Copyright notice

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.

Is anything in this article factually incorrect? Please submit a comment.

Printer-friendly page

Poole Bills

by Jerry Leath Mills, 2006

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 1925, 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. Ryan, 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.



The Scopes Trial was in 1925, not 1920. Please at least get the basics right. And it wasn't Paul J. Ryan, it was Ranson. These are high school errors in a supposedly scholarly encyclopedia.


Thank you for pointing this out. 

This comes from a published source and I will be sure to let NCpedia editors know of the errors. 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


I enjoy your commentary. It has been helpful with my studies.

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at