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By Dennis McCarthy:
Nancy Tanner still lives in the same flat-roofed, three-story house that she and Jim Tanner bought six decades ago, shortly after Jim joined the faculty of the University of Tennessee. The house sits on the knife edge of a ridge in a south Knoxville community appropriately known as Little Switzerland. At 94, Nancy is getting frail. Cancer has been nagging at her for the past year. She keeps active, however, and is grateful for a rich and rewarding life, in no small part because she met Jim Tanner in 1940.
Eighty-five years ago this month, during another long, hot summer, Clarence Darrow and Dudley Field Malone, two of America’s foremost civil-libertarian lawyers, defended John Scopes, the high school football coach tried in Dayton, Tennessee, for teaching evolution, in violation of the Butler Act. The Tennessee statute, which had been enacted four months earlier, prohibited teaching any theory that denied the Biblical account of creation.
On August 3, 1996, while addressing an audience of judges and attorneys at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, Justice John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court said that a “campaign promise to ‘be tough on crime’ or to ‘enforce the death penalty’ is evidence of bias that should disqualify a candidate from sitting in criminal cases.”
Two days earlier, a Tennessee Supreme Court justice, Penny White, had been turned out of office in a statewide election, purportedly for not being “tough on crime.”