THE YOUNGEST REPORTER AT THE SCOPES TRIAL

October 17, 1960

Mr. Albert Morehead
1977 Broadway
New York 23, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Morehead:

When we had the 35th anniversary of the Scopes Trial at Dayton last July 21, Adolph Shelby Ochs and Earl Shaub and I tried to determine who was the youngest reporter there.

I thought it was Mr. Ochs but he believes it was you. I was 27 and Bill Hutchison was a year younger.

Now Mr. Ochs says he wants to present a suitable trophy inscribed by the present mayor of Dayton to the youngest living reporter and he says for me to get in touch with you.

Shaub, who is the director of information for the state of Tennessee and who really started the whole damned thing when he was with me in the Hearst organization in N.Y., and I are trying to write the true story of this greatest of "hot weather" stories. We have some precious and hilarious material but the SatEvePost turned us down because they thought the edge was taken off by this off-beat "Inherit the Wind" picture which is just being released. May try the Newyorker or get it done in paper-back. Both Shaub and I do pieces for them occasionally.

Please write me about the juvenile reporter angle.

Sincerely,

Robert K. Kyle

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November 1, 1960

Dear Mr. Kyle:

I didn't know it before receiving your letter, or maybe I hadn't thought of it, but I suppose I would win hands down. [The Adolph Shelby Ochs Dayton-Scopes trophy]

I was just barely sixteen at the Scopes trial. True, I was six feet one and a half, but I had so much trouble making it look as if I had shaved that I think I seriously considered sprinkling pepper on my face.

Nevertheless I was a veteran. I went to work for the Lexington Herald, in Kentucky, in February 1922 when I was in high school and not quite fourteen. I covered high-school sports and wrote a regular column (with poetry!) on big-league baseball, of which I had seen perhaps half-a-dozen games, all in Cincinnati, plus a few barnstorming games. They gave me a by-line on my high-school stories, almost invariably misspelling my name, but put a pseudonym on my column. The pseudonym was SCRIBE.

The publisher and editor of the Herald was Desha Breckenridge, who perhaps lives in journalistic history partly or chiefly because his name was pronounced de-SHAY. He paid me $3 a week.

I worked for the Herald until May 1923 and that spring I was permitted to cover also the Transylvania baseball games but not University of Kentucky. I think I must have averaged payment of 40 cents per column during those fourteen or fifteen months.

When my father died and we moved back to my mother's home town, Chattanooga, in May 1923, I applied to The Times for a job and I was hired by Harry Adler, the general manager, who was Adolph Shelby Och's uncle-in-law. Mr. Adler gave me $8 a week! I don't remember whether or not I lied to him about how much I had been making in Lexington, but if I did lie I am sure it was because I was unwilling to admit I had been getting so little, not because I wanted to con him. As with the Herald, I would gladly have worked free or even paid for this privilege.

At that time Mr. Ochs had just returned to Chattanooga to be managing editor. It never occurred to me that the next-youngest Times reporter, whose name was Douglas Warrenfels, was very young. He was seventeen and a half. Or at least he said he was.

Anyway, young though he may have been, Mr. Ochs taught me more about newspaper work than all the dozens of others before and since and if somebody is going to give somebody a trophy I ought to give one to him.

At the Scopes trial I was at an impressionable age, my job was to write the "color" paragraphs, and my memory is pretty good in general, so if you write about it and I can be helpful in any way — free, of course — let me know. I wasn't very good at writing the color paragraphs and I hadn't yet learned that they can be faked, but when I see some of the ones that appeared in other papers I'm good at remembering if they weren't so. I was there every minute of every day and nearly every night, including part of the time before and after.

A few years ago, when "A Night to Remember" and other books of the kind began to be so successful, I asked a couple of publishers what they thought of doing a book on the Scopes trial and they didn't seem to like the idea much. That was before "Inherit the Wind." Just recently the publisher I write for chiefly, New American Library, brought out such a book — Ginger's; if you haven't seen it let me know and I'll send you copies. I read it objectively because I have so much regular work that I couldn't even have done the book if some publisher had said "Yes" when I did suggest it. I think Ginger did a remarkably good job considering the fact that he did it all from research. However, like the authors of "Inherit the Wind" he wanted to believe and so made himself believe that Bryan felt himself defeated by Darrow and died of chagrin. I was there and I didn't get any such impression. The play was almost a total distortion, of course.

Oddly enough, I seem to notice chiefly the little discrepancies. For example, I can't remember a single time when Bryan crossed the line of the center aisle over to the defense side. He is so pictured on the cover of the New American Library book. In the play, they sing a hymn called "Gimme That Old Time Religion." The authors probably got that out of a movie about Sergeant York. In East Tennessee we sing "It's That Old Time Religion." And so on.

Now I must apologize for all of this. I can get wound up on those times and I can't stop talking. One thing I'm sure of is that I shouldn't get a trophy. But thanks for summoning up all these pleasant ghosts for me.  

Sincerely,  

Albert Morehead  

Mr. Robert Kyle
Culver, Indiana