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Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  633 ratings  ·  96 reviews
Drawing on untapped archives and full of fresh revelations, here is the definitive biography of America’s legendary defense attorney and progressive hero.

Clarence Darrow is the lawyer every law school student dreams of being: on the side of right, loved by many women, played by Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind. His days-long closing arguments delivered without notes won m
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Doubleday (first published June 4th 2011)
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John Farrell
Sep 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I liked it. I wrote it.
Bryan Alkire
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good biography. Darrow is one of those figures that we place on a pedestal in this modern age as many celebrate his work for labor and the underdog. This biography shows him in all his human complexity. Yes, he fought for the underdog, but like many lawyers, took fees from less than ideal clients. He was a corporate attorney at one point in his career. He was less than faithful in his marriage and was unusual for his times by being a free thinker and free lover as well as a union man and sociali ...more
Ed Smiley
Dec 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Porter Broyles
I'm reading Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion as a Buddy Read next month and wanted to read this book as a primer for that book.

I am very glad that I did. This book was very interesting and provided in depth analysis on Darrow's life that are likely to be covered in synopsis in Summer of the Gods. The scopes trial only took 1 chapter here, but I supect that it will take more in Summer. Similarly, issues that are mentioned in passing
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although not quite as good as Farrell's more recent superb biography of Richard Nixon, a comprehensive and engaging biography of Clarence Darrow, best known for his participation in the Scopes Monkey trial and legal defense of the infamous Leopold and Loeb. Darrow had a fascinating career and was a complex personality. Farrell's account is well researched and balanced, examining not only Darrow's virtues but also his flaws and personal failings. ...more
Mal Warwick
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 Kempf
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'll be damned or more likely I will be a monkey's uncle. Darrow was quite the attorney and no matter how you may feel about the death penalty....this is a book that makes you think. Recommended. ...more
RJ Koch
Sep 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Brad Hodges
Jul 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Barbara Stoner
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Rasheed Abdullah
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Clarence Darrow was an interesting fellow. He even made his way to being mentioned in a movie made in 1960. I was watching Ocean’s 11 and Danny Ocean remarked to one of the others who made an astute observation, “A regular Clarence Darrow.”

The rap on Darrow was that “money and publicity have been his life objects,” as was stated by his former legal partner. Was he a man of principles or not depends upon who you ask but he took on some serious legal fights. Because of his anti-capital punishment
Andy Miller
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
John Wirenius
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
To this day, the question of what I have long called “The Darrow Succession” remains open. By any measure, Darrow has cast the longest shadow in both of his fields of law—union side labor law and criminal defense law. To this day, no lawyer in either field has quite occupied a similar place.

This is a good, solid biography of Darrow. Is it definitive? I have my doubts. It’s certainly far better than Kevin Tierney’s disparaging Darrow (1981), which declared, just as the Reagan Era began and touch
Jun 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: ipad, non-fiction

“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
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
David Raffin
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Scotland Kraker
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: srk_polisci, 5stars
As far as I can recall, I first learned about Clarence Darrow in my high school philosophy class. My teacher introduced us to the case of 19 year old Nathan Leopold and 18 year old Richard Loeb, who after careful planning murdered a 14 year old boy named Bobby Franks in cold blood. Darrow agreed to be retained on the boys' defense, and he successfully argued that they should be given life in prison and not the death penalty. It was one of Darrow's most famous cases, and one of the most interesti ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The writing of the author of the biography is superb, I found myself immersed in the time period that that events occur in. His description of the social and economic conditions of the time made the book even more enjoyable cause it helps the reader see why some of the individuals make the decisions they make. And the depth of his research is spectacular.

As for Darrow, I’ve always heard nothing but praise when his name is mentioned, whether in movies or tv shows, or even law lectures, Darrow is
Paul Gibson
Jun 30, 2018 rated it liked it
I hoped this book would provide an interesting way to view the Gilded Age from the turn of the century through the 1930's; it did. In some ways Darrow wasn't a likable character but like most other flawed characters, he seemed to be easier to love than to like. The writer had an interesting style that made the book a pleasant read. The book was much more fair than his autobiography; and tilted (as most biographies are) toward allowing his subject his best light.
Darrow didn’t have moral standards
A complex man, whose fame as a defense lawyer masked a reality that was on one hand a defender of the poor and working class, and a man who understood that money was needed to live the life he preferred. His financial troubles and endless speculative adventures led him to take cases for those whose lifestyle he despised. Notwithstanding the demonic view of the right, or the saintly view of the left, Darrow was above all human, and more specifically, American, with all the faults and halos assign ...more
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
What an interesting life! That this entertaining and radical civil-libertarian’s biography has not been made into a major motion picture says volumes about our sexually repressed, theist and corporate fascist country. He was ahead of his time in advocating for equal rights for women, non-whites (including such diverse groups as blacks, Hispanics & Italians), freedom from religion, labor justice, freedom from government intrusion in personal rights and fair government that serves the population r ...more
Bill Patton
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the better biographies I've read.
I first read Irving Stone's bio of Darrow almost fifty years ago, when I was in grad school writing a paper on the Scopes Trial. I've had an abiding interest in Darrow ever since.
Darrow defended Loeb and Leopold, the L A Times bombers, John Scopes, &c. and others. He helped found the NAACP, and he defended people of all colors, races and creeds... A real American.
Charlie Miller
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Darrow was a complex and very interesting character. While he worked for the railroads and defended notorious criminals from time to time, he was a progressive. An opponent of the death penalty, a freethinker, a feminist (sometimes), it's interesting to wonder what he would be like today.
The book is well written but a long read.
Celia Wexler
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author gives us a nuanced profile of a complex, morally compromised figure. The book also richly weaves the history of the Gilded Age and the corruption of the robber barons into his story. I was struck at the way that era's problems persist in our own era. ...more
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