The W. C. Robinson Collection of Scopes Trial Photographs (MS.1091)
Frank Earle Robinson was born to Charles Rice and Ella Anne (Colville) Robinson in Evensville, Tennessee, in 1881. The family moved to Dayton in 1886, where F. E. Robinson founded a successful laundry and special order service. In 1898, Robinson purchased part of James Crawford's interest in the pharmaceutical business he and his brother John operated in central Dayton. Robinson soon realized that he would require considerable additional training in order to operate the store successfully and alternated practical training with James Crawford with formal education at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. When he graduated in 1905, he bought the remainder of James Crawford's interest. In 1909, Robinson and John Crawford reopened the store as Crawford and Robinson, the "Hustling Druggists." Robinson married Clarke Eliza Haggard a year later, and the couple had three children: Andrewena (born 1910), Frances Eliza (born 1916), and Wallace Clark (1920-1995). F. E. Robinson bought John Crawford's share of Crawford and Robinson in 1912, and the store became F. E. Robinson Company.
In addition to being a civic-minded druggist, Robinson was also the chairman of the Rhea County School Board. In early May of 1925, fellow Dayton resident George Rappleyea showed Robinson a notice placed in the Chattanooga Daily Times by the American Civil Liberties Union advertising for a Tennessee teacher willing to test the state's new anti-evolution law. Passed in March of 1925, the law forbade Tennessee educators to "teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." After Dayton's regular biology teacher, W. F. Ferguson, refused to take part in the trial, Rappleyea, Superintendent of Schools Walter White, lawyer Wallace C. Haggard, and city attorneys Herbert B. and Sue K. Hicks asked John Thomas Scopes to serve as defendant. Scopes agreed, and the trial began on July 10, 1925 with A. T. Stewart (assisted by William Jennings Bryan, William Jennings Bryan Jr., Ben O. McKenzie, J. Gordon McKenzie, Sue K. Hicks , Herbert B. Hicks, and Wallace C. Haggard) representing the prosecution and Dr. John R. Neal (assisted by Clarence Darrow, Dudley Field Malone, Arthur Garfield Hays, W. O. Thompson, and F. B. McElwee) representing the defense. Scopes was eventually convicted and fined $100.00.
After the trial ended, F. E. Robinson returned to his drugstore and civic activities. He died in 1957.