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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Poole Bills

by Jerry Leath Mills, 2006; Revised by SLNC Government and Heritage Library, September 2023

See also: Teaching of Evolution

The Poole Bills, also called "Poole Monkey Bills," were a series of attempts in the 1920s by General Assembly member D. Scott Poole to outlaw the teaching of evolution in state-supported schools. If the Poole Bill were passed, it would have required that all teachers in the state sign a pledge stating that they believed "in the being of Almighty God" and ensured a prison sentence for any teacher convicted of teaching evolution in a state school. 

Inspired by actions of the Tennessee legislature that precipitated the infamous Scopes Trial of 1920, and backed by fundamentalist forces centered around a committee of 100 churchmen of the North Carolina Presbyterian Synod, Poole introduced his first bill in 1925 and saw it defeated by a narrow margin. In February 1927 Poole's bill was reintroduced and defeated in committee by a margin of 25 to 11 after a rousing speech by Paul J. Ranson, a law student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Victory for the bill's opponents was widely attributed to some presentations and debates in Charlotte sponsored by former students of Horace Williams (1858-1940), the controversial philosophy professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Additional Resources:

The Evolution Controversy in North Carolina in the 1920's, UNC Libraries:

Primary Sources:



“Will Compromise Bill on Evolution Be Introduced?” The Concord Daily Tribune, February 4, 1927. 

Linder, Suzanne Cameron. “William Louis Poteat and the Evolution Controversy." The North Carolina Historical Review 40, no. 2 (1963): 135–57.