Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My father had read an article written by Clarence Darrow in which he said that in his opinion all crime was due to environmental factors. Dad wrote him to attempt to correct him stating that some crime had to be due to inherited cause. Mr. Darrow returned his letter with, "You can't say that unless you can prove it." Dad invited Mr. Darrow to visit and he, dad would take Mr. Darrow on a trip visiting institutions and villages where there were mentally retarded with retarded children. Mother and Dad and Clarence and Ruby Darrow spent a week touring and visiting examples. I was intrigued by my father's admiration of the old lawyer. I would sit on his knee and listen to stories he would tell. He wore suspenders, was over weight, had deep wrinkles on his face and was the warmest old man I had ever known. I think it was in 1930 that we had moved into our new home in Orange when Mr. Darrow came to visit. He sat across the dinner table from my sister and me. My father had always said a blessing before every meal and said his usual one before that meal. Mr. Darrow turned to dad and said, "Leon, why do you continue with that nonsense?" I was outraged. To think that old man would eat of our depression meal with us and criticise my father who was my hero. Asking why we had no blessing from that time on Dad explained that Mr. Darrow had ideas about religion that differed from most and that he and my Mother had decided that I should wait until I was older when I could decide for myself about religion. That was the foundation that led me to consider many of the beliefs held by so many and to come to the conclusion that they are all man made and not one seemed to me to be useful to this day. Many months later Mr. Darrow asked if my parents would meet him at the New Haven railroad station and drive him to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. where he was to deliver a lecture. When they arrived the hall was packed and my folks were told they could not be admitted. Mr. Darrow said, "If the Whitneys are not admitted I will not talk," Of course they were admitted and it was at that lecture that Mr. Darrow said that after a lifetime of proclaiming that all crime was due to environmental causes he had changed his mind and that he was convinced that heredity was also involved. For a person of his stature to admit being wrong as Mr Darrow had done was a tribute to his intellectualism. Mr. Darrow spent the night with us but had to return to Chicago because he had made an agreement with Harry Houdini that yearly on a given day the survivor of the two would be present at a point on a lagoon in Chicago where if it was possible to return after death he would somehow demonstrate it. Mr. Darrow had honored that agreement and left us to return to Chicago.
Many years would pass when one day one of my clients, a Mrs. Howard Parker of Westport told of a statement on the inside of a shed door behind her house of a statement signed by Harry Houdini that if it was possible for the dead to return he would come to that place.

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