Poole Bill and Anti-Evolution Fervor
On February 19, 1925, the North Carolina House defeated the Poole anti-evolution resolution. The resolution, introduced by D. Scott Poole of Hoke County, proposed that it was harmful to the welfare of the citizens for “Darwinism or any other evolutionary hypotheses” to be taught in the schools.
In January 1924, Governor Cameron Morrison denounced two high school textbooks for their inclusion of evolution. Poole’s resolution sought to keep all such lessons out of the state’s classrooms. William Louis Poteat, a former biology professor, president of Wake Forest College and a devout Baptist, believed that evolution demonstrated the “divine method of creation.” He became one of the outspoken advocates for keeping it in the curriculum.
Although the House appeared to be quite divided on the issue, when it was put to a vote, the resolution was defeated by the comfortable margin of 67 to 46.
The evolution debate received national attention just a few months later during the Tennessee case that has come to be known as the Scopes “Monkey Trial.” The case was in response to a Tennessee law that was similar to the one that was defeated in North Carolina.
A great overview of the evolution debate in the 1920s in North Carolina from UNC Libraries.