Schoolmaster of the Courtroom
Much of the Darrow myth is based on his defense of downtrodden members of society against the rich, powerful forces who were attempting to crush them. Nowhere did this effort become more apparent or attract more attention than in his defense of workers. Darrow first captured the attention of the nation's press in a series of dramatic trials and hearings in which he defended labor leaders: Eugene V. Debs for his actions during the Pullman strike of 1894; Thomas Kidd in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 1894; the United Mine Workers in the anthracite arbitration in 1903; William D. Haywood, George W. Pettibone, and Charles H. Moyer, tried for murder in Boise, Idaho, in 1907; and the McNamaras in Los Angeles in 1911. Those cases made Darrow a national figure, but eventually severely damaged his career and reputation when he was charged with attempted jury bribery during the McNamara case. Those charges led to two dramatic trials of self-defense.
The speeches Darrow made during those trials are regarded as some of his best rhetorical efforts. His public statements dramatically captured the brutal fight between labor and management at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. As documents they provide the student of public address with insight into the ongoing conflict between labor and management and illustrate the violent, uncompromising nature of that battle.