam
Barbara Stoner
Nov 14, 2014 Barbara Stoner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the early years of the 20th century, there was only one damned lawyer that the damned themselves could turn to, and John A. Farrell tells his riveting story in Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned .

Most of us know Clarence Darrow - the hero of the Monkey Trial. We've seen Inherit the Wind. Some of us know that he defended Leopold and Loeb, the killers of young Bobby Franks. A few of us remember his name in connection with the Haymarket Riots and his attempt to commute the death sentences
Aug 03, 2012 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exhaustively researched and compelling biography of a fascinating and complex man. Farrell does a great job of focusing his story on what the reader would likely care most about: Darrow's work and cases. He is masterful at keeping the early life history brief, only really providing the depth and detail needed to understand the man and put his public and private life in an meaningful context.

To borrow from Whitman, Darrow contained multitudes. Farrell paints a potrait of the man and his often con
Andy Miller
Jan 17, 2012 Andy Miller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a well written, thoroughly researched and balanced biography of Clarence Darrow. It is also clearly a book for that time, partly due to Darrow's involvement with the people and the issues from the 1890s through the 1920s.

The sections on Darrow's trials were as suspenseful as any crime novel you could read. Especially interesting were the sections on the trial of Wobblies for the bombing murder of an Idaho politician. Darrow goes head to head against William Borah who later becomes a pro
Brad Hodges
Sep 04, 2012 Brad Hodges rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"And it is for this, gentleman, that I am here today, because I haven't condemned, I haven't judged; I have loved my fellow man; I have loved the weak; I have loved the poor; I have loved the struggling; I have fought for their liberties, for their rights, that they might have something in this world more than the hard conditions that social life has given them."

So said Clarence Darrow, while he was on trial for bribing a juror. He would escape prison, and go on to become a great folk hero. Even
Jun 05, 2011 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Statues and busts have advantages over the heroes and icons they depict. Any imperfections are superficial, unlike human flaws. Their character is fixed, not subject to further research and analysis. But anyone who insists folk heroes must be paragons of virtue ignores the reality of human nature. Even -- and perhaps especially -- those with shortcomings possess the attributes necessary for significant accomplishments.

Proof of that is seen in John A. Farrell's new biography of attorney Clarence
Jul 23, 2012 Victoria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clarence Darrow was a man of contradictions. He fought for the underdog and would bribe witnesses and jurors to create a level playing field in the "justice" of his times. He could speak without using his notes for hours on end getting close to the jurors and claiming the attention of everyone in the room. He would take little to no money to fight cases for the labor movement and civil rights. "In 1901, Darrow had created a stir in Chicago by asking: "Is there any reason why a white girl should ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Laurel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Slow to start but after the first 1/3 I couldn't put it down. Darrow's complexity was well documented here. The book does not glorify him or demonize him but does document the ways in which he was treated both ways by the public. While he did so much to advance labor and civil rights, he could be really slimy both legally and in terms of his view of women, not mention his sometimes ethically questionable legal tactics. One of these stars is for the way I, as an attorney, appreciated the book. I ...more
Mar 05, 2014 Nora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fascinating book! Don't be fooled by the fact that I appear to have taken nearly two years to read it. I lost my original copy long ago and just recently got around to ordering another. This book was a glimpse into the life and mind of one of the greatest (and most controversial) figures of our time. You can read the synopsis to find out what the book is all about, but let me just tell you that I found it to be very interesting and enlightening. It doesn't paint Darrow as some kind of dem ...more
David Raffin
May 29, 2012 David Raffin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of my favorite scenes in this book is when Darrow is in the south and sits in on a rural southern courtroom to get a feel for the area because he has an upcoming trial. He sees a simple minded man being railroaded and he lunges forward saying, "I'm going to defend that boy!" and his friends drag him out of the courtroom. This book follows Darrow's life through the ups and downs, the big trials and a taste of the little ones done for next to nothing. Long but authoritative rather than dull. T ...more
Nov 08, 2015 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading "American Lightening Terror, Mystery, the birth of Hollywood, and the crime of the century" by Howard Blum, Clarence Darrow held some intrigue, so I am hoping to learn more.
There are times I am more impressed by the subject than how the book is written. This seemed very comprehensive. It began with his early life, all the way to his death. I listened to the audio which did a great job of keeping me highly interested. I felt I was right there in the court room, listening to Dar
David Schwinghammer
Without a doubt the greatest influence on Clarence Darrow's career as "Attorney for the Damned" was his father, Amiris, a furniture store owner in Kinsman, Illinois. He was the town radical who had a hard time making ends meet, but somehow always found money for books, which he passed on to his precocious son.

Darrow began his career in Chicago working for the city and spent six years dispensing legal advice for the railroads, as Abraham Lincoln had done before him. He quit when his mentor, Willi
Bob Koch
Oct 13, 2011 Bob Koch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good but not great. A hard slog. Wanted to move on to something else. Wanted to know a little more about the period of time. Also wanted to learn a little more about Darrow.

How to get the damn book off currently reading list??? Wasting time.
Dec 18, 2015 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an amazing figure in American history. I knew of Darrow from the movie Inherit the Wind but not from anywhere else. I was impressed by the man and his spirit of standing with the underrepresented and his incredible mind. The author doesn't shy away from the more controversial parts of Darrow's life including his belief in free love, his role in a bribery scandal in a jury trial in California, and his defense of mob figures or wealthy clients from time to time. But the author was insightful ...more
John Farrell
May 14, 2013 John Farrell rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
I liked it. I wrote it.
Rich Wilkens
Nov 12, 2013 Rich Wilkens rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clarence Darrow was a fascinating, complex person. He had sympathy for all, finding something to defend and even love in people others found easy to hate. He believed that in a cruel, cruel world not every action, not every decision and not every crime was entirely under the control of the perpetrator. To execute human beings in a world so full of environmental inducements seemed unfair to Darrow, especially when the defendant was hampered by mental illness or slowness. Likewise, he defended lab ...more
Evan Dossey
Dec 26, 2012 Evan Dossey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent and, it seems, very candid look at an icon of American justice.

It includes robust looks at his most important legal triumphs. The McNamara case, the Haywood trial, Snopes, Sweet, and, of course, Leopold & Loeb, are all provided lengthy chapters.

But you can find those written up in many, many books.

"Attorney for the Damned" takes the time and effort to explore the Darrow who lived between those events, the rascally philosopher whose love for money and attention drove him to take
Sara Van Dyck
Aug 26, 2013 Sara Van Dyck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
Beyond his rout of Bryan in the Scopes ”monkey trial,” Darrow spent much of his career defending communists, the insane, blacks, bootleggers, young men, union leaders, alleged rapists, corrupt politicians, anarchists, and the poor. He saved the lives of the McNamara brothers, who pled guilty to the bombing of the Los Angeles times – and then was himself accused of bribing jurors.

Farrell’s magnificent biography shows why and how Darrow was so successful, often by uncovering weaknesses in evidence
Marc Weitz
Aug 18, 2012 Marc Weitz rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book feeling like I knew little more about Darrow than when I began. Sure, it's 450 pages (minus notes) of Darrow biography, but it was just a collection of stories about Darrow rather than a narrative about his life. Clarence Darrow is renowned to be one of the greatest attorneys ever. His specialty was criminal defense, particularly of those loathed by society, such as Leopold and Loeb, hence the title. However, he often stood up for the rights of those disaffected and took cou ...more
Feb 05, 2012 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am haunted by the ghosts of the breaker boys. At the beginning of the twentieth century, little boys of 10 and 12 worked six days a week for ten-hour days perched over coal chutes from which they plucked bits of rock. Clarence Darrow, at the time the most famous attorney for the coal miners, described the fate of one such boy as follows:

One day his little companion who always sat beside him leaned too far over as he picked the slate. He lost his balance and fell into the trough where the lumps
Irving Koppel
Sep 19, 2011 Irving Koppel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: clarence

The author of this work has obviously unburdened himself of a great deal of research into Mr.Darrow's life. The work is quite exhaustive in not only examining Mr.Darrow's life,but also into
the cases which he undertook and usually won. Defending everyone from striking coal miners to crooked
politicians to the school teacher accused of "teaching evolution", Darrow encompassed the many changes
which were occurring in America from the last third of the 19th Century through the first third of the
Jim Twombly
Sep 09, 2013 Jim Twombly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bios-memoirs
Incredible! I first got interested in Clarence Darrow by watching the movie "Inherit the Wind" as a child. In spite of his very human flaws, Darrow was a true American hero. Much criticised by contemporaries for seeming to abandon his principles, the one key principle driven home by this book is that every one deserves the best legal defense, regardless of their guilt or innocence. Darrow stuck to that principle through all the trials documented by Farrell. Sure, he took money from business inte ...more
Adam Ford
Apr 05, 2013 Adam Ford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just finished Farrell's biography of Clarence Darrow.

Clarence Darrow didn't move to Chicago until he was 30 years old. He soon got involved in politics and became a city attorney. His next move was to dump his wife and abandon his children for the more exciting life of a libertine mover and shaker. He represented whomever had the money to hire him and fought for big moneyed interests as often as he took the causes of the little men.

But Darrow's politic
A brilliant glimpse into the life of an incredible man. As Farrell points out early on, Darrow was indeed a man of great contradictions. Yet throughout the book you're drawn to feel the many tensions at play in his life that could easily lead to seeming contradictions, all in the name of some greater cause.

Darrow lived a rollercoaster of a life. As a lawyer, he was often in the media, at the helm of noteworthy cases. Yet, he seemed to live in constant fear of debt and with enemies around every c
Feb 14, 2013 Ralph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first third if this biography is a bit plodding but once we get into Darrow's first major cases the book becomes very interesting. The Gilded Age was a time when being a labor lawyer meant being a criminal defense attorney. The incidents of violence between labor and management are startling in how they are forgotten today. Even the degree of savagery with respect to the racial lynchings is gone (with the one exception of Emmitt Till). I work near the LA Times building for example and had no ...more
Nov 26, 2014 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clarence Darrow, Attorney for the Damned / John A. Farrell. Another confirmation of the complexity of character and the impact of power. A biography to certainly recommend, if only for Darrow’s eloquence, energy and compassion. There is also considerable labor history to commend it. The more I read the more I connect to people before me; I need to work on understanding and respecting those succeeding me.
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“Chicago is a pocket edition of hell,” he wrote, “and if it is not, then hell is a pocket edition of Chicago.” 0 likes
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