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Full text of "The Leo Frank Case PhD Thesis Dissertation by Leonard Dinnerstein"

67-790 



DINNERSTEIN, Leonard, 1934- 
THE LEO FRANK CASE. 

Columbia University, Ph.D., 1966 
History, modern 



University Microfilms, Inc., Ann Arbor. Michigan 



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(5) LEONARD DINNERSTEIN 1967 
All Rights Reserved 



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THE LEO FRANK CASE 



by 



Leonard Dinnerstein 



Submitted in partial fulfillment of the 
requirements for the degree of Doctor 
of Philosophy, in the Faculty of Political 
Spience, Columbia University 



1966 



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THE LEO FRANK CASE 

Leonard Dinnerstein, Ph. D. 
Colombia University, 1966 

The Leo Frank case highlights the problems of a society in transition. 
At the beginning of the twentieth century rural Georgians migrated to Atlanta 
to enjoy the heralded advantages of industrialization. To their chagrin 
they found harsh working conditions and squalid living quarters. Southern 
traditions, which glorified the Anglo-Saxon Protestant heritage, and the 
bitter memories of the Lost Cause, complicated the newcomers * reactions 
to urban life. Unable to retaliate against the industrialists whose colossal 
indifference caused them many hardships, the new urbanites vented their pent- 
up aggresssions upon Negroes and other vulnerable ethnic groups. It is 
against this background that the Frank case has been explored. 

In 1913 the bruised body of a thirteen-year-old girl was found in the 
basement of the factory where she had been employed. Her employer, Leo 
Frank, a Jew from New York City, was the last person to admit having seen 
her alive. The police, who had been under pressure because of previous 
failures, found flaws in Frank's story and arrested him. As a northern, 
Jewish, industrialist, Frank also symbolized the evils Southerners felt 
had been inflicted upon them. The Atlanta newspapers further aggravated 
Frank 1 s plight, and intensified public antagonism towards him, by publishing 
careless headlines and tales of sexual immorality,, 

Frank was tried in a hostile atmosphere devoid of the safeguards civil 
libertarians consider mandatory today. Courtroom spectators applauded the 
prosecuting attorney, crowds outside of the building vociferously expressed 
their views in voices loud enough to punctuate the judicial proceedings, and 
the presiding judge, fearing for the defendant's safety, advised hijn to remain 
away from the court when the jury rendered its verdict. At the conclusion of 
the trial the jury found Frank guilty, and the judge sentenced him to hang. 

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After Frank's conviction some of his friends appealed to northern 
Jews for assistance. On the basis of the information received, the 
northerners concluded that an "American Dreyfus" affair had occured, and 
inaugurated a campaign for a new trial. Infuriated Georgians misinterpreted 
these efforts as an attempt to corrupt the judicial process. Tom Watson, 
the former Populist, became the spokesman for this group when he launched a 
series of articles lumping the defenders of Frank with those wealthy business 
interests whose actions in the past had subverted the principles of Southern life, 

Frank's lawyers appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court for a reversal 
of the decision, and ultimately to the United States Supreme Court. In 
each court the justices turned down the requests for vindication on the 
grounds that proper procedures had been adhered to in the original trial. 
After all court action had failed, the Governor of Georgia, who had access 
to additional information tending to exonerate Frank, commuted the sentence 
to life imprisonment. A few weeks later a band of men stormed the prison, 
kidnapped Frank, and lynched him. 

The Frank case dramatized the reactions of those Southerners who 
revolted against the injustices of industrialism. Unfortunately, they 
seized upon one individual to pay for all of the crimes, real or fancied, 
which they believed had been inflicted upon them by northerners, industrialists, 
and Jews. This study is also significant for its treatment of the leading 
members of a defensive minority group who viewed the Frank case as an omen 
for the future of American Jewry. And finally, the dissertation indicates 
the primitive development of civil liberties in the early part of the 
twentieth century. For Iso Frank was victimized both by the passions of 
infuriated mobs and the myopic views expressed by some of the nation's 
leading jurists concerning due process of law. 



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ACKNOWLEDGMENT 

I wish to thank James Marshall and the Marshall 
family for permission to use the Louis Marshall Papers 
deposited at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, 



ii 



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TABLE OF CONTENTS 

Page 

ACKNOWLEDGMENT ii 

Chapter 

I. BACKGPOUND FOR MURDER 1 

II. THE MURDER OF MARY PHAGAN 28 

III. PREJUDICE AND PERJURY 88 

IV. AN AMERICAN DREYFUS 121 

V. THE FIRST APPEAL .... * 136 

VI. ENTER TOM WATSON . . . AND WILLIAM J. BURNS. . . 147 

VII. WISDOM WITHOUT JUSTICE 187 

VIII. COMMUTATION 201 

IX. VIGILANTE JUSTICE 242 

AFTERMATH 262 

APPENDIXES: 

A. JIM CONLEY'S LETTERS TO ANNIE MAUD CARTER . . . 293 

B. "THE BALLAD OF MARY PHAGAN" 305 

C. FREEMAN'S TALE 308 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 312 



iii 



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CHAPTER I 

BACKGROUND FOR MURDER 

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Atlanta 
was suffering from the throes of industrialization. Rural 

migration had sent the city's population soaring from 89,872 

1 
in 1900 to 173,713 in 1913. Positive attributes of growth, 

such as expanded business activity, which brought recogni- 
tion to Atlanta as a leading regional business center, were 
inseparable from the evils of industrial exploitation. Fes- 
tering slums, organized vice, and high crime rates virtually 
unknown a generation earlier, plagued municipal officials. 

Most of the newer residents of Atlanta originated in 
rural Georgia. These people had learned to expect, and in 
some measure to cope with, poverty and suffering in their 

agrarian milieu. But many "found it impossible to make a 

2 

quick and easy adjustment to the system of urban values." 

The reason for this may have been that, difficult as rural 
life was, it provided traditional social guide posts * But 



The Atlanta Constitution, January 18, 1915, p. 1; 



cited hereafter as AC. 
2 



William D. Miller, Memphis During the Progressive 
Era, 1900-1917 (Memphis, 1957), p. 8. 



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the city undermined the strong family and community ties 
which had characterized the past. 

Working conditions in Atlanta compared unfavorably 
with those in other parts of the country. Despite a periodic 
shortage of workers, factory wages were low and hours long. 
The normal work week lasted sixty-six hours and except for 
Saturday, the working day generally extended from 6 a.m. to 
6 p.m., with only a half hour for lunch. In 1914, there 
were children working in Atlanta for as little as 22 <: a week. 
According to an official of the National child Labor League, 
Georgia did not even have the semblance of factory inspec- 
tion and employers openly violated existing child labor laws 
prohibiting employment of minors under ten. 



1 
A United States government survey reported in 1910 
that 90 percent of the children in Georgia earned less than 
$6 a week. U.S., Congress, Senate, Report on Conditions of 
Woman and Child Wage-Earners in the United States, 61st Cong., 
2d Sess., 1910, Senate Document #645, Serial #5685, I, 310; 
"Dixie Conditions stir Unionists — Description of Actual 
State of Atlanta Textile Workers Make Delegates Weep, " The 
Textile Worker. Ill (December, 1914), 21. The cost of living 
in 1913, in Atlanta, was the second highest in the nation 
(Boston was first) , and wages lagged behind those paid in 
the northern cities, The Atlanta Journal, September 17, 1913, 
p. 1; cited hereafter as AJ. See also w. J. cash, The Mind 
of the south (New York, 1941), p. 247. C. Vann Woodward re- 
ported that in 1912 and 1913 hourly earnings in New England 
averaged 37 percent above those in the South. Origins of 
the New South (Baton Rouge, 1951), pp. 420-21. U.S., Report 
of the Industrial Commission , 1901, VII, 56, 57. A few 



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Living conditions in Atlanta compounded the difficul- 
ties of its residents and seriously threatened their health. 
In their squalid factory slums, the laborers, mostly white 
tenant farmers who had come to the city in an attempt to im- 
prove upon their wretched lives on the farm, suffered from 
hunger and destitution. In 1908, fifty thousand persons, or 
approximately one-third of Atlanta 1 s population, lived with- 
out water mains or sewers and used well water and surface 
closets. In 1911, more than half of the white school chil- 
dren, and slightly under three-quarters of the Negro school 
children, suffered from malnutrition, anaemia, enlarged 
glands, and heart disease. The United Textile Workers Union 
complained in 1914 that far too many Atlanta children fell 
victim to pellagra — a disease without a known cure at that 
time. The death rate in the city was appalling. A United 
States census report for 1905 noted that of three hundred 
eighty-eight cities in this country, only twelve had a higher 
death rate than Atlanta. The requests for welfare, which 



years later the U.S. Senate's Report on . . . Wage-Earners . . . 
noted that the average work week in Georgia cotton mills in 
1908 was 64 hours which was longer than that in Virginia, 
North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi. 
Of the thirty-one establishments that the Commission investi- 
gated, sixteen had a sixty-six hour week; forty minutes was 
the average lunch time, p. 261. A. J. McKelway, "Child 
Labor in the South," The Annals , XXXV j[ January, 1910), 163. 



/ 



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also reflected the city's poverty, increased sharply between 
1910 and 1913. Atlanta's Journal of Labor noted that it had 
received 2,000 calls for help in 1910, 4,000 in 1911, 5,000 
in 1912, "and the gloomy forecast presents itself that the 
winter of 1913-1914 will establish a new record in this re- 
spect." The Atlanta relief warden succinctly summarized the 

situation by stating that there were "too many people on the 

1 
ragged edge of poverty and suffering." 

The crime rate in Atlanta highlighted the stresses 
of the new urbanites. In 1906, a demoniac race riot, in- 
cited by a gubernatorial campaign with strong appeals to 
prejudice, and the reports of sensational newspapers which 

exaggerated stories of alleged Negro assaults upon white 

2 
women, attracted national attention. A year before that, 



Lenora Beck Ellis, "A New Class of Labor in the 
South," Forum , XXXI (May, 1901), 307; S. A. Hamilton, "The 
New Race Question in the South," Arena, XXVII (April, 1902), 
356; C. Vann Woodward, Tom Watson; Agrarian Rebel (New York, 
1938), pp. 219, 223-24, 418; Edmund De S. Brunner, Church 
Life in the Rural South (New York, 1923), p. 21; Annual Re- 
port of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, 1909, p. 5; The 
Textile Worker , III (December, 1914), 21; The Journal of 
Labor, XV (November 7, 1913), 4; Report of the Comptroller 
of the City of Atlanta, For the Year Ending 1911 , pp. 15, 16, 
20, 32, 41, 42; U.S. Bureau of the Census, General Statis- 
tics of Cities; 1909 , pp. 88, 148. 

2 
Dewey W. Grantham, Jr., Hoke Smith and the Politics 

of the New South (Baton Rouge, 1958), pp. 149, 150, 178; 



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Atlanta had arrested more children for disturbing the peace 
than any other city in the country. In 1907, only New York, 
Chicago, and Baltimore, cities with considerably larger 
populations, exceeded Atlanta's figure for children arrested. 
In 1905 the Atlanta police arrested 17,000 persons out of a 
total population of 115,000, and the following year arrested 
22,000. These figures more than tripled the number in New 
Orleans, although that city had twice Atlanta's population. 
More than two-thirds of those arrested were guilty of dis- 
orderly conduct and drunkenness. 

The city police force proved unable to cope with the 
new problems thrust upon it. In fact, at times, the policemen 



Woodward, Tom Watson , pp. 374-78; Glenn Weddington Rainey, 
"The Race Riot of 1906 in Atlanta" (unpublished Master's 
thesis, Department of History, Emory University, 1929), chap, 
5 (no pagination); Ray Stannard Baker, "Following the Color 
Line," The American Magazine , LXIII (April, 1907), 563, 569. 

1 
U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistics of Cities for 

1905 , p. 324; Statistics of Cities; 1907 , pp. 102, 107, 410, 

I have been unable to find an exact census of Negroes in 

Atlanta for 1905. The census of 1900 listed 45,532 Negroes 

residing in Fulton County (Atlanta comprised 85 percent of 

the county) and the census of 1910 listed the figure as 

57,985. I assume, therefore, that Atlanta had about 50,000 

Negroes in 1905* Similarly, I have not found a breakdown 

between the number of whites and Negroes arrested in Atlanta 

in 1905. But according to the census of 1910, 9,717 Negroes 

were committed to prison in Georgia that year, against 

2,684 whites. This means that the punishment rate for 

Negroes was about 4.4 times greater than that of whites for 

that year. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Negro Population , 

1790-1915 (Washington, 1918), pp. 437, 779. 



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went to irrational extremes in attempting to cope with cer- 
tain difficulties. On one occasion, when Atlanta experienced 
a labor shortage, the police attempted to rectify the condi- 
tion by arresting all able-bodied men found on one of the 
main streets. Employed and unemployed, black and white, 
were hauled into court, fined, and sentenced to the stockade 
without being given a chance to defend themselves. One man 
so punished had been in the city for only three days. 
Neither relatives nor employers were notified of the round- 
up or the sentencings. According to one observer, the police- 
men also acted with brutality. In 1909, they allegedly beat 
one Negro to death and chained a white girl to the wall 
until she frothed at the mouth. In 1910, a commission in- 
vestigating prison conditions in the city uncovered "stories 

1 
too horrible to be told in print." 

The pathological conditions in the city menaced the 

home, the state, the schools, the churches, and, in the 

words of a contemporary Southern sociologist, the "wholesome 



1 
Hugh C. Weir, "The Menace of the Police: II. 03ie 

Bully in the Blue Uniform, " World To-Day , XVIII (1910) , 

174; Philip Weltner, "Municipal and Misdemeanor Offenders, " 

The Call of the New South , ed. James E. Mcculloch (Hash- 

ville, 1912), pp. 110, 111. 



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1 

industrial life." The institutions of the city were obvi- 
ously still unfit to cope with urban problems. Against this 
background, the murder of a young girl in 1913 triggered a 
violent reaction of mass aggression, hysteria, and prejudice. 



To understand why this incident led to an emotional 
explosion, one must first explore the Southern heritage. 
Traditionally, the people in the South have feared and op- 
posed change. Thwarted in their attempt to maintain a slave- 
based economy, frequently poverty-stricken, and often cora- 
plusive in defending established institutions , they devel- 
oped a strong in-group loyalty which at times manifested 
itself in paranoic suspicion of outsiders. They clung to 
ante-bellum memories and despite the northern-imposed aboli- 
tion of slavery, the ways of the Old South stubbornly resisted 
the encroachment of industrialism. 

To some extent, the South had always existed as a 

fairly hermetic community, united by similar racial and re- 

2 
ligious backgrounds. In colonial times, its penchant for 



1 
G. W. Dyer, "Southern Problems That Challenge Our 

Thought," The Call of the New South , p. 27. 

2 
Except for Louisiana, most of the Southern states 

were peopled by immigrants from England, Scotland, Ireland, 

and French Protestants. 



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8 

conformity compelled state legislatures to establish a tax- 
supported church, and in some cases political restrictions 
on non-Protestants. But with the American Revolution, many 
of the religious proscriptions were altered, or abolished, 
and for perhaps half a century, from 'the Revolution to ap- 
proximately the Jacksonian era, the outlook of the South 
corresponded, in broad terms, with that of the North and 
West. 

With the beginnings of the slavery controversy, how- 
ever, compulsions toward a closed society came to the sur- 
face, and became the most dominant regional characteristic. 
The attack upon slavery was interpreted as a dagger at the 
heart of the South. Beginning with the 1830' s, all "true 
Southerners" were expected to conform to the mores of their 
society. In effect this meant the defense of slavery, the 
idolization of women, the profession of religious orthodoxy, 
and the cherishing of an Anglo-Saxon heritage. Uniformity 
of belief pervaded the region, and resulted in a sterile, 
backward outlook upon life. Any changes which threatened 
the status quo were automatically objected to; it was widely 
felt that the whole house would collapse if any of its under- 
pinnings broke. 

After the Civil War, the leaders of the New South — 



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9 
the railroad magnates and owners of cotton mills and fac- 
tories — earnestly endeavored to build an industrial commun- 
ity patterned after the North. To accomplish their purpose 
these leaders departed from past policies. The immigration 
of foreign white labor, they hoped, would fill the factory 
positions and help the area prosper. Southern state govern- 
ments, therefore, established immigration bureaus in the 

2 

hope of attracting Northern Eurppean settlers. The Atlanta 

Constitution explained that the Georgia Immigrant Associa- 
tion wanted only the "Best Type" of immigrant. "Best Type" 
euphemistically meant Northern European stock and not "the 
lower-^plass foreigners who have swarmed into northern cities." 
Manufacturers Record , a major Southern business publication 
which frequently spoke out on the South 1 s immigrant need, 
stated the position more succinctly: "the South will have 
human sewage under no consideration." The Southern experi- 
ment proved abortive, however, since few "desirable" immi- 
grants came, and on at least one occasion "carefully 
selected Northwest Europeans" turned out to be natives 



1 
Woodward, Origins of the New South , pp. 144-54, 

passim . 

2 

Robert De Courcy Ward, "Immigration and the South," 

The Atlantic Monthly , XCVI (November, 1905), 611. See also 
AC, February 20, 1907, p. 1. 



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10 
of Southern Europe. 

Disillusionment with the type of foreigners arriving 
killed the state government programs for selective immigra- 
tion. Except for the New South' s champions, the people wel- 
comed an end to the policy of encouraging settlers. By the 
onset of Woodrow Wilson's administration, in 1913, Southern 

Congressmen were practically unanimous in their opposition to 

2 

immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. 



Between 1880 and 1915 Italians and Jews outnumbered 
all other Southern and Eastern Europeans entering this coun- 
try. Several Italian settlements were established in the 
South during the 1890' s and invariably suffered local harass- 
ment. Nineteen Italians were lynched in Louisiana during 
the decade because they seemed to fraternize with Negroes 



John Higham, Strangers in the Land (New Brunswick, 
1955), p. 113; Walter L. Fleming, "Immigration to the South- 
ern States," Political Science Quarterly, XX (June, 1905), 
282, 290; AC, February 20, 1907, p. 3; "Phases of Immigra- 
tion," Manufacturers' Record , XLVII (June 15, 1905), 497; 
The Independent , XI (August 17, 1911), 385. 

2 

"Grantham, op. cit ., p. 157; Joseph D. Herzog, "The 

Emergence of the Anti-Jewish Stereotype in the United States" 

(unpublished thesis, Hebrew Union College, 1953), p. 42; 

Roland T* Berthoff , "Southern Attitudes Toward Immigration, " 

The Journal of Southern History , XVII (August, 1951), 360. 



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11 

and because many Southerners regarded them as just "another 
inferior race to be disciplined." Czechs and Slovaks also 
had difficulty in the South. Forty years after they had es- 
tablished a colony south of Petersburg, Virginia, the 

2 

"natives 11 still remained unreconciled to their presence. 

Jews, on the other hand, had been in the South since 
colonial times. Southern attitudes toward them had been an 
amalgam of affection, tolerance, curiosity, suspicion, and 
rejection. These views, which for the most part character- 
ized Northerners also, might come to the fore singly, and in 
combination, on different occasions. What complicated the 
expression of these feelings, however, was the traditional 
Southern antipathy to those whose behavior and origins dif- 
fered, even slightly, from those of the dominant group of 
white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. During periods of relative 
calm Jews suffered no harm; during periods of stress, though, 
ancient, and relatively unconscious antagonisms became more 



Higham, Strangers in the Land , p. 169; Berthoff, 
op. cit ., pp. 343-44. The lynchings created an international 
incident and President Benjamin Harris even found it neces- 
sary to comment upon them in his State of the Union address 
to Congress in 1891. Charles H. Watson, "Need of Federal 
Legislation in Respect to Mob Violence in Cases of Lynching 
of Aliens," Yale Law Journal , XXV (1916), 569, 577, 578; see 
also "Southern Peonage and Immigration, " The Nation , LXXXV 
(December 19, 1907), 557. 

2 
Berthoff, op . cit « , p. 344. 



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12 
marked. Since there were always periods of difficulty for 
some groups, some degree of anti-Semitism appeared in each 
era. But during the great spasms of society, Jews were 
often pointed to as the source of the troubles. 

Some prejudice toward Jews existed in the American 
colonies but there did not seem to be much difference be- 
tween the North and the South. Although voting privileges 
were generally restricted to Protestants, the Jews, in fact, 
occupied a relatively high status in colonial times. Merle 
Curti has attributed this M to the fact that they contributed 
to commercial prosperity. . . . The jealousy frequently 
occasioned by such success was offset in part by the common 

assumption in a rapidly expanding economy that there was 

1 
room for everyone to get ahead." Later on, after most of 

the political disabilities had been abolished, the Jews in 
this country still comprised an infinitesimal percentage of 
the population, and until the Civil War, were not subjected 
to any organized persecution. 

Since the main problem of the ante-bellum South re- 
volved around slavery, Jews did not loom as a threat because 
in their quest for amalgamation, they had accepted the 



Merle Curti, The Growth of American Thought (New 
York, 1943), p. 51. 



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13 

institution of slavery. At one point, this was, indeed, the 
test of a true Southerner. Thus Jews could rise to the 
highest positions in the South and ofterr did. A South Caro- 
lina Jew served as Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court 
before the Civil War and his son served as Gover;>ox of the 
state after the war. Florida sent David Yulee to the Senate 
in 1845 and eight years later Louisiana elected Judah P. 
Benjamin to the same office. During the Civil War, not only 
did Benjamin serve as Confederate Secretary of State, but 
the Quartermaster-General, the Surgeon-General, several 
Congressmen and other high Confederate officials were Jews* 
Jews also participated in the professional and com- 
mercial life of the region with no restrictions. In Atlanta, 
for example, a Jew founded the city's largest department 
store, and Abraham Cahan, editor of a prominent New York 
City Yiddish language newspaper in the early part of the 
twentieth century, noted that it was fairly common for the 

large Southern law firms to have both Jewish and Gentile 

2 
partners . 



Lawrence H. Fuchs, The Political Behavior of Ameri- 
can Jews (Glencoe, 111., 1956), pp. 37-40; Alfred O. Hero, Jr., 
The Southerner and World Affairs (Baton Rouge, 1965), p. 494. 
Hero has an excellent historical discussion in his chapter, 
"Southern Jews." See also, Bernard Postal, "Jews in the Ku 
Klux Klan, " The Jewish Tribune , XCIII (September 14, 1928), 60. 

2 
Henry Givens Baker, Rich's of Atlanta (Atlanta, 1953) , 

p. 225. Abraham Cahan, Blatter Von Meln Lebon (5 vols.; New 



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14 

In spite of the accomplishments of individuals, how- 
ever, Jews, as a group, were thought of as having peculiar 
characteristics and made to feel different from other 
Southerners. During the Jacksonian era, for example, Jews 
were considered "rebels against God's purpose," and many a 
Southern Christian mother lulled her children to sleep with 
fables of Jewish vices. In one popular nursery rhyme, "The 
Jew's Daughter" enticed a young Gentile boy into her home, 
"where no one would hear his call": 

She sat him on a chair of gold 
And gave him sugar sweet 
She laid him on the dresser 
And killed him like a sheep. 

An incident concerning the sale of a slave girl to a Jewish 

woman in 1859 reveals the prevalent Judaephobic attitudes. 

On the day the slave was to be sent to her new mistress she 

disappeared. After a long search, her master found the 

child hiding under a bed. When queried about her actions, 

the girl pleaded that she did not want to be sold to a Jew. 

"I don't want to go to live with Miss Isaacs," the youngster 

explained. "Miss Isaacs is a Jew; an if the jews kill the 



York, 1931), V, 353. (My father, Abraham Dinner stein, 
translated this for me from the Yiddish.) 



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15 

Lord and Master, what won't they do to a poor little nigger 

1 
like me." 

During the Civil War southern Jews aroused "pronounced 
anti-Semitic sentiment" for the first time. They were accused 
of being "merciless speculators, army slackers, and blockade- 
runners across the land frontiers to the North." Judah P. 
Benjamin, the Jewish Secretary of State in the Confederacy, 
remained a popular target throughout the war. Almost every 
one of his political enemies referred to his religion when 
attacking him and one critic applied the sobriquet, "Judas 
Iscariot Benjamin." Denunciation of Jewish merchants was a 
common practice in many towns of- Georgia and the Southern 
Illustrated News observed, "all that the Jew possesses is a 

plentiful lot of money, together with the scorn of the 

2 
world." 



John Higham, "Social Discrimination Against Jews in 
America, 1830-1930," Publications of the American Jewish His- 
torical Society, XLVII (1957-1958), 4; Nina Morals, "Jewish 
Ostracism in America, " The North American Review , XCCCIII 
(1881), 271; "The Jew's Daughter," Journal of American Folk- 
lore, XV (1902), 196. See also ibid ., XIX (1906), 293-94; 
XXIX (1916), 166; XXV (1922), 344; and XXXIX (1926), 93-94. 
Harper's New Monthly Magazine, XIX (1859), 860. 

2 
E. Merton Coulter, The Confederate states of America 

(Baton Rouge, 1950), p. 226; Eaton, Freedom of Thought in the 

Old South, p. 233; Bertram Wallace Korn, American Jewry and 

the Civil War (Philadelphia, 1951), pp. 158, 177, 179; Rudolph 

Glanz, The Jew in the Old American Folklore (New York, 1961), 

p. 54. 



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16 

In some quarters of the South, after the Civil War, 
Jews were considered worthy members of society. This opinion 
prevailed, primarily, among those who wished for commercial 
growth and those who wished to imitate northern industrial 
accomplishments. Hence one newspaper editor hailed their 
presence "as an auspicious sign." "Where there are no Jews," 
the newspaperman observed, "there is no money to be made." 
Another newspaper noted that "a sober, steadier, and more 

industrious and law abiding class of population . . . [does] 

1 
not exist." In 1900, a leading Atlanta merchant was held 

up as "a typical exponent of the characteristics of his race 

[who] has happily exemplified that spirit and progressive 

enterprise for which his people are noted all over the 

2 
world." 

jews also occupied a unique social status in the 

South. One peddler recalled that the Christians he dealt 

with held him in special regard. Frequently asked about the 

Bible, he was often required to settle religious disputes 

"because I was a Jew and they all looked upon me as an 

authority." He also noted that some rural Southerners were 



E. Merton Coulter, T?he South During Reconstruction 
(Baton Rouge, 1947), p. 203. 

2 
Baker, op. cit ., p. 225. 



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17 
so backward that they considered him as some sort of Chris- 
tian. "I remember well, " he reminisced, "being asked time 
and again 'Are you a Baptist Jew or a Methodist Jew? ■ " And 
Harry Golden, who has insisted that the South has a tradi- 
tion of philo-semitism, wrote that in the rural South people 
held the Jewish population almost as a private possession: 
"He is 'our Jew' to small-town Southerners, and they often 
take care of him with a zeal and devotion otherwise bestowed 
only on the Confederate monument in the square . " 

But the very Jewish differences which allegedly at- 
tracted Southerners also made Jews the object of hostility, 
especially in times of strife. The causes of the anti- 
Semitic attitude are so complex that studies by scholars in 
various disciplines have resulted in numerous and sometimes 
completely divergent conclusions. The overwhelming number 

of commentators have traced the roots of the difficulty to 

2 
economic and social crises. Elias Rivkin, an American 



Harry Golden, Forgotten Pioneer (Cleveland, 1963) , 
pp. 66-67; Golden, A Little Girl Is Dead (Cleveland, 1965), 
p. 226; Golden, "Jew and Gentile in the New South: Segrega- 
tion at Sundown," Commentary , XX (November, 1S55) , 403-404. 

2 
Oscar Handlin, Adventure in Freedom (New York, 

1954), p. 184; Handlin, "American Views of the Jew at the 

Opening of the Twentieth Century, " Publications of the 

American Jewish Historical Society, XL (June, 1951), 329; 

Ernst Siramel, "Anti-Semitism and Mass Pathology, " in 



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18 
Jewish scholar, succinctly summarized this point of view 
when he wrote that in the United States "at every moment of 
economic or social crises, especially since the 1890' s, anti- 
Semitism has manifested itself. This anti-Semitism more and 

more linked the Jews with the sources of disintegration and 

1 
decay. ..." Those investigating the phenomenon from a psy- 
choanalytical point of view see the negative feelings to- 
wards Jews as a facet of a personality disorder. Otto 
Fenichel, the psychoanalyst, has attributed anti-Semitism to 
the displacement of unconscious instincts, and Bruno Bettel- 
heim, following along the same path, has ascribed the 



Anti-Semitism; A Social Disease (New York, 1946), pp. 43-44; 
Werner J. Cahnman, "Socio -Economic Causes of Antisemitism, " 
Social Problems, V (July, 1957), 24; David W. Petegorsky, 
"The Strategy of Hatred," The Antioch Review , I (September, 
1941) , 376; Rudolph M. Loewenstein, "The Historical and Cul- 
tural Roots of Anti-Semitism, " Psychoanalysis and the Social 
Sciences , I (1947), 532, 535; Howard M. Sachar, The Course 
of Modern Jewish History (Cleveland, 1958), p. 339; David 
Riesman, "The Politics of Persecution, " Public Opinion Quar- 
terly, VI (Spring, 1942), 25; Gorham Munson, "Anti-Semitism: 
A Poverty Problem," Christian Century, LVI (October 4, 1939); 
200; Selma G. Hirsch, The Fears Men Live By (New York, 1955), 
pp. 68, 70; Miriam Beard, "Anti-Semitism — Product of Economic 
Myths," in Jews in a Gentile World , edited by Isaque Graeber 
and Stewart Henderson Britt (New York, 1942), p. 392; Isaac 
A. Hourwicih, "Is There Anti-Semitism in America?" The Ameri- 
can Hebrew , XCIII (October 17, 1913), 683. 

2 

Ellis Rivkin, "A Decisive Pattern in American Jewish 

History, " Essays in American Jewish History (Cincinnati, 
1958), p. 60. 



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19 

hostility to the projection of one's own 'Unacceptable inner 

1 
strivings." A still different approach, by psychologist 

Nancy Morse, emphasizes nationalistic involvement as a causa- 
tive factor. Dr. Morse believes that "personality insecurity 

and circumstance frustration" are associated with anti- 

2 
Semitism only "if the individual is involved with the nation." 

The research of John Higham seems to have reinforced the con- 
clusions of Dr. Morse as well as those who have subscribed 
to the ideas of economic and social crises. Higham found 
that at the end of the nineteenth century, anti-Semitism in 
this country "was strongest in those sectors of the popula- 
tion where a particularly explosive combination of social 

3 
discontent and nationalistic aggression prevailed." 



Otto Fenichel, "Psychoanalysis of Antisemitism, " 
TOie American Imago , I (March, 1940) , 37-38; Bruno Bettelheim, 
"The Dynamism of Anti-Semitism in Gentile and Jew, " The Jour- 
nal of Abnormal and Social Psychology , XLII (1947), 162. 
Others who have subscribed to this viewpoint are Israel S. 
Wechsler, "The Psychology of Anti-Semitism, " The Me no rah 
Journal , XI (April, 1925), 164; Harrison G. Gouch, "Studies 
of Social Intolerance: II. A Personality Scale for Anti- 
Semitism, " The Journal of Psychology , XXXIII (1951) , 253; 
and Jacob J. Weinstein, "Anti-Semitism, " in The American Jew , 
edited by Oscar I. Janowsky (New York, 1942), p. 199. 

2 
Nancy Carter Morse, "Anti-Semitism: a Study of its 

Causal Factors and Other Associated Variables" (unpublished 
Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Psychology, Syracuse Uni- 
versity, 1947), p. 422. 

3 
John Higham, "Anti-Semitism in the Gilded Age: 

A Reinterpretation, " Mississippi Valley Historical Review , 
XLIII (March, 1957), 572. 



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20 

The difficulties of tracing the roots of anti-Semitism 
are highlighted by the fact that it manifests itself during 
periods of prosperity, and in people who appear relatively 
well adjusted. Long time city dwellers, such as the Irish 
for example, have also shown signs of hostility towards Jews. 
Therefore other explanations must be explored. 

One such effort has been made by commentators who 
have pointed to anti-Jewish elements in Christian teachings. 
Horace M. Kallen, the Jewish philosopher, has specifically 
stated that "When Christianity will effectively stop teach- 
ing that the Jews are the enemies of God and of mankind it 

1 
will strike anti-Semitism at its foundations." And J. F. 

Brown, in his study, "The Origin of the Anti-Semitic Atti- 
tude, " concluded that Christians believe "the Savior was mur- 
dered by Jews. Most enlightened adults would scoff at this 
as a reason for anti-Semitism. The fact that we all heard 
of it at an impressionable age, the fact that we heard it 
from parents who themselves entertained at least a latent 

anti-Semitism, makes it an important factor and means that 

2 

we probably all harbor some anti-Semitism unconsciously." 



Horace M. Kallen, Judaism at Bay (New York, 1932), 
p. 149. 

2 J. F. Brown , "The Origin of the Anti-Semitic Atti- 
tude, •■ in Graeber and Britt, op. cit ., pp. 134-35. 



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21 

The complex nature of the subject makes it diffi- 
cult to pinpoint the exact causes of anti-Semitism in the 
South. When rural Southerners flocked to the cities at the 
end of the nineteenth century, their impressions of the 
Jew combined the traditional notion of financial omnipo- 
tence with the time-worn Southern prejudice against aliens. 1 
To many, the Jews also symbolized the city. Since they 
dealt mainly in trade and commerce, the lifeblood of the 
town, many considered them the urban people, par excellence . 
Rural and urban schools tended to glorify rural virtues 
and depicted the city as the locus of evil. Rural dwell- 
ers usually held some vague suspicion of urbanites even 
before their arrival in the big towns; subsequent experi- 
ences tended to confirm the earlier prejudice. For many 
months each year the former farmers worked indoors without 
seeing daylight. Their miserable tenements worsened their in- 
duction into this strange city life. Many of the newcomers 



The impression of the Jew as alien existed in the 
South even though his ancestors might have been in the 
Confederate army. Cash, op. cit ., pp. 305, 342. 



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22 
longed for the open field, but economic necessity forced 
them to remain in the factories. For lacfc of a more specific 
target, the unpleasant experiences in the city could easily 
be attributed to the mysterious Jew who controlled finances, 
practiced strange customs, and personified urban perfidy. 
Some Southerners attempted to change the existing 
prejudice. Senator Zebulon Vance, of North Carolina, trav- 
elled through hundreds of American cities in the 1880' s and 
1890' s condemning the "unreasonable prejudice which existed 
against Jews." "Let us learn to judge the Jew," he would 
repeat over and over again, "as we judge other men — by his 
merits . And above all, let us cease the abominable injus- 
tice of holding the class responsible for the sins of the 
Individual . We apply this test to no other people." And a 
minister, writing in an Atlanta daily in 1915, entitled his 
essay, "The jews— Our Benefactors." He denounced "the irra- 
tional feeling of opposition, so many ignorant people 



1 
Arnold Rose, "Anti-Semitism's Root in City-Hatred," 
Commentary , VI (1948), 375-77; Jacob J. Weinstein, "Anti- 
Semitism," in Oscar I. Janowsky (ed.), The American Jew (New 
York, 1942), pp. 187, 188; Handlin, "American Views of the 
Jew. . ., "p. 344; John P. Roche, The Quest for the Dream 
(New York, 1963), p. 88; Howard M. Sachar, The Course of 
Modern Jewish History (Cleveland, 1958), p. 139. 



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23 



1 
cherish against the Jews . . . . " But these pleas met with 

little success. 



OSie problems of the South merged with the difficul- 
ties of the city at the beginning of the twentieth century 

2 
when the "crackers" came to Atlanta. They hoped to escape 

the grinding poverty of the farm and share in the alleged 

rewards of the factory. During the same period an influx of 

foreigners added to Atlanta's population growth, as well as 

3 
to the complexities of the city's problems. The coming of 

Russian Jews, especially, to Atlanta in the 1890 's, resulted 

4 
in an era of mounting friction. 



Zebulon Vance, The Scattered Nation (New York, 1916) , 
pp. 50-51; Franklin Ray Shirley, Zebulon Vance, Tarheel 
Spokesman (Charlotte, N.C., 1962), p. 122; Dumas Malone, 
"Zebulon Vance, " Dictionary of American Biography , XIX, 161; 
AJ, July 20, 1913, magazine section, p. 10. 

2 
When used in Georgia, the term "cracker" connoted 

isolated, ignorant, backward frontiersmen. Bevode C. McCall, 
"Georgia Town and Cracker Culture" (unpublished Ph.D. disser- 
tation, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago, 1954) , 
pp. 105-106. 

3 
Clement Charlton Moseley, "Politics, Prejudice and 

Perjury: The Case of Leo M. Frank, 1913-1915" (unpublished 

seminar paper, Department of History, university of Georgia, 

March 22, 1965) , p. 5. 

4 
Solomon Sutker, "The Jews of Atlanta: Their social 

Structure and Leadership Patterns" (unpublished Ph.D. disser- 
tation, Department of Sociology, University of North Caro- 
lina, 1950), p. 33. 



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24 

Since colonial times Georgia had had a prosperous 
and tightly knit Jewish community. Compared to non-Jews, 
they occupied a relatively high occupational status, and 

though there had always been prejudice toward Jews in 

2 
Georgia, no major problems developed with their Gentile 

neighbors — except during the Civil War — before the twentieth 
century. In Atlanta, the Jews never constituted a signifi- 
cant percentage of the city's population, but with the influx 
of Russian Jews in the 1890' s, problems developed between 
the new immigrants and the established Jewish community, and 
between the Russians and the working class Atlantans. The 
German Jews "blackballed" the Russians from their social 
clubs and did not encourage them to reside in their neighbor- 
hoods. Eventually the two groups did work harmoniously in 
establishing some of the Jewish community's social services, 

but at least through 1915, "there were constant overtones of 

3 
dissension between the leaders of the two groups." 



Ibid ., pp. 80, 81. 

2 
The Atlanta Georgian, October 29, 1913. Clipping 

in Leo Frank Papers (American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati), 

Box 698. The Atlanta Georgian will be cited hereafter as AG; 

the Frank papers will be cited as Frank Papers. Since all 

newspaper references to the Frank Papers are clippings, the 

word "clipping" will not be repeated. 

3 
Sutker, op. clt ., pp. 30-31, 120, 143, 159. 



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25 

The newly arrived Europeans came into greater con- 
tact with Negroes than did the older Jewish community of 
Atlanta. This inadvertently led to conflict between Gen- 
tiles and Jews. The newcomers purchased small businesses, 
including saloons where Negroes gathered. Sensual pictures 
of nude white women allegedly decorated the walls of many of 
these establishments and rumors circulated that even the 
labels on the liquor bottles were designed to incite Negro 
passions. Many Atlantans assumed that the saloons "served 
as a gathering place and as a breeding-ground for criminals . " 

When Negroes got drunk and caused disturbances, the nearby 

1 
whites reproached the saloon owners for the mischief. 

The Jews also found themselves blamed for the 

chaotic conditions in the city. They were charged with the 

operation of "dope dives," gambling dens, and brothels which 

2 

flourished in Atlanta. Whereas the American Jews of long 

standing in this country had at one time been separated in 
the public mind from the more recent immigrants, after 1900, 
John Higham has written, "the differentiation lessened in 



Rainey, op. cit ., chap. 3; The Baltimore Morning 
Sun, November 23, 1914, p. 3. 

2 
AC, March 4, 1907, p. 3; Franklin H. Garrett, 

Atlanta and Environs (3 vols.; New York, 1954), II, 574; 

The Baltimore Morning Sun , November 23, 1914, pp. 1, 3. 



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26 

actuality and almost vanished in popular thought." This 
worked to the disadvantage of Atlanta 1 s older Jewish resi- 
dents. Adding to the stereotyped impressions were the major 
muckraking stories in national periodicals and the report of 

a federal government investigating committee which concluded 

2 
that Jews predominated in the American white slave trade. 

While none of these reports named Atlanta Jews among the 

offenders, the publicity, combined with white Atlantans ' 

preconceived attitudes, led to increased antagonisms towards 

3 
the Jews . 



"hligham, "Social Discrimination Against Jews in 
America, 1830-1930," p. 14. 

2 
George Kibbe Turner, "The Daughters of the Poor," 

McClure's Magazine, XXXIV (November, 1909), 45-61, passim; 
S. S. McClure, "The Tammanyizing of a Civilization, ibid ., 
pp. 122-23; Maurice Fishberg, "White Slave Traffic and Jews," 
The American Monthly Jewish Review , IV (December, 1909), 4, 
23; "The Trade in White Slaves," The American Review of Re- 
views , XXXIX (March, 1909), 371; The Immigration Commission 
(61st Cong., 2nd Sess., Senate Document #196, Serial #5662, 
1909-1910), pp. 23-24. George Kibbe Turner, whose original 
revelations caused a public sensation, told a New York Grand 
Jury, under oath, "that he had no personal knowledge of the 
things he wrote." "It is by such worthless evidence that 
the impression has been created in the minds of the people 
that the traffic in girls is largely in the hands of Jews . " 
"Jews in the "White Slave Traffic, " The Temple , II (February 
25, 1910), 176. This stereotype was not restricted to 
Atlanta. In the 1920's an Ohioan told a sociologist, "Why, 
a young girl is no longer safe on our country roads! They 
are picked up by men in automobiles. The Jews get them and 
sell them as white slaves. They have a regular price list 
and the business is carried on from New York to San Fran- 
cisco." Frank Bohn, "The Ku Klux Klan Interpreted," The 
American Journal of Sociology , XXX (January, 1925), 388. 

3 
The Baltimore Morning Sun , November 23, 1914, p. 1. 



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27 



In 19X3 the rural -oriented population of Atlanta was 
still struggling With its new urban environment. With the 
continued influx of immigrants, the new urbanites blamed the 
aliens for the uncontrollable forces now shaping their 
lives. The people found it impossible to assume responsibil- 
ity for their own failure, and were unable to attribute their 
problems to impersonal forces or to groups with whom they 
identified. Hence, in a fashion characteristic of those un- 
willing to face reality, they responded to their difficulties 
with xenophobic outbursts. 

An obvious target for many of the poor white Atlan- 
tans would have been an owner of one of the newer factories. 
A non-Southerner would have made an even better quarry, be- 
cause aliens were objects of suspicion from the start. A 
Jew, that eternal alien, the Chris tkiller, the moneychanger, 
was a more perfect incarnation of evil. But, a northern, 
Jewish, industrialist, who corrupted white virgins, the 
heroines of Southern life, embodied all that the South imag- 
ined as absolute evil. On Confederate Memorial Day in 1913, 
a little girl was brutally murdered. This unexpected kill- 
ing acted as a catalyst and provided Atlantans with an oppor- 
tunity to vent their accumulated hostility. 



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28 



CHAPTER II 



THE MURDER OF MARY PHAGAN 



The girl ' s body lay face down in a corner of the 
basement. Dry blood caked her fractured skull. Both eyes 
were bruised. A garrote of jute rope encircled her neck and 
a swollen tongue protruded between cracked and bloody lips . 
Ashes and cinders filled the mouth and nostrils, while 
scratches marred what appeared to have been a pretty face. 
There were signs of a desperate struggle. The girl's clothes 
were torn and her underclothes ripped. Within hours of the 
victim's discovery an Atlanta Constitution "extra" informed 

the city: "GIRL IS ASSAULTED AND THEN MURDERED IN HEART OF 

1 
TOWN. " 



Newt Lee, the Negro night watchman of the National 
Pencil Factory, found the body at about 3 a.m. on April 27, 
1913. He phoned the police who arrived within ten minutes 



''"AC "extra," April 27, 1913, pp. 1, 2; April 28, 
1913, pp. 1, 2; AJ, April 28, 1913, pp. 1, 2. 



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29 

accompanied by a Constitution reporter. So covered was the 
corpse with grime that it was necessary for the men to look 
beneath her stocking to see that she was white. The girl's 
purse had disappeared and there were no means of identifica- 
tion. One of the policemen's sisters-in-law worked in the 
pencil factory and she was summoned to identify the dead 
girl. "Oh my God!" the woman exclaimed when she saw the 
corpse, "that's Mary Phagan." 

When the police questioned Newt Lee, his "wild and 
excited manner" aroused their suspicion. Lee claimed that 
he had arrived for work at 4 p.m., two hours earlier than 
his normal starting time, on Saturday, April 26. Because it 
was Confederate Memorial Day and a holiday for most of the 
employees, Leo Max Frank, the twenty-nine year old factory 
superintendent, had asked the night watchman to come in at 
4 p.m. so that he could get away earlier. When Lee arrived, 
however, Frank had not yet completed his own work and told 
the night watchman to go out and return again at his usual 
starting time, 6 p.m. Lee said he did return at the regular 
time, and made his usual rounds, but it was not until 3 a.m., 
when he went to the basement to use the toilet, that he 



1 
AC, May 8, 1913, p. 2 



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30 
1 
discovered the body. 

Since the murdered girl had been discovered in the 
factory, the pencil plant's superintendent and part owner, 
Leo Etfank, had been summoned. The superintendent arrived at 
the factory visibly shaken. Two police escorts had called 
for him at his home and had taken him to the morgue before 
bringing him to the pencil plant. When Frank saw the corpse 
he recoiled in horror. He did not recognize the girl, but 
later, in the factory, after he had been given her name, 
checked his cash book and noted that she had arrived shortly 
after noon the previous day to collect her pay. At the time 
that Frank revealed this information, neither he nor the 
police realized that no one else would ever testify to hav- 
ing seen Mary Phagan alive after she left Frank's office. 

Between the time that the police arrived on the 

scene, and the appearance of superintendent Frank four hours 

later, a search had been made for clues. On the basement 

floor, near the corpse, lay two notes, scrawled on some 

scraps of yellowed paper. They read: 

Mam that negro hire down here did this i went to 
make water and he push me down that hole a long 
tall negro black that hoo it wase long sleam tall 
negro i wright while play with me 



1 
AC, April 27, 1913 "extra," pp. 1, 2; April 28, 



1913, pp. 1, 2, 



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31 

he said he wood love me land down play like the night 
witch did it but that long tall black negro did buy 
his slef [sic] 1 

Eventually these notes would become the center of a seething 

controversy, but at first the policemen overlooked their sig- 

2 
nif icance . 

The police then searched for other information. 
Oliey discovered a path which led from a ladder to where the 
body lay. It appeared that the girl had been dragged along 
this way. At the bottom of the elevator shaft observers saw 
a girl's hat and parasol, a ball of twine, and "something 
that looked like a person's stool." As soon as the elevator 
(which had been on the second floor of the building and had 
remained there until Frank arrived and began using it) was 
lowered to the basement, it crushed everything in the pit of 

the shaft. The mashing of the human excrement resulted in 

3 
the spread of a foul odor. At the time, no one realized 

the significance of the crushed dung. 

Having concluded their immediate investigation, the 



1 
Henry A. Alexander, Some Facts About the Murder 

Notes in the Phagan Case ' (privately published pamphlet, 

1914), pp. 5, 7. 

2 

A. B. Macdonald, "Has Georgia Condemned am Innocent 

Man to Die?" The Kansas City (Mo.) Star , January 17, 1915, 
p. 1C. 

3 
Frank v. State , Brief of the Evidence , pp. 15, 43. 



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32 

authorities left, taking the night watchman, whom they sus- 
pected of concealing evidence, to the police station for 
further questioning. All of those who remained in the build- 
ing (and by that time Frank had summoned some of his subor- 
dinates) appeared extremely uneasy. Policemen on the scene 
would testify at the trial, however, that to them Frank 
seemed the most ruffled. 

To protect the pencil plant's interests, superinten- 
dent Frank engaged the Pinkerton Detective Agency to make an 
independent investigation. The next day the Pinkertons, to- 
gether with the police, combed the factory. Frank, however, 
was not satisfied with the investigation. He complained to 
a reporter that he deeply regretted "the carelessness shown 
by the police department in not making a pomplete investiga- 
tion as to finger prints and other evidence before a great 

2 

throng of people were allowed to enter the place." 

Indeed, there was some reason to complain of the 
policemen's lack of skill. They sawed off the boards of the 
back door in the basement which were covered with bloody 
finger prints, and then lost them before an examination 



Ibid ., pp. 38, 43. 

2 
The Atlanta Georgian , April 28, 1913, p. 2; April 

29, 1913, p. 2; cited hereafter as AG. 



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33 

could be made, A reporter found bloody finger prints on the 
corpse's jacket and brought it to the attention of the author- 
ities. It was "stated that these prints are clearly outlined 
and may prove of importance in establishing the identity of 
the murderer." Yet no report was ever issued as to whose 
finger prints were found, if, indeed, any examination was 
made at all. 

Lacking any definite clues about whom the culprit 
might be, the police grasped at the evidence they possessed 
and tried to reach some conclusion. Leo Frank was the last 
person to see Mary Phagan alive. Whenever the police saw 
him afterwards he appeared extremely nervous. He had also 
summoned Newt Lee, the night watchman, early on the day of 
the murder and then sent him away again, to return at his 
normal hour. When Lee returned, Frank had left the building 
but phoned an hour later to see if everything was all right 
at the factory. The superintendent had never done this be- 
fore but explained afterwards to the polipe that as he left 
the factory, a former bookkeeper had approached the building 
and wanted to pick up some old shoes which he had left when 



Macdonald, op. cit ., p. 2C; AG, April 29, 1913, p. 2; 
The Savannah Morning News , April 30, 1913, p. 1; cited here- 
after as SMN. 



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34 

he was discharged two weeks earlier, Frank had hesitated at 
first, then permitted him to go in, but asked Lee to accom- 
pany him. Therefore, Frank said, he had phoned Lee to make 
sure that there had been no incident with the bookkeeper. 

The day following the discovery of the corpse, blood 
stains and hair "identified positively as the dead girl's" 
were found in a workroom opposite Frank's office. The blood 

stains allegedly formed a path from a lathe in the metal 

2 

workroom to the elevator. This new information, coupled 

with the superintendent's suspicious behavior, led to the 
arrest of Leo Frank. Reporters seemed surprised at the turn 
of events and assumed that the police might have more infor- 
mation than had been revealed. But when they queried Chief 
of Detectives Newport Lanford about Frank's detention, the 
Chief refused to give out any information and would only say, 

"The town seems to be very much wrought up over the murder 

3 
and I think this is the wisest course to take." 



AG, April 28, 1913, p. 1; AJ, April 28, 1913, p. 1, 
The state biologist later stated that he could not identify 
the hair as Mary Phagan's. 

2 

AG, April 28, 1913, p. 1; April 30, 1913, p. 1; 

AJ, April 29, 1913, p. 1. Later on this information was 
proven to be false. 

3 
Quoted in SMN/ April 30, 1913, p. 1. 



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35 



Leo Max Prank was born in Paris, Texas, on ^.cil 17, 
1884. His parents, Rudolph and Rae Frank, had nso, •;; u 
Brooklyn, New York, a few months after their son's birth. 
Frank had attended the Brooklyn public schools, Pratt Insti- 
tute, and Cornell University, where he received the degree 
of Mechanical Engineer in 1906. The B. F. Sturtevant Co., 
in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb, gave him his 
first job after he was graduated from college. 

Frank did not remain long in Massachusetts. He 
moved back to Brooklyn and worked there for a short time be- 
fore accepting the invitation of his uncle, Moses Frank, to 
help establish the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta. The 
uncle generously permitted the nephew a small financial in- 
terest in the business. 

In 1910, Frank married Lucille Selig, daughter of a 
wealthy and established Atlanta family. The newlyweds made 
their home with the bride's parents. In Atlanta, Frank 
achieved some degree of social prominence and the local 
B'nai B'rith elected him its President in 1912. He had 
never attracted any public attention until April 29, 1913, 
when the police arrested him on suspicion of murder. 



The New York Times, August 26, 1913, p. 18; Febru- 
ary 18, 1914, p. 3; AC, June 1, 1915, p. 4; AG, May 13, 



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36 

At the time of his arrest, Ohe Constitution described 
Frank as a "small, wiry man, wearing eyeglasses of high lens • 
power. He is nervous and apparently high-strung. He smokes 
incessantly and stuffed a pocket with cigars upon leaving 
for police headquarters. . . . His dress is neat, and he is 
a fluent talker, polite and suave." A business associate 
later recalled that upon first meeting Frank he found him 

"incongenial. His was the nervous, bilious temperament 

2 
which at first repels rather than attracts." 

The news of Frank's arrest stunned those who knew 

him. His wife rushed to the police station but was refused 

permission to see her husband. To a Georgian reporter she 

3 
sobbed, "My husband is absolutely innocent. ..." Frank's 



1913, p. 2; interview with Alexander Brin, a Boston reporter 
who covered the later stages of the Frank case, August 19, 
1964; Charles and Louise Samuels, Night Fell on Georgia 
(New York, 1956), p. 21. 

1 
AC, April 30, 1913, p. 2. 

2 

Elmer R. Murphy, "A Visit with Leo M. Frank in the 

Death Cell at Atlanta," Rhodes ' Colossus , March, 1915, p. 3. 
Murphy added, however, that as he got to know Frank, he 
found him a very fine person. Mrs. Samuels told me that in 
the course of her research she spoke with reporters who 
covered Frank's trial. They found him to be a cold person, 
and difficult to get to like. Alexander Brin, on the other 
hand, thought Frank a very warm, friendly person. 

3 
AG, April 29, 1913, p. 2; AC, April 30, 1913, p. 1. 

That Mrs. Frank tried to visit her husband appeared quite 



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37 
friends expressed their indignation over his detention and 
declared it to be impossible for him to have had anything to 
do with the murder. The Augusta Chronicle noted, "the Jewish 
people are also standing by Frank, having every confidence 

in his innocence and ready to do anything necessary to estab- 

1 
lish that fact." 

Frank had engaged counsel to protect the National 
Pencil Factory's interests because the murder occurred in 
the pencil plant. When the police brought him to headquar- 
ters for questioning the day after the murder, his lawyers 
were informed and rushed to his side. Herbert Haas and Com- 
pany represented the National Pencil Factory, the firm owned 
by Frank's uncle and the place of the murder, and later 
Frank; Haas, and Luther Rosser, who would become chief de- 
fense counsel at the trial, presented themselves during the 
interrogation at police headquarters. Although Frank was 
not formally arrested until April 29, word spread through 
Atlanta that he had hired counsel beforehand. This rumor 
led many to conclude that the superintendent had a guilty 



insignificant on April 29. Hugh Dorsey, the prosecuting at- 
torney, would argue at Frank's trial, however, that Mrs. 
Frank waited two weeks before visiting her husband and he 
concluded that this proved Mrs. Frank knew her husband was 
guilty. 

^"SMN, May 1, 1913, p. 1; The Augusta Chronicle , May 
2, 1913, p. 6; cited hereafter as TAC. 



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38 



conscience and also made it easier to believe many of the 
other rumors which would soon spread about him. 



Anyone, of course, would have been shocked by the hor- 
rid crime. But Southern attitudes toward "the sweetest and 

2 

purest thing on earth — a young girl, " conditioned Atlanta's 

reaction to the murder. For generations Southerners had 

feared assaults upon women. An attack upon a white woman was 

3 
considered an attack upon the South itself. The Memphis Com- 
mercial Appeal commented upon the prevailing sentiment editor- 
ially: 

Today after centuries of progression, we have reached a 
plane where there are other things dearer than life, and 
chief among these is female virtue. When this is slain 
. . . with devilish deliberation and cunning . . . the 
avenger has the right to go forth in quest of blood-atone- 
ment and if he does not do so he is unworthy of the civil- 
ization of the day. 

There is a higher law . . . and that law readeth 
"Thou shalt protect female virtue at all hazards." 

But the idealization of womanhood which was so important to 

the South had undergone some rude shocks under the pressure 



C. P. Connolly, The Truth About the Frank Case (New 
York, 1915), pp. 55-56. 

2 
AG, April 28, 1913, p. 3. 

3 
Cash, op . cit . , p. 118. 

4 
The Memphis Commercial Appeal , June 7, 1904, as 

quoted in William D. Miller, Memphis During the Progressive 
Era, 1900-1917 (Memphis, 1957), p. 25. 



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39 
of industrialization. "Hie poverty that sent the farmers 
into the towns also pushed their women into the factories. 
Although economic necessity may have forced women into in- 
dustrial occupations, they undertook such employment with 
trepidation. Southerners considered factory work for women 
degrading and contact with male workers corrupting. Hus- 
bands and fathers hesitantly violated Southern traditions by 
sending their wives and daughters to the factory, but they 
were tormented with guilt. As the owner of a cotton textile 
mill explained, "It was considered belittling—oh I very bad! 
It was considered that for a girl to go into a cotton factory 
was just a step toward the most vulgar things. They used to 
talk about the girls working in mills up-country as if they 
were in places of grossest immorality. It was said to be the 

same as a bawdy house; to let a girl go into a cotton factory 

2 

was to make a prostitute of her . " 

Workers expressed hostility toward the absentee 
northern owners who controlled most of the new industries 

and who Imposed grim working conditions and penurious 

3 
salaries. Atlanta's cotton mills, the city's leading 



Broadus Mitchell, The Rise of Cotton Mills in the 
South (Baltimore, 1921), p. 195. To some extent, this atti- 
tude existed in the North also. 

2 Ibid ., p. 194. 

3 
Sutker, op. jclt ., p. 89. 



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40 

industry, turned out children "sapped of their life-blood 
. . . starved, stunted and all but demoralized." The 
assault upon Mary Phagan added one more horror to the list 
of industrial exploitations. Atlanta's Journal of Labor ex- 
pressed the working class sentiment: "Mary Phagan is a 
martyr to the greed for gain which has grown up in our com- 
plex aivilization, and which sees in the girls and children 

merely a source of exploitation in the shape of cheap 

2 

labor. ..." 

With the murder of Mary Phagan, a dreaded fantasy was 
realized. The murder of the child symbolized all that was 
evil and most feared about the city. "No girl ever leaves 
home to go to work in a factory," Atlanta's Judge Arthur 
Powell wrote in later years, "but that the parents feel an 
inward fear that one of her bosses will take advantage of 
his position to mistreat her, especially if she repels 



"Dixie Conditions Stir Unionists . . .", p. 21. 

2 

Journal of Labor , XV (May 2, 1913), r. The opinions 

of the working classes might have had a greater influence in 
Atlanta than in a city with a different power structure. An 
economist has commented upon the influence of labor in At- 
lanta. He noted that the Mayor of Atlanta in 1913 was a mem- 
ber of the typographical union, and that two-thirds of the 
city's wards were dominated by workingmen. This fact was re- 
flected in the composition of Atlanta's city council. Mercer 
G. Evans, "The History of the Organized Labor Movement in 
Georgia" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Eco- 
nomics, University of Chicago, 1929), p. 289. 



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41 

his advances." Mary Phagan's mother sobbed to a reporter, 

"There are so many unscrupulous men in the world. It's so 

2 
dangerous for young girls working out . " Rage filled the 

hearts of the dead girl's neighbors. One of them remarked, 

"I wouldn't have liked to be held responsible for the fate 

of the murderer of little Mary Phagan if the men in this 

3 
neighborhood got hold of him last night." 

Mary Phagan would have celebrated her fourteenth 
birthday a few weeks after the murder. A native of Marietta, 
Georgia, she typified the small-town Southerner who left her 
home to seek work in the urban factories. When her widowed 
mother remarried in Atlanta, Mary did not have to remain in 
the factory any longer. She continued at her job only be- 
cause she liked her work. But after her death, Mary became 

a symbol for all the young women who had never been per- 

4 
mitted a choice. 

Grieving friends and relatives were heartbroken over 
the young girl's slaying. Ten thousand mourners, "the largest 



Arthur G. Powell, I Can Go Home Again (Chapel Hill, 
1943), p. 287. 

2 
Quoted in AG, April 28, 1913, p. 3. 

3 
Quoted in AG, April 28, 1913, p. 2. 

4 AC, April 28, 1913, p. 3; AG, April 28, 1913, p. 2; 
AJ, July 30, 1913, p. 4. 



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42 

crowd that ever viewed a body in Atlanta, " passed by her 
bier. The funeral attracted more than one thousand persons. 
As the white coffin "befitting the innocence of the young 
girl lying within it" was brought into the church, the choir 
sang, "Nearer My God To Thee," and Mary's mother fainted. 
At the cemetery in Marietta, Mary's grandfather cried, an 
aunt let out a "piercing scream," and the child's mother 

collapsed again. The presiding minister supplicated, "May 

1 
God bring the man guilty of this terrible crime to justice.' 1 



In 1913 Atlanta had three daily papers: The Consti- 
tution , which monopolized the morning field, and The Journal 
and The Georgian , which competed with each other in the af- 
ternoon. The Journal had at one time been owned by Hoke 
Smith, who, in 1913, was a United States Senator. Smith 

sold the paper in 1900 but the general consensus in Georgia 

2 
was that The Journal still represented his political views. 



1 AG, April 28, 1913, p. 5; April 29, 1913, p. 1; 
AJ, July 27, 1913, p. 1; SMN, April 30, 1913, pp. 1, 5. 

2 
Louis Turner Griffith and John Erwin Talmadge, 

Georgia Journalism; 1763-1950 (Athens, Ga., 1951), p. 138; 

Mary Richards Colvin, "Hoke Smith and Joseph M. Brown, 

Political Rivals" (unpublished M.A. thesis. University of 

Georgia, 1958), p. 16. 



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43 
The Constitution, on the other hand, was owned by Clark 
Howell, who bitterly opposed the policies of both Smith and 
The Journal , Both papers agreed, however, upon Georgia's 
need to industrialize and therefore encouraged northern finan- 
ciers and "high-quality " immigrants to make their fortunes in 
the state. Of the three daily papers, The Journal had the 
largest circulation and was clearly the most popular until 
1912 when William Randolph Hearst purchased The Georgian . 

Hearst, who aimed for newspapers that "made the 

2 
reader recoil in shock," attempted to give Atlantans the 

show that his audiences in San Francisco, New York, and 
Chicago had come to expect. He sent Keats Speed, the editor 
of his New York Journal , to Atlanta to spruce up the new 
acquisition, and soon banner headlines, photographic lay- 
outs, advice to the lovelorn, comic strips and syndicated 
features suddenly became prominent. Formerly, the last 



1 
N. W. Ayer & Son's, American Newspaper Annual and 

Directory (Philadelphia, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914), listed the 

following circulation figures: 





1910 


1911 


AC 


35,454 


41 , 519 


AG 


42,858 


40,000 


AJ 


52,035 


51,827 



1912 


1913 


41,405 


41,405 


38,000 


60,000 


52,000 


54,000 



2 

W. A. Swanberg, Citizen Hearst (New York, 1963) , 

p. 232. 



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44 

edition of The Georgian had gone to press at about 2:30 p.m. 
Speed added several editions so that news of the latest do- 
ings, the ball scores , and any sensational items might reach 
Atlantans sooner. Editions went "onto the street everytime 

.-anything happened that would justify a headline, and fre- 

1 
quently when it wouldn't." The populace reacted to the new 

policy with enthusiasm and the newspaper's circulation began 

2 
to rise. 

With the murder of Mary Phagan, The Georgian developed 

"the greatest news story in the history of the state, if not 

3 
of the South. ..." Screaming streamers and banner head- 
lines appeared on "extra" after "extra" as the factory girl's 
death received the full Hearst treatment. In only four 
months, from the end of April through the end of August, 
17,686 column inches, or the equivalent of more than 100 
pages the aize of Bie New York Times were devoted to the case. 
By the end of August, The Georgian had tripled its normal 
sales of about 40,000 papers a day, and boasted the largest 



Herbert Asbury, "Hearst Comes to Atlanta, " The Amer- 
ican Mercury , VII (January, 1926), 87-88. 

2 

See p. 43, n. 1, supra . 

3 
Asbury, op. cit ., p. 89. 



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45 

1 
circulation of any Southern daily through 1913, The Georgian 

had inaugurated its dramatic handling of the case with twenty 

"extras" and five pages of pictures and stories about Mary 

2 

Phagan and her family. The Journal and The Constitution , 

both of whose usual formats featured conservative, one-column 
headlines, were forced to compete with the Hearst paper by ex- 
panding their coverage of the murder. The more space the news- 
papers devoted to the murder, the larger the headlines, the 
more vociferous their editorials, the more intense was the 
public reaction. 

The rural Georgians who flocked to Atlanta at the be- 
ginning of the century expected the daily newspaper to pro- 
vide them with the information that they needed to comprehend 
their strange new urban environment. They also wanted gossip, 

entertainment, and drama — items they had customarily received 

3 
from their small-town weeklies. In addition to helping the 

immigrants adjust to their new surroundings, the papers also 

relished whipping up the popular passions, characterized by 



Ibid ., p. 87; William Curran Rogers, "A Comparison of 
the Coverage of the Leo Frank Case by the Hearst-Controlled At- 
lanta Georgian and the Home-Owned Atlanta Journal , April 28, 
1913 - August 30, 1913" (unpublished M.A. thesis, University of 
Georgia, 1950), p. 66; Paul Rosenblum, printer for The New York 
Times , told me that there are 176 inches in each page of the 
newspaper . 

AG, April 28, 1913, pp. 1-5; clipping in Boston 
Herald-Traveler newspaper morgue, June 8, 1915. 

3 Miller, op. cit ., p. 29, Richard Hofstadter, The 
Age of Reform (New York, 1960), pp. 188-89. 



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46 

innuendo, misrepresentation, and distortion, the yellow 
journals' account of Mary Phagan's death aroused an anxious 
city, and within a few days, a shocked state. 

The first reports following the murder indicated 
that Newt Lee, the night watchman, might have committed the 
crime. He was the first one arrested and the police had in- 
timated that he knew more than he had told them. On the 
afternoon of The Constitution 's sensational extra announcing 
the murder, the detectives brought Lee back to the factory 
to help them obtain additional information. A large crowd 

of spectators had already surrounded the building. As the 

2 

people spotted Lee they cried out, ,r he ought to be lynched." 

It was later proven that Lee's only connection with 
the crime was the discovery of the corpse, but early news- 
paper slanders disregarded known facts in their reporting. 
The Journal claimed to have "proven conclusively" that either 
Newt Lee "mistreated and murdered pretty Mary Phagan" or else 
knew who did. The police also suspected Lee for they alleged- 
ly tortured him mercilessly. For three days they kept the 
night watchman manacled to a chair and put him "through a 



W. I. Thomas, "The Psychology of the Yellow Journal," 
American Magazine , LXV (March, 1908), 492. 

2 AC, April 30, 1913, p. 2. 



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47 

searching, grilling 'third degree 1 that left him weeping and 
nerveless." No amount of questioning, however, could get 
the Negro to change his contention that he knew nothing 
about the murder. Nevertheless, the readers of Atlanta's 
newspapers were told that the police believed Lee "has the 
whole story at his tongue's end and that he will eventually 
clear the mystery." 

After three days of grilling Newt Lee, without gain- 
ing any new information, the police dispatched the Negro to 
a basement cell and practically forgot about him. But this 
did not prevent The Georgian from running a streamer, "LEE'S 
GUILT PROVED. " There seems to have been no evidence or in- 
formation to support this last contention other than the re- 
mark of Atlanta's chief detective, Newport Lanford, that 

"We Have Evidence in Hand Which Will Clear the Mystery in 

2 
the Next Few Hours. ..." The next day, Atlanta's other 

dailies condemned The Georgian 's absurd and inflammatory con- 

3 
elusion. 

The newspapers also incited Atlantans against Leo 

Frank. On the morning that he was taken into custody a 



X AJ, April 28, 1913, p. 1; April 29, 1913, p. 1; 
AG, April 29, 1913, p. 1. 

2 

AG, April 29, 1913, p. 1, extra #5. 

3 
AC, April 30, 1913, p. 1; AJ, April 30, 1913, p. 1, 



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48 
Georgian extra ran a streamer, "SENSATIONAL ARREST SOON, " the 
headline beneath it proclaimed, "Factory Employee May Be 
Taken Any Moment," and the article below read that the police 
"are confident that the author of the terrible deed was a 
person not under arrest at the present time. They know his 
name. They have talked with him. They have his story. . . . 

But they are not satisfied with his tale. It is known that 

1 
they will have him behind bars within a few hours . " Short- 
ly afterwards the police announced that they had arrested 
Leo Frank, and the city assumed that he must have been the 
one referred to in The Georgian 's commentary. A peculiar 
juxtaposition of words in the headline of the following morn- 
ing's Constitution once more gave the impression that the 
factory superintendent, rather than the night watchman, 
might really top the list of suspects: "We Have Sufficient 
Evidence to Convict the Murderer of Mary Phagan, Declare 

Local Detectives and Pinkertons — Leo M. Frank Subject to a 

2 
Gruelling Third Degree." 

After four days of newspaper hysteria, Atlanta's 

Mayor urged the police to refrain from releasing so much 



AG, April 29, 1913, p. 1, extra #5. 

2 

AC, April 30, 1913, p. 1. 



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49 

information about the crime. He had received numerous com- 
plaints about the sensational newspaper extras with their 
distortions and exaggerations and he demanded a cessation. 
The Mayor had been warned that these newspaper excesses were 
"calculated to inflame the people and might possibly result 
in grave damage." The Governor of Georgia also seemed 
alarmed. He readied ten companies of the state militia to 
protect the prisoners in case of an attempt upon their lives. 
There had been "persistent rumors" that an attempt would be 

made to storm the jail and relieve officials of their two 

2 
celebrated charges. A week after the murder, The Augusta 

Chronicle ' s Atlanta correspondent summed up the climate in 

the state capital. "Feeling here is still high, the horror 

of the deed gripping people fast. The deadline between calm 

and tinbr idled rage is narrow, and the fear is strong that if 

the guilty [one] is caught at last inflamed people will seek 

3 

to wreak summary punishment . " 

The newspapers had not only inflamed the public but 
challenged the mettle of the police as well. Speaking for 
an enraged city The Constitution demanded that the girl's 



SMN, May 1, 1913, p. 3. 

2 

SMN, May 2, 1913, p. 2. 

3 
TAC, May 2, 1913, p. 1. 



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50 

slayer be found: "if ever the men who ferret crime and up- 
hold the law in Atlanta are to justify their function it 

must be in apprehending the assailant and murderer of Mary 

1 2 

Phagan." The police had quickly arrested seven suspects 

but two weeks passed without any conclusive evidence about 
the murder provided to the public. The Constitution refused 
to accept what it considered official incompetence and dis- 
played a scathing cartoon on the front page of its Sunday 
edition. The cartoon portrayed a woman carrying a scroll 
called, "Mary Phagan Mystery, " pointing at a door marked, 

"Detective Dept." The woman was saying to herself, "I won- 

3 
der if they're all asleep in there?" 

In desperation, or perhaps in an attempt to "scoop" 

its competitors, The Constitution sought to obtain outside 

aid. The paper started a fund to "Bring Burns Here to Solve 

Mary Phagan Mystery, " and the next day expressed the opinion 

that only William J. Burns, "the world's greatest detective," 



•""AC, April 29, 1913, p. 4. 

2 
Among the seven, two were quickly released because 

there was no evidence against them. Two others were Negroes, 
and after the police questioned them, the two were put in 
cells and the police forgot about them for a while. Both 
were eventually released. Newt Lee, Leo Frank, and Jim 
Conley were the only three who received serious press atten- 
tion after the first two or three days following the murder. 

3 
AC, May 11, 1913, p. 1. 



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51 



could solve this baffling case. A public subscription 



raised enough money to lure Burns to Atlanta, and the great 

detective dispatched one of his best agents to investigate 

2 

the situation preparatory to his arrival. 

The invitation to the "world's greatest detective" 
was a direct attack upon the city police. The record of the 
police provided ample justification for such action. For 
two years preceding Mary Phagan's death, about eighteen 

Negro women had been murdered in the city, but none of the 

3 
assailants had ever been found. Although no violent pro- 
tests erupted when the assailants of Negroes escaped, these 
unsolved murders left the impression that the police were in- 
competent. The rapidity of the city's growth not only in- 
creased the amount of vice and crime but seemed to overwhelm 
those charged with upholding the law. "A force of village 
constables" suddenly found themselves "face to face with 



1 
AC, May 16, 1913, p. 1; May 17, 1913, p. 4. 

2 
Burns, in fact, did not reach Atlanta until 1914. 

And at that time, he was in the employ of Leo Frank's attor- 
neys. The reason for this is that shortly after his agents 
began working for the city of Atlanta, Solicitor Dorsey satis- 
fied himself that he had enough evidence to convict one of 
his suspects, and that the services of the Burns agency would 
no longer be necessary. See below, p. 66. 

3 
Macdonald, op. cit ., p. 1C; Connolly, op . clt . , p. 

40; Murphy, op . clt . , p. 6; Samuels, op . cit . , p. 19. 



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52 



crime conditions of a great city hall, *' and could not cope 
with them. The police were frightened. They had repeated- 
ly failed and this time, with a white victim, inefficiency 
would not be tolerated. The Mayor reflected public senti- 
ment when he warned the police: "Find this murderer fast, 

2 

or be fired!" 



Two days after Frank's arrest the authorities jailed 
another suspect, James Conley, a Negro sweeper at the pencil 
factory. A foreman at the plant observed the sweeper trying 
to wash blood off a shirt and informed detectives. The police 

arrested Conley on suspicion but "were inclined to attach 

3 
little importance to his arrest." No one even bothered to 

have the city bacteriologist test the blood stains on his 

4 
shirt. 

In view of the Southern attitude toward Negroes it 

is difficult to understand why the police were so negligent 



Murphy , op. cit . , p . 6 . 

2 

Quoted in Samuels, op. cit ., p. 20, 

3 
AG, May 1, 1913, p. 1. 

4 
AC, October 4, 1914, p. 1. 



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53 
in ignoring the sweeper's bloody shirt. It may be that given 
Southern sentiments towards women, Jews, and industrialism, 
a Jewish factory owner provided a much more suitable suspect 
for the murder of a young female employee. The pastor of 
the Baptist Church attended by Mary Phagan's family recalled 
in later years his original attitude after the murder: "My 
own feelings, upon the arrest of the old negro nightwatchman, 
were to the effect that this one old negro would be poor 
atonement for the life of this innocent girl. But, when on 
the next day, the police arrested a Jew, and a Yankee Jew at 
that, all of the inborn prejudice against Jews rose up in a 

feeling of satisfaction, that here would be a victim worthy 

1 
to pay for the crime." Tom Watson would eventually emphasize 

"the indescribable outrage committed upon 'the factory girl 1 

2 
in the factory ." 



Within a few days after the murder the Coroner's 
jury began an inquest. Leo Prank was the key witness. The 
factory superintendent related his activities on the fatal 



L. 0. Bricker, "A Great American Tragedy, " The 
Shane Quarterly , IV (April, 1943), 90. 

2 

The jeffersonian , April 9, 1914, p. 8. (Italics 

in original.) 



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54 

day and repeated the information he had already given to the 
police. Numerous witnesses corroborated Prank's statements; 
no witness made any remarks which contradicted the superin- 
tendent * s claims • 

Information also came to light at the inquiry which 
reflected adversely upon Frank. George Epps, a youth who 
lived near the Phagan family, and who said he rode into town 
with Mary on the fatal day, stated that the girl confessed 
her fears about the factory superintendent who acted in too 
familiar a fashion and made advances towards her. A number 
of former employees of the pencil factory also testified 
that Frank flirted and "indulged in familiarities with the 
women in his employ." The sister of a former employee swore 
that she had come one day to collect her sister's pay and 
Frank had behaved improperly. He had taken a metal box from 
his drawer. "It had a lot of money in it. He looked at it 
significantly and then looked at me. When he looked at me 

he winked. As he winked he said, 'How about it? 1 I instant- 

2 
ly told him that I was a nice girl . " 



"'"AC, May 1, 1913, p. 1. A few days earlier an Atlanta 
Georgian reporter interviewed young Epps and the boy told the 
reporter that he sometimes rode into town with Mary Phagan 
but did not mention that he had done so on the fatal day. 
Connolly, op. cit ., pp. 28-29. 

2 AC, May 8, 1913, p. 2; AG, May 9, 1913, pp. 1, 2. 



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55 

The Coroner's jury ordered both Frank and Lee held 
for further questioning despite the fact that the two detec- 
tives who had been spending the most time on the investiga- 
tion, Harry Scott of the Pinkertons and John Black of the 
city detective force, testified that "they so far had ob- 
tained no conclusive evidence or clues in the baffling 

1 
mystery. • . . " 

Days after the inquest concluded, Prank's case ap- 
peared further damaged when a special policeman revealed 
that a year earlier he had apprehended the superintendent 
"and a young girl in a desolate spot of the woods . . . . " 
At that time the policeman claimed to have obtained a confes- 
sion from Frank that he had taken his young companion "to 

2 

the woods for immoral purposes . " The policeman later ad- 
mitted that he had been mistaken about Frank having been the 
person he had seen, but this infQrmation, unlike the accusa- 
tion, never reached the front pages of the newspapers. 

The following week, the Atlanta police released an 
affidavit from Mrs. Nina Fonriby, the proprietor of a "room- 
ing house" in Atlanta, disclosing that on the day of the 
murder Frank had telephoned her repeatedly and had attempted 



AC, May 9, 1913, p. 1. 

2 
AC, May 11, 1913, p. 1, 



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56 

to secure a room for himself and a young girl. Mrs. Formby 
allegedly informed him each time that all of her rooms were 
occupied. The city detectives announced that "this is one 
of the most important bits of evidence they hold, " and indi- 
cated strongly that they believed Frank to be the culprit. 



The crime shocked Atlantans, who not only followed 
the hunt for information about the murderer intently, but 
who also were ready to believe any tale circulated, no mat- 
ter how fantastic. The newspapers needed but to hint at 
some new item of discovery or outlandish conclusion, and 

within hours the account, greatly embroidered, would circu- 

2 

late throughout the city. Three days after the killing, 

The Constitution printed an article beneath the headline, 
"Every Woman and Girl Should See Body of Victim and Learn 
Perils." Most females did not see her, but rumors had it 
that the girl had been drugged and rendered helpless before 
being slain, that she was slashed in many places with a 



AC, May 23, 1913, pp. 1, 2. 

2 

AJ, May 3, 1913, p. 1; Anon., "Why Was Frank Lynched?" 

Forum, LVI (December, 1916), 686. 



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57 
knife, and that her "breasts had been bitten and gnawed." 

Indeed, rumors that the body had been mutilated would not 

1 
down for years. 

It would be impossible to enumerate all cf the 
rumors that travelled through Atlanta and the state of Geor- 
gia after Frank's imprisonment. The most prominent con- 
cerned both sex and religion. Gossipers authoritatively 

related that the tenets of the Jewish faith forbade the vio- 

2 
lation of Jewish, but not Gentile, women. Other tales 

asserted that Frank's wife was about to divorce him; that 

his wife knew he was guilty and therefore did not visit him 

in jail; that he had another wife in Brooklyn; that he had 

had another wife in Brooklyn whom he had killed; that he had 

numerous children out of wedlock; that his wife knew all of 

the foregoing facts and had already applied for a divorce; 

that he was a pervert, and that he went out on street car 

lines waiting for young girls, "pulling them off the cars in 

3 
spite of their crying and resistance." It was even said 



AC, April 29, 1913, p. 3; AG, May 7, 1913, p. 1; 
Macdonald, op. cit ., p. 1C; Manning Jasper Yeomans, "Some 
Facts About the Frank Case" (unpublished thesis, Emory Uni- 
versity, n.d., ca . 1915), p. 4. 

2 
Cahan, op. cit ., V, 494; Connolly, op. cit ., p. 14; 

Samuels, op. cit ., p. 26- 

3 
Interview with McLellan Smith in Washington, April 

2, 1964. Mr. Smith covered the trial of Leo Frank as a cub 



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58 

that Frank "was a Mason and the Masons were all for him; 

that he was a Catholic and they were all for him; that he 

1 
was a Jew and the Jews were all for him. " 

The charge of perversion probably did the most dam- 
age. The newspapers never clearly explained what was per- 
verse about Frank, but the word meant different things to 

2 

different people. To some, murder and rape would certainly 

be indications of a severe abnormality. But to others, the 
accusations merely acted as stimulants to their imaginations. 
Perhaps the alleged escapades with young girls or Frank's 
supposed extra-marital affairs seemed aberrant to conserva- 
tive thinkers. Later on, in court, the prosecutor would 
make veiled allusions to Frank and his supposedly delicate 
relationship with an office boy. This, too, would reinforce 
the opinions of those who believed that Frank was sexually 
abnormal . 



reporter for The Atlanta Georgian . Samuels, op. cit ., p. 26; 
The New York Times, December 20, 1914, IV, 9; AC, March 14, 
1914, p. 2; AJ, May 12, 1913, p. 1; The Baltimore Morning 
Sun, November 19, 1914, p. 3; Macdonald, op. cit ., p. 1C; 
Yeomans, op. cit ., p. 5; Sam P. Maddox to Luther Rosser, June 
10, 1915, John M. Slaton Manuscripts, Brandeis University 
(cited hereafter as Slaton, Brandeis); Wyett E. Thompson, A 
Short Review of the Frank Case (Atlanta, 1914), p. 25. 

Thompson, op . cit . , p. 26. 

2 
Even though newspapers reported that Mary Phagan 

had been raped, doctors could not find any evidence to sub- 
stantiate this point. 



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59 
8 

The police desperately needed a conviction as the 
public demanded that Mary Phagan's assailant be found. The 
Solicitor-General of Atlanta's circuit, Hugh M. Dorsey, who 
directed and coordinated the state's case, also needed a con- 
viction. He had recently prosecuted two important alleged 
murderers and had failed each time to convict them. The 
Savannah Morning News would later observe, "Another defeat, 
and in a case where the feeling was so intense, would have 

been, in all likelihood, the end of Mr. Dorsey as solici- 

1 
tor. ..." on the other hand, if he successfully prose- 
cuted Mary Phagan's killer, future political success would 
doubtless be insured. 

The search for the murderer was handicapped by the 
fact that the various investigators worked alone, rather than 
in unison. At one point there were four separate groups in- 
dependently groping with the same facts. The Constitution 
reported that "the detectives of police headquarters, who 
were first to investigate the slaying, are now working alone, 
refusing to give information to anyone. The Pinkertons, who 
were next retained, are working exclusively. Cooperation, 
however, is found in the joint investigation being promoted 



SMN, August 31, 1913, Frank Papers, Box 698, 



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60 

by Solicitor Dorsey and the Burns agent now in the city." 
The Constitution might have made a mistake about the last 
point because ten days later, when the Burns agent left the 

case, he told reporters that "open opposition and efforts to 

2 

frustrate our work" forced the resignation. In addition to 

the major groups, The Journal noted that "practically every 
private detective in Atlanta, and they are legion, has . . . 

been quietly lending his efforts to a solution of the rays- 

3 
tery." 

Numerous detectives, pursuing their own lines of in- 
vestigation, complicated an already tangled situation. Fric- 
tion and competition among groups of detectives made it diffi- 
cult even to assemble a complete and acpurate account of what 
was an extremely complex case. But as the days passed, it 
became evident that police, detectives, and the Solicitor 

were focusing their efforts on finding enough material to 

4 
convict Frank. Harry Scott, the head of the Pinkerton De- 
tective Agency, who had been hired by Frank, later admitted 



AC, May 18, 1913, p. 2. 

2 
AC, May 27, 1913, p. 1. 

AJ, May 18, 1913, p. 1. 

4 
The Frank Case: Inside Story of Georgia's Greatest 

Mystery (Atlanta, 1914), pp. 39-40. 



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61 
to newspaper reporters that the Pinkertons had directed their 
efforts M to obtain evidence supporting the theory that Frank 
is the slayer." Scott supposedly told one of his subordin- 
ates, "unless the Jew is convicted the Pinkerton Detective 
Agency would have to get out of Atlanta." 

The findings and opinions of the various investiga- 
tors formed the basis of the information which Solicitor 
Dorsey presented to the Grand Jury when it met on May 23, 
four weeks after the murder, to consider an indictment. The 
Solicitor brought several witnesses along with him who re- 
told the jury what the public had already been informed of 
weeks before. The state's case impressed the Grand Jury, 

which deliberated less than ten minutes before granting the 

2 

indictment on May 24. 

On May 23, the day that the Grand Jury began listen- 
ing to Hugh Dorsey 1 s presentation, The Atlanta Journal pub- 
lished an exclusive dictograph transcription relating a con- 
versation between an Atlanta attorney and a police official. 
The Atlanta lawyer accused the police of having tortured Jim 
Conley, the Negro sweeper who had been arrested a few weeks 



AC, May 25, 1913, p. 1; The New York Times , Novem- 
ber 20, 1914, p. 5; Connolly, op. clt ., p. 40. 

2 
AJ, May 24, 1913, p. 1. 



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62 
earlier, into confessing his guilt. The lawyer criticized 
detectives for fastening blame upon the poor Negro for an- 
other man's crime. "I know who killed Mary Phagan, " the 

Atlanta attorney asserted. "Hiat d d Jew Frank killed 

her. ..." Then the lawyer added that the Chief of Detec- 
tives, Newport Lanford, "knows that Frank killed this girl 

but he has sold out to the Jews for big money" and is there- 

1 
fore shielding the factory superintendent. 

This well-publicized charge against the police put 
additional pressure upon them to convict their Jewish prison- 
er and thus acquit themselves. In the face of the accusa- 
tion, moreover, the police would have had a difficult time 
convincing the public afterwards that Conley, and not Frank, 
committed the murder. 

Ironically, on May 24, at the very time the police 
were accused of having tortured Conley, and the same day 
that the Grand Jury indicted Leo Frank, Atlanta news- 
papers published a highly improbable affidavit from Jim 
Conley. According to Conley 1 s statement, Frank had 
called him to the office on Friday afternoon, April 26, 
the day before the murder, had asked if he could write, 



1 AJ, May 23, 1913, p. 1; AC, May 24, 1913, p. 2. 



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63 
and then, after getting an affirmative answer, handed the 
sweeper a note pad and dictated the following phrases: 
"dear mother, " and "a long, tall, black negro did this by 
hisself [ sic] . " Frank allegedly asked him to repeat this 
"two or three times," and then supposedly mumbled something 
which sounded to Conley like, "Why should I hang?" Conley 
stuck to this story despite additional questioning. No, he 
had not written anything else. No, he had not seen any dead 
girl. No, he had not been to the factory on Saturday. And 
so forth. The entire truth, Conley maintained on May 24, was 

in his affidavit. He claimed to know nothing else about the 

1 
crime. 

Jim Conley, short, stocky, ginger-colored, was the 

very opposite of the long, tall, black Negro described in 

the murder notes. Twenty-seven years old, he had already 

served several jail terms for petty thievery besides having 

been fined on many occasions for disorderly conduct. On the 

morning of the murder he had been drinking both beer and 

whiskey and may even have been drunk. According to Arthur 

Garfield Hayes, some people thought that Conley "always 



1 
Lawson, op. clt ., p. 245; AJ, May 24, 1913, p. 1; 

AC, May 25, 1913, p. 1; AG, May 24, 1913, p. 1; May 25, 



1913, p. 1 



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64 
seemed to be kind of nervous or half drunk." 

The authorities had not considered Conley a serious 
suspect until they discovered that he could write. The Negro 
sweeper had originally denied his ability to read and write 
but the news that he could eventually reached Harry Scott of 
the Pinkertons because of a chance remark made in front of 
Leo Frank. "I know he can write, " Prank said, "I have re- 
ceived many notes from him asking me to loan him money. " 
Scott immediately confronted Conley with this information. 

Forced to write, the Negro penned a duplicate of the murder 

3 
notes that appeared almost identical to the originals. 

The test took place on May 18, a week before the 

Grand Jury indictment, but on May 19, a detective announced 

that "the examination of the handwriting of the negro . . . 

4 
failed to connect him with the writing of the notes . " Not 

until the Grand Jury indicted Frank on May 24, and the 

Atlanta attorney accused the police of shielding their Jewish 



1 
AC, August 6, 1913, p. 2; Arthur Garfield Hayes, 
Trial By Prejudice (New York, 1933) , pp. 312-13; The Balti- 
more Morning Sun, November 21, 1914, p. 1; Macdonald, op . 
cit. , p. 2c. 

2 
John D. Lawson (ed.), American state Trials (10 vols.; 
St. Louis, 1918), X, 236. 

3 
AJ, May 29, 1913, p. 1; AG, August 7, 1913, p. 1. 

4 
AG, May 19, 1913, p. 2. 



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65 

prisoner, did the public learn of Conley's participation in 

1 
the crime. 

Released to the press on May 24, Conley's sensational 
revelation failed to impress the editors of The Georgian , who 
considered the Negro's statement "exceedingly peculiar." The 
paper could not understand why Frank would have muttered, 
"Why should I hang?" or have taken the Negro sweeper into his 
confidence. It certainly was not like Frank to speak so 
freely. In fact, the superintendent's silence since his 
arrest had been so overbearing that newspapers labeled him, 
"The Silent Man in the Tower." Therefore Frank's alleged 
remark appeared "entirely outside the realm of probabili- 
ties. ..." Another improbability was that Frank had 
called Conley to his office the day before the murder and 
asked him to write a note (Conley had originally maintained 
that he had written only one of the murder notes and that 
Frank had written the other) indicating that the superinten- 
dent must have been planning the crime ahead of time. This 
idea had never been entertained by the investigating author- 
ities because they concluded from the nature of the corpse 

2 
that the killer must have acted without premeditation. 



The Grand Jury had not been informed of Conley's 
statement. Like everyone else, the jurors read about it in 
the newspapers after Frank had been indicted. 

2 

Lawson, op. clt ., p. 237; AG, May 24, 1913, p. 1. 



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66 

Despite the difficulties involved in believing every- 
thing in Conley's affidavit, the police were enthusiastic 
about it. They considered Conley's sworn statement as the 
final link in the chain of evidence against Frank, or at 
least that is what they led the public to believe. Newport 
Lanford declared himself "perfectly satisfied" that the mur- 
der had been solved and assured reporters that "Frank will 
be convicted. He is the guilty man and we will show it be- 
yond a doubt." Both the Pinkertons and the Burns' agent 
agreed with Lanford. In fact the Burns investigator dropped 
out of the case at this point because Solicitor Dorsey in- 
formed the chief of the detective agency in Atlanta "that 
the investigation has been so thorough and successful that, 

really, the Burns men would not be greatly needed any 

1 
longer . " 

For public consumption detectives maintained that 

they "never for a moment" thought that Conley might have 

been guilty. Only reluctantly, in fact, did they eventually 

2 
concede that he wrote the murder notes. Yet doubts remained 



AJ, May 23, 1913, p. 7; AC, May 25, 1913, p. 1; May 
27, 1913, pp. 1, 2; AG, May 25, 1913, p 2; May 26, 1913, p. 1, 

2 
The following items appeared in successive editions 

of The Atlanta Georgian, May 28, 1913, p. 2: (1) "Despite 

the new developments, the detectives, of course, stand firmly 

by their theory of Frank's guilt. They assert that they have 



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67 
and the newspapers continued to assert that Conley 's tale 
did not ring true. The inconsistencies in the NegroJs story 
would have to be cleared up. Therefore the prisoner under- 
went further rounds of interrogation. Reporters were told 
that no prisoner had ever been put through such severe cross- 
examinations as Conley. Pinkerton Detective Scott later ex- 
plained to a packed courtroom the procedure he and Atlanta's 
Chief Detective Lanford employed upon the Negro to elicit 
"the truth." "We pointed out things in his story that were 
improbable and told hiiu he must do better than that. Any- 
thing in his story that looked to be out of place we told 

2 

him wouldn ' t do . " 

The lengthy interrogation proved fruitful. On May 
28 Conley made another affidavit in which he added consider- 
ably to his first one and acknowledged his presence at the 
factory on the day of the murder. In his second sworn 



the testimony of four handwriting experts that the writing 
on the notes found by the body of Mary Phagan positively is 
that of Frank. This evidence is lessened in importance by 
the fact that three other handwriting experts have declared 
as positively that the writing is that of Newt Lee. ..." 
(2) The same officials who "had announced that they had con- 
clusive evidence 'by experts' . . . that Frank wrote the 
notes , " now said that Conley had written them. See also 
AJ, May 28, 1913, p. 1. 

AJ, May 26, 1913, p. 1. 

2 
Frank v. State, Brief of the Evidence, p. 81. 



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68 

statement Conley recalled that he had been drinking on the 
morning of the murder. He had accidentally met Frank in the 
street, and the superintendent had asked him to come to the 
factory. When they arrived at the pencil plant, Conley 
claimed he was instructed to wait on the main floor until 
Prank whistled for him to come up. At about 1 p.m. the 
whistle sounded and Conley went up to Frank's office. As 
soon as he reached the inner office Frank allegedly remarked 
that two female employees were coming up the steps and that 
Conley must get into the wardrobe. After the women left 
Frank supposedly dictated the note that Conley alleged he 
had written on Friday. The rest of the second affidavit re- 
peated substantially the same things as had been proffered 

1 
in the original. 

The Georgian 's response to Conley' s new tale was any- 
thing but credulous. "With his first affidavit repudiated 
and worthless," the paper noted, "it will be practically im- 
possible to get any court to acqppt a second one." In fact, 
The Georgian thought the case against Conley stronger than 
that against Frank. After all, Frank had "answered all the 
questions" put to him at the Coroner's inquest "in a 



Lawson, op. eit ., pp. 245-48; AJ, May 29, 1913, p. 1, 



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69 
straight -forward, unwavering manner, never once being trapped 

in a lie or misstatement, " whereas Conley had lied continu- 
ously. Nevertheless Newport Lanford, the chief of detec- 
tives, exuded confidence and beamed happily over Conley 1 s 
second affidavit, calling it "the final and conclusive piece 
of evidence . . . against Frank*" 

But the detectives realized that Conley' s second 
affidavit also had some shortcomings and therefore they de- 
cided to put the sweeper through another interrogation "with 

2 
a view to clearing up the weak points in his statement." 

During the course of what The Georgian described as a "merci- 

3 
less sweating" on May 29, Conley 1 s interrogators "dragged 

4 
sentence by sentence from the frightened negro" a more 

plausible explanation. The next morning Atlantans read the 

results of the previous day's "sweating": "CONLEY SAYS HE 

5 
HELPED CARRY BODY OF MARY PHAGAN TO PENCIL FACTORY CELLAR. " 

The latest of the Conley revelations added signifi- 
cantly to his previous affidavits. Conley now alleged that 



AG, May 28, 1913, p. 1; May 29, 1913, p. 1; May 30, 
1913, p. 2; AJ, June 2, 1913, p. 9. 

2 

AJ, May 29, 1913, p. 24. 

3 
AG, May 30, 1913, p. 2. 

4 
AJ, May 30, 1913, p. 4. 

5 
AC, May 30, 1913, p. 1. 



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70 

after Frank had called him up to the office, the superinten- 
dent had told him that he had let a girl fall against a 
machine in the metal room and that he wanted Conley to re- 
move her. Conley had gone into the room and had found the 
girl dead. He had reported this to Frank but the superinten- 
dent had ordered him to carry the body to the elevator any- 
way. Together they had taken the corpse to the basement and 
Conley had dumped her in the corner. It was after this that 
Conley and Frank had returned to the second floor office, 
and the sweeper had written the notes. The rest of the 
third affidavit was similar to the previous ones except that 
this time Frank had supposedly given the Negro $200, and 
then took the money back with the promise that he would re- 
turn it again. The Journal regarded Conley 1 s latest re- 
marks as "the most sensational development in the Phagan 
murder case since the arrest of Superintendent Frank, " and 

the detectives considered it "the most important link in 

2 
their chain of evidence against the factory official." 

After his third affidavit, the detectives took Conley 

back to the pencil factory and had him reenact the events of 



Lawson, op. cit ., pp. 248-50. 

2 

AJ, May 30, 1913, p. 4. 



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71 

the murder day. The sweeper, The Georgian reported, "went 
through the grim drama with a realism that convinced all who 

listened and watched that he at last was telling the whole 

1 
truth." 

Shortly after Conley made the last of his sensa- 
tional statements, he was removed from the police jail, 
where he had been for a month, and placed in a cell in the 
Fulton County Tower, where reporters would have free aacpess 
to him. But within a few days, after Conley had complained 
that Frank's visitors intimidated him with remarks like, 

"I could shoot you through the bars of your cell right now, " 

2 
and "Don't you think you ought to be shot?" Solicitor 

Dorsey petitioned the presiding judge of the Fulton County 
Criminal Court, Leonard Roan, to transfer the prisoner back 
to the police jail. Dorsey argued that he did not want any- 
one to tamper with Conley "in any manner which might destroy 

3 
his value as a witness." Roan acceded to the Solicitor's 

request. Once the sweeper was back in the police jail, 

Chief Detective Lanford remarked, "We wanted Conley where 



AG, May 30, 1913, p. 1. 

AC, June 1, 1913, p. 1. 

3 
Ibid., p. 2. 



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72 

we could get to him at any time we thought advisable." 

But the transfer had the effect of insulating the 
prisoner. In the city jail, Solicitor Dorsey, or one of his 
staff members, screened Conley 's visitors, a thing they 
could not do had he been in the county jail. When Pinkerton 
Detective Scott announced in July that he was reexamining 
his conclusions about who murdered Mary Phagan, the police 
immediately curtailed his access to Jim Conley. Chief De- 
tective Lanford explained the action as follows: "We did 
not want to embarrass Scott by requesting him to keep silent 
and did not risk the probability of letting new developments 

reach Frank's attorneys, therefore we were forced to prevent 

2 
him from seeing the negro." Until August, when Conley 

would testify in court, no one who was skeptical of the 
Negro's innocence or of Frank's guilt, was permitted an in- 
terview with the sweeper. 

Once the authorities were satisfied with Conley 1 s 
sworn statement, they continued their search for other wit- 
nesses who might substantiate their case against Leo Frank, 
The next affidavit they obtained came after the arrest of 



AJ, June 1, 1913, p. 1. 

2 

AC, July 19, 1913, p. 1. 



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73 

Minola McKnight, the Negro family cook at the Selig-Frank 
household. Albert MeKnight, Minola' s husband, reportedly in- 
formed his employers that his wife knew something about 
Frank's actions on the day of the murder. The employers 
told this to the police who arrested the cook at the begin- 
ning of June and held her, without a warrant, for twenty- 
four hours. Reporters heard Mrs. McKnight screaming from 
behind locked doors that she was going to be hanged for a 

crime that she knew nothing about. When finally released, 

2 
af^er being "quizzed to a point of exhaustion, " she left an 

affidavit behind her indicting Leo Frank. 

Mrs. McKnight swore that Frank came home for lunch at 
about 1:30 p.m. on the day of the murder but left ten minutes 
later without eating. The cook then claimed that she over- 
heard a conversation the following day between Mrs. Frank 
and her mother, Mrs. Selig. The younger woman supposedly 
told her mother that Frank had been drunk the night before, 
and that he wanted to shoot himself. He allegedly confessed 
to his wife that he was in trouble and that he did not know 
why he would want to commit a crime such as he had earlier 
in the day. Mrs. McKnight swore that her wages had been 



AC, June 3, 1913, p. 1, 

2 
AG, June 5, 1913, p. 1, 



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74 

raised twice since the murder, "but it was not for my work, 
they didn't tell me what it was for . . . but of course I 

understood what they meant. ... I understood it was a tip 

1 
for me to keep quiet." After being released, Minola 

McKnight repudiated her entire affidavit, but once again the 

repudiation did not make front page headlines as did the 

2 

accusation. 

The imprisonment and methods used to obtain a state- 
ment from the cook finally broke the silence that the Frank 
family had maintained since the superintendent's arrest. 
In a letter to all three Atlanta dailies, Mrs. Frank de- 
nounced Solicitor Dorsey and the city police. She casti- 
gated the law enforcers for torturing Mrs. McKnight "for 
four hours with the well-known third degree process, " in 
order to get the confession. Under the circumstances, Mrs. 
Frank wrote, anyone would have confessed to anything. 

Mrs. Frank also used this opportunity to defend her 
husband and deny the gossip about their relationship. 
"Every conceivable rumor has been put afloat that would do 
him and me harm, with the public, in spite of the fact" that 



1 AJ / June 4, 1913, p. 1; AG, June 4, 1913, p. 1; AC, 



June 5, 1913, p. 3. 
2 



AG, June 5, 1913, p. 2; AJ, June 6, 1913, p. 9, 



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75 
they are untrue. "I know my husband is innocent, " she con- 
cluded, "he is utterly incapable of committing the crime 

that these detectives and this solicitor are seeking to 

1 
fasten upon him. " 

Solicitor Dorsey, who to this point had also kept 
his own counsel, now answered Mrs. Frank's accusations: 
"the wife of a man accused of crime would probably be the 
last person to learn all of the facts establishing his guilt, 
and certainly would be the last person to admit his culpabil- 
ity, even though proved by overwhelming evidence to the sat- 
isfaction of every impartial citizen beyond the possibility 

2 
of reasonable doubt." 



Two weeks after the public exchange between the 
Solicitor and Mrs. Prank, another significant episode in the 
Phagan murder ,case made headlines. In the middle of June, 
the maid at Mrs. Formby's "rooming house" asserted that the 
detectives had been pestering her on numerous occasions to 



AG, June 5, 1913, p. 1; AJ, June 5, 1913, p. 1; AC, 
June 6, 1913, p. 2. 

2 
AG, June 5, 1913, p. 1; AJ, June 5, 1913, p. 1; the 

wording of Dorsey 5 s reply varies slightly in the two publica- 
tions • 



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76 



make an affidavit supporting Mrs. Formby's contention that 
Frank had phoned half a dozen times for a room on the eve- 
ning of the murder. The maid refused because she claimed 
that there had been no such call that evening, and if there 
had been she certainly would have answered the phone. One 
of Dorsey's assistants shortly afterwards announced that the 
state never attached much importance to Mrs. Formby's affi- 
davit, "except for the first few days, " and had no intention 

2 
of using it at the trial. One of Blank's attorneys used 

this remark to denounce the prosecution: 

I see the detectives are gradually giving it out that 
Mrs. Formby will not be called as a witness, although 
her affidavit has been paraded before the public bearing 
the unqualified endorsement of the detective department 
as being perfectly reliable and true. Worse than this, 
an intimation was published in the newspapers that 
Frank's friends had persuaded her to leave town. In 
this and in many other ways our client has been done a 
very great injustice. The effort seems to have been not 
to find the criminal but to try by all means to put the 
crime on Frank. 

In July, lawyers for the defense "leaked" an affi- 
davit they had in their possession from an insurance agent 
who tried to sell Conley insurance on the day of the murder. 



AG, June 19, 1913, p. 1. 

2 
AG, June 21, 1913, p. 1. 

3 
Quoted in AJ, JUne 22, 1913, p. 1. 



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77 

The sweeper had no intention of purchasing any insurance at 
that time, and feeling annoyed about the solicitation 
threatened the agent: "I've killed a girl today; I don't 
want to kill nobody else.' 1 According to the affidavit, the 
insurance agent had gone to the police and also to some fac- 
tory officials (not including Frank) on April 29 with his 
tale but no one seemed interested. In the factory the in- 
surance agent was allegedly told that there were no Negroes 
at the pencil plant on the day of the murder. The detec- 
tives responded quickly to this "leaked" affidavit, and The 

2 
Georgian reported: "CONLEY IN SWEATBOX AGAIN." 

Despite the state's conviction that Frank had killed 

Mary Phagan, the Grand Jury now wanted to indict Jim Conley. 

The foreman asked Solicitor Dorsey to call the group into 

3 
session but he refused to do so. Then the foreman threat- 
ened the Solicitor that action would be taken without him. 
It was "the first time the grand jury [took] up the consider- 
ation of a criminal case in this county over the protest of 

4 
the solicitor general." 



1 
AG, July 10, 1913, p. 1. 

2 

AG, July 11, 1913, p. 1. 

3 
AC, July 22, 1913, p. 1. 

4 
AJ, July 18, 1913, p. 1. 



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78 

When the veniremen met, Dorsey pleaded with them not 
to indict the Negro sweeper. The Grand Jury finally acceded 
to his request, but "the solicitor did not win his point 
without a difficult fight. He went in with a mass of evi- 
dence showing why the indictment of the negro would injure 
the state's case against Frank and stayed with the grand 
jurors for nearly an hour and a half." 

10 
A careful reading of the three Atlanta newspapers 
throughout the pre-trial period reveals that there was a dif- 
ference in their coverage of the case that extended far be- 
yond the quantity of words expended, the size of the banner 

2 

headlines, or the number of extras put out. The Georgian , 

despite its sensationalism, and The Journal , its competitor 
in the afternoon, presented a more judicious view of the 

affair than did the morning Constitution , which seemed to 

3 
assume Frank's guilt. One reason for The Constitution's 



AC, July 22, 1913, p. 1. 

2 

During the first week after the murder there was a 

great deal of confusion in the city, and this was reflected 
in the newspapers which published rumor and hearsay, informa- 
tion and misinformation, indiscriminately. My comments con- 
cerning the newspapers' handling of the case, therefore, re- 
fer to the treatment given after May 5 or 6, 1913. 

3 
The Constitution , for example, published a full page 



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79 
attitude might have been that it had friends in the police 
department, and therefore accepted the official version more 
easily. Whenever the police wished to publicize materials 
incriminating Frank, The Constitution usually got the exclu- 
sive story. The Constitution also gave greater prominence 
to the theories of the police. The Journal 's methods might 
have been influenced by the character and integrity of its 
phief reporter on the case, Harold Ross, who later won fame 
as the editor of The New Yorker magazine. Ross would later 
write, "Without making the assertion that Frank is innocent, 

it may be said that his conduct from the outset was that of 

2 
an innocent man. . . . " There are two possible explana- 
tions for The Georgian 's approach. In the first place, it 
was primarily concerned with selling newspapers rather 
than with the guilt or innocence of any of the suspects. 
Hence there would be no reason to concentrate on building up 



article the day before the trial opened, lauding the detec- 
tives who "solved" the murder case. AC, July 27, 1913, 
magazine section. 

The statements from the policeman who thought he 
had seen Frrnk alone in a park with a young girl the previ- 
ous year, and then from the proprietor of the "rooming house" 
that Frank had allegedly phoned on the night of the murder, 
were both published first in The Constitution . 

2 
Harold Ross wrote this for a San Francisco news- 
paper in June, 1915. It is reprinted in Harry Golden, 
A Little Girl Is Dead (Cleveland, 1965), pp. 355-58. 



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80 
a case against any single individual. On the other hand, 
Hearst had sent some of his top reporters to Atlanta after 
he had purchased The Georgian . He sent additional talent 
after Mary Phagan had been murdered. These people were care- 
fully selected on the basis of their journalistic skills. 
It is possible that they were perhaps more sophisticated, 
and had learned from their experiences in other cities, that 
the authorities, like everyone else, could make mistakes. 

It was a Georgian reporter, in fact, who observed that Hugh 

1 
Dorsey "has never shown any unusual skill as a detective r n 

It would be inaccurate to state that material favor- 
able to Frank did not appear in The Constitution or that The 
Journal and The Georgian constantly showed concern for the 
prisoner's welfare. But each paper did handle the news dif- 
ferently. Whereas The Journal gave a front page headline 

to the item that "Frank's Treatment of Girls in Factory 

2 
Described as Unimpeachable by One Young Lady Employee, " 

two weeks later The Constitution buried a similar comment 

at the bottom of an inside page, where its readers might 

3 
easily ignore it. The Georgian , on the other hand, 



AG, May 11, 1913, p. 2. 

2 
AJ, May 8, 1913, p. 1. 

3 
AC, May 23, 1913, p. 2. 



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81 
printed the following letter, from a questioning Atlantan, 
in type large enough to catch the eye: "Is not the case 
against Leo Frank so far presented against him palpably weak? 
And does not the far greater weight of evidence now point 
unmistakably to the negro Conley as the sole perpetrator of 
the crime?" One would hardly expect The Constitution to 
give prominence to such a comment. Less than two weeks 
earlier, its readers had been informed that Conley' s "story, 
said to have been told at the last explanation, is so 
straight -forward and coincides so perfectly with other 

phases that have already been brought out that it is said 

2 

to be indisputable." 

Northern journalists who later came to investigate 

the affair in Atlanta, wrote afterwards that the newspapers 

3 
had assumed Frank's guilt from the time of his arrest. 

This was not true. The only daily which seemed to imply that 

Frank was guilty was The Constitution , and even that paper 

severely criticized the way in which the police had handled 



1 
AG, June 11, 1913, p. 2. 

2 

AC, May 30, 1913, p. 2. 

3 

Even an astute observer like C. Vann Woodward ac- 
cepted, uncritically, the views of the northern journalists, 
In his biography, Tom Watson , Woodward wrote, "The Atlanta 
press immediately assumed the guilt of Frank . . .," p. 435, 



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82 
the investigation during its earliest stages. 

11 
A variety of factors complicated the search for Mary 
Phagan's murderer. As Arthur Train later observed, "News- 
paper sensationalism, the unscrupulous use of rumor and 
falsehood, the inflamed condition of the public mind, the 
beauty of the dead child, the fact that it was a crime of 
violence upon a woman, must have made it difficult for the 
police to deal — if they can ever be expected to deal — judi- 
cially with the evidence at their command." Yet the police 
did deal with the evidence and concluded that Prank was 
guilty. They picked a Jew as the culprit over a Negro, and 
an attempt must be made to explain why that choice had been 
made, particularly in view of later findings that the proof 
against Frank was not conclusive. Unfortunately, lack of 
sufficient information makes it impossible to arrive at a 
wholly satisfactory explanation for the decisions of the 
police. 

The authorities, of course, might have sincerely be- 
lieved Frank guilty. One of Dorsey's assistants maintained 



Arthur Train, "Did Leo Frank Get Justice?" Every- 
body's, XXXII (March, 1915), 317. 



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83 

that such was the case many years after the trial. Perhaps 
while examining Conley, the police had become convinced that 
parts of his story, especially the incriminating remarks 
about Frank, were true. 

There is also a possibility that the police had be- 
come so deeply committed to the theory of Frank's guilt at 
an early date, that later evidence made it, at best, psycho- 
logically difficult for them to change, or at worst, politi- 
cally inexpedient. Unluckily for Frank, an Atlanta attorney 
inadvertently blundered into the situation. When the dicto- 
graph transcription was published in The Atlanta Journal , 
the public read that the police knew of Frank's guilt but 
were trying to protect him I It would have further compli- 
cated the position of the police if they had changed their 
attitude towards the main suspect at the very moment they 
were accused of shielding him. 

Added to this was the mounting pressure of public 
anxiety. The Constitution started a fund to bring one of 



DeWitt H* Roberts to Leonard Dinner stein, February 
19, 1964. (Mr. Roberts, a native Georgian, did a study of 
the Frank case for the Anti-Defamation League in 1953. His 
essay is on file in the Anti-Defamation League offices in 
New York City.) Roberts wrote to me that he had been present 
during a "heated but good-natured argument" on the subject 
of Frank's guilt in 1931. At that time, one of Dorsey's key 
assistants still maintained that Frank had been guilty. 



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84 

the world's most prominent sleuths to Atlanta to solve the 
murder — William J. Burns. The police felt threatened. They 
were forced to act quickly, and perhaps in their haste, they 
overlooked materials which under other circumstances might 
have been more soberly considered. 

The opinions and activities of the police helped to 
condition the public's reaction. The police led the people 
to believe that the strands of hair which had been found on 
a metal lathe in the workroom opposite Frank's office had 
been "identified positively" as that of the dead girl. This, 
in fact, was not true, but I have been unable to discover 
whether the authorities knew it was false when they released 
the information to reporters . Similarly the red spots on 
the floor near the metal lathe, called "blood stains" by the 
police, and repeated as such in the newspapers, were proven 
to be something other than humor* blood — but this information 
did not reach the public until 1914. Released affidavits 
about Frank's alleged sexual escapades might also have 
colored people's opinions. The statements of the policeman 
who supposedly had seen Frank with a young girl in the park, 
and of the proprietor of a "rooming house" that Frank had 
reportedly phoned her for a room on the night of the murder, 
were never produced in court. Yet both probably affected 



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85 
the thoughts of newspaper readers. 

The behavior of other officials might also have 
weighed heavily against Frank in the public's mind* In July, 
the members of the Grand Jury wanted to indict Jim Conley, 
but Solicitor Dorsey convinced them not to do so. Atlantans 
might have assumed that Dorsey certainly must have given the 
Grand Jurors compelling reasons to dissuade them from their 
intended course. Perhaps they recalled the assurance that 
The Georgian had given its readers in May: "That the author- 
ities have very important evidence that has not yet been dis- 
closed to the public is certain." Even more plausible, how- 
ever, is that the people of Atlanta had assumed, and quite 
naturally, that the Solicitor would not have prosecuted a 

white man, rather than a Negro, "unless the evidence was 

1 
overwhelming . " 

Even if the published stories had been less incrimin- 
ating, Frank had a great many things working against him in 
this Southern community. He was a northerner, a Jew, an in- 
dustrialist, and an employer of cheap female labor. Commen- 
tators disagree as to which of these factors did the most 
damage, but all agree that each hurt Frank. Alton Jones, 



AG, May 30, 1913, p. 1. DeWitt H. Roberts to 
Leonard Dinner stein, February 19, 1964. 



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86 



author of "Progress ivism in Georgia, " believes that Frank 
"had a great deal against him" because he projected a 
"northern, urban, industrial image." Franklin Garret, 
author of the massive Atlanta and Environs , acknowledged 

that had Frank been a Gentile, the public might have been 

2 

less willing to accept the word of a Negro accuser. One 

chronicler of the Frank case put the argument somewhat dif- 
ferently by relating the following incident: "One man, 
after asserting that there is no prejudice against Frank, 

because he is a Jew, grows eloquent and says Mary Phagan is 

3 
our folks . " 

Frank also provoked community wrath as an employer 
of underpaid female labor. "What was uppermost in the minds 
of those who were indignant, " The Outlook commented after- 
wards, "was the fact that the accused represented the eraploy- 

4 
ing class, while the victim was an employee." John Higham 

wrote that many working class people "saw in Frank a symbol 



Alton D. Jones to Leonard Dinner stein, May 21, 1964, 

2 
Telephone conversation with Franklin Garret, in 

Atlanta, January 24, 1964. 

3 
Thompson, op. cit ., p. 29. 

4 
"The Case of Leo M. Frank, " The Outlook , CX (May 

26, 1915) , 167. 



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87 
of the northern capitalist exploiting southern womanhood." 
Atlantans were further prejudiced against the fac- 
tory superintendent because of his alleged activities with 
young girls. None of the accusations was ever proved but 
they had a profound effect upon the public. Arthur Train, 
who analyzed Frank's situation in 1915, commented that "the 
suspicion of being a pervert sealed his fate." Train also 
noted that "once suspicion had been directed against him 
there was a universal effort to prove him guilty, and every 
conceivable argument that tended to support the theory was 

evoked, including the fact that he was an employer of young 

2 

girls, and that he was a Jew." 

As he readied himself for the trial, Frank confi- 

3 
dently expected an acquittal. The four weeks in the court- 
room, however, would provide him with a series of shocking 
experiences a He eventually came to realize that the rumors 
of his alleged indiscretions, and the alien image that he 
presented, significantly affected the course of his trial. 



1 
Higham, Strangers in the Land , p. 185. 

2 
Train, op. cit ., pp. 315-17. 



3 

AJ 



, July 26, 1913, p. 1, 



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88 



CHAPTER III 



PREJUDICE AND PERJURY 



No trial in Georgia's history rivaled Leo Frank's 
for public interest. No Georgian appeared indifferent to 
the fate of the accused. Even outside of Atlanta one could 
hardly find "a hamlet or wayside, city or township in Georgia 
that [was] not submerged head over heels, in interest in 
the Prank case." 

For more than four months the newspapers featured 
the manhunt above all other subjects and outside of the 
state the trial made front page headlines in the largest 
cities of the south. But a reporter for The Atlanta Con- 
stitution lamented that "because it is not in New York, the 
papers of that fickle metropolis have not, in all, carried 
more than a column of the entire case." 2 He also might 
have mentioned that outside the South few people knew that 



^C, August 4, 1913, p. 2; August 17, 1913, p. 2A; 
AG, July 27, 1913, p. 1. 

2 SMN, August 10, 1913, p. 3; AC, August 4, 1913, 
p. 2. 



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89 
Leo Prank existed. The situation would soon change, how- 
ever, and Georgians would not be very happy about it. 

1 
The trial opened in an atmosphere unfavorable to the 
defendant. A Georgian reporter observed, "the public has 

not YET become convinced — and may never become convinced 

that Leo Prank is innocent of the crime for which he has 
been indicted." Gossip about the murder had been so wide- 
spread and the details of the manhunt so frequently recalled, 
that some people in Atlanta doubted whether a jury could be 
assembled which would "be willing to view the evidence cool- 
ly, without prejudice or without bias." 1 In fact, the temper 
of the crowd surrounding the courthouse was so ugly that 
twenty officers guarded the courtroom and someone s\:ggested, 
as a further precaution, that spectators be searched for 
dangerous weapons before entering the building. 2 

Leo Prank had engaged two of Georgia's outstanding 
lawyers to defend him. His main counsel, Luther Z. Rosser, 
had a reputation for being "the most persuasive and the most 
domineering lawyer in Atlanta in the art of examining wit- 
nesses, " while Rosser' s associate, Reuben R. Arnold, "perhaps 



•^G, July 27, 1913, p. 2. 
2 Ibid . 



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90 
the best-known attorney in Georgia/ 1 had long been regarded 
as "one of the ablest criminal lawyers in the South." 1 The 
brilliant reputations of the defense attorneys would eventu- 
ally prove disastrous to Frank's cause because they failed 
to display their forensic talents at the very moment they 
were most needed. But as the trial opened, The Atlanta 
Constitution guaranteed its readers the "Greatest Legal 
Battle in the History of Dixie." 2 

The prosecution began with a repetition of published 
information. The state sought to establish, through differ- 
ent witnesses, that blood spots on the floor and strands of 
Mary Phagan's hair on a lathe nearby indicated that the 
murder had occurred in the second floor workroom, opposite 
Prank's office, and that the superintendent, the last person 
known to have seen the girl alive, had the opportunity to 
kill her. Doctors testified that Mary Phagan's death prob- 
ably occurred between 12:00 and 12:15 p.m. The state also 
introduced Monteen Stover, one of the factory employees, 
who had arrived to collect her pay on the day of the murder 



Herbert Haas and Co. was the legal firm retained by 
Frank. Rosser and Arnold, however, directed the presenta- 
tion in court. AC, July 27, 1913, p. 2; June 22, 1913, p. 1; 
AJ, June 22, 1913, p. 1. 



2 AC, July 27, 1913, p. 1. 



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91 
at 12:05 p.m./ looked into Frank's office, did not see him, 
waited five minutes, and then left the building. This em- 
ployee's testimony was especially damaging because at one 
of his first interrogations, on April 28, Frank had told 
Chief Detective Lanford that Mary Phagan arrived between 
12:05 and 12:10 p.m., and that he had not left his office 
between 12:00 and 12:30 p.m. The state's case appeared 
clear — the prosecution would try to prove that Leo Frank 
murdered Mary Phagan at the very time Monteen Stover had 
waited for her pay. 

During the first week of the trial, testimony of the 
state's witnesses furnished the background for Jim Conley, 
the Negro sweeper, whose story would provide the crux of 
the prosecution's presentation. Most observers agreed that 

Frank's fate rested upon the jurors' willingness to believe 

2 
the sweeper's tale. 

When Conley finally reached the witness stand, an 
obvious transformation had taken place in his appearance. 
Habitually he wore dirty clothes and presented a rather 



-""Lawson, op. cit. . pp. 197, 201, 242; AJ, August 2, 
1913, p. 5. 

2 AC, August 5, 1913, p. 2; August 13, 1913, p. 2; 
SIN, August 6, 1913, p. 1; AJ, August 3, 1913, p. 1; AG, 
July 27, 1913, p. 2; August 3, 1913, p. 1; TAC, August 11, 
1913, p. 1. 



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92 
shabby if not downright filthy, appearance. In the court- 
room, though, his face was scrubbed, his hair cut and combed, 
his clothes clean and new. 

Solicitor Dorsey led Conley through his paces and 
the Negro responded with alacrity. In the courtroom, 
Conley both added to, and elaborated upon, his earlier 
affidavits. The Atlanta Journal commented afterwards that 
the sweeper's glibness had a rehearsed air. Nevertheless, 
Conley unfolded a tale filled with painfully vivid detail. 

The sweeper explained that he had arrived in the 
factory on the day of the murder at 8:30 a.m., as he had on 
other Saturdays, and that he spoke with Frank who instructed 
him to go out, take care of some errands, and then return. 
The superintendent allegedly mentioned that he was expect- 
ing a young lady who would come to "chat" for awhile. Conley 
then told the court that he had "watched out" for Frank on 
other occasions when ladies came to "chat" and that when 
Frank stamped his foot the sweeper would lock the front 

door; then he would wait in the lobby and unlock the door 

2 

when Frank whistled. 



AJ, August 4, 1913, p. 6. 
Lawson, op. cit ., p. 202. 



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93 
Conley then related how Mary Phagan arrived and 
went upstairs. After that he heard footsteps going back 
to the metal workroom (where the prosecution contended that 
Mary had been murdered) , a girl scream, and then saw Monteen 
Stover enter the building and go up to the second floor. 
"She stayed there a pretty good while, " and then left the 
building. After that Conley heard footsteps tiptoeing to 
the office and then back to the metal room. At that point 
the sweeper dozed off and went to sleep. A stamping foot 
from the second floor awoke him and he locked the front door. 
A few moments later the whistle came and Conley unlocked the 
same door and went up to the superintendent's office. When 
he arrived he found 

Mr. Prank was standing up there at the top of the steps 
and shivering and trembling and rubbing his hands. . 
He had a little rope in his hands — a long wide piece of 
cord. His eyes were large and they looked right funny. 
He looked funny out of his eyes. His face was red. 
Yes, he had a cord in his hands just like this here cord. 
After I got up to the top of the steps, he asked me, 
"Did you see that little girl who passed here just a 
while ago?" and I told him I saw one come along there 
and she come back again, and then I saw another one 
come along there and she hasn't come back down, and he 
says, "Well, that one you say didn't come back down, 
she came into my office awhile ago and wanted to know 
something about her work in my office and I went back 
there to see if the little girl's work had come, and I 
wanted to be with the little girl, and she refused me, 
and I struck her and I guess I struck her too hard and 
she fell and hit her head against something, and I don't 
know how bad she got hurt. Of course you know I ain't 
built like other men. The reason he said that was, I 
had seen him in a position I haven't seen any other man 



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94 

that has got children. I have seen him in the office 
two or three times before Thanksgiving and a lady was 
in his office, and she was sitting down in a chair (and 
she had her clothes up to here, and he was down on his 
knees, and she had her hands on Mr. Prank. I have seen 
him another time there in the packing room with a young 
lady lying on the table, she was on the edge of the 
table when I saw her) . He asked me if I wouldn't go 
back there and bring her up so that he could put her 
somewhere, and he said to hurry, that there would be 
money in it for me. When I came back there, I found 
the lady lying flat of [ sic] her back with a rope around 
her neck. The cloth was also tied around her neck and 
part of it was under her head like to catch blood. . . . 
She was dead when I went back there and I came back and 
told Mr. Prank the girl was dead and he said, "Sh-Sh'" 
He told me to go back there by the cotton box, get a 
piece of cloth, put it around her and bring her up. 

Conley claimed that he did as he was bid: he rolled the 
girl up in the cloth, tried to pick her up but could not 
lift the bundle to his shoulder, let her fall, and called 
out to his boss, "Mr. Frank, you will have to help me with 
this girl, she is heavy." The sweeper then related that 
Frank came and caught her by the feet and helped Conley 
take the body to the basement, via the elevator, deposited 
it there, and then took the elevator back to the second 
floor. Conley then recalled having followed Prank back to 
his office. As soon as they arrived, the sweeper continued, 
they heard footsteps coming up the stairs and Prank put 
Conley in the wardrobe. After the people left, Prank al- 
legedly released the Negro and asked, 

"Can you write?" and I said, "Yes, sir, a little bit, " 
and he taken [sic] his pencil to fix up some notes. I 



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95 

was willing to do anything to help Mr. Frank because 
he was a white man and my superintendent, and he sat 
down and I sat down at the table and Mr. Frank dic- 
tated the notes to me. Whatever it was it didn't seem 
to suit him, and he told me to turn over and write again, 
and I turned the paper and wrote again, and when I done 
that he told me to turn over again and I turned over 
again and I wrote on the next page there, and he looked 
at that and kind of liked it and he said that was all 
right. 

Then Frank allegedly gave Conley another piece of paper, dic- 
tated another note, approved of what the sweeper wrote, and 
handed him $200. 

After awhile Mr. Frank looked at me and said, "You go 
down there in the basement and you take a lot of trash 
and burn that package that's in front of the furnace, " 
and I told him all right. But I was afraid to go down 
there by myself, and Mr. Frank wouldn't go down there 
with me. . . . And I said, "Mr. Frank, you are a white 
man and you done it, and I am not going down there and 
burn that myself." He looked at me then kind of fright- 
ened and he said, "Let me see that money" and he took 
the money back and put it back in his pocket, and I said, 
"Is this the way you do things?" and he said, "You keep 
your mouth shut, that is all right." And Mr. Frank 
turned around in his chair and looked at the money and 
he looked back at me and folded his hands and looked up 
and said "Why should I hang? I have wealthy people in 
Brooklyn, " and he looked down when he said that, and I 
looked up at him, and he was looking up at the ceiling, 
and I said, "Mr. Frank, what about me?" and he said, 
"That's all right, don't you worry about this thing, 
you just come back to work Monday like you don't know 
anything, and keep your mouth shut, if you get caught 
I will get you out on bond and send you away, " and he 
said, "Can you come back this evening and do it?" and 
I said "Yes, that I was coming to get my money." He 
said, "Well, I am going home to get dinner and you come 
back here in about forty minutes and I will fix the 
money," and I said, "How will I get in?" and he said, 
"TSiere will be a place for you to get in all right, but 



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96 

if you are not coming back let me know, and I will take 
those things and put them down with the body. ..." 

Then the two of them left the building. 

On the witness stand Conley told his story with such 
dramatic realism that "every spectator in the crowded court- 
room hung on his words." The narrative struck the presiding 
judge as unfit for innocent ears, and after a few hours, 
barred women and children from the courtroom for the remainder 
of the sweeper : s testimony. The women could not even have 
the vicarious pleasure of reading Conley 1 s whole story be- 
cause the newspapers held that "the most startling features 

2 

of the negro's testimony are unprintable." 

Rosser and Arnold cross-examined Conley for sixteen 
hours on three consecutive days. When they finished, the 
lawyers had gotten the sweeper to admit that he had lied on a 
number of previous occasions, that he had told only partial 
truths in previous affidavits, and that his memory was ex- 
ceedingly poor except for the specific questions which Hugh 
Dorsey had required him to answer. Yet the defense attor- 
neys, in their attempt to confuse Conley and catch him in a 



1 Frank v. State , Brief of the Evidence , pp. 54-57. 

2 AG, August 4, 1913, p. 2; AC, August 5, 1913, p. 2; 
SMN, August 6, 1913, p. 1. 



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97 
major misstatement, forced him to talk of the other times 
that he had "watched for" Frank and the witness vividly 
described other women who had come to "chat" with the 
superintendent while he had guarded the front door. 1 

Conley's revelations shocked the spectators "into 
almost irresponsible indignation. ..." After he stepped 
down from the witness stand one reporter wrote, "If so much 
as 5 per cent" of the story sticks, it "likely will serve 
to convict" Prank. The Atlanta Journal questioned whether 
"this illiterate negro [could] have conceived and fitted 
together such a set of detailed circumstances without some 
foundation in fact?" 

The weight of Conley's words assumed greater import 
because the defense attorneys had failed to upset his ac- 
count. Many Georgians assumed that Conley must have told 
the truth because Luther Rosser, "the most dreaded cross- 
examiner at the Georgia bar, and who knows the negro char- 
acter thoroughly . . . was unable to make a dent in the 



Frank v. State . Brief of the Evidence , pp. 59-73, 
passim. Conley also admitted that he defecated at the 
bottom of the elevator shaft on the morning of the murder 
day but this significant fact seemed to escape both re- 
porters and jurors. 

AG, August 5, 1913, p. 4; August 6, 1913, p. 3; 
AT, August 4, 1913, p. 6; August 10, 1913, p. 1. 



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98 
negro's story." 1 People believed Conley could not be 
flustered because he told what he had seen and done rather 
than what he might have been drilled to say. Fifty years 
after sitting in the courtroom and listening to the sweeper's 
testimony, McLellan Smith, who had covered the trial as a 
cub reporter for The Atlanta Georgian , was still certain 
that Conley had told the truth. "A man of his mental capac- 
ity/ 1 Smith reminisced, "could have been broken if he was 
lying." 2 

That the defense attorneys permitted Conley to dis- 
cuss previous occasions on which he had "watched for" Prank 
while the superintendent entertained women in his office 
seemed strange to many observers. Why they pursued this 
line of questioning was never explained, but speculators 
assumed that Rosser and Arnold felt confident that they 
could break the sweeper's fitory. After a day of cross- 
examination, however, which failed to change any major 
aspect of the narrative, defense counsel moved to have the 
testimony referring to Prank's alleged assignations struck 



1 The Memphis Commercial Appeal. January 3, 1915, 
p. 5; see also Macdonald, op. cit . . p. 2C; Hal Steed, 
Georgia; Unfinished State (New York, 1942) , p. 238. 

2 
Interview with McLellan Smith, April 2, 1964, 
Washington, D.C. 



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99 

from the record. Instantaneously the prosecutors jumped 
to their feet. One of Dorsey's assistants agreed that the 
testimony should have been ruled out, but he doubted the 
right of the defense to ask for this after having examined 
the witness on these points. Dorsey echoed his assistant's 
protest: "... able attorneys here have sat and let testi- 
mony enter the records without making protest, cross-examine 
him for two days, and twenty- four hours later, decide to 
complain. " 

The motion to strike incriminating remarks from the 
record backfired. "By asking that the testimony be elimi- 
nated," The Constitution wrote, the defense "virtually ad- 
mit their failure to break down Conley." Throughout At- 
lanta the "news spread that the negro had withstood the 
fire and that Frank's attorneys were seeking to have the 
evidence expunged from the records." This serious defense 

miscalculation "made Frank's road to acquittal a thousand 

2 

txmes harder to journey." 

The presiding judge, Leonard S. Roan, allowed Conley 1 s 
remarks to remain as recorded. The Judge observed that while 



Quoted in AC, August 6, 1913, p. 2. 

2 AC, August 6, 1913, p. 2; August 7, 1913, p. 2; AG, 
August 21, 1913, p. 3. 



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100 
the words "may be extracted from the record . . . it is an 
impossibility to withdraw it from the jury's mind." Roan's 
ruling electrified the spectators, who applauded and stamped 
their feet enthusiastically. The Judge immediately gavelled 
for order and announced that he would tolerate no further 
demonstration; but courtroom decorum was restored "with some 
difficulty. " The Constitution reported the scene in a banner 
headline: "SPONTANEOUS APPLAUSE GREETS DORSEY'S VICTORY." 
Reuben Arnold, Frank's attorney, sprang to his feet after 
the outburst subsided and announced, "If that happens again 
I shall move for a mistrial." 



After Jim Conley finished testifying, the prosecution 
called a few relatively unimportant witnesses and then rested 



AC, August 7, 1913, p. 3; AG, August 7, 1913, p. 3; 
Chattanooga Daily Times , August 7, 1913, p. 1. Ttechnically 
Arnold could not ask for a mistrial at the point that he jumped 
up because the jury had been excused for a few moments and 
had not been present to hear the demonstration. Other grounds 
for a mistrial had presented themselves earlier in the trial, 
before Conley testified. The jury observed Judge Roan read- 
ing a copy of The Atlanta Georgian . Roan held the paper so 
that every juror could read the headline emblazoned in red: 
"STATE ADDING LINKS TO CHAIN." The defense attorneys asked 
Roan at that time to caution the jurors about ignoring news- 
paper headlines when they reached their conclusion and did 
not press for a mistrial. Roan did as he was asked. AG, 
August 3, 1913, p. 1; AC, August 3, 1913, p. 1; SMN, August 3, 
1913, pp. 1, 3. 



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101 
its case. The first Atlanta publication to editorialize 
upon the stated presentation was Frost's Magazine , which 
to that point had refrained from any commentary upon the 
murder. The editor of the magazine stated that heretofore 
comment had been withheld because Dorsey and Lanford had 
given the public the impression that they possessed evidence 
which would assure Prank's conviction. After hearing the 
testimony, the editors of Frost's Magazine asserted that 
Atlanta's Chief Detective and the Solicitor both "misled 
the public. We cannot conceive that at the close of the 
prosecution, before the defense has presented one single 
witness, that it could be possible for any juryman to vote 
for the conviction of Leo M. Frank." Frost's Magazine based 
its conclusions primarily on Conley's testimony. "He did 
not adhere to his original story. He was shown by the cross- 
examination of Attorney Rosser to be absolutely unreliable 
in veracity and memory. One thing the negro did was to reply 
that 'he did not remember' to everything that did not tend 
toward the guilt of Frank, and would always fall back to his 
invented story." The periodical assumed that the additions 
Conley injected in the courtroom could have been made up 
from reading the newspapers and/or coaching from his attor- 
ney or Solicitor Dorsey. Of the Solicitor Frost's Magazine 
observed, "It is evident that he has sought self-aggrandizement 



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102 
in his ruthless effort to make out a case where he knew 
beforehand that he had no case." 1 



When Rosser and Arnold assumed the burden of present- 
ing their client's defense they attempted to show that Prank 
had conducted himself in his usual manner on the day of the 
murder and that he would not have been able to do so if he 
had performed so heinous a crime. Numerous witnesses testi- 
fied to Frank's whereabouts on the fatal day to establish 
that the superintendent did not have enough time alone to 
commit the crime of which Conley accused him. 

The defense attorneys thought they had a convincing 
case. Conley had sworn to being with Frank at times when 
other persons claimed to have seen the superintendent. None 
of the defense witnesses was impeached; all were of good 
character; and practically all were white — an important con- 
sideration with a Southern jury. 

The problem of time loomed largest in Conley* s nar- 
rative and Frank's refutation. According to the sweeper, 
Mary Phagan had arrived in the pencil factory to collect her 
pay before Monteen Stover. Miss Stover swore that she had 



"The Prosecution of Leo M. Frank, " Frost's Magazine . 
I (August, 1913), 1, 2. 



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103 
been in Prank's outer office from 12:05 to 12:10 p.m., and 
then left. The motorman and conductor of the trolley car 
on which Mary Phagan had come to town, testified that she 
left the trolley at 12:10 p.m. Other witnesses agreed 
that it took about two to four minutes to walk from the 
trolley station to the factory. Therefore either Monteen 
Stover or Jim Conley had made a mistake. Two employees who 
claimed that they had arrived at 11:45 a.m. to collect their 
pay, had come after 1:00 p.m. according to the sweeper. 
Frank claimed that he had gone home for lunch at 1:00 p.m. 
The defense introduced witnesses who had seen the super- 
intendent between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m. Another state witness, 
Albert McKnight, had sworn that he had seen Prank at home 
at 1:30 p.m. Yet Conley had testified that he and Prank 
had been in the factory at 1:30 p.m. Furthermore, Frank's 
attorneys produced witnesses who attested to the superin- 
tendent's whereabouts during most of the period that Conley 
claimed they had been together. According to the sweeper, 
and others, it would have taken Frank and Conley more than 
half an hour, if they had worked as quickly as possible, 
to perform the time-consuming tasks of murdering the girl, 
bringing the body to the cellar, returning to the super- 
intendent's office on the second floor, hiding in the 



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104 

wardrobe, and writing the murder notes. Yet, with the ex- 
ception of about eighteen minutes (between approximately 
12:02 and 12:20), Frank's time seemed to have been accounted 
for between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The Constitution ob- 
served that the "chain of testimony, forged with a number 
of links, has established a seemingly unbreakable corrobo- 
ration of Frank's account of his whereabouts. . . ." 2 

Leo Frank climaxed the defense presentation with a 
four hour effort to convince the jurors of his innocence. 
He briefly outlined his life history, his reasons for com- 
ing to Atlanta, and his actions on the day of the murder. 
At times he specifically touched on points that the prose- 
cution had scored against him. He explained that Monteen 
Stover may not have seen him in his office when she arrived 
because when he sat at his desk "it is impossible for me to 
see out into the outer hall when the safe door is open, as 
it was that morning, and not only is it impossible for me to 
see out, but it is impossible for people to see in and see 
me there." On the other hand, he thought he might have been 
out of his office momentarily because of "a call of nature." 



1 Frank v. State , Brief of the Evidence , pp. 26, 41, 
54, 83-84, 103-17, 153-54, 229-32; Lawson, op. cit . . p. 220; 
AC, August 7, 1913, p. 3. 

2 

AC, August 17, 1913, p. 2A. 



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105 
The superintendent branded Conley's entire narrative "a 
tissue of lies," and again denied participating in the 
crime. A Georgian reporter wrote afterwards that "Prank 
was far and away the very best witness the defense has put 
forward/' and The Constitution observed that Prank's words 
"carried the ring of truth in every sentence." 1 

Altogether the defense introduced more than two 
hundred witnesses, including over one hundred who testified 
to Prank's good character, and at least a score who insisted 

they would never believe Jim Conley under oath or otherwise 

2 

because of his notorious reputation for lying. When Solic- 
itor Dorsey cross-examined these witnesses he asked them if 
they knew of Frank's reputation for lascivious behavior? 
The solicitor also asked witnesses if they had heard of 

Frank putting his arm around some girls and bouncing others 

3 
on his lap? Dorsey even asked one man if he had ever heard 

of Frank "kissing girls and playing with their nipples on 

their breast . . . ?" It mattered not how the witnesses 



lLawson, op. cit.. pp. 227, 237; AG, August 21, 1913, 
p. 3; AC, August 19, 1913, p. 1. 

2 AC, August 9, 1913, p. 1; August 17, 1913, pp. 2A 
and 4A; August 18, 1913, pp. 1, 2. 

3 
AJ, August 15, 1913, pp. 6, 20; August 14, 1913, 
p. 6; AG, August 18, 1913, p. 2. 

4 
Leo M. Frank v. State of Georgia . Motion For a New 
Trial , p. 107. 



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106 
responded. Conley had already said enough to damage Prank's 
reputation and the mere reiteration of the subject refreshed 
the jurors' memories. At one point, Solicitor Dorsey's 
questions resulted in an unexpected outburst from the de- 
fendant's mother, Mrs. Rae Prank. Dorsey asked a witness 
if he had ever heard of "Prank taking a little girl to Druid 
Hills [Park], sitting her on his lap and playing with her?" 
Before the witness could answer Mrs. Prank jumped up and 
shouted at the prosecutor, "No, nor you either— you dog!" 1 

Dorsey implied that Frank might also be a homosexual. 
He asked a former office boy if Frank had not made improper 
advances toward him and though the boy denied it, the in- 
sinuation that Prank indulged himself in this fashion "went 
from mouth to mouth gaining credence as it went." 2 

After the defense concluded its presentation the 
state offered rebuttal witnesses. Most of them swore that 
Frank did have a reputation for lascivious behavior. The 
state also brought forth George Kendley, a trolley car 



t« ■. ^°i! in C ' Aucust 14 ' W13. PP. 1, 3. The Atlanta 

^ rna l and The Atlanta Georgian reported Mrs. Prank's out- 

burst but did not include the words "you dog" as part of her 
remark. AJ, August 13, 1913, p. l, AG, August 13, 1913 n i 
The New York Sun, on the other hand, quoted Mrs. Prank as * 
saying, No, nor you either— you Christian dog'" October 12, 

2 
AC, August 13, 1913, p. 1; Thompson, op. git ., p. 25. 



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107 
conductor , who remembered seeing Mary Phagan walking in the 

direction of the factory at about noon on the day of the 

murder. The defense rebutted with people who repudiated 

Kendley and who swore that on numerous occasions the trolley 

conductor had loudly proclaimed his opinion that Prank "was 

guilty as a snake" and that if the court did not convict the 

Jew, Kendley would willingly join a lynching party to end 

this villain's life. The trolley conductor's testimony 

was less important for its content than for the attitudes 

expressed. It was the first time that any indication of 

overt anti-Semitism appeared in the court. 



The lawyers for both sides finally concluded their 
cases after four weeks of testimony. The state received 
whatever advantage might accrue from having both the open- 
ing and closing arguments before the jury with Frank's 
lawyers sandwiched in between. 

In his summary argument, one of Solicitor Dorsey's 
assistants suggested that Prank was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 
presenting one facet of his personality to friends and rela- 
tives and another to the girls working in the pencil factory. 



Dawson, op. cit . , pp. 238, 239, 242; AT, August 21, 
1913, p. 2. 



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108 
Arnold and Rosser accused the prosecutors as well as the 
city detectives of misrepresentation and duplicity. Ohe 
former suggested that "if Prank hadn't been a Jew there 
would never have been any prosecution against him, " and 
that the entire case is the "greatest frame-up in the his- 
tory of the state." 

Though Rosser and Arnold, as well as Hooper, spoke 
well, Hugh Dorsey received the most extravagant praise from 
the newspapers. In his concluding argument, characterized 
b y The Cons titution as "one of the most wonderful efforts 
ever made at the Georgia bar, " 2 the Solicitor reviewed the 
state's evidence and asked the jurors to bear in mind that 
Rosser and Arnold, "two of the ablest lawyers in the coun- 
try" had been unable to break Jim Conley. "They" introduced 
the race question, Dorsey reminded the jurors, "the word 
Jew never escaped our lips." The prosecutor spoke kind 
words about Disraeli, Judah P. Benjamin, and the Strauss 
brothers but he also emphasized the activities of Jewish 
criminals: Abe Ruef, the former Mayor of San Francisco, 
Abe Hummell, "the rascally lawyer," and "Schwartz, who 
killed a little girl in New York. . . . [The Jews] rise 



Lawson, op. cit . . pp. 264, 266 
2 AC, August 24, 1913, p. 1. 



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109 
to heights subline but they also sink to the lowest depths 
of degredation! " Dorsey dismissed the argument that Frank 
had a good character. He noted that Judas Iscariot and 
Benedict Arnold were considered honorable men before they 
committed their treacherous deeds, 

"A perfect case" 2 is what the Solicitor claimed the 
state had against the accused. He cited as proof of this 
part of a letter the defense had introduced which Prank 
wrote to his uncle on the day of the murder. The letter 
read, in part, "It is too short a time since you left for 
anything startling to have developed down here." Dorsey 
found this sentence "pregnant with significance, which 
[bore] the ear-iuarks of the guilty conscience. ..." "Stoo 
short! Too short! Startling!" Dorsey fulminated before 
the jury. "But 'Too short a time, ' and that itself shows 

that the dastardly deed was done in an incredibly short 

3 
time." Dorsey also mentioned in his summation that 



-"■AC, August 24, 1913, p. 1; AG, August 23, 1913, 
p. 1; Lawson, op. cit ., pp. 302, 303, 312. The windows of 
the courtroom were constantly open because of the heat. 
Since the room was on the main floor of the building some 
of the voices traveled clearly to the outside. At times 
Dorsey 1 s summation was so impressive that murmurs of ap- 
plause could be heard inside of the courtroom from those 
assembled outside of the building. 

2 Lawson, op. cit . , p. 319. 

3 Ibid ., p. 321. 



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110 
Mrs. Frank did not visit her husband until two weeks after 
he was imprisoned because she knew that he was guilty. 1 
Then the Solicitor moved on to the murder notes. 
He contended that proof that these notes had originated in 
a white man's mind was supplied by the use of the words 
"Negro" and "did." If Conley had relied upon his own vocab- 
ulary, Dorsey argued, he would have employed the expressions 
"nigger" and "done" since Negroes never used the other terms. 
At this point Rosser interrupted the Solicitor and disputed 
Dorsey on the words that Conley had written. Rosser noted 
that according to the stenographic report of the trial, 
Conley had used the word "did" on a number of occasions. 
Dorsey responded that the court stenographer must have re- 
corded the word incorrectly, but the stenographer then an- 
nounced to the court that "the shorthand character for 'did' 
is very different from 'done' [and] there's no reason for a 
reporter confusing the two." Dorsey refused to yield, how- 
ever, and announced, "Let it go then, I'll trust the jury on 

2 
it." He then resumed his summary. 



This is one of the rumors that traveled through 
Atlanta after Frank's arrest. It is not without foundation, 
however. Although Mrs. Frank rushed to the police station 
as soon as she heard of her husband's arrest, the police re- 
fused her permission to see him. Mrs. Frank did not visit 
her husband again until May 11 — supposedly because he ex- 
pected to be released at any moment and did not want to have 
her humiliated by visiting him in jail. AG, April 29, 1913, 
p. 1; AC, April 30, 1913, p. 1; AG, May 12, 1913, p. 1. 

2 Lawson, op. cit .. p. 395. 



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1 1 



111 

Dramatic incidents in the courtroom punctuated the 
Solicitor's final talk. On the first day that he spoke, 
Mary Phagan's mother "became hysterical and let out several 
piercing screams. ..." She was overcome with emotion just 
at the moment that Dorsey pointed his finger at Frank and 
declared that the child gave her life to defend her honor. 
Dorsey' s "impassioned reference to the slain girl . . . had 
many in the courtroom in tears." 

Dorsey' s performance obviously pleased the crowd. 
As he left the courtroom each day the admiring throng greeted 
him with thunderous ovations. The temper of the crowd fright- 
ened the editors of all three Atlanta dailies. They peti- 
tioned Judge Roan not to let the case go to the jury on a 
Saturday, the second day of Dorsey' s summation, because they 
feared that if the jurors' verdict came that night, a riot 
similar to that of 1906 might ensue. 2 Judge Roan had the 
same thought. That Saturday afternoon he conferred, in the 
presence of the jury, with Atlanta's Chief of Police and the 
Colonel of the Fifth Georgia Regiment as to how they would 



X AJ, August 23, 1913, p. 1; AG, August 24, 1913, p.l. 

2 AG, August 22, 1913, p. 1; August 23, 1913, p. 1; 
August 24, 1913, p. 1; AC, August 23, 1913, p. 1; AJ, Au- 
gust 24, 1913, p. 1; AC, October 24, 1913, p. 7. 



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112 
handle the crowds after the announcement of the verdict. 
Both men were known, by sight, to the jurors, and the de- 
fense later alleged that this indicated to the jury that 
a riot would ensue should Frank be declared innocent. In 
any case Roan interrupted Dorsey before he concluded his 
final argument, thus forcing a recess until the following 
Monday. 

As Hugh Dorsey entered the courtroom to conclude 
his argument, the assembled throng welcomed him with a 
noisy, enthusiastic demonstration. The apprehensive judge 
demanded that the sheriff quell the demonstration and 
threatened to clear the courtroom if his order were not 

obeyed. "Your honor," the Sheriff responded, "that is the 

2 

only way it can be stopped." Roan then held a hurried con- 
ference with defense counsel and suggested that neither they 
nor their client be present to hear the jury's verdict. 
Rosser and Arnold agreed. They neither asked for, nor re- 
ceived, Frank's consent for this action. 

The solicitor then proceeded to speak. After three 
hours, he finally ended "the most remarkable speech which 



1 Frank v. Mancrum , 235 Supreme Court Reporter 594.U914) . 

2 
Frank v. State , Motion for a New Trial , p. 130. 

3 AC, October 25, 1913, p. 14; 235 Supreme Court Re- 
porter 594 (1914) . 



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3 



113 



has ever been delivered in the Fulton county courthouse" 
with the words, "Guilty, guilty, guilty!" The bell of a 
nearby Catholic Church tolled the hour of noon as Dorsey 
paused before reiterating the same dread sound. The punc- 
tuation of the bell between each concluding word "cut like 
a chill to the hearts of many who shivered involuntarily." 
Judge Roan then charged the jurors and they retired to 
thrash out a decision. 1 

The jury needed less than four hours to come to a 
decision. When the jurors returned to their chairs, the 
courtroom was empty except for a few officials, newspaper- 
men, and friends of the defendant. "It took no student of 
human nature to read . . . the verdict. ... On the face 
of each juror was the drawn look of men who had been com- 
pelled through duty to do an awful thing — to consign a 
fellow creature to the gallows. There was no mistaking 
that look. The strongest of the men shook as if some 
strange ailment had strcken them [sic]." T5ie foreman pro- 
nounced the dread judgment: Guilty] But as Judge Roan 
attempted to poll the individual members, their responses 
were drowned by the din which had erupted from the outside 
as soon as a reporter had thrust his head out of the window 



""•AC, August 26, 1913, pp. 1, 2, 



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114 
and shouted out the verdict. Roan requested that the win- 
dows be shut. Again he took his poll; each juror responded, 
"guilty." Prudence, Roan decided, required the sentencing 
at some other time. He therefore adjourned the court. 

Leo Frank awaited the verdict in his prison cell. 
Surrounded by cheerful friends and relatives, he appeared 
confident that the jury would acquit him. But at 5:25 p.m. 
a friend brought the news. A sudden pall was cast over 
everyone. "My God!" Frank exclaimed, "even the jury was 
influenced by mob law. I am as innocent as I was one year 
ago." Mrs. Frank sobbed bitterly and then fainted. "The 
silence was dreadful." 2 

But outside of the courtroom "a mob thousands 
strong . . . went wild with joy. . . . " 3 The next day 



^C, August 26, 1913, p. 1 # Conley was tried as 
an accessory to the crime in February, 1914. He was found 
guilty and sentenced to a year on the chain gang. 

2 AC, August 26, 1913, p. 1. 

3 SMN, August 26, 1913, p. 1. Different newspapers 
gave varying figures for the size of the crowd. The Atlanta 
Georgian reported it as 3,500 in one edition and 4,000 in 
the next, August 25, 1913, p. 1; Hie Marietta Journal and 
Courier also gave the figure of 4,000, August 29, 1913, p. 2; 
the Associated Press figure was 2,000 plus and this was re- 
ported on August 26, 1913, p. 1, in each of the following 
newspapers: New Orleans Times-Democrat . Columbia (S.C.) 
State, Chattano oga Daily Times . Raleigh (N.C.) Hews & Ob- 
server, and The Birmingham Age-Herald : the New York Call 
estimated the size of the crowd as 5,000, August 26, 1913, 
p. 1. 



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115 
The Constitution reported that trolley car conductors left 
their stations and joined the rejoicing throngs; women in 
fashionable social circles clapped hands; the local ball- 
park posted the news on the scoreboard and fans in the 
grandstands cheered wildly. Around the courthouse "a 
veritable honeycomb of humanity" yelled itself hoarse as 
the 

cry of guilty took winged flight from lip to lip. It 
traveled like the rattle of musketry. Then came a com- 
bined shout that rose to the sky. Hats went into the 
air. Women wept and shouted by turns. As Solicitor 
Dorsey appeared in the doorway of the courthouse while 
the crowd yelled its reception of the Frank verdict, 
there came a mighty roar. . . . The solicitor reached 
no further than the sidewalk. While mounted men rode 
like Cossacks through the human swarm, three muscular 
men slung Mr. Dorsey on their shoulders and passed him 
over the heads of the crowd across the street to his 
office. With hat raised and tears coursing down his 
cheeks, the victor in Georgia's most noted criminal 
battle was tumbled over a shrieking throng that wildly 
proclaimed its admiration. Few will live to see another 
such demonstration. 1 

Judge Roan and members of the jury were also greeted 

with applause and huzzahs as they left the courthouse. Mary 

Phagan's stepfather gratefully shook hands with each of the 

jurors, in turn, as they posed for newspaper photographers. 

The minister of Mary Phagan's church later recalled that the 

jury did exactly as he wished, and at the time, he "applauded 

2 
the verdict. " 



X AC, August 26, 1913, pp. 1, 4. 

2 AG, August 25, 1913, p. 1; Bricker, op. cit .. p. 90 



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116 

Throughout the state Georgians received the news 
of Frank's guilt "with great enthusiasm." In Greensboro, 
"a wave of actual jubilation swept over the city, M and 
The Savannah Morning News editorialized that "those who 
viewed the case . . . on the evidence and independently of 
their sympathies or their wishes are not surprised by the 
verdict. nl 

The day after Frank had been found guilty, Judge 
Roan secretly convened the principals in the case and sen- 
tenced Frank to hang. The proceedings had been arranged 
quickly and without fanfare because Roan feared the con- 
sequences of having Frank appear in public again. Not even 
Mrs. Frank was informed of the event. She did hear about 
it, though, but by the time she reached the court, her 
husband was just returning to jail. She accompanied him. 2 

In a public statement, after Roan's sentencing, 
Frank's lawyers characterized the previous weeks in the 
courtroom as "a farce and not in any way a trial." They 
condemned the fact that "the temper of the public mind 
. . . invaded the courtroom and invaded the streets and 



The Marietta Journal and Courier . August 29, 1913, 
P- 2; The He ra id -Journal (Greensboro, Ga.) , August 29, 1913, 
p. 4; SMN, August 26, 1913, p. 6. 

2 AC, August 27, 1913, p. 1. 



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117 
made itself manifest at every turn the jury made; and it 
was just as impossible for this jury to escape the effects 
of this public feeling as if they had been turned loose 
and had been permitted to mingle with the people." The 
attorneys then announced their intention to appeal the 
decision. But first they made plans to take a well de- 
served rest. 

5 
Atlantans had freely expressed their hostile atti- 
tudes toward Prank during the trial. The Augusta Chronicle 
summarized the feeling that existed before the jury rendered 
its verdict: 

The last day of the criminal trial which has ab- 
sorbed the city's attention for four weeks was marked 
by an impatience which was evident in every move of the 
public. There was a nervous tension apparent in the 
very atmosphere today. Wherever two or three persons 
were gathered there was a discussion of the probable 
outcome, of the time the jury would be out . . . and 
more than all else— of the possibility of "something 
happening" in the case of acquittal. 

That is the black shadow which has hung over Atlanta 
for a month — the unspoken fear of "trouble" — of vio- 
lence. Nobody will admit there was such a danger — but 
the feeling was there. There was a fear of the same 
element which brought about the great Atlanta riot of 
1907 [sic] — the lower element; the people of the back 
streets and the alleys; the near-beer saloons and the 
pool rooms. 



• ^bid . . 



p. 2. 



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118 



That is recognized as the real reason the trial 
of Leo Frank was abruptly adjourned Saturday and a re- 
cess taken until today. The Saturday night crowd in 
Atlanta, beer-drinking, blind-tiger frequenting, is 
not an assemblage loving law and order. A verdict which 
displeased these sansculottes of the Marietta street 
might well result in trouble should it be published in 
flaring extras after dark. 

The report that state troops have been given some 
kind of warning to be ready will not down. . . . There 
was vigorous denial that any steps had been contemplated 
—but still the rumors persisted, and even yet it still 
persists. 

The Atlanta papers have been wiser than in the 
days before the riot when the headlines of at least 
one paper inflamed the mob to action. There has been 
no word of the fear of violence, no mention of troops 
or riot; a careful avoidance of stirring up passion ex- 
cept in the printing of the court record, with its in- 
flammatory speeches. Atlanta wants no more trouble of 
the kind which brought a reign of terror in 1907 [sic] . ^ 

The antagonism toward Prank expressed itself more 
clearly than just a "spirit" in the air. The defense 
attorneys and Judge Roan had received communications during 
the trial to the effect that they would not leave the court- 
room alive if the "damned Jew" were turned loose. There is 
some indication that the jurors were similarly threatened. 
Crowds outside the courthouse chanted, "Hang the Jew." As 
early as May, 1913, "a well-known Atlanta woman" wrote to 
The Georgian that this "is the first time a Jew has ever 



TAC, August 26, 1913, p, 



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119 

been in any serious trouble in Atlanta, and see how ready- 
is every one to believe the worst of him." 1 

The Governor of Georgia had consulted with the com- 
manding officer of the national guard regiment in Atlanta 
just before the trial ended, and had alerted him to the 
possible danger of a riot after the jury returned its ver- 
dict. The militia commandant said his troops would be 
ready if necessary. Two years later a North Georgia news- 
paperman, who had attended the trial, wrote, "There is no 



AG, May 28, 1913, p. 3; Minutes of the American 
Jewish Committee's Executive Committee (American Jewish 
Committee Archives, New York) , November 8, 1913 (hereafter 
cited as Minutes) ; W. F. Eve to Governor John Slaton, 
May 27, 1915 (Prison Commission files, State of Georgia 
Archives, Atlanta) , (hereafter cited as PC Records) ; 
interview of John Slaton by Samuel A. Boorstein, October 12, 
1953 (files of An ti -Defamation League, New York City) ; 
DeWitt Roberts, "Anti-Semitism and the Leo M. Frank Case" 
(unpublished essay, ibid., n.d., ca. 1953), pp. 12-13; 
The Evening World (New York City), August 26, 1913, p. 6; 
Macdonald, op. cit. . p. 3C; AC, October 25, 1913, p. 14; 
Thompson, op. cit. . p. 31; Connolly, op. cit .. pp. 11, 18; 
The North Georgi a Citizen (Dalton, Ga.) , May 27, 1915, p. 4 
(The North Georg ia Citizen is frequently referred to as 
"The Dalton Citizen") ; The New Castle (Pa.) Herald pub- 
lished the following item on June 22, 1915: an Atlantan, 
interviewed the previous day, said, "A mob as infuriated 
and unworthy of credence as that which clamored for the 
crucifixion of Jesus Christ . . . was in Atlanta during 
the Leo M. Frank trial and all hands were crying 'Hang the 
Jew'"' Clipping, John M. Slaton Scrapbooks, Georgia State 
Archives (Atlanta, Ga.) , (hereafter cited as Slaton Scrap- 
books) . 



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i ""; 



120 



use mincing words when a human life is at stake. If the 
jury in the Prank case had brought in a verdict of 'not 
guilty 1 the defendant would have been lynched." 1 



1 The New York Times, June 22, 1915, p. 6; The North 
Georgia Citizen , May 27, 1915, p. 4. 



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121 



CHAPTER IV 



AN AMERICAN DREYFUS 



Although the Frank case attracted widespread atten- 
tion in the South, few people in the North heard about it 
until after the trial ended. Very soon thereafter, however, 
the news spread among the most powerful and influential Jews 
in the country. Frank's Atlanta friends considered him the 
victim of a bloodthirsty anti-Semitic attack. The Macon 
Dally Telegraph reported their reaction the day after Frank 
had been sentenced to hang: 

. • . the long case and its bitterness has hurt the city 
greatly in that it has opened a seemingly impassable 
chasm between the people of the Jewish race and the Gen- 
tiles. It has broken friendships of years, has divided 
the races, brought about bitterness deeply regretted by 
all factions. The friends who rallied to the defense of 
Leo Frank feel that racial prejudice has much to do with 
the verdict. They are convinced that Frank was not 
prosecuted but persecuted. They refuse to believe he 
had a fair trial. . . . 

Convinced that justice had not triumphed, Frank's Atlanta 

friends sought assistance from northern Jews who might be 



1 
The Macon Daily Telegraph (Georgia), August 27, 
1913, Frank Papers, Box 698. 



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122 



able to suggest a future course of action. Among those con- 
tacted were members of the American Jewish Committee. 



The American Jewish Committee had been established 
in 1906 for the purpose of aiding Jews "in all countries 

where their civil or religious rights were endangered or 

1 
denied." It had been formed by a group of wealthy Jews, of 

German and American descent, who were concerned about the 
precarious position of American Jewry at the beginning of 
the twentieth century. For the most part, the founders of 
the American Jewish Committee had either come to the United 
States in the mid-nineteenth century, or were descended from 
those Jews who had come somewhat earlier. In their own life- 
time they had experienced no organized persecution, and had 
found unlimited economic opportunities. As they prospered, 

they moved up the social ladder, leaving many of the old- 

2 
world Jewish practices behind them. 

In the 1880' s, groups of Eastern European Jews began 



Minutes , I (November 11, 1906), 69. 

2 

Yonathan Shapiro, "Leadership of the American Zion- 
ist Organization, 1897-1930" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, 
Columbia University, 1964), p. 26. 



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123 
migrating to this country. The Americanized Jews had qualms 
about the influx of these people and regarded them as a 
threat to their own status in this country. They feared 
that the peculiar costumes and customs of the Eastern Euro- 
peans would reflect adversely upon all Jews in this country. 
But despite these feelings, no concerted effort was made to 
thwart the attempts of those who insisted upon coming, and 
beginning in the early part of the twentieth century, the 
American Jews even encouraged the Eastern Europeans to seek 
refuge in the United States. Once the newcomers arrived, 
the Americans provided them with a good deal of assistance. 
By helping the Eastern Europeans adjust to the New World, 
the established Jews hoped to lessen the anti-Semitism which, 
they correctly assumed, might spring up after the new immi- 
grants settled here. One rabbi of long residence in the 
United States stated the issue cogently The future of Amer- 
ican Judaism will be powerfully affected by the Russian Jews, 
he noted. For "our own safety [and] our own good name? we 
must take them by the hand and show them how Jews live in 
the United States. 



1 
Nathan Schachner, The Price of Liberty; A History 

of the American Jewish Committee (New York, 1948), pp. 5-6, 

49-53; Shapiro, op. cit ., pp. 21-22; Sklare, op. cit ., pp. 

163-64; Morton Rosenstock, "Louis Marshall and the Defense 



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124 

tfhe Jews who occupied prominent places in American 
society recognized the necessity of helping the immigrants 
assimilate, but they quarreled among themselves over the 
wisest course of action. Finally, in 1903 , a mass pogrom 
in Kishinev, Russia, enraged Jews all over the world and 
stimulated American Jews to establish a philanthropic organi- 
zation which would coordinate and direct aid to the survivors, 
The sponsors of the new group viewed the organization as one 
which could be maintained long after aid had been given to 

the Russian victims, and which would act as a clearing house 

2 

for problems facing American Jews. These principles were 

thus embodied in the founding of the American Jewish Com- 
mittee, 

The founders and leaders of the American Jewish Com- 
mittee constituted the most prosperous and politically in- 
fluential members of the Jewish community in the United 



of Jewish Rights in the United States" (unpublished Ph.D. 
dissertation, Columbia University, 1963), p. 67. Rosen- 
stock's work has been published under the title, Louis 
Marshall, Defender of Jewish Rights (Detroit, 1966) . 

Arthur J. Abrams, "The Formation of the American 
Jewish Committee" (unpublished essay, Hebrew University, 
1960; deposited in American Jewish Archives, Box 2270), 
pp. 6-8. 

2 

Louis Marshall to Rev. Dr. Joseph Stolz, January 

12, 1906; Louis Marshall to Cyrus Adler, December 30, 1905, 
in Charles Reznikoff (ed.), Louis Marshall: Champion of 
Liberty (2 vols.; Philadelphia, 1957), I, 21, 22. 



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125 

States. Oscar Straus, the Secretary of Commerce and Labor, 
occupied the highest official political office; Jacob Schiff, 
head of Kuhn Loeb and Co., was probably the wealthiest. Be- 
cause of the prominent standing of Straus, Schiff, and the 
other members of the Committee, the organization wielded 
much influence as the members attempted to secure the rights 

of all Jews in this country "through contacts with men in 

2 

power." In addition, the Committee established a publicity 

bureau to secure the wide circulation of material which the 
members desired to make public. The information dissemin- 
ated emphasized the existence of discrimination against 

3 
American citizens. 



When the American Jewish Committee began, in 1906, 
hardly any area of the United States seemed free of anti- 
Semitism. During the previous decade, Jews had experienced 



The original members of the executive committee of 
the American Jewish Committee were Cyrus Adler, Nathan Bijur, 
Joseph H. Cohen, Rev. Dr. J. L. Magnes, Louis Marshall, 
Isidor Newman, Simon W. Rosedale, Max Senior, Jacob Schiff, 
Oscar Straus, Max Sloss, and Simon Wolf. The American Hebrew , 
June 29, 1906, pp. 93-94. 

2 

Shapiro , op. cit . , p . 149 . 

3 
Minutes , I (January 27, 1907), 31; II (March 19, 

1911), 24. 



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126 

their neighbors' sharpening hostility in Minneapolis; Roches- 
ter, New York; Chicago; Washington, D. C; and Maryland. In 
1898 a Unitarian Minister, in Colorado, had announced, "It 
is the Jewish race, not the Jewish church that is disliked, " 
but Jews considered this a distinction without a difference. 



Albert I. Gordon, Jews in Transition (Minneapolis, 
1949), p. 46; Stuart E. Rosenberg, The Jewish Community in 
Rochester, 1843-1925 (New York, 1954), pp. 118-19; E. A. 
Fischkin, "Jewish Problems in Chicago, " The Reform Advocate. 
XXXII (January 26, 1907), 830; David Herman Joseph, "Some 
More of It, and Why," The Temple, I (December 10, 1909), 3; 
B. H. Hartogensis, "Religious Intolerance in Maryland," The 
Jewish Exponent , XLV (April 12, 1907), 8; Ida Libert Uchill, 
Pioneers, Peddlers, and Tsadikim (Denver, 1957), pp. 157-58. 
Indications of the growing anti-Semitism in the United states 
can also be garnered from Rev. F. F. Ellinwood, "The Duty of 
Christendom to the Jews , " The Missionary Review of the World, 
III, New Series (November, 1890), 801-807; Josephus, "The Jew- 
ish Question, " The Century , XLIII (1891-1892) , 395-98; "Classi- 
cal Anti-Semitism, " The Nation , LXI (1895) , 50-51; "A Gross 
Injustice," The Jewish Messenger, LXXVIII (July 12, 1895), 4; 
Major W. Evans Gordan, M. P., "Where Come Our Immigrants," 
The World's Work , V(April, 1903), 3276-81; Richard Hayes 
McCartney, That Jew! (Chicago, 1905); "The Jews in the united 
States, " The world's Work, XI (January, 1906) , 7030-31; "is a 
Dreyfus case Possible in America?" The Independent , LXV (Novem- 
ber 12, 1908), 1105-1108; Sydney Reid, "Because You're a Jew," 
ibid ., LXV (November 26, 1908), 1212-17; "Race Prejudice 
Against Jews," ibid ., LXV (December 17, 1908), 1451-56; "Will 
the Jews Ever Lose Their Racial Identity?" Current Opinion, L 
(March, 1911), 292-94; J. G. Wilson, "The Crossing of the 
Races," The Popular Science Monthly , LXXIX (November, 1911), 
486-95; Nathura [ sic] Wolf, "Are the Jews an Inferior Race?" 
The North American Review, CXCV (April, 1912), 492-95; Burton 
J. Hendrick, "The Great Jewish Invasion, " McClure's Magazine, 
XXVIII (January, 1907), 307-21; Hendrick, "The Jewish Inva- 
sion of America," ibid ., XL (March, 1913), 125-65. 



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127 

During its first year, the American Jewish Committee was 
alarmed by three distinctive unpleasantnesses. In that year, 
The New York Sun pictured the "Jew as arrogant, ambitious, 
covetous, scheming, and stubborn. ..." In Spencer, Massa- 
chusetts, fifteen hundred workers threatened to strike a 
shoe factory unless the firm dismissed its nine Jewish em- 
ployees. And Oklahoma Jews sought the American Jewish Com- 
mittee's assistance to prevent a statement about the divin- 
ity of Christ from being injected into the proposed state 

1 
Constitution. 

Anti-Semitic outbursts were confined neither to 
class nor region, and cannot be ascribed merely to the ig- 
norant and underprivileged. It existed among the leaders of 
society, and included ministers, patricians, progressives, 
college teachers, and students who would be the opinion 
moulders of the future. These people sometimes expressed 
their opinions subtly, but their prejudices might have given 
a patina of respectability to the more vulgar fulminations 
of the less sophisticated. One can trace the bias back to 
the nineteenth century; it was especially prevalent during 



Joseph D. Herzog, "The Emergence of the Anti-Jewish 
Stereotype in the United States" (unpublished thesis, Hebrew 
Union College, 1953), p. 68; American Jewish Year Book , VII 
(1905-1906; Jewish year, 5666), 235; Minutes , I (November 
25, 1906), 125. 



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128 

the 1890' s. In the twentieth century, the hostility seemed 
to grow more intense. 

The attitudes found in prominent social clubs and 
educational institutions lent a veneer of gentility to anti- 
Semitism. In 1901, Frederic Bancroft opposed the membership 
of a Gentile into the Metropolitan Club of Washington be- 
cause he belonged to a class of people who, "like Jews . . . 
are not only undesirable, but are likely to be a disturbing 
element, because they lack the refinement that restrains men 
of good breeding." A faculty member at Columbia's Teachers 
College did not hesitate to write a colleague, in 1907, "My 

dear Mr. A. , Please do me the favor of not coming to the 

banquet tomorrow night, as I have invited a friend who does 
not like Jews." And at Harvard, many clubs "rigorously ex- 
cluded Jewish students." During the academic year 1913-1914, 

1 
students in Utica, New York, organized a "Kill Kyke Klan." 

Two of the most prominent American men of letters 

also made no attempt to hide their negative feelings towards 

Jews. Mark Twain explained his reason for this feeling: 



Frederick Bancroft to President & Board of Governors 
of Metropolitan Club in Washington, March 25, 1901, Frederic 
Bancroft Papers, Columbia University; Joseph, op. cit ., p. 9; 
Heywood Broun and George Britt, Christians Only; A Study in 
Prejudice (New York, 1931), p. 57; The American Israelite , 
September 17, 1914, p. 1. 



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129 
"the Jew is a money-getter; and in getting his money he is a 
very serious obstruction to less capable neighbors. ..." 
Henry Adams made no bones about his dislike for Jews. In 
the 1890' s he saw no place for himself in "a society of Jews 
and brokers, " and twenty years later informed a correspon- 
dent, "We keep Jews far away, and the anti-Jew feeling is 

quite rabid." Adams did not indicate any distaste for this 

1 
hostility. 

The combination of patricians and progressives also 
upset the Jews, especially when the negative feelings were 
expressed under the guise of objectivity or praise. In a 
hearing before a Congressional committee considering immi- 
gration revision, in 1909, Henry Cabot Lodge insisted, de- 
spite the protests of two members of the American Jewish Com- 
mittee, Simon Wolf and Judge Julian Mack, that Jews were a 
race and not merely a religious group. Lodge added that 
there were even members of Christian faiths who belonged to 
the Jewish race. In Georgia, Lucian Lamar Knight, the patri- 
cian historian of the state, ostensibly praised Jews for 
their commercial, and other, talents. He noted, for example, 



Mark Twain, "Concerning the Jews," Harper's Maga- 
zine, XCIX (1899), 530, 532; Higham, "Anti-Semitism in the 
Gilded Age: A Reinterpretation, " Mississippi Valley Histori- 
cal Review, XLIII (March, 1957), 573; Worthington Chauncey 
Ford (ed.), Letters of Henry Adams (2 vols.; Boston, 1938), 
II, 620. 



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130 
that Jews "are money makers to such an extent that the roll- 
call of the whole Hebrew population can be made from the 
tax-book." In good times and bad, he added, the Jew "has 
money to lend if not to burn and before he is ready to exe- 
cute his will he owns the grocery-store, the meat -market, 
the grog-shop, the planning-mill, the newspaper, the hotel 
and the bank." E. A. Ross, one of the more prominent gro- 
gressives, and a highly respected sociologist, stated quite 
clearly, in 1914, "!The fact that pleasure-loving Jewish 

businessmen spare Jewesses, but pursue Gentile girls, ex- 

1 
cites bitter comment." 

One of the most outspoken anti-Semitic progressives, 
Burton J. Hendripk, alarmed almost all Jews with his arti- 
cles in McClure's Magazine in 1907 and 1913, on "The Great 
Jewish Invasion." In the earlier one he acknowledged that 
the Jews were ambitious and successful, in American terms, 
but he concluded by asking whether the Jew has "in himself 
the stuff of which Americans are made?" Hendrick's second 
work depicted the activities of a Jewish conspiracy seeking 



U.S. Immigration Commission, "Transcript of Testi- 
mony by Simon Wolf and Julian W. Mack" (typescript in Ameri- 
can Jewish Committee Library, New York City, 1909), no 
pagination; Lucian Lamar Knight, Reminiscences of Famous 
Georgians (2 vols.; Atlanta, 1907), I, 512; E. A. Ross, 
"The Hebrew of Eastern Europe in America, " The Century Maga- 
zine, LXXXVIII (September, 1914), 787. 



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131 
to seize the country. He catalogued the different industries 
in the United States which "the Jews absolutely control, " and 
predicted that the Jewish influence in this country within 
the next hundred years would "be almost preponderating." 

Hendrick's second article appeared in March, 1913. 
Mary Phagan was murdered and Leo Frank arrested one month 
later. After Frank's conviction in August, his friends con- 
tacted members of the American Jewish Committee and asked 
for their assistance. In light of the apparent atmosphere 
in Atlanta, and the increasingly negative views of the Jews 
in the United States, the Committee took a special interest 
in Leo Frank. 



At the beginning of September, 1913, Louis Marshall, 
President of the American Jewish Committee, received three 
letters from prominent Atlanta Jews concerning the plight of 
Leo Frank. Two did not state their problem clearly, but the 
third spelled out what the others mysteriously refrained 
from putting down on paper: "I would like to enlist your 
assistance in what is without doubt an American 'Dreyfus 1 



Hendrick, McClure's Magazine, XXVIII (January, 1907) , 
314, 319-20; XL (March, 1913), 125, 126, 136, 153, 156, 158. 



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132 

case that has just developed in Atlanta." The writer summar- 
ized the affair and stated his opinion that the "evidence 
against Frank is purely prejudice and perjury. The feeling 
against the D Jew is so bitter that the jury was intimi- 
dated and feared for their own lives, which undoubtedly would 
have been in danger had any other verdict been rendered." 

Other members of the American Jewish Committee re- 
ceived similar communications. Cyrus Adler, in Philadelphia, 
heard that there was "violent anti-Jewish sentiment in 
Atlanta, " and Cyrus Sulzberger, in New York, received a let- 
ter from a resident of Columbus, Georgia, who had learned 

from his Atlanta friends of the "fearful state of affairs as 

2 

to this case." These letters were funneled to the American 

Jewish Committee's President, and as he digested the material, 

he, too, concluded "that this case is almost a second Drey- 

3 
fus affair." 



Milton Klein to Louis Marshall, September 4, 1913; 
David Marx to Louis Marshall, August 30, 1913; Leonard Haas 
to Louis Marshall, August 30, 1913, Louis Marshall Papers 
(American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati), Box 38. All letters 
to and from Louis Marshall are in this collection unless 
otherwise stated* therefore the expression "Marshall Papers" 
will not be repeated. Louis Marshall will be cited hereaf- 
ter as LM. 

2 

Cyrus Adler to Herman Bernstein, September 2, 1913; 

E. B. M. Browne to Cyrus Sulzberger, September 21, 1913, 
"The Leo Frank Correspondence Folder" (The American Jewish 
Committee Archives, New York City). 

3 
LM to Irving Lehman, September 9, 1913, Box 1584. 



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133 

Marshall decided that "it would be most unfortunate 
if anything were done . . . from the standpoint of the Jews. 
Whatever is done must be done as a matter of justice, and 

any action that is taken should emanate from non-Jewish 

1 
sources." The American Jewish Committee President under- 
stood the sensitivity that Southerners felt about northern 
interference and feared that anti-Semitism would spread if 
northern Jews led a campaign to overthrow the verdict against 
Frank. Marshall counselled that "there is only one way of 
dealing with this matter . . . and that is, in a quiet, un- 
obtrusive manner to bring influence to bear on the Southern 
press, " to use its position in creating "a wholesome public 

opinion which will free this unfortunate young man from the 

2 
terrible judgment which rests against him." 



When the American Jewish Committee met in executive 
session to discuss Leo Frank for the first time, the general 
opinion seemed to be that Frank's conviction resulted both 
from an outburst of anti-Semitism in Atlanta and a newspaper 



Ibid. j LM to Milton Klein, September 9, 1913; LM to 
Simon Wolf, September 27, 1913, Box 1584. 

2 

LM to Adolph Kraus, September 27, 1913; LM to 

Irving Lehman, September 9, 1913, Box 1584. 



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134 

campaign which forced the police to find a victim quickly. 
The members of the Committee interpreted the situation as 
another Dreyfus affair and proof of virulent anti-Semitism 
in the United States. They viewed what happened to Frank as 
a threat to the status of all American Jews. The Committee 
members were all the more alarmed because in recent decades 
anti-Semitic attacks had multiplied at a frightening pace, 
notwithstanding their vigorous efforts at counteraction. 
The conviction of Frank could not go unchallenged. American 
Jewry would have to fight back. 

But in spite of its sympathy for Frank, and its con- 
cern over the position of the Jews in America, the American 
Jewish Committee did not act hastily. Jacob Schiff suggested 
raising a fund to help Frank, but another member thought 
that this would be imprudent because reports would circulate 
to the effect that other Jews were financing him "and the 
question would thus become a Jewish question. It is very im- 
portant that we should prevent that." The Committee resolved 
to take no official action, although its members, as individ- 
uals, might do as they thought best. In explaining this ac- 
tion a year later, Louis Marshall noted that the American 
Jewish Committee did not want "to be considered as championing 



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135 
the cause of Jews who are convicted of crime." 

Frank's friends in Atlanta had been anxiously await- 
ing the American Jewish Committee's decision. After the Com- 
mittee decided to refrain from giving any official assistance, 
Louis Marshall wrote to Herbert Haas, head of the legal firm 
defending Frank, that while the organization, as such, could 
not make any contributions towards a legal fund, a number of 
the members had indicated that if a new trial were granted, 

and additional finances were necessary, they would be will- 

2 

ing to contribute "to a reasonable extent." Whatever ef- 
forts northern Jews desired to make, however, would have to 
remain in abeyance for a while. Legal avenues had not been 
exhausted and prudence dictated patience until the appeals 
court issued its verdict. 



Minutes , II (November 8, 1913), 180; LM to William 
Rosenau, December 14, 1914, Box 145. 

2 

LM to Herbert Haas, December 27, 1913, Box 1585. 
The initial expenses had been taken care of by Frank's im- 
mediate family and a well-to-do uncle. By the beginning of 
November, 1913, they already had spent about $30,000. 
Minutes , November 8, 1913. 



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136 



CHAPTER V 



THE FIRST APPEAL 



While northern Jews deliberated upon a course of 
action, the Atlanta attorneys prepared their appeal. They 
did not intend to let the jurors' verdict rest without a 
fight, and no sooner did the trial end than work began on 
the next brief. Leonard Roan, the trial judge, would be 
the first to hear their plea. According to a 1906 Consti- 
tutional Amendment in Georgia, an appeal in a capital case 
could be based only upon errors in law, and the appellate 
judge would not have the authority to reevaluate the evi- 
dence. Prank's counsel, therefore, stressed the procedural 
irregularities which prevailed during the trial. 

The appeal contained one hundred and fifteen points, 
including affidavits attesting to the alleged prejudice 
towards the defendant on the part of two of the jurors: 
A. H. Henslee and M. Johenning. Eight people swore that 
they heard Henslee express hostile sentiments towards Frank 



Connolly, op. cit . . p. 16, 



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137 
before the trial commenced and one recalled that shortly- 
after Prank's arrest he overheard Henslee remark: "I am 
glad they indicted the God damn Jew. They ought to take 
him out and lynch him. And if I get on that jury I'd hang 
that Jew sure." Three members of one family swore to hav- 
ing heard prejudicial remarks by Johenning. 1 

The defense also submitted affidavits from Atlantans 
who witnessed the trial attesting that the jury had heard 
the crowds outside of the courtroom and had seen the public 
demonstrations. Other defense motions included the asser- 
tion that Conley's testimony, relating to Frank's alleged 
sexual perversions, should never have been admitted into 
the courtroom; and that the verdict was both without evi- 
dence to support it and contrary to the weight of the 
evidence. 

To the charges made by the defense, Solicitor Dorsey 
countered with affidavits from eleven of the twelve jurors 
(the twelfth was out of town on business) who swore that 
they did not hear cheering or applause from outside the 
courtroom except after they had rendered their verdict. 



Frank v. State . Motion for a New Trial , p. 125; 
AJ, October 4, 1913, p. 1. 

P>id-, PP- 1/ 2; Frank v. State . 141 Georgia 283(1914) 



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138 
They contended that they made up their minds strictly on 
the evidence presented and that the public clamor did not 
affect their decision. Henslee and Johenning made addi- 
tional statements swearing that they entered the jury box 
ready to be convinced by either side. Both qualified their 
affidavits to some degree. Henslee indicated that together 
with others he had read about Frank in the newspapers and 
discussed him with various people but that he never formed 
any opinion "further than that 'whoever killed Mary Phagan 
ought to hang. 1 " Johenning stated that he did at one time 
indicate that the outlook for Frank, based upon newspaper 
accounts, did not "seem to be very bright for him, " and that 

he (Johenning) thought that Frank would "have a hard time 

2 
in getting loose." 

Once again Rosser and Arnold presented Frank's case 
before Judge Roan and once again Dorsey and Hooper argued 
for the state. The defense attorneys underscored their 
original arguments: the evidence did not warrant the ver- 
dict and prejudice precluded a fair trial. Dorsey and 
Hooper maintained that Frank did receive a fair trial. 
Hooper dismissed the defense's assertion that demonstrations 



AJ, October 21, 1913, p. 1. 
2 AC, October 22, 1913, p. 9. 



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139 
might have prevented the jury from conscientiously doing 
its duty. If such were the case, Hooper explained, the 
state would never get a conviction, for each defendant 
could arrange for his friends to demonstrate in his be- 
half and this would cause an automatic mistrial. The 
state also contended that affirmative action by Judge Roan 

would put the jury system in peril and shatter the laws of 
the state. To grant a new trial, Dorsey concluded, would 

be "a slap in the face of justice." 1 

Judge Roan denied the defense's motion. Along 

with his decision, however, the Judge issued a most peculiar 

statement, one which could not help but gratify Frank's 

supporters and puzzle everyone else: 

I have thought about this case more than any other I 
have tried. I am not certain of the man's guilt. 
With all the thought I have put on this case, I in 
not thoroughly convinced that Frank is guilty or in- 
nocent. The jury was convinced. There is no room 
to doubt that. I feel it is my duty to order that 
the motion for a new trial be overruled. 2 

Frank's counsel may have been disappointed with 

Roan's decision, but they certainly were not disheartened. 

"I recall your remarks upon the subject of incompetent and 

weak judges," Herbert Haas wrote to Louis Marshall. "The 



Box 697. 



^C, October 28, 1913, p. 1. 

2 Quoted in AG, November 1, 1913, p. 1, Frank Papers, 



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140 
presiding officer in this case tries to do his duty / but 
I fear he is lamentably weak." The Atlanta attorney viewed 
the future optimistically. "Our Supreme Court/' Haas con- 
tinued in his letter, "has held more than once that it will 
reverse the judgment of the lower court declining a motion 
for a new trial where, in the bill of exceptions, it is 
certified that the presiding judge himself is in doubt as 
to the guilt of the defendant." 1 

The Atlanta Georgian found difficulty in accepting 
Roan's "amazing decision." "Could anything be more aston- 
ishing than this?" The Georgian asked in a lead editorial. 
If Roan does not know whether Prank is guilty, how can the 
people know? "It would seem that Judge Roan has written 
into the case an objection so large and overshadowing that 
the other 115 sink into insignificance and that the [Georgia] 
Supreme Court will order a new trial on Judge Roan's deci- 
sion, if for no other reason." When the trial judge is in 
doubt, the editorial concluded, "is it not time to pause 

before legal murder is added to the long list of other 

2 
crimes in our State?" 



694. 



Herbert Haas to IM, October 31, 1913, Box 39. 

2 
AG, n.d. (November 1, 1913?), Prank Papers, Box 



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141 
The Georgian , though, expressed a minority opinion 
in the state. The Waycross Herald and the Greensboro 
He r a Id -Jour na 1 , on the other hand, expressed what appeared 
to have been the sentiment of most Georgians. The Waycross 
Herald editorialized, "It was none of Judge Roan's business 
to be convinced of Frank's guilt. . . . The jury was fully 
convinced and said so. It was purely up to the jury and 
not Judge Roan." The Herald -Journal , while "surprised" at 
Roan's "ignorance," sarcastically noted that "there are 
plenty of people right here in Greensboro, Greene county, 
and elsewhere that know better than that. Why, they've 
never heard one word of evidence [sic] , as Judge Roan 
but they know absolutely that Frank is guilty. There are 
some mighty smart people in the world." In the face of 
Roan's acknowledged doubt, one Georgia jurist tried to 
explain the trial judge's refusal to grant a new trial: 
"The judge must stand for re-election in a year.""'- 

There is reason to surmise that Judge Roan believed 
Frank innocent but feared an outburst of mob violence if 
he granted another trial. He allegedly confided to a friend 
that had he granted the defense's request, the Governor 



^favcross-Herald . November 5, 1913, Frank Papers, 
Box 694; Greensboro Herald -Journal . November 7, 1913, p. 6; 
"The Real Case," Southern Ruralist , XX (January 15, 1914), 
20. 



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142 
would "not have enough troops to control the mob, " which 
would certainly have gathered as the news spread. Further- 
more, in a conversation with another friend shortly after 
the decision, Roan asked what people thought of his unusual 
comment. "I told him," the friend later wrote to the Georgia 
Prison Commission and Governor John Slaton "that some people 
thought it was eminently proper for him to certify his 
doubts, and others thought it highly improper. ..." Speak- 
ing for himself, the friend claimed to have told Roan, that 
"if I had felt as [you] did, I certainly would have granted 
a new trial. [Roan] then said, 'well suppose I had, then 
that dreadful mob spirit would have broken out again, and 
now when it goes to the [Georgia] Supreme Court and comes 
back, maybe he can get a fair trial. 1 " 

Six weeks after Roan denied the appeal for a new 
trial, Rosser and Arnold argued Frank's case before the 
Georgia Supreme Court. Because of the unusual nature of 
the case, and its exceptionally long written record, coun- 
sel for both sides were permitted to speak for two hours 
apiece, twice the normal length. In such time Rosser and 



J. J. Barge to Georgia Prison Commission and 
Governor John Slaton, May 31, 1915, PC Records. See also, 
Allen Lumpkin Hen son, Confessions of a Criminal Lawyer 
(New York, 1959) , p. 65. 



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143 

Arnold could do little more than reiterate their oft-stated 
themes that prejudice and perjury had convicted Prank. They 
centered their appeal, however, upon Judge Roan's expression 
of doubt. The defense attorneys cited half a dozen legal 
citations showing that where the trial judge had expressed 
doubt, a new trial had been granted. 

Thomas Pelder, Georgia's Attorney-General, assisting 
Hugh Dorsey in the presentation before the Supreme Court, 
expressed the state's position that not only was the evidence 
against Prank "mountain-high" but that Judge Roan should 
never have certified his doubt in the bill of exceptions. 2 
After both sides completed their arguments, the attorneys 
retired to await the decision. 

A month later the Supreme Court voted four to two 
to uphold Judge Roan's ruling in denying a new trial. 3 
Judge Samuel C. Atkinson summarized the major conclusions. 



X AJ, December 11, 1913, p. 1; December 15, 1913, 
p. 19; AC, December 16, 1913, pp. 1, 4. 

2 

AC, December 17, 1913, p. 1. Pelder seemed less 
concerned with the legality of Roan's action, than winning 
his case. He said nothing about the precedents covering 
cases where the trial judge did so certify. 

The justices of the Georgia Supreme Court at that 
time were William H. Pish, Chief Justice, Beverly D. Evans, 
Joseph Henry Lumpkin, Marcus W. Beck, Samuel C. Atkinson, 
and Hiram Warner Hill. Justices Pish and Beck dissented 
from the majority. 



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144 
He dismissed the accusation of prejudicial jurors with the 
explanation that when the impartiality of the jurors is 
in question, the trial judge must decide the point and the 
Supreme Court will not reverse the decision "unless it 
appears that there has been abuse of discretion." Iftough 
spectators expressed their enthusiastic approval of events 
in the presence of the jury on two occasions, this did not 
"impugn the fairness of the trial." "The general rule," 
Judge Atkinson explained, "is that the conduct of a spec- 
tator during the trial of a case will not be ground for a 
reversal of the judgment, unless a ruling upon such conduct 
is invoiced from the judge at the time it occurs." 

Conley's testimony was ruled admissible because it 
not only explained his presence at the factory on the day 
of the murder but also because of the "peculiar opportunity" 
it afforded him to have knowledge of the crime. Although 
certain portions of the sweeper's testimony tended to in- 
criminate Prank as the perpetrator of other crjbmes, this 
testimony was ruled admissible as "material and relevant" 
to the issue at hand. Conley's account of Frank 1 s alleged 
previous conduct tended to render his tale more credible, 



Frank v. State , 141 Georgia 246-247, 281, 283. 



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145 

Atkinson wrote, and also helped to explain Prank's motiva- 

1 

txon. 

Finally, when Atkinson came to the point concerning 
Judge Roan's personal expression of doubt, the Supreme Court 
Justice said that the rule is that even if the judge con- 
siders a case weak, if he overrules a motion for a new trial 
despite his own personal doubts, "his legal judgment ex- 
pressed in overruling the motion will control; and if there 
is sufficient evidence to support the verdict, this court 
will not interfere because of the judge's oral expression as 
to his opinion." Taking the case as a whole, the Supreme 
Court majority found that 

the evidence tended to show a practice, plan, system, 
or scheme on the part of the accused to have lascivi- 
ous or adulterous association with certain of his 
employees and other women at his office or place of 
business. ... It tended to show a motive on the part 
of the accused, inducing him to seek to have criminal 
intimacy with the girl who was killed, and, upon her 
resistance, to commit murder to conceal the crime. 

Justices Beck and Pish dissented from the majority 

but confined their argument to Conley's testimony. Using 

the same legal citations as the majority, they concluded 

that evidence as to Frank's alleged perversion should never 

have been admitted to the courtroom. "It is perfectly clear 



1 £bid. / pp. 253-254, 256, 260, 
2 Ibid . , pp. 266-267, 284. 



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146 
to us," they wrote, "that evidence of prior acts of lascivi- 
ousness committed by the defendant . . . did not tend to 
prove a preexisting design, system, plan, or scheme, directed 
forward to the making of an assault upon the deceased or 
killing her to prevent its disclosure." To admit such evi- 
dence, they concluded, was calculated to prejudice the de- 
fendant in the minds of the jurors and thereby deprive him 
of a fair trial. Justices Beck and Fish made no reference to 
the issue of Judge Roan's expression of doubt, nor did they 
comment either upon the alleged prejudices of two of the 
jurors. They devoted their entire dissent to one main point: 
that evidence of any other crimes allegedly committed by the 
defendant was inadmissible. 

Six months after the trial, Frank's position seemed 
worse than it had been the previous August. But the pris- 
oner's friends, who considered him to have been victimized 
by a gross miscarriage of justice, were not willing to ac- 
cept the judgment of the Georgia Supreme Court as final. 
Renewed efforts would have to be made to rally support for 
Frank throughout the nation. And so those who were most 
concerned with his welfare began working harder to win his 
freedom. 



Ibid., pp. 285-307. 



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A 



147 



CHAPTER VI 

ENTER TOM WATSON . • . AND WILLIAM J. BURNS 

The Frank camp had expected an adverse decision from the 
Georgia Supreme Court and had prepared accordingly. The Atlan- 
ta attorneys had solicited northern Jews for financial assis- 
tance and with the money received they had hired additional 

associates, including the world renowned detective, William J. 

1 
Burns. Investigators discovered new evidence, obtained new 

affidavits, and prevailed upon prosecution witnesses to repudi- 
ate their original testimony. Influential Jews alerted news- 
papers to Leo Frank's plight and the nation's press published 
forceful editorials attacking Georgia justice. Mobilization 



Burns had been brought into the case a year earlier 
when a public subscription had been raised to pay for the 
famous detective's services in helping Atlanta find the cul- 
prit. After Conley's affidavits, however, toward the end of 
May, 1913, Solicitor Dorsey informed the Burns agency in the 
city that its services would no longer be needed. The Burns 
agent, who had investigated the murder for about two weeks, 
had announced in May, 1913, that he, too, believed Frank 
guilty. But William J. Burns had never come to Atlanta, nor 
did he have any hand in the investigation undertaken by his 
agents in 1913. Once Dorsey had informed his agency that 
its services would no longer be necessary, the Burns people 
dropped all association with the case. Therefore when 
William J. Burns was again solicited, in February, 1914, he 
felt free to accept the assignment from the defense. See 
AC, May 27, 1913, pp. 1, 2. 



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148 



of these forces required financing and leadership; northern 
Jews provided both. 



Soon after the Georgia Supreme Court had refused 
Frank a new trial, The Atlanta Journal published the results 
of an interview with the state biologist who had examined 
Mary Phagan 's body shortly after her death. A microscopic 
study of one of the prosecution's main clues, the hair found 
on the lathe which Mary Phagan used, led the biologist to 
conclude that the hair did not belong to the dead girl. He 
related this information to Hugh DOrsey but the Solicitor 
ignored it. The Journal confronted Dorsey with the biolo- 
gists findings and asked why he maintained that the hair be- 
longed to Mary Phagan. M I did not depend on [the biologist's] 
testimony, M Dorsey answered, "other witnesses in the case 

swore that the hair was that of Mary Phagan, and that suf- 

1 
ficed to establish my point." Atlanta's Southern Ruralist, 

which had condemned Dorsey' s methods earlier, repeated its 

censure: "Prejudice is the mildest possible term for such 

conduct. Such official misrepresentation of fact ... is 



AC, February 21, 1914, p. 1. 



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149 

the very murder of justice itself* " 

During the next few weeks the defense released a 
series of affidavits from prosecution witnesses repudiating 
their testimony. Hearst's Georgian headlined the first re- 
traction: "Plot to Hang Frank. " The paper related how de- 
fense counsel obtained an affidavit from Albert McKnight, 
husband of the Frank family cook, stating that his employer 
had bribed him to swear that he had seen Frank act peculiar- 
ly on the day of Mary Phagan's death. McKnight now main- 
tained that he had not seen Frank that day, and summarized 

his retraction in one sentence: "Most everything I said on 

2 
the stand was a lie." When the affidavit became public, 

McKnight disappeared. 

The next retraction came from New York. Mrs. Nina 
Formby, the proprietor of the "rooming house" Frank had 
allegedly phoned on the night of the murder, told The New 
York Times that she wished to change her story. Mrs. Formby 
described how police had plied her with liquor and had en- 
couraged her to relate an imaginary episode concerning Leo 
Frank. The woman stated that because of her position the 



Southern Ruralist , March 15, 1914, p. 21. 

2 
Quoted in AG, February 22, 1914, p. 1; Frank Papers, 

Box 694. 



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150 



police had "unduly influenced" her and had intimated that it 
would be prudent for her to help them. Atlanta 1 s Chief De- 
tective, Newport Lanford, refused to believe Mrs. Formby's 
latest recollection: "The idea that Mrs. Fonriby is the 

author of the statement purporting to come from her is the 

2 

most absurd thing I ever heard of." 

Shortly after Mrs. Formby's repantation, Mary 
Phagan's friend, George Epps, Jr., repudiated the statements 
that he had made at the Coroner's inquest and the trial. 
Epps asserted that a detective had forced him to lie but 
that now he wished to tell the truth. In his newest affi- 
davit, Epps recalled having seen Mary Phagan on the trolley, 

but since he had been seated behind her they engaged in no 

3 
conversation aside from polite greetings, The defense also 

released statements from other witnesses who related how the 

police, the detectives, and/or Solicitor Dorsey had manufac- 

4 
tured the "evidence" they had revealed in court. 



The New York Times , February 26, 1914, p. 1. 

2 
Quoted in AC, February 27, 1914, p. 2. 

3 AJ, March 4, 1914, p. 1. At the trial, however, 

the motorman who had conducted the trolley that Mary Phagan 

had come to town on, said he also knew George Epps, Jr. and 

that the boy had not been on the same trolley that Mary 

Phagan was on. Brief of the Evidence , p. 84. 

4 
AC, February 24, 1914, p. 7; March 13, 1914, p. 1; 

March 15, 1914, p. 2 A; March 28, 1914, p. 1. see also affi- 
davits in Frank Papers, Box 691. 



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151 

Epps / McKnight, and others whom the Atlanta police 
could locate and reinterview repudiated their retractions. 
Fourteen-year-old George Epps, an inmate of the state re- 
formatory, where he had been sent in December, 1913, for 
stealing, reverted to his original story within a few days 
after the defense had released his recantation. No explana- 
tion was given for the sudden change. A relatively unimpor- 
tant witness, who repudiated statements he had given at the 
trial, was arrested and brought to Solicitor Dorsey's office 
for questioning. The man spent the night in jail, and the 
next day signed his name to a new affidavit stating that 
agents for the defense had bribed him to swear falsely, but 

now, he averred, the remarks that he had made at the trial 

1 
were true. 

Albert McKnight' s retraction came in a peculiar 
fashion. He was found unconscious one night near the rail- 
road tracks outside Atlanta. Taken to the hospital, he 
hovered between life and death but finally recovered. At 
that point he allegedly left the hospital to seek refuge in 
the police station where he retracted the statement he had 
given the defense. McKnight now claimed that Prank's lawyers 



AJ, March 5, 1914, pp. 1, 2; AC, May 4, 1914, p. 1; 
AJ, May 3, 1914, p. 1. 



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152 



had hounded him and that he had asked the police to protect 
him by putting him in jail! Ihe newspapers reported that 
McKnight wished to remain in prison indefinitely and the 

police obliged by keeping him in solitary confinement with- 

1 
out visitors. 

Frank's partisans attempted to explain the peculiar 
behavior of the affidavit -switchers . C. P. Connolly, author 
of The Trfath About the Frank Case , later suggested that 
Solicitor Dorsey might have reminded each witness that a 
Georgia statute provided the death penalty for swearing 
falsely in a capital case. Another explanation came from a 
woman who had repudiated her first affidavit but then re- 
verted to the original statement. She confided to friends 

that one conducting a business in Atlanta "could not afford 

2 

to antagonize the police." 



Frank's attorneys did not rely solely upon repudiated 

3 
testimony in their extraordinary motion for a new trial. 



■'"AC, March 15, 1914, p. 1; April 19, 1914, p. 1; AJ, 
April 19, 1914, p. 1. 

2 AJ, May 1, 1914, p. 22; May 3, 1914, p. 1; May 4, 

1914, p. 1; Connolly, op. clt ., p. 65; Macdonald, op. cit .,p.2c. 

3 
An "extraordinary motion" was needed to place Frank's 

case before the Georgia courts again because the ordinary 



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153 

Henry Alexander, one of the numerous lawyers working for the 
defense, made a careful study of the "murder notes" found 
near Mary Phagan's body and reached some startling conclu- 
sions. His examination showed that these notes were written 
on the qarbons of old order pads which had been used previ- 
ously by a former factory official. The dateline read 
"190_J' indicating that the forms must have been at least 
four years old. The official who signed the orders left the 
employ of the factory in 1912, and all of his office records, 
including pads, had been removed to the basement, near where 
Mary Phagan's body had been found. Alexander concluded that 
this proved that Conley could not have written the notes 
upon a pad which Frank had provided him with in his office . 
Alexander then proceeded to examine the wording of 
the notes. In the second one the author had used the phrase, 
"play like the night witch did it." Because of a chance re- 
mark which had been made by Newt Lee, the night watchman, 
when the notes had been found, that "night witch" probably 
meant him, the night watchman, most people automatically 



procedures had already been exhausted. The "extraordinary 
motion" was based upon new information, not available at 
the time of the trial. 

g£e New York Times , March 9, 1914, p. 1; March 17, 
1914, p. 3; The Washington Post, March 9, 1915, p. 5; AJ, 
March 8, 1914, p. 1; March 9, 1914, p. 2. 



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154 

assumed the same thing. But Alexander pointed out that al- 
though the author of the murder notes had made many spelling 
errors, he had not made any in pronunciation. Therefore it 
seemed extremely unlikely that "night witch" would have been 
written if "night watch" or "night watchman" had been the 
author's intention. "Night witch," Alexander wrote, meant 
"night witch"! He then explained that the term "night witch" 
referred to a peculiar Negro superstition. A Baptist minis- 
ter later added that when he had asked his Negro servant the 
meaning of "night witch" she had replied, "when the children 
cry out in their sleep at night, it means that the night 
witches are riding them, and if you don't go and wake them 

up, they will be found next morning strangled to death, with 

2 
a cord around their necks." Those who believed Frank inno- 
cent agreed that only a southern Negro would have known 

about, and used, such an expression; therefore Frank could 

3 
not have dictated the murder notes. 



Henry A. Alexander, some Facts About the Murder 
Notes in the Phagan Case (privately published, 1914), p. 7. 

L. 0. Bricker, "A Great American Tragedy," The 
Shane Quarterly , IV (April, 1943), 91. 

3 Macdonald, op. cit ., p. 2C; Connolly, op. cit ., p. 
88; The New York Times , March 15, 1914, III, 10; Cahan, 
op. pit ., V, 502. 



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155 



In the preparation of both the extraordinary motion 
and the brief for the first appeal the previous fall, Frank's 
counsel sought and received the aid of Louis Marshall, who 
was not only President of the American Jewish Committee, but 
a renowned constitutional lawyer. Marshall advised that in 
addition to the appeal for a new trial based upon new evi- 
dence, another motion be introduced asking for Frank's free- 
dom on the basis that his enforced absence from the court- 
room at the rendition of the jury's verdict constituted 
deprivation of due process of law; hence, the Georgia author- 
ities were holding Frank in custody illegally. 

The Atlanta attorneys at first hesitated to include 
this new point involving a federal question because they 
feared it would mitigate the effect of their extraordinary 
motion. Marshall vigorously dissented from their view. He 
argued that if the attorneys procrastinated until the ex- 
traordinary motion had been disposed of before introducing 
the federal question they would find both the court and the 
public prejudiced against them "on the theory that [they] 
are apparently delaying proceedings by making one applica- 
tion after another." If both were made together, Marshall 
argued, then Frank's position would be strengthened "because 
a court which might hesitate as to the granting of a new 



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156 

trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence, might be 
induced to take a more favorable view of the proposition be- 
cause of the fact that there is a serious question as to the 
regularity of the trial." "At all events," he added in his 
letter to Leonard Haas, brother and associate of Herbert 
Haas, "if the case should go to the Supreme Court of the 
United States on the question which I have discussed, it 
might be very useful to have in the record which goes to that 
court the testimony given on the extraordinary motion for a 

new trial, because it would impress the court that there has 

1 
been an injustice done in this case." 

The Atlanta attorneys followed Marshall's advice and 

hired additional counsel to argue this federal question in 

the Georgia courts. At the time that the Solicitor had 

agreed to let Frank remain away from the courtroom, when the 

jury rendered its verdict, Luther Rosser and Reuben Arnold 

had promised Hugh Dorsey that they would not use their 

client's absence during part of the judicial proceedings as 

a basis for future appeals. Therefore Rosser and Arnold 

felt obliged to honor their pledge and different attorneys 

2 

had to be engaged to argue this federal point in court. 



LM to Leonard Haas, March 25, 1914, Box 1586, 
The New York Times, October 26, 1914, p. 1. 



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157 

In addition to legal advice, the President of the 
American Jewish Committee used his influence in an attempt 
to change southern attitudes. He induced Adolph Ochs, pub- 
lisher of The New York Times, and also a member of jbhe Ameri- 
can Jewish Committee, to employ his newspaper as a weapon in 
the fight to exonerate Frank, The Times thereupon embarked 
upon a protracted campaign to obtain another trial. Marshall 
cautioned Ochs that his newspaper must print nothing "which 
would arouse the sensitiveness of the southern people and 
engender the feeling that the north is criticizing the courts 
and the people of Georgia." The American Jewish Committee's 
President also "strongly urged that there should be no sug- 
gestion that the Frank case involves any element of anti- 

1 
Semitism." The Times ' articles followed Marshall ' s sugges- 
tions and tried to avoid offending southern, especially 
Georgian, sensitivities. The campaign failed, however, be- 
cause many Georgians interpreted every item favorable to 
Frank as a hostile act. In retrospect it seems that the at- 
tempt was doomed from the start. The southerners who feared 

and resented aliens could not have been expected to heed the 

2 
pleas of northern, urban, Jewish-owned newspapers. 



LM to Adolph Ochs, January 8, 1914; LM to Judge 
Julian Mack, March 17, 1914, Box 1586. 

2 
Tom Watson would eventually remind his readers that 

the northern periodicals leading the fight to exonerate 



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158 
In addition to Louis Marshall and other members of 
the American Jewish Committee, Albert D. Lasker, the Jewish 
advertising genius from Chicago, contributed his services. 
Lasker, too, had heard of Frank's plight and, according to 
his biographer, John Gunther, "Every instinct he had for jus- 
tice and fair play, for racial tolerance, for dignity in the 
courts and good citizenship, was aroused." He went to At- 
lanta, interviewed Frank and his friends, and returned to 
Chicago determined to aid the cause. Since large sums of 
money were necessary to wage the legal battle, Lasker 
solicited wealthy friends for contributions to the "Frank 
Fund." It is not clear just how much money he raised at 

that time, but Frank personally acknowledged Lasker's "kind- 

1 
ness and interest in my case." 



Frank — Puck , The New York Times and The Evening World (New 
York) — were all owned by Jews . "What is the purpose of this 
continued and systematic crusade in behalf of one convicted 
jew whose connections command unlimited wealth?" Watson 
later asked. And then he added, touching on one of the 
themes he frequently made reference to when discussing the 
influence of the Jews: "The Frank case is enough to depress 
the most hopeful student of the times. It has shown us how 
the capitalists of Big Money regard the poor man's daughter. 
It has shown us what our daily papers will do in the interest 
of wealthy criminals. It has shown us how differently the 
law deals with the rich man and the poor." The Jeffersonian , 
December 5, 1914, pp. 1, 8. 

1 
Albert D. Lasker's secretary, C. M. Langan, to 

Julius Rosenwald, December 10, 1913. Julius Rosenwald 



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159 

More important than Lasker' s money was the time he 
devoted. For a man of his position to have written very 
large checks may not have been a great sacrifice, but to 
have neglected all other business activities for more than a 
year, as Lasker did, indicated what a great injustice he saw 
in the Frank case. Lasker made numerous trips to Atlanta 
where he directed detectives and investigators while giving 
advice to Frank's attorneys. He also encouraged newspapers 
throughout the country to present Frank's case in a favor- 
able light. He believed that as long as there was no obvious 



Papers, University of Chicago; hereafter cited as Rosenwald 
Papers. Leo Frank to Albert D. Lasker, December 18, 1913, 
ibid .; Albert D. Lasker to Julius Rosenwald, June 26, 1915, 
ibid .; John Gunther noted that over a two-year period Lasker 
contributed $100,000 out of his own pocket. Taken at the 
Flood (New York, 1961), pp. 82-83. Harry Golden, on the 
other hand, estimated that Lasker and his father had spent 
$160,000 between them, and that an uncle of Frank's had 
spent $50,000; A Little Girl Is Dead , p. 230; on June 19, 
1915, Herbert Haas acknowledged that "Mr. Frank's defence 
[ sic] for the past fifteen months has been assisted finan- 
cially by and through Mr. A. D. Lasker, of Chicago. 1 ' Haas 
to Jacob Schiff, Jacob Schiff Papers, American Jewish Ar- 
chives; cited hereafter as Schiff Papers. People such as 
Louis Marshall, Jacob Schiff, and Julius Rosenwald also con- 
tributed substantial sums to Frank's cause. Based on the 
entire list of contributors, it seems conservative to estimate 
that at least a quarter of a million dollars was spent in or- 
der to free Leo Frank. Albert D. Lasker to Herbert Haas, 
April 20, 1914, Schiff Papers; Schiff to Herbert Haas, June 
21, 1915, ibid .; Julius Rosenwald's secretary, "WCG, " to 
Julius Rosenwald, March 9, 1914, March 13, 1914, March 14, 
1914, Rosenwald Papers; Albert Lasker to Louis Wiley, April 
20, 1914, April 22, 1914, Schiff Papers. 



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160 



connection between the Jews and the press "their work xzan do 

1 
no harm, but only good." 

Louis Marshall also sought "through various channels" 
to induce prominent individuals, especially Southerners, to 
take up the cause. To a friend in Baltimore, who asked what 
he could do to aid Frank, Marshall wrote, "The greatest aid 
that you and your friends in Baltimore can give to this cause 
would be, to induce some of the leading newspapers in Balti- 
more, Richmond, Savannah, and other Southern points which you 
reach, to write editorials similar to that which recently ap- 
peared in the Atlanta Journal, and to reproduce the articles 
which have appeared from day to day in the New York Times and 
the Washington Post." The friend obviously responded to the 
advice, for within a few weeks he answered, "After receiving 

your letter, I interested all of the Baltimore papers in 

2 

this matter, editorially as well as otherwise." 

Men like Lasker and Marshall, concerned about the 
miscarriage of justice, communicated their feelings to publi- 
cations throughout the nation, and induced them to publicize 



Gunther, op. cit ., p. 83; "WCG" to Julius Rosenwald, 
March 14, 1914, Rosenwald Papers; Julian Mack to LM, March 
16, March 19, 1914, Box 40. 

2 

LM to Siegmund B. Sonneborn, March 13, 1914; Sieg- 

raund B. Sonneborn to LM, April 2, 1914, Boxes 1586 and 112. 



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161 

Leo Frank's situation in the spring of 1914. A Boston news- 
paperman wrote of the "vigorous and well supported movement 
... to free Frank, " and papers as far away as North Dakota 
and Utah discussed "Georgia justice. In Bismarck, North 
Dakota, an editorialist commented, "We would have sat on 
that jury until this great globe hangs motionless in space 
and the rotting dead arise in their cerements, before we 
would condemn any man to death on the evidence which con- 
victed Frank." The Baltimore Sun headed an appeal, "Justice 
Demands a New Trial for Frank, " and articles urging a new 
trial appeared in Little Rock's Arkansas Gazette , Richmond's 
Times -Dispatch , and The Mobile Tribune <> 

Even Georgia newspapers responded. The Macon News 
wrote that Frank's execution "under the evidence offered 
against him would be practically without a parallel in the 
annals of Georgia jurisprudence." And the Atlanta Constitu- 
tion, perhaps afraid to express any sentimental feelings 
toward Frank, suddenly decided to discuss a controversial 
conviction which had occurred in New York. In this case, 



Clipping, April 18, 1914, Boston Herald-Traveler 
Library; The American Israelite , May 21, 1914, p. 1; The 
Baltimore Morning Sun , March 17, 1914, p. 8; Arkansas Gazette , 
April 15, 1914, Richmond Times -Dispatch , March 24, 1914, 
The Mobile Tribune , March 21, 1914, Frank Papers, Boxes 694 
and 698. 



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162 



the Constitution advocated a new trial for the defendant. 
One could not, however, be oblivious to the obvious parallel 
in Georgia: 

if the atmosphere of a trial or its controlling circum- 
stances are such as to produce bias or prejudice, the 
accused shall have the benefit of the doubt. It is, or 
should be, axiomatic and impelling, that at every turn, 
under every condition, an environment of perfect fair- 
ness surround and characterize the trial. 

Justice does not contemplate passion. 

Justice does not comprehend obscure evidence, or 
evidence from dubious sources, especially where that 
evidence shall be substantiated by indirect circum- 
stances only. 

The most dramatic appeal for Frank came from The 
Atlanta Journal . The editors, in a scathing attack on Geor- 
gia justice, demanded that the prisoner be given another 
opportunity to clear himself. To hang Frank on the basis of 
the jury's verdict would constitute "judicial murder." The 
Journal recalled the circumstances surrounding the trial: 

The very atmosphere of the courtroom was charged with an 
electric current of indignation which flashed and scin- 
tillated before the very eyes of the jury. The courtroom 
and streets were filled with an angry, determined crowd, 
ready to seize the defendant if the jury had found him 
not guilty. Cheers for the prosecuting counsel were 
irrepressible in the courtroom throughout the trial and 
on the streets unseemly demonstrations in condemnation 
of Frank were heard by the judge and jury. The judge 
was powerless to prevent these outbursts in the courtroom 



The Macon News, March 9, 1914, p. 11, Frank Papers, 
Box 701; AC, February 26, 1914, p. 4. 



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163 

and the police were unable to control the crowd outside. 
... it was known that a verdict of acquittal would 
cause a riot such as would shock the country and cause 
Atlanta's streets to run with innocent blood. 1 

The strong editorial evoked a mixed reaction. Two 

small-town Georgian newspapers, The Greensboro Herald-Journal 

and the Dal ton Citizen , applauded the Atlanta paper's posi- 

2 

tion. The Journal also received a number of congratulatory 

letters praising the editors for their "courageous" stand. 
One letter, written by the court stenographer who had trans- 
cribed testimony at Frank's trial, contained the statement 
that "every lawyer I have talked to says that the Frank 
trial was simply a farce." But some people accused The 
Journal of having been "bought with Jew money, " and the 

paper suffered a loss in circulation. Another year would 

3 
pass before The Journal spoke out again for Leo Frank. 



AJ, March 10, 1914, p. 8. 

2 
The Greensboro Herald-Journal , March 20, 1914, p. 8; 

The North Georgia Citizen , March 12, 1914, p. 4. 

3 
AJ, March 15, 1914, pp. 5, 6; Macdonald, op. cit ., 

p. 3C. A Georgia woman wrote to a northern newspaper, "no 
one has yet dared publicly to express his belief in Frank's 
innocence without being accused of having been bought with 
Jewish money," The New York Times, November 28, 1914, p. 5. 
Berry Benon also indicated at the beginning of his presenta- 
tion, "I have not received one cent from Frank's people, nor 
from anybody. I make this statement to anticipate the low 
jibe of any vicious or crazy person, or any person both crazy 
and vicious, who may say I am in the pay of the Jews." 
"Five Arguments in the Frank Case" (np., n.d., ca . June, 
1914) , p. 1. 



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164 



The prodigious efforts made to save Leo Frank from 
death offended a great many Georgians. Outside influence 
and alien money outraged state officials and citizens alike. 
Many yearned for a native voice to rebut the national attack. 
In Tom Watson they found their spokesman. 

Tom Watson had an enormous following in Georgia. 
From the Populist era until his death in 1921 , Watson re- 
mained one of Georgia's idols. Early in his career he had 
fought for the yeoman farmer — both black and white — who had 
been oppressed by tyrannical industrialists and a compliant 
government. Although elected to Congress on the Democratip 
ticket in 1890, by 1892 he had renounced the party and had 
proclaimed himself a Populist. The Democratic Party in 
Georgia retaliated by manipulating the Congressional elec- 
tions of 1892 and 1894 in such fashion as to rob Watson of 
reelection. The basest methods were used: bribery, ballot- 
box stuffing, and repeating voters. Negroes were coaxed and 
intimidated, by Democrats in control, to vote against Watson, 
who had publicly defended their political rights and who had 
also denounced lynchings. In 1896 the Populist Party forced 
William Jennings Bryan to accept a Populist vice-presidential 
nominee in return for endorsing his presidential aspirations. 



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165 

To run with Bryan, the Populists selected Tom Watson. With 
defeat in 1896, Watson practically secluded himself from 
politics and retired to his law practice. At the same time 
he indulged himself with the writing of history. Eight 
years later he reemerged as the presidential nominee of an 
almost defunct Populist Party. 

Thereafter one noticed a great change in the old 
Populist. He had become a self-conscious defender of South- 
ern mores and the Lost Cause. His former understanding of, 
and sympathy with, Negroes, changed to a more orthodox South- 
ern outlook. He began to refer to the "bugaboo of negro 
domination" in Georgia politics. Furthermore, in 1906, Watson 
completely abandoned the Jeffersonian ideals of equal itarian- 
ism and humanitarianism which he had championed only a decade 
earlier. In 1910 he formally returned to the Democratic 
Party and two years later his arrival at the Democratic 
state convention "suggested the return of some Roman con- 
queror." Police officers had to force a path for him and 
his appearance on the floor of the convention resulted in 
"an outburst resembling pandemonium. " 



1 

Woodward, Tom Watson, pp. 176, 177, 187-89, 223, 
332, 348-49, 357, 371, 402, 408, 419; Woodward, Origins of 
the New South, pp. 188, 257, 262; Lucian Lamar Knight, A 
Standard History of Georgia and Georgians (6 vols.; Chicago, 



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166 

Tom Watson thrived upon the ignorance and prejudices 
of rural Georgians. His weekly newspaper, The Jeffersonlan , 
and his monthly, Watson's Magazine, circulated throughout 
the state and provided many Georgians their only contact 
with the outside world. Popular among illiterates, who 
listened to others read what Watson had written, and "crack- 
ers," Watson inspired "an almost fanatical following, many 
who accepted without question anything he told them." In 
1891, a national periodical had described these Georgia 
"crackers" as people "horned in the country" who seldom, if 
ever, visited a neighboring town. They were frequently sus- 
picious of strangers and one Southerner had written that 
they imagined every stranger a "Yankee." It was primarily 
these people that Tom Watson stirred with his diatribes 
against the financial manipulators of the North, whom he be- 
lieved had been keeping the South in economic bondage. To 
cater to his followers' need for vicarious excitement, and 
perhaps to provide himself with a satisfactory answer for 
why the world was "plunging hellward, " Watson broadened his 
attack to include Catholics, the Pope, and finally Leo Frank, 



1917), II, 1127; Mary Richards Colvin, "Hoke Smith and 
Joseph M. Brown, Political Rivals" (unpublished M.A. thesis, 
University of Georgia, 1958), p. 70. See also Gustavus 
Myers, History of Bigotry in the United States (New York, 
1943), p. 261. 



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167 
who turned into the greatest sales bonanza in The Jeffer- 
sonian 's history. 

C. Vann Woodward has observed that Tom Watson found 

his greatest satisfactions "out among the people preaching a 

2 
crusade . " This was true in his Populist days and in his 

more frustrating years as well, in 1914, Watson embarked 
upon one of his most reckless attacks. Ironically, the "sage 
of Hickory Hill" aimed his thrusts at another target, and 
touched upon what would eventually emerge as his real quarry 
in an oblique fashion. 

Hoke Smith, Georgia's senior United States Senator 
in 1914, had once owned The Atlanta Journal . Although he 
had relinquished controlling interest in the paper years be- 
fore, everyone recognized The Journal as Smith's political 

3 
organ. The Senator stood for reelection in 1914, and al- 
though he and Watson had at one time been allied politically, 



Mercer G. Evans, "The History of the Organized 
Labor Movement in Georgia" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, 
Department of Economics, University of Chicago, 1929), p. 
291; Clare de Graffenried, "The Georgia Cracker in the Cot- 
ton Mills," The Century Magazine , XLI (February, 1891), 
477-48, 495, 496; Ward Greene, Star Reporters and 34 of their 
Stories (New York, 1948), p. 132; Oscar and Mary Handlin, 
Danger in Discord (New York, 1948), pp. 22-23; Woodward, Tom 
Watson , p. 442. 

2 

Woodward , Tom Watson , p . 248 . 

3 
Griffith and Talmadge, op. clt ., p. 138; Colvin, 

op . cit . , p . 16 . 



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168 

a breach had developed between the two six years earlier. 
The old Populist leader had his own candidate for Smith's 
seat and when The Journal demanded a new trial for Leo Frank, 

Watson misinterpreted the plea as an attempt to drag the 

1 
Frank case into politics. Enraged by the editorial, Watson 

lashed back angrily. 

He entitled his first salvo, "The Frank Case: When 
and Where Shall Rich Criminals Be Tried?" and devoted most 
of this attack to the "personal organ" of Senator Smith, 
which according to The Jeffersonian 's editor, was attempting 
"to bring the courts into disrepute, drag down the judges to 
the level of criminals, and destroy the confidence of the 
people in the orderly process of the law." Not until midway 
in the article, and on an inside page, did Watson switch his 
fire to Frank and then he concluded " by a process of elimina- 
tion " that either Frank, Conley, or both, had murdered Mary 
Phagan. Watson also asked two questions which plagued many 
Georgians: "Does a Jew expect extraordinary favors and 
immunities, because of his race?" and "Who is paying for all 
this?" 2 



Woodward, Tom Watson , p. 437; Griffith and Talmadge, 
op . cit . , p. 139; Garrett, op. cit . # II, 625-26; Steed, op . 
cit., p. 239. 

The Jeffersonian , March 19, 1914, pp. 1, 8. Albert 
Lasker acknowledged privately, "if it had not been for the 



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169 

Although Watson aimed his assault at Hoke Smith and 
The Atlanta Journal , there is some indication that readers 
responded more positively to his words against Frank, and 
that Watson, therefore, concentrated future articles on 
Frank. In April, he started attacking the Jew more vehement- 
ly, without making any connection to Smith or The Journal . 
It was also in April that Watson began printing letters 
which commented upon his outburst against Frank. "Nothing 

you have written in recent years is being so widely read, " 

1 
wrote one admirer. As the weeks passed, The Jeffersonian 

devoted more and more space to reader reactions on Leo Frank — 
and all of the letters published praised Watson's stand. In 
May, a correspondent confessed, "The manner in which you are 
handling the Frank case has opened my eyes." And the follow- 
ing week another thanked the editor "from the depths of my 
soul for the great service you are rendering. ... I believe 
you are making more friends by your editorials on the Frank 

case than you ever did. The name Tom Watson is heard more 

2 

during a conversation than it ever was." 



energy, influence and money expended, Frank — innocent though 
he is — would have been hung long ago." Lasker to Louis Wiley, 
April 20, 1914, Schiff Papers. 

The Jeffersonian , April 2, 1914, p. 2. 

2 Ibid ., May 7, 1914, p. 5; May 14, 1914, p. 3. 
Praiseworthy letters on this subject were published in every 
issue from April 16 through May 28, 1914. No unfavorable 
comments were printed. 



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170 



The popular response stimulated Watson, His polemics 
were an ingenious weaving of fact and fantasy. The former 
Populist leader seized upon the weakness in the defense pre- 
sentation and skillfully attacked Luther Rosser, who Watson 
claimed, " strengthened the State's case enormously when he 
made his ludicrous failure, cross-examining that darkey . " 
If the "mob" influenced the trial, Watson asked, why had not 
a change of venue been asked for? Because of Watson's well 
known legal talents, his remark that "No case can come under 
'mob' influence, unless the defendant and his lawyers are 

entirely negligent, " stung the defense while rendering 

2 

Frank's attorneys helpless to retort. 

Watson cannily played upon the hatreds, fears and 
prejudices of his readers. He wrote of the "little factory 



"Tom Watson fell on the Frank case with the lust of 
a starved tiger and the cunning of a political opportunist. 
By the time . . . national names . . . were blazoned among 
Frank's supporters Watson was feeding his 'woolhats' a diet 
of 'Wall Street plot, Jewish gold and Yankee meddlers' in 
language careless of truth or decency and always inflamma- 
tory. " Greene, op. cit ., p. 132. 

2 
The Jeffersonlan , April 9, 1914, p. 1. Louis Wiley 

wrote LM: "While I can understand the clamor and mob feel- 
ing which led to the unjust verdict in the Frank case, I am 
strongly inclined to believe that the prisoner was not 
adequately defended. If he had been it seems to me the 
dreadful situation now before us might have been prevented." 
April 3, 1914, Box 112. 



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171 

girl who held to her innocence , " and further endeared Mary 
Phagan to his readers by characterizing her as M a daughter 
of the people, of the common clay, of the blouse and the 
overall, of those who eat bread in the sweat of the face, 
and who, in so many instances are the chattel slaves of a 

sordid Commercialism that has no milk of human kindness in 

1 
its heart of stone!" 

Watson always stressed simple themes so that his 
readers would quickly see right from wrong, "We cannot have 
. . . one law for the Jew, and another for the Gentile, " he 
commented. On another occasion he concluded, "It is a bad 
state of affairs when the idea gets abroad that the law is 
too weak to punish a man who has plenty of money." With mag- 
nificent simplicity he summed up the crux of his argument, 

"Leo Frank is guilty of the foulest crime ever committed on 

2 
a Georgia girl, and he should not be allowed to escape." A 

contemporary publication in Georgia evaluated Watson's con- 
tributions so highly that The Jeffersonian reprinted the en- 
tire eulogy. "Tom Watson," The Madisonian 's editorial began, 
"has added new laurels and new lustre to his fame as a 



The Jeffersonian , April 9, 1914, p. 8; April 30 , 
1914, p. 10. 

2 
Ibid ., April 9, 1914, p. 1; May 7, 1914, p. 1; 

April 23, 1914, p. 10. 



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172 

writer . . . by his articles on the famous Frank case. His 
productions touching this case . . . are modern epics. . . . 
They have added a hundred thousand new friends to Mr. Watson's 
long list, and given The Jeffersonian a standing and a circu- 
lation in Atlanta and in Georgia never before enjoyed by any 

1 
Watson publication." 

Tom Watson reinforced accepted beliefs. Emotionally 
Georgians "knew" that Leo Frank murdered their little girl. 
Yet they wanted reassurance by hearing a more prominent and 
articulate spokesman reiterate and confirm their "knowledge." 
Watson supplied this need. The people had formed their 
opinions a year earlier. They probably forgot the specific 
details which led them to their conclusion. Yet they knew 
in their hearts that Leo Frank had murdered Mary Phagan. 
Not only did the courts of Georgia agree with them but Tom 
Watson, one of the most popular Georgians of his era, con- 
firmed their feelings. For this the people of Georgia lion- 
ized the old Populist. 



1 
Quoted in The Jeffersonian, May 28, 1914, p. 5. 



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173 



The Frank camp unwittingly provided material for 
Watson's gibes. In February, 1914, immediately after the 
Georgia Supreme Court rejected the bid for a new trial, 

Frank's counsel announced the employment of William J. Burns 

1 
to help prove Frank innocent. The appointment turned out 

2 

to be a colossal blunder. In his first public statement 

Burns offended the people by asserting his expectation of 

finding a solution to a crime Atlantans considered already 

solved. "What are believed to be mysteries, " he declared, 

"are invariably solvable if common sense is applied." For 

three months the famous detective exuded confidence and made 

public statements which could not be justified in terms of 

his discoveries. "I am utterly confident of success," he 

repeated to newspaper reporters time after time. "The trail 

is very plain, " he revealed, but declined to elaborate. 

After six weeks of investigation Burns announced: 

I know who is the murderer of Mary Phagan. In time I 
will let the public know, and I will show conclusive 
proof. There will not be a single ground for the pub- 
lic to contradict me. . . . The Phagan mystery is no 



1 
AJ, February 18, 1914, p. 9. 

2 

Herbert Asbury, "Hearst Comes to Atlanta, " The 

American Mercury , VII (January, 1926), 91; Steed f op. clt ., 
p. 239; Knight, A Standard History of Georgia , II, 1165. 



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174 



longer a mystery. We have cleared it. I was confident 
from the outset that we would have success. It was no 
difficult task and our work was simple — merely the fol- 
lowing of the criminal trend of mind which left so many 
manifestations in the Phagan tragedy. 1 

Burns ■ complete disdain for the public and for police 
officials multiplied Frank's enemies in Georgia. If Burns 
knew Mary Phagan' s slayer, he should have revealed this in- 
formation to the proper authorities. If his evidence was so 
conclusive, he should not have delayed publicizing his dis- 
coveries. His conceited assertions led Northerners to assume 
that he would "produce a confession from the real murderer, 
or at least direct evidence. Failing to do that," Albert 
Lasker confided to Herbert Haas, "the people up here will be 
very disappointed, and, to be very frank with you, I fear if 

he does not do something like that, it will hurt us and may 

2 

do the case more harm than if he had not entered it at all." 

The pent-up indignation Georgians felt towards Frank 
and Burns manifested itself, on May 1, 1914, in Marietta, 
Georgia, Mary Phagan' s home town. A mcb surrounded Burns 
after his car broke down while going through the city. A 



AJ, February 19, 1914, p. 1; March 16, 1914, p. 1; 
March 18, 1914, p. 1; AG, March 22, 1914, Frank Papers, Box 
693; AC, March 20, 1914, p. 2; April 5, 1914, p. 1. 

2 

Lasker to Herbert Haas, April 20, 1914, Schiff 

Papers . 



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175 

crowd of people pursued the detective back to his hotel 

where more than two hundred shouted out threats of "Lynch 

1 
him!" "Shoot him I " "Mob him!" The Mayor of Marietta pleaded 

with the mob to disperse, "but the crowd seemed to grow more 

demonstrative." Then a respected Judge asked the assemblage 

to let Burns get out of town. The crowd yielded and before 

it could change its mind Burns was whisked into an auto and 

taken back to Atlanta. As the speeding auto left Marietta, 

2 

the mob bombarded the vehicle with rotten eggs. 

The antagonism Burns created highlighted his fail- 
ures, but he did manage to bring a good deal of information 
to light, and under other circumstances the new material 
would have helped Frank. The detective believed that the 
charge of perversion adversely affected the defendant before 
and during his trial and that if this could be proved erron- 
eous the public would be willing to reevaluate new evidence. 

So the detective offered $1,000 reward to anyone who could 

3 
submit proof of Frank's alleged perversity. "If Detective 

Burns wants this information as badly as he pretends he 

wants it, " Chief Detective Lanford of the Atlanta police 



"'"AC, May 2, 1914, pp. 1, 2, 

2 
AC, May 2, 1914, p. 2. 

3 
AJ, April 12, 1914, p. 3. 



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176 



department told reporters, "I'll certainly furnish him with 
what I believe to be convincing proof." Burns responded to 
Lanford's offer, and accompanied by David Marx, the leading 
rabbi of Atlanta, and Henry A. Alexander, one of the lawyers 
working for the defense, went to the chief detective's of- 
fice, prepared to turn over the reward. When they arrived 
Lanford refused to grant them access to the proof he claimed 
was locked in the police safe. He added, however, that "the 
state does not contend, and never has contended, that Frank 
is a pervert. The perversion charge was injected into the 

case by the attorneys for the defense, not by those for the 

2 
state." Lanford's remarks astonished his listeners. Leo 

Prank, after learning of the Chief Detective's comment, 
vented his wrath in a public statement: "Is there a man in 
Atlanta, " he asked, "who would deny that the charge of per- 
version was the chief cause of my conviction, or deny that 

the case, without that charge, would be an entirely different 

3 
question?" And in the north, The New York Times editorial- 
ized, "the present denial by the head of the Police Department 



1 
Quoted in AC, April 12, 1914, p. 2 A. 

2 
Quoted in AJ, April 24, 1914, p. 1. See also The 

New York Times , April 25, 1914, p. 8. 

3 
AJ, April 28, 1914, p. 20. 



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I ' 



177 

that either it or the State ever charged Frank with moral 
perversity is incomprehensible to anybody who has read the 
report of the trial and therefore knows how directly con- 
trary to recorded fact the denial is." Burns then increased 

1 
his reward to $5,000 but there were no takers. 

The noted detective also found, although how he did 

so was never made clear, letters written from jail by Jim 

Conley to a girl friend, Annie Maud Carter. Copies of these 

letters were furnished to the newspapers but The Constitution 

explained to its readers that "their contents were so vile 

2 
and vulgar that their publication is impossible." The let- 
ters, according to Burns, "show beyond a per adventure of a 
doubt that Conley is an abnormal man. . . . They are full 
of the vilest, most abominable language, dealing with Conley 1 s 

lust. His perverted passion was aroused by her [Annie Maud 

3 
Carter] and most of the letters are full of this vile stuff." 

Some of Conley 1 s expressions were indeed vile, perhaps even 
degenerate. He ( also used the words "did" and "Negro," indi- 
cating they were part of his normal vocabulary. At the 



The New York Times , April 25, 1914, p. 8; April 27, 
1914, p. 10. 

2 

AC, April 26, 1914, p. 1. See Appendix A. 

3 
Quoted in AC, April 26, 1914, p. 3. 



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178 

trial, one of the explanations offered by Dorsey to prove 
that Conley did not write the "murder notes" was that a 
Negro ordinarily uses the words "done" and "nigger" rather 

than "did" and "Negro." 

2 

Conley denied authorship of the letters, but Annie 

Maud Carter swore otherwise. Graphologists who examined the 
notes confirmed that the writing compared favorably with 
other material penned by Conley. Miss Carter also swore 
that Conley revealed his innermost secrets to her, including 
a description of how he murdered Mary Phagan. According to 
her statement Conley allegedly beckoned to Mary Phagan after 
she left Frank's office on the fatal day. When the girl ap- 
proached he knocked her over the head, choked her, and then 
pushed her down a scuttle hole in the back of the building. 
After following her down, he wrote the murder notes and left 
them near the body. Conley hoped suspicion would fall on 
Newt Lee, "a long tall black Negro." After writing the 
notes the sweeper broke the bolt on the back door of the 



AJ, April 26, 1914, p. 7; supra , p.<' *o 

2 

AC, April 25, 1914, p. 3. In June, 1915, he inex- 
plicably changed his mind. At that time he admitted writing 
the letters but claimed that someone else must have put in 
the vulgar expressions because he had not done so. AJ, June 
14, 1915, p. 1. None of the Atlanta papers commented about 
Conley' s admission in 1915. 



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179 

basement and left the building • Miss Carter's narrative 
corroborated known facts and her explanation of how the body 
reached the basement seemed plausible if the elevator had 
not been used. 

Surprisingly, and inexplicably, the Atlanta press 
made no comment about the letters received by Annie Maud 
Carter aside from indicating that they were vulgar. Miss 
Carter's remark that Conley had confessed his guilt to her 
was simply reported in the news columns, but provoked no edi- 
torial comment. 

The Solicitor and the detectives, however, were 
quite concerned with the letters. Annie Carter was in New 
Orleans when her affidavit was made public, but Hugh Dorsey 
went to court and demanded that she be subpoenaed for ques- 
tioning. The presiding judge issued the order and Frank's 
attorneys had her brought back to Atlanta. Dorsey immediate- 
ly arrested Miss Carter and some days later produced a new 
affidavit from her in which she asserted that she had re- 
ceived only "two or three" letters from Conley, that none 



1 
AJ, April 24, 1914, p. 8; AC, May 6, 1914, p. 5; 

The New York Times , April 25, 1914, p. 20. Frank's attorneys 

maintained at the trial that the elevator had not been used 

to take the body to the basement; the prosecution argued 

otherwise. Lawson, op. cit ., p. 210. 



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180 

were vulgar, and that he had confessed no crime to her. In 
this instance, at least, it seems quite clear that the author- 
ities had encouraged a defense witness to deliberately tell 
a lie, because it was later shown that Conley had written 
the letters. It is impossible, at this point, to know if 
any others might also have been induced to swear falsely. 

The defense, however, believed that Dorsey and his staff had 

2 
intimidated all of the witnesses whom they could reach. 

Perhaps the most incriminating piece of information 
uncovered by Burns, which quickly backfired and severely 
damaged any chance Frank may have had for the new trial, was 
the evidence given by the Reverend C. B. Ragsdale, pastor of 
an Atlanta Baptist Church. The day after the murder, in 
April, 1913, Ragsdale allegedly overheard two Negroes con- 
versing. One said, "I'm in trouble. I killed a little girl 
at the factory the other day and I want you to help me." 
The other asked, "Who was there beside you?" And the first 
replied, "nobody except Mr. Frank, and I'm not sure about 
him." Ragsdale repeated these words to a friend who advised 



AJ, May 5, 1914, p. 2; AC, May 6, 1914, p. 5; The 
New York Times , May 6, 1914, p. 3. 

2 
Herbert Haas to A. D. Lasker, April 30, 1914, May 2, 

1914, Rosenwald Papers. 



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V 



181 



that he keep his own counsel. Ragsdale followed this advice. 
Somehow a Burns agent tracked the minister down and induced 
him to reveal what he knew. The defense presented the Rags- 
dale affidavit in court, along with one from the friend he 
had confided in who corroborated the minister's tale, as 
part of the additional evidence warranting a new trial. A 
few days later both men repudiated their statements and 
swore that they had been bribed by Burns, and others, to give 
false testimony. Burns denied this, but his words had no 
effect upon those whose confidence he lacked. Herbert Haas, 
however, explained the defense's position in a letter to 
Albert Lasker, "The charge of Ragsdale that he was bribed 
... is unqualified falsehood." Despite Haas' conviction 
that Burns told the truth in this matter, he readily admit- 
ted, in another letter, "It is the belief of nearly all of 
our friends that Burns connection with the case has done us 
irretrievable damage . " 

The Burns fiasco impaired any chance Prank may have 
had for a new trial. The detective's public antics also 



1 
The New York Times, April 25, 1914, p. 8; May 1, 
1914, p. 5; AC, April 30, 1914, p. 5; May 1, 1914, p. 1; 
Haas to Lasker, April 30 and May 2, 1914, Rosenwald 
Papers . 



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182 

highlighted the huge sums of money being spent to save the 
accused, a fact which Dorsey brought to public notice when he 
argued against a new trial. The Solicitor came to court armed 
with repudiations of affidavits made for the defense. In 
these statements the affiants claimed that attorneys and in- 
vestigators working in Frank's behalf bribed them to change 
their tales. The charge of corruption by so many of the 
prosecution's original witnesses reinforced the popular im- 
pression that the defense spent unlimited amounts of money 

1 
to free Frank. 

Dorsey also spored brilliantly when he examined 
Burns in the courtroom. During the course of the interroga- 
tion the prosecutor forced the noted sleuth to admit that he 
had never read the testimony of the trial, only the brief 
prepared by the defense attorneys, and that his report to 
Frank's lawyers contained the opinion that "they didn't need 
any more evidence than was in the record." Finally Burns 
acknowledged that aside from the information that had al- 
ready been produced in court, and the repudiated affidavits 
of Annie Maud Carter and C. B. Ragsdale, he had obtained no 



1914, p. 2; May 
1914 



1 
The New York Times, May 6, 1914, p. 3; AC, May 2, 

2; May 4, 1914, p. 1; May 5, 1914, p. 10; May 6, 

1; AJ, May 5, 1914, p. 2. 



, p. <s; way ft, iyjL4, p. i; Ma 
, p. 1; AJ, May 5, 1914, p. 2 



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183 

other evidence to incriminate the murderer of Mary Phagan. 
Dorsey's interrogation of Burns appeared to the Frank camp 
as the final blow, "The situation is worse today than it 
has ever been, " Haas wrote Lasker. M It is desperate. All 
of us feel that the situation is hopeless. Unless the Supreme 

Court of the United States sustains the Constitutional point, 

2 

Frank is a doomed man*' 1 

Within a few days Frank's attorneys concluded their 
petition for a new trial, and without even listening to the 
prosecution's summation, Judge Ben Hill denied the defense 
motion. He subsequently refused to set aside the verdict on 
the constitutional grounds that Frank's absence from the 
courtroom constituted denial of the federal guarantee of due 

process. On both counts Frank's attorneys indicated they 

3 

would appeal. 



AJ, May 2, 1914, p. 3. 

2 
Herbert Haas to Lasker, May 2, 1914, Rosenwald 

Papers . 

3 
AJ, May 6, 1914, p. 1; AC, June 7, 1914, p. 1. In 

1913 the Georgia General Assembly created a new judgeship 
for the Atlanta circuit to which Judge Benjamin H. Hill was 
appointed. At the same time, Judge Roan, who had presided 
at Frank's trial, and who had denied the motion for a new 
trial, was transferred to the State Court of Appeals. There- 
fore the subsequent appeals in the Atlanta circuit were 
heard by Judge Hill. Knight, A Standard History of Georgia , 
II, 1135-36. 



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184 

6 

In retrospect, it seems that Frank's efforts to ob- 
tain a new trial in the spring of 1914 failed, in part, be- 
cause too many people tried too hard to assist him. At the 
same time there was no clearly established leader to coordin- 
ate affairs. Louis Marshall had attempted to guide proceed- 
ings but he was handicapped by remaining in New York City, 
too far from the hub of activity, and also by the reluctance 
of others working for the defendant to follow his advice. 
Marshall did recognize, however, the cost to Frank of his 
well-meaning, but thoughtless, "friends." "Too many of our 
Jewish friends in Atlanta are assuming responsibility in 
this litigation, " he protested to the Haas brothers, "and 
are conferring with Tom, Dick and Harry with regard to it." 

Marshall had also objected to the employment of 
William J. Burns, the raising of large sums of money, and 
the northern newspaper barrage which succeeded in magnifying 
Georgian prejudice toward Frank. As early as March 17, 1914, 
he had written to a friend that "the campaign in the North 
may be overdone." Marshall also urged that Frank's partisans 
deemphasize religious prejudice. "There is too much of a 



LM to the Messrs. Haas & Haas, April 13, 1914, 
Box 1586. 



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185 



tendency on the part of our people, to attribute everything 

1 
to anti-Semitism* " And after Burns had barely escaped be- 
ing lynched, Marshall candidly confessed to another friend 
that he had been opposed to hiring the detective in the 
first place. "I foresaw just what has happened — an attack 
upon him because he is a stranger and a Northerner. ... I 
have been disgusted at the farcical methods to which Burns 
has resorted. Every one of his acts has been a burlesque 
upon modern detective ideas. It is deplorable that a case so 

meritorious as that of Frank, should have been brought to the 

2 

point of distraction by such ridiculous methods." Finally, 

the President of the American Jewish Committee hit upon one 
of Frank's most significant difficulties: "the lawyers in 
the case . . . have not at all times acted with good 



LM to Julian W. Mack, March 17, 1914, Box 1586. 

2 

Burns' connection with the case did, in fact, have 

dire consequences for Frank. Louis Marshall wrote to an edi- 
tor of a New York newspaper, "it is nevertheless the fact, 
that people of the highest standing in Georgia, some of whom 
prior to the advent of Burns were strong believers in Frank's 
innocence, have turned against him and have deduced an argu- 
ment of guilt from the very fact that Burns has been identi- 
fied with the case. It is also a very significant fact that, 
since that time, all people who are connected with trade 
unions and the working classes generally, have been more 
vituperative in their animosity to Frank than ever before." 
LM to Keats Speed, January 13, 1915, Box 146. 



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186 



1 
judgment." The situation that Marshall had observed so 

clearly, was summarized in one sentence by his law partner, 

Samuel Untermyer: "I am afraid the whole business has been 

terribly botched but the point now is to avoid further 

2 

blunders . " 

Untermyer was undoubtedly correct. The defense at- 
torneys therefore began preparing new briefs for an appeal 
to the Georgia Supreme Court. But this seemed only a for- 
mality. Eventually they expected to take their case into 
the federal courts, and ultimately to the United States 
Supreme Court, where they hoped that justice might be ob- 
tained. 



LM to Louis Wiley, May 5, 1914, Schiff Papers. 

2 
Samuel Untermyer to Louis Wiley, May 5, 1914, ibid . 



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187 



CHAPTER VII 



WISDOM WITHOUT JUSTICE 



The summer of 1914 marked a calm interlude after 
the frenetic activity in Franks behalf during the previous 
spring. American newspapers ceased condemning Georgia jus- 
tice, Tom Watson vented his frustrations upon other subjects, 
no witnesses came forth with crucial evidence or repudiated 
previous testimony, the public focused its attention on the 
perilous European situation, and the defense counsel quiet- 
ly appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. 

The repetitive arguments before Georgia's highest 
court lacked drama and required merely a few columns of 
Atlanta newsprint. The defense based its appeal upon new 
evidence and Frank's alleged denial of life and liberty 
without due process of law. The Court waited until the 
fall before once more thwarting the petitioner's hope for 
legal vindication in Georgia. The Georgia Justices unan- 
imously agreed that Judge Ben Hill, before whom the new 
evidence had originally been presented, had not abused his 
discretion in denying the extraordinary motion for a new 



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188 
trial and the Court saw no reason to reverse him. 1 

Once the Georgia Supreme Court turned down Frank's 
second request for a new trial, a realignment of his legal 
staff took place. Luther Rosser and Reuben Arnold, who 
had defended Frank during the trial, and had argued his 
appeals in the Supreme Court, ended their formal associa- 
tion as counsel. Thereafter, the brothers Haas, Herbert 
and Leonard, worked with Henry Alexander, who had been 
hired in 1913, and the firm of Tye, Peeples and Jordan, 
which had been retained in the spring of 1914 to introduce 
the constitutional question of whether a trial can be con- 
sidered valid if the defendant had been out of the court- 
room during any part of the proceedings. Louis Marshall 
remained in New York, but continued to supervise the work 
of the Atlanta attorneys. 

Marshall had originally suggested to the other at- 
torneys that an attempt should be made to invalidate Frank's 
conviction on the technical ground that neither the defen- 
dant, nor counsel, had the right to waive his constitutional 
privilege to be present in the courtroom at every stage of 
the proceedings. Henry Peeples, John Tye, the Haas brothers, 
and Henry Alexander had argued this point before Judge Ben 
Hill, who had denied their allegation in June, 1914. On 



Frank v. State . 83 Southeastern Reporter 234. 



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189 

appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld Hill's decision. 
Five of the six Supreme Court justices 1 agreed that the 
defendant's enforced absence from the court was known at 
the time of the first appeal and the alleged lack of due 
process should have been brought up at that time. If it 
had been, the Justices intimated, then redress would have 
been granted. 

It would be trifling with the court [however] to allow 
one who had been convicted of crime, and who had made 
a motion for a new trial on over 100 grounds, including 
the statement that his counsel had waived his presence 
at the reception of the verdict, and have the motion 
heard by both the superior and the Supreme Courts, and, 
after a denial of both courts of the motion, to now 
come in and by way of a motion to set aside the verdict 
include matters which were or ought to have been in- 
cluded in the motion for a new trial. ^ 

Again frustrated, but not unexpectedly, Louis 
Marshall, commenting on the latest failure, wrote Leonard 
Haas, "I am not surprised [at the Georgia Supreme Court's 
decision] , and only hope that the opinion will be on such 
grounds as will not increase the difficulties of procuring 

a review of the fundamental question by the Supreme Court 

3 
of the United States." But, alas, the Georgia Supreme 



The sixth justice was ill and did not participate 
in the decision. 

2 

83 Southeastern Reporter 654 

LM to Leonard Haas, November 14, 1914, Box 145. 



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190 
Court refused to grant Prank's attorneys' request for a 
writ of error 1 on the grounds that the case presented only 
a procedural question and no constitutional point existed. 2 

The adverse judgment did not stop Prank's attor- 
neys. Leonard Haas, Henry Peoples, Henry Alexander and 
Louis Marshall appealed to United States Supreme Court 
Justice Joseph R. Lamar for the writ of error. Lamar gave 
them "a most patient and courteous hearing, " 3 but denied 
their application on the grounds that the point raised 
involved only a question of state procedure which the 



Writ of error: a writ issued for an appeals 
court to the judge of court of record requiring him to 
remit the record in order that an examination may be made 
of certain errors alleged to have been committed so that 
judgment may be reversed, corrected or affirmed. Prank's 
counsel wanted the Georgia Supreme Court to grant the writ 
of error so that the United States Supreme Court would re- 
view the evidence and remand the case back to the Georgia 
courts for another trial. Even though technically the 
defense asked to have the verdict set aside, in reality 
they did not want, or expect, the judges to do this. But 
they did expect a new trial. Louis Marshall and Albert 
Lasker agreed that "if a new trial were to take place, with 
the entire nation looking on and with newspaper correspon- 
dents from all parts of the country in attendance, there 
would be no likelihood of a conviction, especially in view 
of the fact that the facts of the case are now much better 
understood than they were at the time of the trial." LM to 
Lasker, January 30, 1915, Box 146. 

2 AC, November 21, 1914, p. 4. 

LM to Chief Justice Edward D. White, November 24, 
1914, Reznikoff, op. cit .. p. 300. 



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191 
United States Supreme Court would not review. 

Prank's counsel, out of courtesy and custom, had 
applied first to Justice Lamar for the writ of error be- 
cause Georgia v~c included in his circuit. After he had 

refused them, they let it be known that they would appeal, 

2 
xf necessary, to each of the other Justices, in turn. 

The attorneys next approached Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. 
Holmes, too, denied the writ because he also felt bound by 
the Georgia Supreme Court's decision that the motion to 
set aside the verdict on constitutional grounds had come 
too late, and was therefore a procedural question. Justice 
Holmes, however, doubted whether on the basis of the evi- 
dence submitted to him, Leo Prank had received due process 
of law. He based his conclusion upon the fact that the 
trial took place "in the presence of a hostile demonstra- 
tion and seemingly dangerous crowd, thought by the presid- 
ing judge to be ready for violence unless a verdict of 
guilty was rendered." 

Denials of their appeal by Justices Lamar and Holmes 
did not daunt the determined counsel. They immediately 



1 AJ, November 26, 1914, p. 4. 

2 AC, November 24, 1914, p. 1. 

3 Quoted in AC, November 27, 1914, p. 5; see also 
The New York Times , November 27, 1914, p. 1. 



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192 

petitioned to be heard before the entire Supreme Court and 
their request was granted. But their argument had no 
greater effect on the judges collectively than it had upon 
the two who rejected the earlier petitions. It took only 
one week for the United States Supreme Court to refuse Leo 
Frank a writ of error. No written opinion accompanied the 
denxal. 

Holmes 1 commentary and the Supreme Court's refusal 
to issue the writ of error spawned newspaper commentary 
throughout the nation. Albany 1 s (New York) Knickerbocker- 
Press asked, "Is it not an amazing commentary upon our 
judicial system that an associate Justice of the United 
States Supreme Court 'seriously doubts if Frank has had due 

process of law, ■ and yet there is no means at hand by which 

2 
'due process' may be had?" The Indianapolis News ques- 
tioned, "How can the lay mind be expected to see justice 

in a ruling of that sort? It may be entirely legal, but 

3 
it hardly seems sensible." 



■••AT, December 7, 1914, p. 1. 

2 

Reprinted in The New York Times . December 1, 1914, 

p. 7. 

3 
Reprinted in ibid., December 2, 1914, p. 8. The 
New York Times reprinted other newspaper comments on the 
case regularly. Most newspaper commentary seemed to ex- 
press the feeling that Frank did not have a fair trial and 



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193 



Spurred on by editorial support, and hopeful that 
even the United States Supreme Court might yield to the 
outcry, Prank's attorneys reinstituted proceedings for a 
hearing in the nation's highest tribunal with an appeal 
for a writ of habeas corpus. 1 The new plea rested upon 
Justice Holmes' expressed doubts and Louis Marshall's con- 
viction "that the trial court lost jurisdiction of the case 

when the verdict was received in the absence of the pris- 

..2 
oner. ... The petition claimed that the state of 



that some way of obtaining one should be found. There are 
literally hundreds of clippings to this effect scattered 
among the Frank Papers, Boxes 694-701. Albert Lasker wrote 
to Jacob Billikopf, of Kansas City, Mo.: 

"Outside of the State of Georgia, the press of the 
United States, including the leading papers of every 
city in the South, save Georgia, are editorially not 
only commenting on the case, and agitating a public 
sentiment for the unfortunate Prank, but daily hun- 
dreds of papers, including the leading Southern 
papers, are editorially crying that Prank's execution 
would amount to judicial murder, and that in this 
case, the State of Georgia is more at bar than Prank. 
I do not exaggerate when I state that hundreds of such 
editorials are appearing daily." 
December 28, 1914, Rosenwald Papers. 

"Sfrit of habeas corpus: to get a person released 
from unlawful punishment. Only issue under consideration 
is whether prisoner's liberty has been denied with due 
process of law. 

2 

IM to Meier Steinbrink, December 19, 1914, 
Reznikoff, op. cit . . p. 303. 



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194 

Georgia illegally and unjustly held Prank in captivity 
because his conviction did not result from due process of 
law. This time, however, the basis for lack of due pro- 
cess was not that Prank involuntarily absented himself 
from the courtroom, but that he did so because of the 
hostile attitude of the spectators within and around the 
scene of the trial. Hence mob influence constituted denial 
of due process. 

The defense attorneys asked for the writ of habeas 
corpus in the Federal District Court for North Georgia. 
The local judge denied their petition and they appealed 
once more to Justice Lamar. This time Lamar agreed that 
the United States Supreme Court should consider their pe- 
tition. Justice Lamar now saw several legal issues which 
he believed the Supreme Court ought to rule upon, and 
which had not been apparent to him in the appeal for a 
writ of error. Among those issues he included (1) whether 
a defendant in a murder trial may legally waive his right 
to be present at all stages of the proceedings in a State 
Court and (2) does the failure to raise a material point 
in an appeal to a State Court prevent counsel from raising 



The New York Times . December 18, 1914, p. 6. 



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195 
the question at a later date? Lamar's verdict met with 

general newspaper acclaim. "Throughout the entire coun- 
try/' the Scranton (Pa.) Tribune-Republican declarer) . 
"there was a breath of relief. . . . " 2 "Justice Lamar's 
decision, " echoed the Portland Oreaonian . "makes life and 
liberty more secure for every citizen of the United 
States." 3 

The opportunity to be heard by the United States 
Supreme Court gratified Frank and his supporters. They 
confidently expected success. A few days before Lamar 
granted the appeal, Marshall had written, "If we only get 
a chance for argument in open court, I feel that we should 
win. Our position is legally and morally impregnable." 4 

The final court presentation had to be prepared 
carefully. Like the writ of error, which asked to have the 
verdict set aside and make Leo Prank a free man, the writ 
of habeas corpus alleged that since Georgia held Prank 



^e New York Times . December 29, 1914, p. 1; AJ, 
December 31, 1914, p. 5. 

The Scranton (Pa.) Tribune-Republican . December 30, 
1914, Prank Papers, Box 696. 

3 

Reprinted in The American Jewish Review. IV 

(January, 1915), 2, Frank Papers, Box 701. 

Copy of letter from IM to Haas (Leonard or Herbert 
not stated) , December 24, 1914, Rosenwald Papers. 



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196 
illegally, he must be given his freedom at once. Louis 
Marshall prepared the defense brief with the realization 
that any court would hesitate before granting this extreme 
demand in light of the facts already known. "From a tac- 
tical standpoint, " he wrote, "it would be far easier to 
succeed, if the Court were satisfied that a favorable 
decision would not finally discharge Frank." 1 In other 
words, the chance for the Supreme Court's granting the 
defense's request would be much greater if it could simply 
remand the case back to a Georgia court with instructions 
that a new trial be granted. 

Marshall's argument before the Supreme Court high- 
lighted the irregularities of a trial dominated by hostile 
elements and culminating with the judge coercing the de- 
fendant's counsel to acquiesce in denying Frank the op- 
portunity to see and face the jurors when they delivered 
their judgment. Warren Grice, the Attorney-General of 
Georgia, who, along with Hugh Dorsey, represented the State 



1 
IM to A. D. Lasker, January 30, 1915, Box 146. 

2 
IM to A. D. Lasker, January 30, 1915, February 5, 

1915, LM to Henry A. Alexander, February 19, 1915, Box 146, 

Reznikoff, op. cit . , pp. 304-11, passim ; The New 
York Times , February 21, 1915, II, 11. 



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197 



of Georgia in the United States Supreme Court, rebutted 
Marshall's claims and particularly objected to the use of 
the word "coerce." "It was simply the case of a kind- 
hearted Judge/' Grice explained, "suggesting to the coun- 
sel that their client remain absent." 1 

Two months passed before the Supreme Court, on 

April 19, 1915, rejected the defense motion by a vote of 

2 
7-2. Speaking for the Court Justice Mahlon Pitney elab- 
orated upon the denial. Justice Pitney explained that 
errors in law, however serious, committed by a court of 
proper jurisdiction cannot be reviewed by habeas corpus 
since habeas corpus cannot be substituted for a writ of 
error. Furthermore "the allegations of disorder were 
found by both of the State courts to be groundless ex- 
cept in a few particulars as to which the courts ruled 
that they were irregularities not harmful in fact to de- 
fendant and therefore insufficient in law to avoid the 
verdict." Frank's contention of denial of due process 
because he had not been present during the entire trial 



Quoted in The New York Times . February 27, 1914 
p. 8. ' 

2 
The majority included Edward D. White, Chief 
Justice, and Associate Justices Joseph McKenna, William R. 
Day, Willis Van Devanter, Joseph R. Lamar, Mahlon Pitney, 
and James C. McReynolds. Justices Holmes and Charles 
Evans Hughes dissented. 



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198 

"has been set aside because it was waived by his failure 
to raise the objection in due season when fully cognizant 
of the fact," The right of the defendant to be present at 
the rendition of the jury verdict, Pitney continued, "is 
but an incident of the right of trial by jury; and, since 
the State may, without infringing the Fourteenth Amendment, 
abolish trial by jury, it may limit the effect to be given 
to an error respecting one of the incidents of such trial," 
The Supreme Court majority also acknowledged that the 
Georgia courts accorded Frank "the fullest right and op- 
portunity to be heard according to established modes of 
procedure. ..." Therefore, Justice Pitney concluded, the 
defendant had been deprived of no right guaranteed by the 
Fourteenth Amendment or any other provision of the United 
States Constitution. 

Justices Holmes and Charles Evans Hughes dissented. 
They dismissed Frank's absence from the courtroom as in- 
consequential compared to the major point of whether a trial 
conducted in an atmosphere of overt public hostility is 
consonant with due process of law. Examining the records 
and commenting upon Judge Roan's expressed doubt, Holmes 



Frank v. Mangum , 237 U.S. 326, 333, 343, 344, 345 
(1915) . 



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199 
and Hughes thought "the presumption overwhelming that the 
jury responded to the passions of the mob." Therefore 
under no stretch of judicial imagination could they pre- 
sume that Leo Frank had had a fair trial. "Mob law," they 
concluded, "does not become due process of law by securing 
the assent of a terrorized jury." 1 

Northern press commentary "was bitter against the 
supreme court," a Missouri newspaperman wrote to Leo Prank. 2 
"The opinion of the country will be with the dissenting 
Justices," averred the San Francisco Chronicle . 3 The 
Muskegee (Okla.) Democrat lamented, "the sad part of it all 
is that Frank has failed to get a new trial not because 
the higher court believes him to be guilty but because of 
technical mistakes made by his lawyer." Louis Marshall 



Ibid., PP. 347, 349. "In Frank v. Mangum , Hughes 
worked with Holmes on his dissenting opinion, and in cir- 
culating it Holmes wrote a note saying, 'I think it would 
be fairer to say (if you agree) that you and I think the 
judgment should be reversed and to put we for I all through. • 
The opinion came down that way after Hughes had replied, 
'I shall be proud to be associated with you in this opinion. 1 " 
Merlo J. Pusey, Charles Evans Hughes (2 vols.* New York, 
1951) , I, 289. 

2 
Letter from A. B. Macdonald to Leo Frank, John M. 
Slaton Papers (Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.). Here- 
after cited as Slaton-Brandeis. 

3 
San Francisco Chron^io, April 21, 1915, p. 18- 
see also Washington Posf. April 21, 1915, p. 6; Galveston 
Daily News. April 23, 1915, p. 4. 



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200 
wrote to a friend, "I fear that I shall never again be able 
to feel that reliance upon the courts in respect to the 
accomplishments of the ends of justice, that I had hitherto 
entertained . " 

With the denial of the writ of habeas corpus all 
court action had been exhausted. Under the laws of Georgia 
only one course remained open — to petition the Governor via 
the Prison Commission for clemency. Frank's attorneys now 
set about to prepare the necessary petition. 



^Muskegee Democrat . April 29, 1915, Prank Papers, 
Box 695. IM to Judge Julian Mack, April 24, 1915, Box 146. 
Chief Justice White later insisted that he knew not one 
word of the evidence in the case, nor anything about its 
merits, and that the question of guilt or innocence did 
not come before him at all, "but solely the dry, technical 
question . . . as to whether there was such Federal ques- 
tion involved as to require the Federal Courts to wrest 
the case from the State tribunals." John M. Slaton, 
"Governor Slaton' s OWN Defense in the Frank Case," The 
New York World, July 4, 1915, editorial section, p. 1. 



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201 



CHAPTER VIII 



COMMUTATION 



A movement to have Frank's sentence commuted began 
in the autumn of 1914, after his appeals had been turned 
down by the Georgia courts, and the outlook in the federal 
courts appeared uncertain. Prank's friends hoped that 
national publicity might stimulate a groundswell of oppo- 
sition to his conviction, which would persuade the Governor 
of Georgia to commute the sentence. Therefore, the fall of 
1914 witnessed a revived interest in Frank throughout the 
nation. Part of this concern may be attributed to a 
"sensational" new development in the case, and part may 
be assigned to some prominent newspapers and national 
periodicals which, inspired by those most concerned with 
the prisoner's welfare, decided to investigate the case 
and discover why Leo Frank had been convicted. 

1 
The new development which stirred Atlanta and those 
working to save Frank, was the announcement, made on Octo- 
ber 2, 1914, by William M. Smith, lawyer for Jim Conley, 



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202 
the state's key witness at the trial. Smith declared that 
his own client had murdered Mary Phagan. This incredible 
admission seemed highly unethical, but Smith maintained 
that since Conley had already been convicted for his com- 
plicity in the crime, he could not be retried. Under the 
circumstances, Smith felt obliged to speak up to save an 
innocent man's life. A careful reading of the attorney's 
statement, detailing the reasons for his opinion, revealed 
speculations, intuitions, and suspicions, but no convincing 
proof. He unearthed no new facts, but merely juxtaposed 
the existing ones, to reach his conclusion. Tom Watson 
accused Smith of having accepted a bribe to issue his 
statement, and asked why the lawyer had not spoken up eight 
months earlier, in March, 1914, when The Atlanta Journal 
published its editorial demanding a new trial for Frank. 1 
Those who believed Prank guilty quickly accepted Watson's 
charge that Smith had been bribed; those who thought Frank 
innocent clung to Smith's words to bolster their thesis. 
The national press used Smith's statement to re- 
introduce Leo Frank to their readers. Prom June, 1914, when 
a Georgia court had denied his appeal for a new trial, until 



AC, October 3, 1914, p. 1; October 4, 1914, p. 1 
The Jeff ersonian . October 8, 1914, p. 9. 



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>t I 



203 

October, 1914, when Smith announced his belief that Conley 
had killed Mary Phagan, Prank's name rarely appeared in 
print. But Smith's remarks gave the newspapers an occasion 
for reviewing the events in the case and stimulating further 
interest in Leo Frank. 

Since many of the newspapers, outside of Georgia, 
had always been sympathetic to Leo Prank, it was natural 
that they would once again present his case favorably. The 
first of the new articles appeared in November, 1914, in 
the Baltimore Sun . Then — following in quick succession — 
came two articles in Collier's , in December, 1914, a de- 
tailed survey in The Kansas Citv (Mo.) Star , on January 17, 
1915, and an essay in Everybody ' s . in March, 1915. 1 These 
stories kept material sympathetic to Prank before the public. 

Two of the investigating journalists, C. P. Connolly, 
who wrote for Collier's, and Arthur P. Train, whose article 
appeared in Everybody ' s . were lawyers. Connolly had been 
a prosecuting attorney in Butte, Montana, while Train was 



!The Baltimore Sun . November 19, 1914, p. 1; Novem- 
ber 23, 1914, p. 3; C. P. Connolly, "The Prank Case," 
Collier's . LIV (December 19, 1914), 6-7; LIV (December 26, 
1914), 18-20; A. B. Macdonald, "Has Georgia Condemned an 
Innocent Man to Die?" The Kansas Citv Star . January 17, 
1915, pp. 1C-3C; Arthur Train, "Did Leo Frank Get Justice?" 
Everybody's . XXXII (March, 1915), 315-17. Arthur Brisbane 
also investigated the case for the Hearst newspapers, and 
the New York World and Chicago Tribune sent reporters to 
Atlanta for further information. The New York Times . 
February 2, 1915, p. 6. 



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204 
still an assistant district attorney in New York City 
when he wrote. These two men, plus the other two reporters, 
concluded that Prank was innocent. They saw the familiar 
ingredients of anti-industrialism, police incompetence, 
and newspaper sensationalism complicating the attack upon 
Frank. But each stressed Atlanta's hatred of the Jew. 
The Baltimore Sun 's reporter viewed the case as "the Amer- 
ican counterpart of the Dreyfus [affair]," while the essay- 
ist in Collier ' s wrote that the cry, "Innocent or Guilty, 

we will 'get' the d Jew!" accurately reflected Atlantan 

sentiment. By emphasizing anti-Semitism, these accounts 
overlooked the fact that in Georgia many unprejudiced and 
impartial citizens believed Prank guilty. Furthermore, 
many Georgians resented the conclusion, reached by these 
outsiders, that the jury had echoed the demands of the 
clamoring crowds. 

These four articles spawned further commentary and 
discussion in the nation's press. The editors of The Bal- 
timore Sun reread their series and confessed that their 
faith in the jury system had been shaken s "Sometimes the 
public is almost justified in feeling that the twelve men 



The Baltimore Sun. November 19, 1914, p. 1; 
Collier's, December 19, 1914, p. 6; The Kansas Citv Star . 
January 17, 1915, pp. 1C-3C; Everybody's . March, 1915, 
pp. 315-17. 



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205 



in the jury box deserve hanging even more richly than the 
accused . " Throughout the country newspaper editorials were 
equally indignant. One Pittsburgh newspaper referred to 
the Frank case as "the most notorious example of the mob 
spirit that has invaded our courts for many years." Fre- 
quent comparisons were made to Russian justice. A mid- 
western daily declared, for example, that "Russia, with 
all her benightedness, never produced anything more heinous 
than the case of Frank. . . . " 

But in Georgia, there was no outpouring of sym- 
pathy. Many Georgians considered the pro-Frank editorials 
as the product of a press servile to Jewish interests. The 
accusations of race prejudice and mob passions made the 
people of the state more reluctant to reexamine their con- 
clusions. Thomas Loyless, the respected editor of The 
Augusta Chronicle , doubted whether the northern outcry 
would have been so bitter were the victim of this alleged 
injustice a Gentile. A former Governor, Joseph M. Brown, 



1 The Baltimore Sun . November 26, 1914, p. 4. The 
Pittsburgh Index. December 26, 1914, Duluth Herald . 
December 17, 1914, Frank Papers, Box 701. There are more 
than one hundred clippings among the Frank papers expressing 
these ideas. See also opinions of other American newspapers 
reprinted in The New York Times . December, 1, 2, 4, 9, 11 
12, 13, 15, 22, 23, 1914. 



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206 



inquired indignantly, "Are we to understand that anybody 
except a Jew can be punished for crime?" One rural news- 
paper candidly asked if those publications which publicized 
Prank's situation realized that they were hurting the de- 
fendant with their continuing attacks upon Georgia justice. 
Whether they knew it or not, this daily continued, Southern- 
ers generally believed that the publications condemning 
Georgia were being paid to express their opinions. 1 A 
despondent Louis Marshall wrote to Frank: "Apparently 

nothing that may be written will, under present conditions, 

2 

affect public sentiment in Georgia." 



Once the newspaper protests and Georgia retalia- 
tions subsided, another quiet interlude passed while Prank's 
attorneys argued before the United States Supreme Court for 
a writ of habeas corpus in February, 1915; then they waited 
anxiously for the verdict. When the Supreme Court rejected 



The New York Times. December 10, 1914, p. 6; The 
Augusta Chronicle, December 27, 1914, p. 3. Then thereTre 
the following newspaper clippings from small town Georgia 
papers, all from the Frank Papers, Box 693: Brunswick News 
November 29, 1914, Waycross Journal . January 16, 1915, and"' 
the Macon Telegraph . January 16, 1915. 

2 

IM to Leo Frank, January 30, 1915, Box 146. 



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207 

Frank's plea, on April 19, 1915, defense lawyers immediate- 
ly began working for executive clemency. Marshall had been 
informed by Arthur Brisbane, the famous journalist in the 
Hearst chain, and others, that Frank would have a better 
chance to live if Governor Slaton, rather than Governor 
Harris, received his appeal. Therefore Marshall requested 
the United States Supreme Court to send its mandate to the 
local Georgia court faster than was usual. 1 Although Leo 
Frank preferred a complete pardon, his attorneys cautioned 
that, on the basis of the numerous adverse court decisions, 
he would be prudent to seek commutation to life imprisonment, 
Counsel also hoped that sometime in the future the climate 

of Georgia opinion might change, and Frank's innocence would 

2 

be established. 

While the attorneys handled legal matters, further 
attempts were made to create an aura of national concern 
over Frank. Since Jewish leaders realized that everything 
they did on Frank's behalf reverberated against him, ex- 
tensive efforts were made to induce prominent Gentiles to 



"TTone of the letters that I have seen spell out the 
reasons why it was thought that Slaton would be more likely 
to commute. IM to Herbert Haas, May 7, May 21, May 28, 1915, 
Box 146. 

2 The New York Times . April 22, 1915, p. 1. 



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208 

join in the crusade to save the prisoner's life. The 
overtures succeeded. Many Gentiles had already heard of 
Frank's situation and doubted his culpability. They did 
not hesitate to express these opinions publicly. 

Leo Frank's predicament appealed to an amazing 
variety of people. The offices of the Georgia Governor 
and its Prison Commission were flooded with more than 100,000 
letters requesting commutation. Solicitations came from 
every state in the union, from Canada, and from Mexico. 
Included among these pleas were communications from the 
President of the University of Chicago; the Dean of Yale 
College; Charles R. Crane, the plumbing magnate; Judge Ben 
Lindsay of Colorado; and Jane Addams. Elmer Murphy, Presi- 
dent of the James H. Rhodes Company, producers of industrial 
chemicals, sent out an appeal to every name on the mailing 
list of the company's publication, Rhodes' Colossus , ear- 
nestly requesting that each of them intercede for Frank. 



William Howard Taft to Julius Rosenwald, May 17, 
1915; Julius Rosenwald to Senator L. Y. Sherman, May 18, 
1915; Senator L. Y. Sherman to Julius Rosenwald, May 21, 
1915; Rosenwald Papers. Simon Wolf to Woodrow Wilson, 
June 10, 1915; William J. Burns to Joseph P. Tumulty, May 29, 
1915; Woodrow Wilson Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, 
D.C.), Series VI, File #3658. IM to Herbert Haas, IM to 
Harry Friedenwald, both May 15, 1915, Box 146. Also IM to 
Daniel Guggenheim, and to A. D. Lasker, both May 10, 1915, 
both Box 156. IM to Herbert Haas, May 21, 1915, May 28, 
1915, Box 146. 



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209 



The Governors of Arizona, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, 
North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia, 
wrote to Georgia's Governor, as did United States Senators 
from Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, 
Mississippi, and Texas, as well as scores of Congressmen. 
The state legislatures of Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, 
Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia, passed resolutions 
urging commutation. The New York Times noted that the ap- 
peals by the Governors and state legislatures, "are said to 
be without precedent in the history of the United States." 
But there were also thousands of petitions, containing more 
than a million signatures, which reached Georgia from every 
state in the union. Chicago, alone, sent more than twenty 
thousand petitions with over 500,000 names, and Cincinnati, 
five hundred petitions. Untold thousands responded when 
the Detroit Times . Omaha Bee , and several Los Angeles papers 
printed coupons, asking clemency for Leo Prank, which readers 
could clip, sign, and return to the newspaper office for 
shipment to Georgia. Leo Prank, himself, received over 
1500 letters, in May and June, 1915, from well wishers. His 
plight had obviously captured the imagination of more than a 
million people who were unwilling to see him hang after 



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210 

the kind of trial he had had. 

Georgian reaction to this fantastic display of 
public sympathy varied. More than ten thousand residents 
of the state petitioned the Governor on Frank's behalf. 
Included in this group were the state's junior United States 
Senator, Thomas Hardwick, and both the son and son-in-law 
of the senior Senator, Hoke Smith, a political opponent 
of Tom Watson; most ministers, bankers, and lawyers also 
joined the national trend and either wrote letters or 
signed petitions, indicating that doubt existed as to 
Frank's guilt and that, under the circumstances, the court's 



"TJarvey Judson, President of the University of 
Chicago, to the Georgia Prison Commission, May 9, 1915; 
Charles R. Crane to Georgia Prison Commission, May 29, 1915, 
PC Records. There are thousands of other letters expressing 
this sentiment in the PC Records. The letters to Governor 
John M. Slaton are scattered in three different places: 
the records of the Georgia Prison Commission, and the John 
M. Slaton Papers, both in the Georgia State Archives (At- 
lanta) ; and the John M. Slaton Papers, Brandeis University 
(Waltham) . See also IM to Herbert Haas, May 28, 1915, Box 
146; Elmer Murphy to Leo Frank, May 1, 1915, Slaton Papers, 
Brandeis; and AC, May 16, 1915, p. 1; May 24, 1915, p. 5; 
May 28, 1915, p. 7; May 29, 1915, p. 1; May 30, 1915, p. 5; 
May 31, 1915, p. 5; June 1, 1915, p. 4; AJ, May 29, 1915, 
P- 2; The New York Times. May 18, 1915, p. 6; May 25, 1915 
p. 6; May 29, 1915, p. 12; May 30, 1915, II, 14; Woodward,' 
Tom Watson, p. 436. One of the reasons for Chicago's great 
concern over Leo Frank may have been because of the influence 
of Albert Lasker, Julius Rosenwald, and the B'nai B'rith, 
all of whom lived, or made their main headquarters, in the 
city. 



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211 



verdict should be altered. A number of prominent state 
newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal . The Atlanta 
Georgian. The North Georgia Citizen (frequently called the 
Dalton Citizen) , and the Brunswick News reached the same 
conclusxon. 

But a great many Georgians still wanted to see 
Frank hang. None were as articulate as Tom Watson, the 
state's most vehement opponent of commutation. He warned 
the Prison Commission and the Governor not to undo what 
the courts had decided; if the chief executive, who had 
the final authority, ignored the judicial decisions, " there 
will almost in evitably be the bloodiest riot ever known in 
the history of the South ." 3 

The attacks upon Prank, the vulnerable antagonist, 
thrust Watson, who had suffered years of setbacks, to the 
apex of his popularity in Georgia. During his crusade 
against the "jewpervert" The Jef fersonian 's sales more 



AC, May 27, 1915, p. 1; TAC, September 28, 1915, 
p. 6. 

2 

AJ, May 23, 1915, sporting section, p. 4; AG, 

May 29, 1915, Prank Papers, Box 697; TAC, June 9, 1915, 
June 10, 1915, ibid.; Brunswick News . June 17, 1915, ibid . . 
Box 694; The North Georgia Citizen . May 27, 1915, p. 4. 

3 The Jeffersonian . June 10, 1915, p. 3. 



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212 

than tripled and profits soared. Before the Frank campaign 
had begun, Watson's newspaper had a circulation of about 
25,000. For the first week of September, 1915, this figure 
jumped to 87,000. Thomas Loyless, the editor of The Augusta 
Chronicle , estimated that at the height of its popularity, 
The Jeffersonian 's profits exceeded $1,000 a week. In- 
spired by the public's responsiveness, Watson's vehemence 
grew more intense, more repetitive, and in the eyes of his 
readers, more brilliant. At the end of June, 1915, a fol- 
lower rhapsodized, "It did not seem possible to me that 
you could improve on what you have said heretofore in the 
Frank case, but this last article is the best one." 

Tom Watson's campaign against Frank exacerbated 
the bitterness that Georgians harbored toward "the lustful 
Jew." The passions originally aroused by Mary Phagan's 
death and Leo Frank's trial were rekindled by essays in 
The Jeffersonian and Watson's Magazine . "RISE PEOPLE OF 
GEORGIA," the vitriolic editor demanded. He urged them to 
hold mass meetings and vent their feelings: "Let the 
Governor and the Prison Commission hear from the people." 
"Are you going to allow a clamorous minority, make a mockery 



1 Woodward, Tom Watson , p. 442; [a follower] to Tom 
Watson, June 25, 1915, Slaton Brandeis. 



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213 

of Justice, a farce of jury trial, a bye-word of our Laws?" 
Watson asked. "Are you going to provide encouragement and 
justification for future lvnchinas . by allowing Big Money 
to annul the well-weighed findings of unimpeachable jurors, 
whose verdict rests on unimpeachable testimony, and bears 
the approval of the highest court in the world?" 1 

In response to Watson's advice, protest rallies 
were held throughout the state. In Atlanta, mass meetings, 
ostensibly to defend and preserve the right of trial by 
jury, occurred regularly in June, 1915. One gathering, 
held on June 5, 1915, on the grounds of the state capital, 
attracted thousands. The Augusta Chronicle characterized 
this group as a "mob." "We say it was 'hideous' and we 
call it a 'mob' because there was the bloodthirsty spirit 
of the mob in it. ..." Crowds cheered the mentioning 
of Tom Watson and Hugh Dorsey. Leo Frank's name, on the 
other hand, evoked cries of "Hang him, hang him, let him 
hang!" The meeting ended with a hymn, and the group passed 
a resolution upholding the verdicts of the Georgia courts 
and demanding that equal justice be meted out to rich and 
poor alike. Subsequent gatherings attracted fewer, though 



The Jeffersonian . June 3, 1915, pp. 3, 4. 



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214 



equally zealous, individuals. Of times "Piddling John" 
Carson entertained the people with verses from "The Ballad 
of Mary Phagan" : 

Little Mary Phagan 
She left her home one day; 
She went to the pencil-factory 
To see the big parade. 

She left her home at eleven, 

She kissed her mother good -by; 

Not one time did the poor child think 

That she was a-going to die. 

Leo Frank he met her 

With a brutish heart, we know; 

He smiled, and said, "Little Mary, 

You won ' t go home no more . " 

Sneaked along behind her 
Till she reached the metal-room; 
He laughed, and said, "Little Mary, 
You have met your fatal doom." 

Down upon her knees 

To Leo Prank she plead; 

He taken a stick from the trash-pile 

And struck her across the head. 1 



Estimates of the June 5 crowd varied from 2,000 
to 8,000; TAC, June 9, 1915, Prank Papers, Box 697; The 
Jeffersonian, June 17, 1915, p. 3; July 15, 1915, p.~S7 
The New York Times, June 6, 1915, II, 4. See also The 
Dalton Citizen, June 10, 1915, p. 4; AJ, June 13, 1915, 
pp. 1, 10; AC, June 4, 1915, p. 1; June 13, 1915, p. 5A 
The New York Times, June 5, 1915, p. 6; American Jewidi 
Review, n.d., clipping, John M. Slaton's "Miscellaneous" 
Scrapbook, Slaton Papers, Georgia Archives; Franklin Bliss 
Snyder, "Leo Prank and Mary Phagan, " The Journal of America n 
Folklore, XXXI (1918), 264; see Appendix B. 



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215 



Within hearing distance of the public demonstra- 
tions, the Georgia Prison Commission met in special ses- 
sion on May 31, 1915, to consider Frank's appeal for 
commutation. Frank's plea consisted primarily of infor- 
mation presented before other tribunals, a letter from a 
prominent graphologist who believed that the murder notes 
had definitely been written by Jim Conley, 2 and a new let- 
ter from Leonard Roan, the judge who had presided over 
Frank's trial, which had been sent to the defense counsel 
in December, 1914. Roan had again expressed his uncertain- 
ty of Frank's guilt, and acknowledged that perhaps he had 
shown "undue deference to the opinion of the jury." The 
Judge agreed to repeat these doubts, at the proper time, to 
the Prison Commission and the Governor. Roan died before 
the Prison Commission met, hence the attorneys for Frank 



According to Georgia law, the Prison Commission 
had advisory powers only: the final decision rested with 
the Governor. 

The impact of the letter was offset, however, by 
the fact that in 1913, the same graphologist, Albert Osborn, 
had informed Hugh Dorsey that the notes might have been 
written with the assistance of an intelligent person. 
Albert Osborn to Prison Commissioners, May 17, 1915, May 18, 
1915, PC Records. The New York Times . May 27, 1915, p. 4. 



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216 



presented his views to the Commissioners. "The element of 
doubt, alone," one of Frank's lawyers insisted, "is suffi- 
cient to warrant commutation. And the letter of the trial 
justice, Judge Roan, is sufficient to establish doubt enough 
to warrant such action." 

The prosecution made no counter showing to the 
defense plea. Dorsey had sent the Commission a letter ex- 
pressing the state's opposition to any alteration of the 

death penalty, but he did not deem it necessary to appear 

2 

xn person. 

By a vote of 2-1, the Prison Commissioners refused 
to recommend clemency. Since there had been no new evi- 
dence, the majority saw no reason to intervene. Furthermore, 
they noted that neither the grand jurors who indicted Frank, 
the trial jurors who heard the testimony, nor the prosecutor 
for the state, had interceded in Frank's behalf. The one 
Prison Commissioner dissenting went beyond the legalities 
to reach his decision. He doubted the veracity of Jim 
Conley's story, and also seemed impressed with Judge Roan's 



L. S. Roan to Messrs Rosser and Brandon, and R. R. 
Arnold, December, 1914 (no specific date), PC Records. 
AC, June 1, 1915, p. 1. 



Ibid., pp. 1, 4, 



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217 
remarks. In his minority opinion, this commissioner noted 
that no precedent existed for hanging a man where the trial 
judge had expressed doubt about the defendant's guilt. 

The Prison Commission's decision may have pleased 
a majority of Georgians, but it shocked TCiomas Loyless, 
editor of The Augusta Chronicle , and "greatly surprised 
• • • the bes t thought and sentiment in Georgia . " Loyless 
had been led to believe that the Commissioners were going to 
recommend commutation, and when they did not, he intimated 
that they might have been intimidated by public opinion. 
Loyless considered this outrageous, and advised, in the 
title of an indignant editorial, " Let Governor Slaton Do 
His Duty As He Sees It, Regardless ! " 



Governor John M. Slaton had been one of the most 
popular chief executives in the history of Georgia. He had 
entered office with sixteen years of legislative experience 
behind him, and the esteem of all who knew him. In 1912, 
he had been elected Governor, "on a tidal wave of popular 
enthusiasm unprecedented in Georgia's annals." 3 During his 



^■AC, June 10, 1915, pp. 1, 2. 

2 
TAC, June 10, 1915, Frank Papers, Box 697. 

3 
Knight, A Standard History of Georgia , II, 1168. 



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218 

two years in office, Slaton fulfilled the expectations of 
those who had elected him, including Tom Watson who had 
supported him, by carrying out his duties with integrity 
and aplomb. In the primary of 1914, he had successfully 
vied for the Democratic nomination for United States Sena- 
tor. Although he won a plurality of the county votes, and 
a majority of the popular votes, the delegates to the state 
convention selected Thomas Hardwick for the position. 1 In 
the same primary, Nathanial Harris, a "Watson man, " won the 
nomination for Governor, and was subsequently elected. He 
was scheduled to be inaugurated on June 26, 1915. 

Because his death had been set for June 22, 1915, 
Leo Prank's plea for commutation would reach Governor Slaton 's 
desk four days before Harris would take office. In June, 
1915, Slaton was at the peak of his popularity. Knowledge- 
able Georgians assumed that on his next try he would succeed 
in winning a seat in the United States Senate. It is true 
that Slaton did expect to crown his political achievements 
as a Senator from Georgia. But he had not yet amassed 



Georgia's antiquated county unit system gave dis- 
proportionate power to the rural counties of the state. 
With 159 counties, each allowed a minimum of one vote, none 
allowed more than three votes, a minority of the population 
could select state wide candidates. V. 0. Key, Jr., South- 
ern Poli tics in State and Nation (New York, 1950), p. 119. 



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219 

enough strength to capture the nomination. Additional sup- 
port would be necessary. Tom Watson, one of the state's 
leading politicians, indicated that he would be willing to 
throw his weight behind the Governor, if Slaton would let 
Prank die. 

Governor Slaton had an important decision to make. 
He had reason to believe that his political future would be 
jeopardized if he altered the court's decision. But if he 
had desired to do so, he could have resorted to an evasive 
tactic or begged off on seemingly ethical grounds. Since 
his term was about to expire, Slaton could have withdrawn 
gracefully from consideration of the case. He might have 
maintained that the pressure of last minute business await- 
ing his administration prevented him from giving the neces- 
sary deliberation to Frank's plea. Therefore justice would 
require that he defer to the next Governor, Nathanial Harris, 
who would not be handicapped by lack of time, and could re- 
examine the material judiciously before making a final 
decision. 



xCnight, A Standard History of Georgia . II, 1125, 
1126, 1128, 1164; Woodward, Tom Watson , pp. 439-40; John 
Temple Graves, "The New Governor of Georgia," Cosmopolitan 
Magazine. LV (August, 1913), 335-37. 



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220 

Slaton also could have claimed "personal involve- 
ment" to avoid having to make a judgment. He had this op- 
tion because he was the law partner of Leo Prank's attorney, 
Luther Rosser. In 1913, before the murder of Mary Phagan, 
but after Slaton had been elected Governor, the law offices 
of Slaton and Phillips had joined with those of Rosser and 
Brandon, to form the new firm of Rosser, Slaton and Phillips. 
Slaton had done this to insure the continuity of his prac- 
tice while he was Governor. For purposes of prestige he 
permitted his partners to use his name while he served as 
the state's chief executive. The merger of the offices had 
been agreed upon two weeks before Mary Phagan's death, but 
the partnership was not actually consummated until July, 
1913. In the meantime, Leo Frank had become Luther Rosser' s 
client. After the new law partners commenced operations, 
Slaton had nothing to do with the defendant: he shared 
neither the burdens of the work nor the rewards of the fee. 
The Slaton-Rosser agreement received little publicity at the 
time of the merger, but in 1915, Tom Watson reminded Geor- 
gians that Governor Slaton and Leo Frank's attorney, Luther 
Rosser, were partners. Although observers could legitimately 



Woodward, Tom Watson , p. 443. 



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221 



recognize the delicacy of Sla ton's position, the Governor 
sensed no conflict of interest. When the petition for 
commutation reached his desk, he assumed responsibility for 
the decision. 

Slaton, a man with a keen sense of justice, faced 
the issue squarely in spite of the possible political con- 
sequences. Why he did this is pure conjecture. Perhaps 
he felt that he could have no self-respect if he shirked 
this important case. On the other hand, he might have 
surmised — and I have no evidence to support this contention 
— that he would be fairer in evaluating the evidence than 
his successor, Nathanial Harris, because the latter was a 
close ally of Tom Watson's. Slaton may have felt — and again, 
this observation cannot be substantiated — that Harris would 
have been loath to antagonize both his patron and his con- 
stituents during his first weeks in office. And, of course, 
there was the possibility that Slaton was simply an honest 
man and did what he believed to be the right thing. In any 
case, the decision to become the judge of Leo Frank's case 
proved the most fateful of John M. Slaton' s career. 

Once having decided to consider the matter, Slaton 
moved quickly. He heard arguments from both the defense 
counsel and the prosecuting attorney, and then visited the 



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222 



pencil factory to familiarize himself with the building, 
its layout, and the functioning of the elevator. Since 
Prank's attorneys and Hugh Dorsey had differed as to the 
actual place of the crime — the defense had claimed that 
Mary met her doom in the basement, the prosecution had in- 
sisted that death overcame the girl in the metal workroom 
opposite Prank's office on the second floor—Slaton tried 
to obtain as much information as possible about the pencil 
plant so that he might follow the different arguments more 
precisely. 

After the hearings ended, Slaton secluded himself 
to consider the evidence. He had more material to cope 
with than anyone realized. In addition to the voluminous 
court hearings and judicial pronouncements, and the letters 
already discussed in the newspapers, the Governor had re- 
ceived a personal letter from Judge Roan asking him to 
rectify the mistake the Judge realized he had made by 
sentencing Prank to death. The Governor had also received 
a secret communication, from one of Hugh Dorsey' s law part- 
ners, informing him that Jim Conley's lawyer had confessed 
to this partner, that Jim Conley had murdered Mary Phagan. 1 



-roemo of conversation held by Samuel Boorstein with 
John M. Slaton, October 12, 1953; Anti -Defamation League 
Piles, New York City. 



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223 



Another communique which had been received by Slaton, and 
which was not published until 1923, came from an inmate 
in Atlanta's federal penitentiary. The inmate claimed to 
have seen Jim Conley struggling with Mary Phagan on the day 
of the murder. 1 For twelve days Slaton pondered the case. 
"I left no stone unturned in my investigation of the case, " 
he confessed afterwards. "I went over it again and again 
from every point of view." 2 

While he struggled to reach a correct verdict, people 
emotionally involved with Leo Frank bombarded the Governor 
with pleas for commutation or demands that the prisoner hang. 
More than a thousand of the petitioners threatened to kill 
Slaton, and his wife, if he let Frank live. What influence 
these communications bore upon Governor Slaton' s final judg- 
ment is difficult to determine. 

Finally the day of judgment arrived. Slaton worked 
all day in his library, and well into the night. At 2 A.M., 
on June 21, he went upstairs where his wife had remained 
awake, waiting for him to reach a conclusion. "Have you 
reached a decision," she asked. "Yes," Slaton replied, 



p. 1. 



■•■See Appendix C. 
The New York World, July 4, 1915, editorial section, 



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224 



"It may mean my death or worse, but I have ordered the sen- 
tence commuted." Tradition has it, that Mrs. Slaton then 
rose, went to her husband, and kissed him. "I would rather 
be the widow of a brave and honorable man, " she allegedly 
whispered, "than the wife of a coward." 1 

Before announcing his decision, Slaton made sure 
that Leo Prank was safe from the reach of Atlanta's mobs. 
He had secretly instructed the sheriff of Pulton county to 
deliver the prisoner to the state prison farm at Millidge- 
ville. At about 10 P.M., on June 20, the sheriff told Prank 
to gather his belongings and prepare to leave the prison. 
Extensive security precautions had been taken. The phone 
wires to the jail had been disconnected, and an automobile 
had been ordered to pull up in front of the building and 
keep its motor idling. Reporters noticed the car and 
watched it expectantly. While they did so, the sheriff 
and six deputies removed Prank from his cell, escorted him 
to the basement, and then, to a back alley exit where anoth- 
er car was waiting. As soon as the group entered, the 



^•Ibid.; Garrett, op. cit., II, 626; A. L. Henson 
[Essay—no title] , "Leo Frank Polder, " Piles of the Anti- 
Defamation League, New York City; Powell, op. cit .. p. 292; 
Knight, A Standard History of Georgia . II, 1168. 



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225 

vehicle sped away. While reporters zealously guarded the 
other automobile, parked in front of the prison, Leo Prank 
and his guards headed for Atlanta's main railroad terminal. 
A midnight train took them to Macon, and at about 3 A.M. 
they reached their destination. The group drove the rest 
of the distance — about twenty-five miles — to the prison 
farm at Millidgeville. Orders were given to the warden to 
double the prison guard, and to refuse Frank all visitors 
who had not received authorization from the Prison Commis- 
sion in Atlanta. The following day a reporter observed, 
"Never in the history of Georgia's prison system had such 
a perfect system of secrecy been thrown around an action." 

With Prank safely at the state prison farm, Governor 
Slaton announced the commutation of Leo Frank's sentence to 
life imprisonment. "Feeling as I do about this case," the 
Governor added in an aside, "I would be a murderer if I 
allowed that man to hang." 2 A ten thousand word commentary, 
detailing the reasons for commutation, accompanied Slaton' s 
announcement . 

The Governor's explanation showed that he had given 
the case an exhaustive review. He appeared thoroughly 



^C, June 21, 1915, extra, p. 1; AC, June 22, 1915, 
pp. 1, 2, 9. 

2 AC, June 21, 1915, extra, p. 1. 



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226 
conversant with the minutiae of the records. Slaton based 
his opinions primarily upon the inconsistencies he had 
discovered in the narrative of Jim Conley, who, he had 
concluded, "was as depraved and lecherous a negro as ever 
lived in Georgia." 

The first significant point Slaton elaborated upon 
was the human excrement found at the bottom of the elevator 
shaft in the pencil factory on Sunday morning, April 27, 
1913, after the girl's body had been found. Conley had 
admitted, at the trial, that he had defecated there on 
Saturday morning. Conley had also sworn that he and Frank 
had taken Mary Phagan's body from the second floor metal 
room to the basement, via the elevator, on Saturday after- 
noon, April 26, 1913. But witnesses had testified, and the 
Governor himself had observed, that the elevator always 
touched the bottom of the shaft when it reached the base- 
ment. If Conley had indeed taken the corpse to the basement 
Saturday afternoon, the elevator would have mashed the ex- 
crement. But on Sunday morning, detectives, who had used 
the stairs to reach the basement, noticed the formed feces 
in the elevator shaft. Reviewing this evidence, the Governor 
concluded that the elevator had not been to the basement 
from the time that Conley had defecated on Saturday morning, 
until Sunday morning. If one accepted the fact that the 



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227 

girl's body did not reach the basement via the elevator, 
then Conley's whole narrative fell apart, the Governor 
concluded . 

Other points which Governor Slaton touched upon 
included the condition of Mary Phagan's body. She had been 
dealt a severe blow in the head, which had bled freely. 
Yet no blood had been found on the lathe her head had sup- 
posedly been bashed against, nor on the floor nearby, nor 
in the elevator, nor on the steps leading downstairs. On 
the other hand, Mary Phagan's nostrils and mouth had been 
filled with sawdust and grime, ingredients found only in 
the factory basement, where her body had been discovered. 
The Governor, therefore, concluded that Mary Phagan had met 
her doom in the pencil factory cellar, rather than on the 
second floor. 

Slaton also commented upon the murder notes and the 
similarity in construction between them and the letters 
Jim Conley had written to Annie Maud Carter in the winter 
of 1913-1914, and which had been unearthed by William J. 
Burns. At the times of Burns' discovery, Conley had denied 
authorship, but by the time the letters reached Governor 
Slaton, in June, 1915, the Negro sweeper had acknowledged 
authorship, but still denied having included any of the 



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228 

vulgar passages. The Governor observed that the words, 
"like," "play/' "lay," "love," and "hisself , " appeared fre- 
quently, and sometimes in the same context, in the letters 
to Miss Carter as had been the case in both the murder notes 
and Conley's oral testimony. Slaton commented, too, upon 
Conley's frequent use of double adjectives: in the murder 
notes, in his oral testimony at the trial, and in his letters 
to Miss Carter. Expressions such as "a long tall negro, 
black, " "He was a tall, slim build heavy man, " and "A good 
long wide piece of cord in his hands, " were examples the 
Governor selected to illustrate his contention. The murder 
notes, Slaton continued, had been written on the carbons of 
old order pads, found in the basement of the pencil factory. 
This strongly corroborated, the Governor believed, "the 
theory of the defense that the death notes were written, 
not in Frank's office, but in the basement. . . . " 

That the pads were found in the basement, that the 
murder notes resembled Conley's other writings and oral 
testimony, that no blood had appeared on the lathe nor the 



AJ, June 14, 1915, p. 1. An examination of these 
letters led Slaton to observe that Jim Conley seemed more 
of a pervert than the man he had accused. No explanation 
was given for why Conley suddenly decided to admit that he 
had written the letters. 



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229 



floor near the la the , that the elevator probably had not 
been used to transport the body, and finally, that the 
hair found on the lathe, alleged to have been Mary Phagan's, 
could not be verified as such when examined under a micro- 
scope, led Governor Slaton to conclude that the murder of 
Mary Phagan might not have been committed by Leo Frank. 
"What is the truth, " Slaton asked rhetorically, "we may 
never know." But by commuting the sentence to life impris- 
onment, the Governor declared, he was merely expressing 
the same doubt about Frank's guilt as had members of every 
other tribunal the case had come before. A few days later, 
in a further elucidation of his actions, Slaton added: 

Two thousand years ago a Governor washed his hands 
in an effort to avoid responsibility, and a Jew was 
crucified. Ever since that time Pilate's hands have 
been stained with blood and Pilate's name has been a 
synonym for cowardice in all lands and among all 
peoples. His duty was plain, but he took the easy 
path. 2 

Privately, Slaton confided to friends that he be- 
lieved Frank innocent and would have granted a full pardon 
if he were not convinced that in a short while the truth 



AJ, June 21, 1915, pp. 1, 3, 4; The New York Times . 
June 22, 1915, p. 6. 

2 

Quoted in Knight, A Standard History of Georgia , 

II, 1171. 



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230 

would come out and then "the very men who were clamoring for 
Frank's life would be demanding a pardon for him." 1 The 
Governor knew certain "facts" about the case, which he did 
not reveal at the time, corroborating the theory of the de- 
fense about how Conley had murdered Mary Phagan. It is 
possible that he thought this material might convince every- 
one of Prank's innocence. If this were so, then Slaton 
erred. Eight years would pass before the information he 
had received privately would become public; and at that 
time few people, besides Prank's staunchest partisans, would 
care at all. 



Throughout the nation, the press and public responded 
jubilantly to the commutation. In Georgia, the response 

varied. Most of the major dailies, including The Atlanta 

3 
Georgian and The Atlanta Journal . and about half of the 

rural press, commended the Governor. They restricted their 

remarks, however, to the courage that Slaton had exhibited 



■"■Powell, op. cit . . p. 289. 

2 

See Appendix C. 

3 The editors of The Atlanta Constitution ma de no 
editorial comment about either Slaton or the commutation. 



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231 
rather than the accuracy of his judgment. 1 Considering 
that rural Georgians had appeared so hostile to Prank, it 
seems surprising, at first, that so many country editors 
applauded Sla ton's deed. But when one recalls that more 
than ten thousand Georgians, from all over the state, had 
petitioned the Governor to commute, the press reaction in 
the state seems less noteworthy. Thomas Loyless, editor 
of She Augu sta Chronicle , perhaps typified those who praised 
the Governor. Although he had stated on a number of earlier 
occasions that Frank probably had murdered Mary Phagan, 
Loyless admitted that he was not absolutely sure of it. 
Therefore he supported an alteration of the death penalty 
to life imprisonment. A good many people in the state 



Slaton kept scrapbooks of the newspaper reaction 
to the commutation. He had two books, about 15" X 27", with 
newspaper clippings, arranged alphabetically by state, and 
within each state, by city. One book is marked, "Alabama 
to North Carolina" and the other, "Ohio to Wyoming and 
Miscellaneous." Then there are other scrapbooks, one marked 
"Georgia Favorable," one marked, "Georgia Critical," and one 
marked, "Miscellaneous," Which have additional newspaper 
clippings. By going through these books one can see that 
an overwhelming majority of newspapers did support Slaton 1 s 
action. In Georgia, the newspapers that opposed the Gover- 
nor, were primarily rural. There are also letterbooks, 
which contain letters from all over the country, praising 
and condemning the commutation. Again, most of the com- 
mentary is favorable, and again, all letters are arranged 
alphabetically, first by state, and then by city within the 
state. In this collection all states seem to be represented 
except Arkansas. All scrapbooks and letterbooks are among 
the Slaton Papers, Georgia State Archives. 



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232 

either agreed with him, or else subscribed to the point of 
view expressed by the Macon News ; "Whatever citizens may 
think of John M. Slaton as a man, they still owe to him, 
while he is Governor, the respect and deference which his 
office inherently commands." 

Others in Georgia, however, reacted more negatively. 
L. L. Knight later commented that what had happened after 
Slaton commuted Frank's sentence, could not be described 
adequately "without the pen of Dante." 2 Hugh Dorsey de- 
nounced the Governor; and throughout the state mobs demon- 
strated, and burned Slaton in effigy. In Marietta, the 
dummy bore a sign, "John M. Slaton, King of the Jews and 
Georgia's Traitor Forever." In Columbus, one man allowed 
each of his three daughters to take a shot at the make- 
believe figure as it dangled in air. In Newnan, Frank, too, 
was burned in effigy, and then both figures were cut down, 
set on fire, and dragged through the streets. 



Quoted in The American Jewish Review . IV (July, 
1915), 2, Frank Papers, Box 701. 

2 
Knight, A Standard History of Georgia , II, 1169. 

3 
SMN, June 22, 1915, p. 1; The New York Times , 
June 22, 1915, p. 6; June 24, 1915, p. 5; The American (New 
Orleans), June 22, 1915, p. 1. 



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233 

Blinded by fury and prejudice, many Georgians turned 

upon their Jewish neighbors. In Canton, citizens threatened 

"summary vengeance" upon all Jews who were not out of the 

city within twenty- four hours. North of Atlanta, the 

"MARIETTA VIGILANCE COMMITTEE" distributed the following 

handbill to Jewish merchants: 

NOTICE 

You are hereby notified to close up this business and 
quit Marietta by Saturday night, June 29, 1915, or 
else stand the consequences. We mean to rid Marietta 
of all Jews by the above date. You can heed this 
warning or stand the punishment the committee may 
see fit to deal out to you. 

And Marietta's Gentiles received small business cards, 

printed in red ink, which read: 

(CARRY ME IN YOUR PURSE) 

STOP i and THINK ! 

Before You Spend Your Money. 
Shall It Go To A Fund To 

PROTECT MURDERERS 

To Buy Governors. Stop and 
Think. Now is the time to show 
your colors, to show your true 
American Blood. — 

IS IT STREAKED? 

Can't you buy Shoes from an 
AMERICAN? 



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2 34 



Can't you buy the Necessities of 
Life from an AMERICAN? 

AMERICAN GENTILES , 
IT IS UP TO YOU 

This little card is only a little ant 
hill to start with. HELP it grow 
into a MOUNTAIN. 

Jewish merchants were also boycotted in other sections of 
the state. The New Orleans American predicted that these 
outrages were only the beginnings of anti-Jewish demon- 
strations in Georgia. 

In his first issue after the commutation, Item 
Watson bellowed: H our grand old Empire State HAS BEEN 
RAPED!" Endless streams of condemnation and denunciation 
of Governor Slaton followed. "Hereafter/ 1 The Jeffer - 
sonian ' s editor continued, "let no man reproach the South 
with Lynch law: let him remember the unendurable provoca- 
tion; and let him say whether Lynch law is not better than 
no law at all ." And then, with the ferocity that few 
writers in Georgia could equal, Watson prophesied his most 
diabolical fantasy: 



^rank Papers, Box 701; clipping, June 23, 1915, 
Boston Hera Id -Traveler Library; New Orleans American. 
June 23, 1915, p. 1; The New York Times , June 24, 1915, 
P- 5; The Jeffersonian . July 22, 1915, p. 2. 



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235 



When John M. Slaton tosses on a sleepless bed, in the 
years to come, he will see a vivid picture of that 
little Georgia girl, decoyed to the metal room by this 
satyr-faced New York Jew: he will see her little hands 
put out, to keep off the lustful beast: he will hear 
her cry of sudden terror; he will see her face purpling 
as the cruel cord chokes her to death — and John M . 
Slaton will walk the f loor, a wretched, conscience- 
smitten man. AND HE WILL SWEAT BLOOD i 1 "~ 

Governor Slaton might have ignored the burnings in 

effigy, and the poisoned pens, but he could not overlook 

the pandemonium which erupted in the state capital. People 

gathered in downtown Atlanta as soon as the news of the 

commutation had reached them. 2 Drugged by weeks of The 

Jeffersonian'a venomous commentaries, and stirred to a 

"white-iheat" by their own pent-up indignation, they chanted, 

"We Want John M. Slaton, Georgia's Traitor Governor." And 

they meant, literally, what they said. After a day of 

threatening, shouting, and jeering, crowds, "armed with 

shotguns, rifles, derringers, brass knuckles, heavy canes, 



^•The Jeffersonian. June 24, 1915, pp. 1, 2, 3. 

There seems to have been no consensus about the 
size of the crowds. The Atlanta Constitution gave no figures 
but used the phrase, "several thousand people, " AC, June 22 
1915, p. 1; The New Y ork Times and The New Orleans American ' 
both placed the figure at 10,000, both June 22, 1915, p. 1; 
The New York Evening Post. June 21, 1915, p. 1, stated 2,500- 
and xn 1942 Hal Steed used the number, 5,000. Hal Steed, 
Georgia : Unfinish ed State (New York, 1942), p. 240. 



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236 



even dynamite," surged past squadrons of city policemen 
and marched in the direction of the Governor's mansion. 

John M. Slaton lived six miles from the state 
capital. State troops had already barricaded his estate 
and encircled it with cordons of barbed wire. An entire 
battalion of the state militia stood guard with bayonets 
bared, for Slaton had declared martial law within a half 
mile radius of his estate. When the impassioned mobs ar- 
rived, they threw stones, bottles, and other missiles, but 
the Governor's home was too far from the road for anyone 
inside to have been reached. The militia dutifully pro- 
tected the Governor's premises and eventually dispersed 
the people who had come. The next night the guardsmen 
cornered some seventy- five men and boys in the woods be- 
hind the house. They were armed with blackjacks, guns, and 
dynamite. All were arrested but the Governor refused to 
swear out warrants against them. Martial law, around 
Slaton' s property, however, remained in effect until he 
left the state a week later. Mrs. Slaton recalled 



Ibid. AC, June 22, 1915, pp. 1, 2; June 29, 1915, 
p. 1; New Orleans American . June 22, 1915, p. 1; June 23, 
1915, p. 1; The New York Times . June 22, 1915, p. 1; Powell, 
op. cit . , pp. 290-91. 



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237 



afterwards the terror that haunted her throughout that try- 
ing period: 

For four nights I scarcely slept at all. * It was not 
exactly the anxiety of the moment that kept me awake, 
but the frequent calls of "Halt, who goes there/ 1 
that kept ringing out. Every time I was aroused, in 
spite of myself. We live six miles in the country, 
and there are woods back of our house. These were 
full of men trying to get in. 1 

The demonstrations lasted for more than a week. 
News of the commutation had reached At Ian tans on Monday, 
June 21, 1915. On Saturday, June 26, Slaton' s successor, 
Nathanial Harris, was inaugurated Governor of Georgia. At 
the inaugural ceremonies guards continued to protect John 
M. Slaton. After the ceremonies, as both the old and the 
new Governors descended the steps of the state capital, 
there was an immediate outburst of hisses, boos, howls, 
and shouts of "lynch him, lynch him!" Heavily guarded, 
Slaton made his way to a waiting automobile and departed 
the scene. A few days later, he left Georgia for an ex- 
tended journey throughout the United States. After his 
departure, The Atlanta Constitution editorialized: "Ihere 
must be no more mob violence in Georgia!" Once again the 



1 Quoted in The American Israelite . July 8, 1915, p.l, 

2 AC, June 27, 1915, pp. 1A, 4A, June 29, 1915, p. 6; 
The New York Times . June 27, 1915, p. 1. 



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238 



nation's press felt impelled to comment upon the people of 
Georgia. The Madison (Wisconsin) Journal observed that, 
"The public condemnation of Governor Slaton proves not so 
much that Georgia has besmirched her honor as that Georgia 
has no honor. " 

6 

Many Georgians were unwilling to believe that Gov- 
ernor Slaton had commuted Prank's sentence without having 
received some compensation for his deed. 2 For more than a 
generation they had been inundated with tales of wealthy 
plutocrats subverting justice. Tom Watson's columns re- 
iterated the same point. He continually argued that money 
and influence had combined to keep a Jewish murderer alive. 

To be sure, money and influence did affect the 
course of Frank's case. It is unlikely that a poor man 
could have had his situation reviewed three times by the 
highest court in the state and twice by the United States 
Supreme Court. Certainly, a poor man would have been unable 



flipping, June 28, 1915, Slaton Scrapbook, Georgia 
Archives. There are many other clippings expressing the 
identical sentiment throughout the scrapbooks. 

The American Israelite . July 29, 1915, p. 4. 



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239 

to hire additional investigators to discover new information 
or stimulate enough newspapers to publicize his alleged 
injustice. Especially when the injustice was so typical — 
a man condemned, perhaps, for a crime he claimed not to have 
committed. It is also highly unlikely that men like Louis 
Marshall, Albert Lasker, Jacob Schiff, et_al., would have 
shown as much concern if someone other than a Jew had been 
the victim of what they considered a gross miscarriage of 
justice. 

Georgians believed that outsiders neither understood, 
nor attempted to understand, the passions and tempers which 
had been aroused first, by the crime, and then, by the ef- 
forts to save the defendant. This is quite true. But 
Watson's subsequent ravings, the mass public demonstrations, 
the attacks upon Slaton, and the violent outburst of anti- 
Semitism did not help to clarify matters. In fact, they 
reinforced northern convictions. The hysteria in Georgia 
led The New Republic to classify the state "in the category 
of communities like Haiti, communities which have to be 
supervised and protected by more civilized powers." 1 



^•"Leo Prank," The New Republic . Ill (July 24, 1915) 
300. ' 



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240 

To a large extent, judgments were affected by stereo- 
typed thoughts. Both northerners and southerners had defi- 
nite ideas about the people in the other section, and were 
willing to accept, frequently uncritically, any propaganda 
which fit into their preconceived notions. Therefore northern- 
ers quickly believed whatever had been printed in their local 
newspapers and national periodicals about the Frank case, even 
though the reports distorted, to some extent, conditions in 
Atlanta before the trial, when many unbiased Georgians had 
assumed that Leo Frank was guilty, and that the state really 
did have a strong case against him. To outsiders, Jim Con- 
ley's testimony at the trial seemed incredible. But many 
southerners, who thought that they knew and understood Negroes, 
were convinced that Jim Conley, for the most part, had told 
the truth. Months later they might have been induced to 
reflect soberly upon the case, had they been approached 
by some prominent southerners acting without northern guid- 
ance. Instead, northerners, and primarily northern Jews, 
tried to change southern opinion. This was a critical error 
because southerners tended to see "in every notion coming 
out of the North a menace and an abomination; to view every 
idea originated by the Yankee or bearing the stamp of his 
acceptance as containing hidden within itself the old 



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241 

implacable will to coerce and destroy. . . . ul 

Law abiding citizens knew that whether they approved 
of the Governor's decision or not, nothing could be done 
about the commutation. But others recalled the words of 
Tom Watson. He had intimated that commutation would invoke 
the law of Judge Lynch. A rural newspaper, expressing the 
hope that people would not heed the advice of those who 
wished to take the law into their own hands, warned that 

"stranger things have happened and circumstances seem to 

2 

point in that direction." 



Cash, op. cit ., p. 140. For this same view see 
also, Macdonald, op. cit.. p. 3Cj Ward Greene, Star Reporters 
and 34 of their Stories (New York, 1948), pp. 132-33; Steed, 
op. cit. , p. 238; and Albert Bushnell Hart, The Southern 
South (New York, 1912), p. 70. 

2 
The Cherokee Advance , June 25, 1915, p. 4. 



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242 



CHAPTER IX 



VIGILANTE JUSTICE 



Less than two weeks after Slaton had commuted 
Leo Franks sentence, state newspapers prominently fea- 
tured the somber pilgrimage of saddened Georgians to the 
unveiling of Mary Phagan's monument. The main speaker com- 
memorated "this sainted little girl . . . who, true to her 
inherent high breeding and the teachings of her devoted 
mother, gave up her young life rather than surrender that 
Christian attribute — the crown, glory and honor of true 
womanhood into the threshold of which she was just enter- 
ing." A group of one hundred and fifty men, who called 
themselves the Knights of Mary Phagan, then met secretly 
near her grave, and pledged to avenge the little girl's 
death. A few days afterwards rumors circulated that a 
plan had been devised to kidnap Leo Frank from the prison 
farm and lynch hijiu Governor Harris alerted the state 
police, and thereby thwarted, for the moment, a plot 



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243 



concocted by some of Marietta's most prominent citizens. 1 

1 
For Leo Prank, life on the prison farm represented 
a striking improvement over his two years in the Atlanta 
cell, where he had lost sixty pounds. At Milledgeville, 
he spent many hours outdoors under the warm Georgia sun, 

and this contributed to restoring his health, which had 

2 
suffered in the dank city prison. His daily chores never 

required more than four or five hours to complete, and he 
then had the rest of the day free. 

Prank enjoyed the leisure afforded him in prison. 
He seems to have occupied a good deal of that time main- 
taining a voluminous correspondence. "This is the six- 
teenth letter I wrote today," he told his wife, and three 
days later repeated, "I wrote only 18 letters yesterday. 
He wrote to his wife almost every day, and although he cau- 
tioned her that "the contents of my letters, & my life must 
be kept quiet, " there were few items in his letters that 



The Marietta Journal and Courier . June 25, 1915, 
p. 1; July 9, 1915, p. 2; July 16, 1915, p. 6; AC, July 18, 
1915, p. 2A; July 19, 1915, pp. 1, 2; The New York Times . 
July 14, 1915, p. 1; Nathaniel E. Harris, Autobiography 
(Macon, Georgia, 1925), p. 366. 

2^. 
The Amer ican Israelite . July 22, 1915, p. 17. 



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244 



would interest anyone but a devoted mate. In fact, his 
letters during the first few weeks at the prison farm, re- 
semble those from a child vacationing at a summer camp. 
Prank requested that his wife send or bring him handkerchiefs 
and pajamas, tooth paste, writing pads, a can opener, Beech 
Nut gum, a soap dish, fig bars ("I don't want sweet crackers, 
too rich") and $5 in cash. If the letters to Mrs. Frank 
give little indication of a man under stress, other writings, 
to Julius Rosenwald and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell 
Holmes, reveal Frank's continuing faith that one day truth 
would triumph. He believed that eventually "Right and 
Justice" would hold "complete sway" and his vindication 
would be universally acknowledged. 2 

This semi-idyllic life did not last long. Only four 
weeks after his arrival, a fellow convict, William Green, 
crept up to Frank's cot, plunged a butcher knife into the 



T-eo Frank to Mrs. Leo Frank, June 23, 24, 29, 
July 2, 5, 6, 8, & 9, 1915. Frank Papers, Brandeis Uni- 
versity (Waltham, Mass.). 

2 
Leo Frank to Julius Rosenwald, July 11, 1915, 
Rosenwald Papers. Leo Frank to Oliver Wendell Holmes \ 
July 10, 1915, letter in the possession of Mark de Wolfe 
Howe, who generously sent me a copy. 



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245 

sleeping figure, and proceeded to slash his victim's throat. 1 
By the time the guard, and two other convicts, reached the 
pair, blood flowed freely from a seven and a half inch 
wound. Fortunately, two other prisoners were doctors, and 
they quickly clamped the gushing jugular vein and stopped 
the hemorrhage. Prank was then removed to the prison hos- 
pital, where the two convict-doctors, along with the prison 
physician, stitched the wound. Frank's head was then placed 
in a metal surgical brace to prevent the stitches from fall- 
ing out. Days passed, however, before anyone would predict 
whether the operation would be successful. The doctors 
feared that blood poisoning might set in, making death a 
certainty. 

Governor Nathanial Harris ordered an immediate in- 
vestigation of the attack, but the warden's inquiry failed 
to satisfy him. Harris then went to the prison farm to re- 
view recent events and personally interviewed prison officials, 



In his A Standard History of Georgia and Georgians . 
L. L. Knight wrote, "What subtle irony in the choice of such 
a weapon with which to inflict death upon one of Abraham's 
seed!" II, 1185. 

2 AC, July 18, 1915, pp. 1A, 2A, July 20, 1915, p.l; 
July 22, 1915, p. 7; August 2, 1915, p. 1; AJ, July 18, 
1915, p. 1; July 19, 1915, p. 1; The New York Times, 
July 18, 1915, p. 1; July 19, 1915, p. 1. 



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-v IV / 



246 

Leo Frank, and William Creen, the assailant. Creen told 
Harris that he had been called "from on high" to murder the 
Jew, and explained further that he had tried to kill Frank 
to prevent other prisoners from being harmed, should an at- 
tempt be made to storm the prison and abduct its most noto- 
rious inmate. When Harris returned to Atlanta, he found 
petitions demanding that William Creen be pardoned as a 
reward for his noble deed. 

In the prison hospital, Frank showed remarkable 
resiliency , calmness, and fortitude. Although doctors 
feared that he might not survive, Frank told one of them, 
"I am going to live. I must live. I must vindicate my- 
self." When finally on the road to recovery, which "was 
little short of miraculous. 1 " Frank wrote to a friend, 
"Certainly my escape was providential, and the good Lord 
must sure have in store for me a brighter and happier day 



Harris, op. cit . , pp. 365-66; AC, July 19, 1915, 
pp. 1, 2; July 20, 1915, p. 1; AJ, July 24, 1915, p. 1. 
Harris recorded his observations about Leo Frank in an 
autobiography, published a decade later. He remembered 
that when interviewing Frank, the prisoner laughed "a 
queer sort of laugh." To Harris, this laugh showed, "a 
hard, careless heart," and the doubt which the Governor 
had heretofore held about Frank's guilt, "was lessened 
greatly." As he looked back upon the incident, Harris 
could not recall why he had been so impressed, but he 
"felt then that the man was undoubtedly a hardened crim- 
inal or a reckless prisoner." Harris, op. cit . , p. 367. 



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247 

when that honor, justly mine now, will be restored to me. 
I have been victorious in my struggle with death & I await 
impatiently for the day of vindication and liberty. nl 

The attack upon Frank brought further denunciation 
of Georgia, in both the northern and southern press, as 
editorial writers condemned state authorities for their 
laxity. Prank would not have been attacked, newspapers 
argued, had he been properly protected. In Georgia, 
Thomas Loyless, of The Augusta Chronic la . castigated the 
"mob spirit" which culminated in Creen's savagery. He 
asked: "Who can doubt the psychological connection between 
such crazy acts as that of William Creen and the inflamma- 
tory articles and speeches of such professional agitators 
and apostles of hate as afflict Georgia?" And The New 
Republic looked back centuries for a parallel to Prank's 
experiences: 

In ancient times when a man was treated as Leo Prank 
has been treated people felt that an obscene God was 
pursuing him. No mortal could be so relentless. No 
mortal could surround another with such ingenious 
cruelty. Only a conspiracy of fate could make horror 



AC, July 20, 1915, p. 1; The American Israelite . 
July 22, 1915, p. 7; Leo Prank to W. W. Stevens, August 11, 
1915, Prank Papers, Brandeis. 



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248 



so massive. We try nowadays to think differently, 
but in the case of Prank it is not easy. 1 



One month after the attempt on Prank's life, a band 
of twenty-five men stormed the prison farm shortly after 
11 P.M. Five went directly to the warden's house, while 
several cornered the prison superintendent; both men were 
handcuffed, but otherwise unharmed. There were only two 
guards on duty that night, and they were easily overpowered. 
(One of them had heard several autos approaching the prison 
farm and had pleaded in vain with his chief to move their 
famous prisoner to a safer place.) Four of the intruders 
went directly to Frank's hospital room and met with no ob- 
stacles. As soon as they opened his door, one of the men 
said, "We want you to come with us." Frank got out of bed 
and made a feeble attempt to dress himself, but one of the 
men commanded: "Don't bother with the clothes; come just 
as you are." The abductors then handcuffed their charge, 
and led him out of the building. Frank, stoically calm, as 
was his wont, looked neither terrified nor surprised; nor 



Pittsburgh Press. July 27, 1915, Detroit Free Press . 
July 19, 1915, Frank Papers, Boxes 693 and 694; TAC, July 19, 
1915, p. 4; "Leo Frank," The New Republic . Ill (Julv 24 
1915), 300. 



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249 

did he make any attempt to resist. In all, the intruders 

spent less than five minutes in the prison; when they left, 

1 
no one pursued them. 

The men who kidnapped Leo Frank had begun to plan 
their adventure after Governor Slaton had commuted his 
sentence. These men represented the "best citizens" of 
Marietta, Georgia, the hometown of Mary Phagan. In fact, 
the so-called "riffraff" had been deliberately excluded. 
A clergyman, two former Superior Court justices, and an 
ex-sheriff were included among the planners and executioners, 
who were later described, by the Dean of the Atlanta Theo- 
logical Seminary, as "a sifted band of men, sober, intel- 
ligent, of established good name and character — good Amer- 
ican citizens." The leader bore "as reputable [a] name as 
you would ever hear in a lawful community. He was a man 
honored and respected." The abductors were the same group 
who, a month earlier, had postponed their plans to kidnap 
and lynch Frank when news of the conspiracy reached Gover- 
nor Harris. Now, however, on August 16, 1915, they carried 



The New York Times . August 17, 1915, p. 1; August 23, 
1915, p. 5; AC, August 17, 1915, p. 1; August 18, 1915, pp. 
1, 2; F. J. Turner to Mrs. Leo Frank, August 17, 1915, Frank 
Papers, Brandeis. 



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250 

out their task with order, precision, and dispatch. 

The kidnapping of Leo Prank showed that careful 
preparations had been made. Two scouts had been sent in 
advance to reconnoiter and cut the telephone and telegraph 
wires leading to the prison, while the others had departed, 
at intervals, from Marietta earlier that afternoon. To 
avoid drawing attention to themselves, each small group 
travelled a different route in the 175 mile trip to Milledge- 
ville. After converging at a prearranged spot, the men 
proceeded to the prison. To mask their identity, they wore 
goggles and kept their hats pulled down over their faces. 
After seizing Frank, they drove all night before finally 
stopping in a grove, just outside of Marietta. The original 
plan had called for hanging Leo Frank near Mary Phagan's 
grave, but dawn broke earlier than anticipated. The kid- 
nappers did not wish to be seen, and therefore, they selected 
another site for the execution. 

In the auto that had taken Frank to his final 



Steed, op. cit.. p. 240; Harry Golden, A Little 
Girl is Dead (Cleveland, 1965) , p. 288; Smith interview, 
April 2, 1964; F. J. Turner to Mrs. Leo Frank, August 17, 
1915, Frank Papers, Brandeis; "The End of the Frank Case," 
The Outlook. CXI (September 15, 1915), 115; AC, August 18, 
1915, p. 1. 



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251 
destination, the prisoner sat, apparently unruffled, 1 between 
two guards in the rear seat. The kidnappers tried to get 
their prisoner to confess, but he would not do so. Some of 
the abductors even offered to let him live, if he would con- 
fess, but Frank would not yield. In fact, on the few oc- 
casions that the prisoner spoke, he sounded so sincere that 
two of his listeners thought that perhaps he really had not 
murdered Mary Phagan, and that he should be returned to the 
prison farm. But when all of the autos stopped, and this 
suggestion was made, the passengers of the other cars were 
shocked. Then Frank began to talk. When he finished, he 
had convinced others in the group of his sincerity, and all 
but four indicated their willingness to forgo the lynching. 
But then someone pointed out that it was too late to drive 
back to Milledgeville, that posses were out all over the 
state, and that there was no time left to change their 
plans. So the men once again concerned themselves with 
the business that had originally been called for. But "at 
least one of [the] self-appointed executioners mutinied, 
urged that Frank be returned to prison and refused to 



1 The New York Times claimed to have received the 
information that follows "in a manner which seemingly 
placed its authenticity beyond all question. " August 23 
1915, p. 5. 



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252 



take part in the final scene of the drama." 1 

Those that remained finished what they had set out 
to do. Prank was escorted to a large oak tree. Along the 
way he muttered, "I think more of my wife and my mother 
than I do of my life." As members of the party profession- 
ally tied a Manilla rope into a hangman's knot, Prank was 
again asked if he had murdered Mary Phagan; but he did 
not reply. The leader then spoke: "Mr. Prank, we are now 
going to do what the law said to do—hang you by the neck 
until you are dead. Do you want to make any statement 
before you die?" Frank said that he did not wish to say 
anything else, but then changed his mind and requested 
that his wedding ring, which he then removed from his 
finger, be delivered to a newspaperman with the instruc- 
tions that the reporter return it to his wife. (Frank's 
last wish was obeyed.) The executioners tied the knot 
around their prisoner's neck, flung the rope over a limb 
of the oak tree, placed Prank upon a table, and proceeded, 
after checking to see that everything had been done proper- 
ly, to kick the table from under the suspended figure's feet. 



Clipping from the newspaper library of the Boston 
Herald-Traveler, September 21, 1915; "Why Was Frank Lynched?" 
Forum, LVI (December, 1916) , 688-89. 



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253 

Without waiting to see their victim dead, the lynchers de- 
parted the scene. One of the members of the lynching party 
confided afterwards that the hangmen did not go about their 
work with "a spirit of lawlessness or vindictiveness. They 
felt it [the lynching] to be a duty to the State and a duty 
to the memory of Mary Phagan . . . . " 

3 
News of Frank's abduction had spread quickly. 
Those who had been assigned to cut the telephone wires in 
Milledgeville had missed one connection, so that within an 
hour after the kidnapping, state officials knew of the af- 
fair. Governor Harris alerted the sheriff of every county 



AC, August 17, 1915, p. 1; August 18, 1915, pp. 1, 
2; August 21, 1915, p. 1; AJ, August 17, 1915, p. 3; The 
New York Times, August 18, 1915, pp. 1,3; August 19, 1915, 
pp. 1, 3; August 23, 1915, p. 5. 

The lynching of Leo Frank was in some ways atypical. 
The "typical" southern lynching usually resulted from the 
spontaneous uprising of a drunken mob of poorly educated 
adolescent boys and young men, intent upon avenging an 
alleged violation of a woman, or giving summary punishment 
to a^ suspected murderer. Only in a minority of cases did 
the "best citizens" actually participate in the lynching. 
Had ley Cantril, The Psychology of Social Movements (New 
York, 1941), pp. 83, 86; Cash, op. cit . . pp. 309-10; Carl 
Iyer Hovland and Robert R. Sears, "Minor Studies of Aggres- 
sion: VI. Correlation of Lynchings with Economic Indices," 
The Journal of Ps ychology . IX (1940), 305-07; Arthur F. 
Rape*/ The Tragedy of LvnchJng (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1933), 
pp. 1, 8-12, 20. 



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254 

between Milledgeville and Marietta to watch for a caravan 
of autos passing swiftly through their territories* A 
resident of Marietta had also seen the lynching party pass 
by and walked into town to announce his observation. Some- 
how Mariettans had no difficulty in finding the exact loca- 
tion of the lynching and shortly after the executioners had 
completed their work. Hordes of people made their way to 
the oak tree where the lifeless figure, with its gaping red 
throat wound, swayed in the wind. Souvenir hunters tore 
pieces of cloth from the sleeves of the nightshirt which 
covered the body, and snipped strands of the wavering rope. 
Others took pictures or milled about happily, as if at a 
holiday barbecue. Wild-eyed people gaped — women and chil- 
dren examined the dead man closely without quivering an 



^It seems that taking souvenirs at lynchings may not 
have been unusual. In 1899 a national periodical reporter 
noted the following after a Negro had been burned at Pal- 
metto, Georgia: "Before the body was cool, it was cut to 
pieces, the heart and liver being especially cut up and 
sold. Small pieces of bone brought 25 cents, and 'a bit of 
the liver, crisply cooked, sold for 10 cents." So eager 
were the crowd to obtain souvenirs that a rush for the stake 
was made, and those near the body were forced against it and 
had to fight for their escape." T. G. Steward, "ttie Reign 
of the Mob," The Independent . LI (1899), 1296. John R. 
Steelman noted that in a high proportion of lynchings sou- 
venirs are taken by the members of the mob and the onlookers. 
"A Study of Mob Action in the South" (unpublished Ph.D. 
dissertation, Dept. of Sociology, University of North 
Carolina, 1928), p. 412. 



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255 

eyelash. One man ran up to the swaying corpse and shouted, 
"Now we've got you! You won't murder any more little in- 
nocent girls! We've got you now!! We've got you now!!!" 
Shouts and yells echoed in the wind as jubilant throngs 
reveled in delight. 

One man who wanted to mutilate and burn the body 
was stopped by the intervention of a respected Marietta 
judge, Newton Morris. Morris had rushed to the scene as 
soon as he had heard of the lynching. When he arrived, he 
saw the half-crazed man screaming and demanding a bonfire. 
The Judge interceded and pleaded with everyone to permit 
Frank's remains to be sent home to his parents for a decent 
burial. He convinced the onlookers, and quickly arranged 
for two undertakers to carry the corpse away. As Frank's 
body was being removed, the man who had originally wanted 
to burn him, struck the body, and it fell to the ground 
with a thump. Then he "stamped upon the face, and ground 
his heel into the dead flesh, and stamped again, and again, 
until the crowd, stricken silent and motionless by the hor- 
ror of the sight, could hear the man's heel as it made a 
crunching sound." "Stop him!" "Stop him!" Judge Morris 
implored, while signalling the undertakers to remove the 
dead man. They responded as ordered and swiftly lifted the 
corpse into their wagon — and then headed straight for 



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256 

Atlanta. This maniacal incident, however, seemed to have 
escaped the notice of The Marietta Journal and Courier. 
which praised the onlookers for their good conduct: "We 
are proud, indeed, to say that the body hanged for more than 
two hours amid a vast throng and no violence was done. Cobb 
county people are civilized. They are not barbarians." 1 
In Atlanta, thousands surrounded the undertaking 
establishment and threatened to force their way in. Their 
morbid appetites would not be satiated until they, too, 
could see the body of this devil incarnate. The police suc- 
cumbed to their wish and permitted an orderly viewing of 
Frank's remains before the undertakers shipped it to New 
York, for burial at Mt. Carmel Cemetery. Fifty policemen 
stood guard as more than 15,000 persons passed by the bier. 
The acting Mayor appeared on the scene and urged everyone 
"to be orderly and quiet, and thus protect the good name of 
our great city," but he pleaded to no avail. Boisterous 
crowds pressed against the police, and each other, in their 
eagerness to see the corpse. Men and women filed by the 



^■AJ, August 17, 1915, pp. 1, 3; The New York Tim** 
August 19, 1915, p. 3; Steed, QP. cit .. p. 240; The Ma7i^- a 
Journal and Courier. August 20, 1915, p. 1. " 



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257 



casket in separate lines. "Scores of women [passed] without 
so much as a look of horror on their faces as their eyes 
fell upon the dead man's body." Cameramen photographed the 
corpse, the crowds, the guards, the funeral parlor, and 
everything else that caught their eye. 1 

Outside of the undertaking establishment souvenir 
hunters purchased pictures of Prank's body dangling from 
the tree, and hundreds bought pieces of the rope. (As late 
as 1917 pictures of the lynching could still be purchased 
in Marietta.) The traffic in souvenirs alarmed city offi- 
cials. Four days after the lynching, the Atlanta City 
Council "unanimously passed an ordinance making it unlawful 
to sell in Atlanta a photograph of the body of a person who 
has been hanged illegally." 2 

Several affluent Georgians offered as much as $250 
for the tree from which Leo Prank had been hung, but the 
owner refused to sell. Instead he encouraged loyal citizens 
of Marietta to guard the big oak. Townspeople made pilgrimages 



^-AC, August 18, 1915, pp. 1, 2; The New York Times . 
August 21, 1915 , p. 4. 

2 
AC, August 18, 1915, pp. 1, 2; August 22, 1915, II, 
11. Irving M. Engel to author, February 19, 1964. 



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258 
to the hallowed oak, and, according to the owner, "hugged and 
patted that old tree and then they stood still and looked up- 
ward for a long time. I think they must have been praying." 
Plans were made to build a concrete wall around the tree, 
calling forth the sardonic comment from a Wisconsin newspaper: 
"If the prison in which Frank was kept had been so surrounded, 
the tree would not need to be now imprisoned. " 

Governor Harris expressed shock and grief at the 
lynching and ordered an investigation. Everyone knew, though, 
that the search would prove fruitless. The lynchers had car- 
ried out the will of the people and the local Marietta news- 
paper praised their deed; "We regard the hanging of Leo M. 
Frank in Cobb county as an act of law abiding citizens." 
With public sentiment so favorable, an indictment was impos- 
sible. The Greensboro (Georgia) Herald-Journal cannily ob- 
served that "the lynchers could confess, publish their con- 
fession in the Atlanta papers, and they would never be 
molested." The killers were generally known throughout 

Marietta — some of them, in fact, gave interviews to report- 

2 
ers; but after an inquest, the Coroner's jury concluded 



1 
AC, August 20, 1915, p. 12; August 21, 1915, p. 3; 

Racine Times, August 30, 1915, Frank Papers, Box 695. 

2 
Although the newspaper reporters stated that the 

lynchers were generally known, none of the names of the 

alleged participants was published at the time. 



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259 

that Leo Frank died at the hands of persons unknown. The 
Pittsburgh Gaaette interpreted this announcement for its 
readers: "What the coroner's jury really meant was that 
Prank 'came to his death by hanging at the hands of persons 
whom the jury wishes to remain unknown.'" 1 

The press of the nation denounced the state of 
Georgia, and the press of Georgia—with the exception of 
Tom Watson, The Marietta Journ al and Courier , and two Macon 
papers—upbraided the lynchers. The opinion of the Richmond 
Times-Dispatch was representative of those horrified by the 
act: "[Prank's] lynching constitutes the most vicious blow 
struck at organized government in a century, and the South, 
in particular, must suffer." Even The Atlanta Constituti nn . 



The Marietta Jo urnal and Courier. August 20, 1915 , 
p. 6; The Greensboro Herald-Journal . August 27, 1915, p. l' ; 
clipping from Boston Hera Id -Traveler Library, September's, ' 
1915; Sacramento (California) Record-Union . August 25, 1915, 
Prank Papers, Box 693; Justine Wise Polier and James Waterman 
Wise, editors, The Pers onal Letters of Stephen Wise (Boston, 
1956), p. 151; AC, August 18, 1915, p. 1; The New York Times . 
August 18, 1915, p. 1; August 19, 1915, pp. 1, 3, August 23, 
1915, p. 5; The Nort h Georgia Citizen . August 19, 1915, p. 4 7 
The Pittsburgh Gazette. August 26, 1915, Frank Papers, Box 
696. New York City's Evening Post observed, "The Coroner's 
•quest at Marietta deserves to rank with any Dogberry's day 
for a sense of the bounds of human penetration: it is doubt- 
ful if the most shrewdly stupid Elizabethan villager could 
have seen less of what was unsafe than some of the witnesses 
called yesterday." August 25, 1915, p. 8. 



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260 

which had heretofore remained editorially silent on Leo 
Prank, headed its arraignment: "Georgia's Shame!" and 
began its charge: "No word in the language is too strong 
to apply to the deliberate and carefully conspired mob." 1 

There were, however, accolades for the lynchers. 
Tom Watson, naturally, praised the doers and the deed. 
The Mayor of Atlanta announced, to a conference in Cali- 
fornia, that Frank suffered a "just penalty for an unspeak- 
able crime." L. L. Knight, the chronicler of Georgia's 
history, wrote in 1917, "There is something inherently 
fine in the passionate desire of a people to keep invio- 
late the honor of womanhood and to visit swift punishment 
upon a wretch who dares to stain the purity of a child's 
life. . . ." 2 

Judge Newton Morris, the man who had prevented 
Prank's corpse from being burnt, explained to a reporter 
that "the very best people" had permitted Prank's appeal to 
go through all of the courts, but after the judges had 



"Mob-Law in Georgia, " Literary Digest . LI (August 28, 
1915), 392; AC, August 18, 1915, p. 6. See also TheProgres-' 
sive Farmer. XXX (August 28, 1915), 790. ' 

2 
Knight, A Histor y of Georgia and Georgians . II, 

1196; AC, August 19, 1915, p. 12; The Jeffersonian . August 19 
1915, p.l. 



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261 

turned down his successive requests, they were "outraged" 
by Slaton's action. Many people believed that Prank's 
lawyer, Louis Marshall, had deliberately speeded the judg- 
ment of the United States Supreme Court back to the Georgia 
courts, so that his client's clemency petition would reach 
Governor Slaton and not Governor Harris. (It is true that 
Frank's lawyers had expedited the process because they 
wanted Slaton to act, but there is no evidence that they 
had bribed him or that they had expected him to act- favor- 
ably because Rosser was his partner. 1 ) A great many 
Georgians, the Judge continued, were aggrieved at how much 
money had been spent to buy the northern press. While 
Prank's position had been clearly and emphatically re- 
stated in these newspapers, Judge Morris bitterly observed, 
the Georgian side had been ignored. The Judge concluded: 
"I believe in law and order. I would not help lynch any- 
body. But I believe Frank has had his just deserts." 2 



1 m to Herbert Haas, May 7, 1915, May 21, 1915. 
May 28, 1915, Box 146. 

2 

Quoted in The New York Times . August 19, 1915, 
p. 3. 



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262 



AFTERMATH 



In a sense, the lynching of Leo Frank marked a sym- 
bolic victory for Georgians. Since the Civil War, Souther- 
ners had felt themselves helpless in the face of northern 
encroachments upon their way of life. First slavery had 
been abolished, then industrialists and financiers had dis- 
turbed their agrarian society, and finally, some people be- 
lieved, northern interlopers had interfered with their judi- 
cial system. To many Georgians, the heroism of the execu- 
tioners seemed to have resurrected an almost lost way of 
life. 

Frank's fate could, perhaps, have been forecast be- 
cause the Southern heritage both dictated and glorified the 
lynchers 1 action. In antebellum days, the master had almost 
total power over the dispensation of justice to his slaves. 
And when he dealt with equals, the Southern plantation 
dweller would sooner resort to a duel than request any third 
party — a law officer, for example — to intercede on his be- 
half. Poor whites had absorbed the mores of the upper 



Many Southerners still feel this way today. 



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l. w ' 1 



263 

glasses, and the tradition of individual law enforcement has 
retained its potency well into the twentieth century. The 
defense of a woman's honor was also part of every Southerner's 
creed, and the culture dictated swift punishment to anyone 
who violated a kinswoman. In the closed Southern society, 
where fourth and fifth cousins were regarded as blood rela- 
tions, whole communities felt responsible for their women. 
In the case of Leo Frank, the only socially respectable ac- 
tion, according to those small-town Southerners who pondered 
the question, was to lynch him. Tom Watson's bellowing en- 
couraged an accepted procedure; and the "best citizens" of 

Marietta did not hesitate to fulfill their social obliga- 

1 
tions . 



Thomas Walker Page, "Lynching and Race Relations in 
the South," The North American Review, CCVI (August, 1917), 
243; Edwin McNeill Poteat, Jr., "Religion in the South," in 
Culture in the South , ed. W. T. Couch (Chapel Hill, N.C., 
1935), p. 258; H. C. Brearley, "The Pattern of Violence," in 
ibid ., p. €87; Josephine Pinckney, "Bulwarks Against Change," 
in ibid ., p. 46; Cash, op. cit ., pp. 44, 309-10; Benjamin 
Kendrick, "The Study of the New South, " The North Carolina 
Historical Review, III (January, 1926) , 10; John Carlisle 
Kilgo, "An Inquiry Concerning Lynchings," The South Atlantic 
Quarterly, I (January, 1902), 5-9, passim; Charles S. Syndor, 
"The Southerner and the Laws," The Journal of Southern His- 
tory , VI (February, 1940), 8-14, passim; Clement Eaton, 
The Mind of the Old South (Baton Rouge, 1964), p. 241; 
Virginius Dabney, Liberalism in the South (Chapel Hill, 
1932), p. 360. 



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... W J 



264 

But the death of Leo Frank did not dissipate the 
wrath of disgruntled Georgians. Ironically, in fact, the 
lynching left a void — the despondent and the vengeful had 
lost their whipping boy. In the autumn of 1915, Col. William 
J. Simmons stepped into this vacuum with a new answer to an 
insoluble problem: a fraternal organization dedicated toward 
the everlasting exaltation of Southern heroism, chivalry, 
and Anglo-Saxon splendor; an organization that would work 
for the revival of rural, Protestant culture; an organization 
which shunned the alien, put the Negro in his place, and 
elevated the Anglo-Saxon American to his rightfully superior 
niche in American society. This new fraternity would revive 
the glorious name and hallowed memory of the well -remembered 
paragon of Southern heroism — the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. 

Simmons, a professional fraternalist who belonged to 
six or seven other lodges, had, as an adolescent, envisioned 

the day when he would inaugurate a new order to memorialize 

2 

the old Ku Klux Klan. His opportunity came during the 



1 
Although the Ku Klux Klan became as strong, if not 

stronger, in parts of the North and the West, as it was in 

the South after the first Wocld War, the origins of the new 

organization were definitely Southern. 

2 

Charles C. Alexander, The Ku Klux Klan in the South- 
west (Lexington, Ky., 1965), p. 3; Arnold S. Rice, The Ku 
Klux Klan in American Politics (Washington, D.C., 1962), p. 2, 



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265 



hullabaloo which ended with Leo Frank's hanging from a large 
oak tree. After Frank's death, Simmons found in Georgia a 
receptive group, which had been mobilized by Tom Watson, and 
which now needed new direction. Simmons answered the call. 
His new Ku Klux Klan opposed everything that Frank had per- 
sonified: urbanization, industrialization, and foreigners. 
The Klan staunchly defended American, small -town, Protestant 
values such as sexual morality, religious orthodoxy, and tra- 
ditional economic individualism, and deplored all of the 
modern innovations which had compromised the accepted virtues 
of Southern life. 

Had it not been for Leo Frank, Simmons would prob- 
ably have had to wait before launching his venture. But he 
found in the Knights of Mary Phagan, already organized but 
with its sense of purpose vanished, a suitable nucleus for 
the ne?w Klan. In the autumn of 1915, Simmons and thirty- 
three of the Knights of Mary Phagan met on a mountain top 
just outside of Atlanta, and brought the Klan into being 



1 
Kenneth Coleman, Georgia History in Outline (Athens, 

1960), p. 96. Coleman noted that the Klan had such an enor- 
mous following in Georgia that "most office seekers consid- 
ered Klan membership a prerequisite for election." One 
sociologist noted that "a very high percentage" of the 
Atlanta police force belonged to the revised Ku Klux Klan. 
Sutker, op. clt ., p. 17. 



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^ 



266 

1 
with elaborate ritual. Within a depade, another five mil- 
lion people joined the Ku Klux Klan. 

The story of Simmons and his Klan has been dealt 
with in other places. But one aspect of "Klan kulture" — 
overt violence — requires comment because it helps to explain 
why those who would kill Leo Frank, would also be attracted 
to the hooded Knights. During its heyday — especially after 
the first World War — Klansmen burned, flogged, maimed, and 
otherwise tortured victims of their aggression. They re- 
garded these practices as a supplement to, rather than a 
substitute for, the established laws. 

Violence had characterized the old South to some ex- 
tent, but it flourished even more in the New South, particu- 
larly in Georgia. Gun fights, duels, lynchings, family 

feuds, and the like, were part of everyday living for many 

2 

Southerners. But Georgians had been especially notorious 

in following this infamous tradition. From 1889 through 
1928, for example, more people were lynched in this one 



Golden, A Little Girl Is Dead , p. 300. I questioned 
Golden about the source for this information and he wrote to 
me that he had heard it and then had it confirmed in an inter- 
view with one of the lynchers and a son of this lyncher. 
Golden to Leonard Dinnerstein, January 24, 1966. This point 
is also made in an unpublished «ssay by A. L. Henson, in the 
files of the Anti-Defamation League, New York City. 

2 

Woodward, Origins of the New South , pp. 158-60. 



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267 

1 
state, than any other in the Union. Two weeks after Geor- 
gians had attempted to mob him, John M. Slaton readily 
acknowledged that "there are some offenses to which [South- 
erners] take the law into their own hands." Slaton then 

elaborated: "In the South we generally punish by lynching 

2 
for one offense" — assaulting a white woman. Therefore the 

cry for Frank's neck, the hysterical demonstrations in front 
of the courtroom where he had been tried, and the reestab- 
lishment of an organization dedicated to perpetuate estab- 
lished traditions, were considered part of the acceptable 
standards of Southern behavior. 



The Frank case revealed how weak were the safeguards 
of our judicial system against police loquacity, journalis- 
tic license, and politically ambitious prosecutors. The 
police have often shared their findings and assumptions with 
newspapermen whose papers reported — and sometimes distorted— 
the semi-official version of events. Sensational cases 
often have been tried in the newspapers long before they 



Steelman, op. clt ., p. 128. 

2 
Slaton, op. cit ., p. 1. 



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268 

reached the courtroom. Under such circumstances it is often 
difficult for the most conscientious juror to attempt an im- 
partial evaluation of the facts presented during a trial. 

Juries, too, have been notorious for their responsiveness to 

1 
community sentiment. Certainly, Leo Frank was tried before 

he ever appeared in court. 

The process of selecting American public prosecutors— 
not unique to Georgia — clearly contributed to Frank's undoing. 
More frequently elected than appointed, the state's attorney 
is dependent upon the good will of his ponstituents for both 
his position and subsequent political advancement. To 
further their careers, politically ambitious prosecutors 
frequently seek popular and dramatic convictions to publi- 
cize their own talents. In 1913, when Hugh Dorsey prosecuted 
Leo Frank, he convinced many people that his primary concern 

was with his political reputation and not with obtaining jus- 

2 
tice. 



Tlarold W. Sullivan, Trial By Newspaper (Hyannis, 
Mass., 1961), p. 19; Louis Joughin and Edmund M. Morgan, The 
Legacy of Sacco and Vanzetti (Chicago, 1964), p. 196; John P. 
Roche, "American Liberty: An Examination of the 'Tradition' 
of Freedom, " in Aspects of Liberty , ed. Milton R. Konvitz and 
Clinton Rossiter (Ithaca, N.Y. , 1958), p. 147; and George 
Palmer Garrett, "Public Trials," The American Law Review , 
LXII (1924), 8. 

2 

Alden Todd to Leonard Dinnerstein, January 19, 1964. 

Mr. Todd wrote that one of the top editors of The Atlanta 
Journal had expressed the opinion that Dorsey had "deliberate- 
ly set about to stir up the hate-pack in a cynical bid for 
political notoriety and power." 



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269 

Since Frank's death the United States Supreme Court 
has revamped its standards for fair trials. Beginning in 
1923, the Court has overruled numerous criminal convictions 
which came about, in its estimate, because community senti- 
ment had entered the jury box or because pretrial publicity 
precluded an impartial hearing. Prosecutors have also been 
censured for misconduct and states have heen condemned for 
using perjured testimony. 

The first significant change occurred in 1923 when 
Oliver Wendell Holmes, who had dissented from the majority 
viewpoint in Frank v. Mangum , practically restated the same 
opinion as spokesman for the Court. The case, Moore v. 
Dempsey , involved five Arkansas Negroes who, in the words 
of Justice Holmes, "were hurried to conviction under the 
pressure of a mob, without any regard for their rights, and 
without according to them due process of law." Such circum- 
stances, Holmes concluded in a doctrine which has been ac- 
cepted by the Federal courts ever since, interfere with the 
course of justice, depart from due process of law, and hence 
are not coincident with the preservation of constitutionally 
guaranteed rights. Louis Marshall commented afterwards 



Moore v. Dempsey , 261 U.S. 86 (1923). 



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if ^ 



270 

that the Supreme Court "adopted the principle for which I 

1 
contended." While the decision in Moore v. Dempsey could 

not bring Frank back to life, it did help to memorialize the 

fact that, in addition to his other sufferings, he was also 

a victim of the strictures of narrow legalisms. 

Another subject on which Justices of the Supreme 
Court have expressed concern has been that of coerced con- 
fessions. In 1913, &n Atlanta jury relied primarily upon 
Jim Conley's testimony to convict the factory superintendent. 
Yet Conley had been questioned by the police, and had given 
certain statements, without having had the benefit of coun- 
sel. Conley had also incriminated himself in affidavits 
which he signed after having undergone a series of inten- 
sive interrogations. Because Conley's charges received ex- 
tensive publicity, they provided another difficult hurdle 
which Leo Frank had to overcome before his trial officially 
began. 

In the 1930's, however, the Supreme Court began to 
overrule convictions which had been based on what it inter- 
preted as coerced confessions. In Brown v. Mississippi , a 
unanimous Court ruled that confessions obtained after the 



LM to Adolph Ochs, January 14, 1925, Reznikoff, 



op. clt . , II , 847 . 



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271 

accused had been whipped into submission were void. In the 
case of Chambers v. Florida , in 1940, justice Hugo Black, 
speaking for another unanimous court, reinforced this judgment, 
Black declared that confessions obtained after the accused 
had been subjected to five days of questioning, without hav- 
ing had recourse too counsel, were presumed to be coerced con- 

2 
fessions, hence a denial of due process of law. Six years 

later, in Ashcraft v. Tennessee , the Supreme Court overruled 

the conviction of a man who had given a confession "after 

thirty-six hours [of] continuous grilling by investigating 

officers, who were holding him incommunicado in the county 

3 
jail." In similar cases, in 1957 and 1963, the Court con- 
tinued to strengthen the right of a defendant against self- 
incrimination. In Flkes v. Alabama , Chief Justice Earl 
Warren held a confession invalid which had been made after a 

prisoner had been kept in isolation for a week "except for 

4 
sessions of questioning." In 1963, Justice Arthur Goldberg 

stated, in a significant ruling, that the United States 



Brown v. State of Mississippi , 297 U.S. 278 (1936). 

2 

Chambers v. Florida , 309 U.S. 227, 239 (1940). 

3 
Ashcraft v. Tennessee, 327 U.S. 274, 276 (1946); 

see also Ashcraft v. Tennessee, 322 U.S. 143 (1944). 

4 
Fikes v. Alabama , 352 U.S. 191 (1957). 



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272 



Constitution favors "the right of the accused to be advised 
by his lawyer of his privilege against self-incrimination." 1 
And finally, in 1966, the Court set new and more stringent 
standards for police interrogations. Under the most recent 
rulings, "the prosecutor cannot use in a trial any admissions 
or confessions made by the suspect while in custody unless 
it first proves that the police complied with a detailed 
list of safeguards to protect the right against self- 
incrimination. " These include the defendant's right to be 
informed that he may remain silent, that anything he says 

may be used against him, and that he is entitled to consult 

2 

with an attorney before making any comment at all. 

There are other reasons which indicate that today's 
Court would not consider Frank's trial in accord with due 
process of law. In 1951, a majority overruled a conviction 
which had been obtained after considerable pretrial publicity. 
In the opinion- of Justices Felix Frankfurter and Robert 
Jackson, "prejudicial influences outside the courtroom . . 
were brought to bear on this jury with such force that the 
conclusion is inescapable that the defendants were prejudged 



1 
Escpbedo v. Illinois , 378 U.S. 478, 488 (1963). 

2 
The New York Times, June 14, 1966, pp. 1, 24. 



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273 

as guilty and that the trial was but a legal gesture to 

register a verdict already dictated by the press and public 

1 
opinion which it generated." In 1963, the Supreme Court re- 
stated this position in the case of Rldeau v. Louisiana . 
Justice Potter Stewart, speaking for the majority, observed 
that after a community had been exposed to extensive pub- 
licity about an alleged criminal, "any subsequent court pro- 

2 
ceedings . . . could be but a hollow formality." And more 

recently, in 1966, the Court considered the case of Dr. 
Samuel H. Sheppard, a Cleveland osteopath, who had been con- 
victed, in 1954, of murdering his wife. Justice Tom Clark 
noted that the trial had been preceded by months of "viru- 
lent publicity" as "charges and countercharges were aired in 
the news media besides those for which Sheppard was called 
to trial." The Supreme Court assumed that some of the in- 
flammatory assertions "reached at least some of the jury." 

The trial was then conducted in a "carnival atmosphere." 

3 
Justice Clark, speaking for all but one member of the Court, 

asserted that Sheppard' s rights had been adversely affected 

by "the inherently prejudicial publicity which saturated the 



1 
Shepherd v. State of Florida , 341 U.S. 50, 51 (1951), 

2 

Rldeau v. Louisiana , 373 U.S. 723, 726 (1963). 

3 
Justice Black dissented but did not write an opinion. 



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274 



community, " and that he had been further injured by the 
trial judge's failure "to control disruptive influences in 
the courtroom." The opinion concluded that Dr. Sheppard had 
not been accorded all of his legal rights and hence the 
State of Ohio had incarcerated him unjustly. 

In our own day, methods of Solicitor Dorsey might 
also be subject to judicial scrutiny. Not only did he en- 
gage in conduct unbecoming a state official, but he also 
suppressed evidence which tended to exonerate Frank. In 
1935, Justice George Sutherland censured an attorney for 
being "guilty of misstating the facts in his cross-examina- 
tion of witnesses; of putting into the mouths of such wit- 
nesses things which they had not said; of suggesting by his 
questions that statements had been made to him personally 
out of court, in respect of which no proof was offered. . .; 
of assuming prejudicial facts not in evidence; of bullying 

and arguing with witnesses; and in general conducting him- 

2 

self in a thoroughly indecorous and improper manner." And 

eight years later, Chief Justice Harlan P. Stone severely 
criticized the closing remarks of a federal prosecutor which, 



The New York Times , June 7, 1966, pp. 1, 43. At 
the time of this writing the case had not yet been published 
in the U.S. Reports . 

2^ 
Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 84 (1935). 



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275 

in the opinion of a majority of the Court, were calculated 
"to arouse passions and prejudice." In fact, the Chief Jus- 
tice said that the conduct of the prosecutor "prejudiced 
petitioner's right to a fair trial and . . . might well have 
placed the judgment of conviction in jeopardy." 

The Supreme Court has also ruled against the use of 
perjured testimony to obtain a conviction. While none of 
the witnesses in the Frank case was ever convicted of per- 
jury, many of them changed their statements, and then re- 
verted to the originals, in the spring of 1914. Many people 
also thought that Jim Conley's narrative was fictitious. In 
only one case, however, that of Annie Maud Carter, the lady 
who had received letters from Jim Conley, was it possible to 
prove that an affidavit was incorrect. With so many state 
witnesses contradicting their trial testimony, and then re- 
verting to their original statements, the present Court 
might consider the possibility that the state influenced 
some of them to testify falsely. In a landmark decision, in 
1935, the Supreme Court decided that if a state knowingly 
used witnesses whose testimony was falsified, the proceedings 



1 
Viereck v. United States, 318 U.S. 236, 248 (1943) 



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276 



violated due process and hence were void. This dictum was 
repeated by Justice Frankfurter in 1942 when he wrote, "If a 
state, whether by the active conduct or the connivance of 
the prosecution, obtains a conviction through the use of per- 
jured testimony, it violates civilized standards for the 

trial of guilt or innocence and thereby deprives an accused 

2 

of liberty without due process of law." 

With the Supreme Court so zealous in its defense of 
civil liberties today, it is extremely unlikely that another 
Frank case could occur. Although local communities and ambi- 
tious prosecutors may still wink at rigid standards of jus- 
tice, the nation's highest court no longer tolerates a loose 
interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment's directive that 
no state may "deprive any person of life, liberty, or prop- 
erty, without due process of law; nor deny to any person 
within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." 



1 
Mooney v. Holohan, Warden , 294 U.S. 103 (1935). 

2 
Heysler v. Florida , 315 U.S. 411 (1942). See also 

Pyle v. Kansas, 317 U.S. 213 (1942). 



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277 



To many prominent Jews, Leo Prank's trial and convic- 
tion seemed another instance of the anti-Semitic assaults 
which had become increasingly obvious for almost a genera- 
tion. The American Jewish community therefore resolved to 
take punitive steps. Four weeks after Prank's trial ended, 
the B'nai B'rith, a Jewish fraternal order founded in 1843, 
established its Anti-Defamation League to combat prejudice 
in the United states. Plans for the organization had been 
discussed for years, and each succeeding anti-Semitic out- 
burst strengthened the hand of the proponents of the new 
group. But it took Atlanta's condemnation of Leo Prank to 
give final impetus to the League. In the founding statement, 
Adolph Kraus, President of the parent organization, commented 
upon the abundance of prejudice and discrimination in this 
country. "Remarkable as it is," one paragraph began, "this 
condition has gone so far as to manifest itself recently in 
an attempt to influence courts of law where a Jew happened 
to be a party to the litigation. This symptom, standing by 
itself, while contemptible, would not constitute a menace, 
but forming as it does but one incident in a continuing chain 
of occasions of discrimination, demands organized and system- 
atic effort on behalf of all right-thinking Americans to put 



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278 

1 

a stop to this most pernicious and un-American tendency." 

Jews were undoubtedly correct in perceiving anti- 
Semitic overtones in the attack upon Frank. But they were 
slower to recognize other features: the angers caused by 
the evils of industrialization, the defensive response of a 
people conscious of their own minority position, and the 
special disquietude produced by the alleged rape and murder 
upon an unusually repressive culture. 

Probably, the intervention from outside was counter- 
productive in the short run. From the point of view of the 
nation's Jews, not to have come to Frank's aid would have 
violated Jewish traditions of helping brethren in distress, 
as well as subjecting themselves to the censure of their co- 
religionists. Furthermore, men such as Marshall and Lasker 
feared that if they took no action in regard to Leo Frank, 
other American communities would believe that Jews could, 
indeed, be attacked with impunity. Yet the Jewish efforts 
to rectify what they considered a miscarriage of justice 
failed to convince those who had to be convinced: a hard- 
core of Georgians bent on revenge. Northern pleadings for 
Frank merely stiffened some Georgians in their original con- 
clusions, and antagonized a number of others. 



B'nai B'rith News, October, 1913, p. 1. 



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279 

On the other hand, it is possible that the publicity 
given to Frank's plight led Slaton to commute the sentence. 
With the eyes of the nation upon him, the Georgia Governor 
may have weighed the evidence against Frank much more care- 
fully than he might otherwise have done had the case not 
been made into such a cause celebre by Frank's friends. 

Disapproval of the intervention by Jews and hostil- 
ity toward them continued to echo in Georgia long after 
Frank's demise. A minister noted in October, 1915, that 
the "masses" resented the power of money which had been 

used "to protect criminals from the punishment which our 

1 
laws provide for their deeds." Less than a year after the 

lynching, Senator Hoke Smith refrained from stirring up 

memories of things past by withholding his announcement, 

until the last minute, that he would vote to confirm Louis 

Brandeis, a Jew, for a position on the United States Supreme 

2 

Court. And in 1925, Herbert Asbury, an Atlanta newspaper- 
man, wrote: "If the Jews had been content to regard Frank 
as a man suspected of murder, entitled to a fair trial and 



^Rembert G. Smith, D.C., "Some Lurid Lessons from 
the Frank Case," The Public , XVIII (October 1, 1915), 952. 

2 

Alden Todd to Leonard Dinnerstein, January 19, 1964, 

Todd found some information on Frank while doing research 
for his study of Brandeis 1 confirmation to the Supreme Court 
in 1916; Justice on Trial (New York, 1964) . 



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280 



nothing more, instead of as a Jew on the threshold of martyr- 
dom, hounded by Christians thirsting for his blood, there 
would have been little or no anti-Semitic feeling in Atlanta." 

Whether Asbury was correct or not, however, is less " 
significant than the continued hostility which frightened 
Atlanta's Jews and made them fearful of further repercus- 
sions. In 1923, at the height of the Ku Klux Klan's power, 
a foreign journalist, working for The Atlanta Constitution , 
became interested in Leo Frank and went back to study the 
records of the case. He came across some x-rays showing 
teeth indentures in Mary Phagan's left shoulder and com- 
pared them with x-rays of Frank's teeth — but the two sets 
did not correspond. On the basis of this, and other in- 
sights garnered from his investigation, the newspaperman 
wanted to write a series "proving" Frank's innocence. 
One anonymous correspondent sent him a printed note: "Lay 
off the Frank case if you want to keep healthy, " but this 
did not deter him. What did thwart publication, however, 
was the effort of prominent Atlanta Jews, fearing reper- 
cussions, who prevailed upon the Constitution ' s editor 



1 
Asbury, The American Mercury , VII, 91. 



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281 



to refrain from printing the articles. Even in 1942, one 
of Atlanta's rabbis refused a Jewish graduate student 
permission to examine his extensive files, detailing the 

efforts which had been made to save Frank, on the grounds 

2 

that anything written would only stir up trouble. Forty 

years after the murder, in fact, citizens still became 

embroiled in bitter arguments when Frank's guilt or inno- 

3 
cence was discussed. And as late as 1961 the National 

States Rights Party inaugurated a campaign to revive in- 

4 
terest in Mary Phagan's murder. 



1 
Pierre Van Paassen, To Number pur Days (New York, 

1964) , pp. 237-38. 

2 
Telephone conversation with Marjorie Merlin Cohen, 

New York City, February 9, 1964. 

3 
Ernest Rogers, Peachtree Parade (Atlanta, 1956), 

p. 71. 

4 
Clipping, an Atlanta newspaper, May 20, 1961, 

located among the Frank Papers in Brandeis . 



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282 



The reverberations of the Frank case touched a num- 
ber of individuals who had become connected with the affair: 
Jim Conley, John M. Slaton, Hugh Dorsey, and Tom Watson. 
Jim Conley, the Negro sweeper who proved to be the key wit- 
ness against Frank at the trial, passed into oblivion, and 
aside from his obituary notice in 1962, appeared in the news- 
papers again only when in jail. In 1919 he was shot in an 
attempt to burglarize an Atlanta drug store. For this of- 
fense he received a twenty-year sentence in the state peni- 
tentiary, although for the assistance allegedly given to 
Frank in removing Mary Phagan's body, Conley had spent only 
a year on the chain gang. In 1941 he was among a group 
picked up by the Atlanta police for gambling; and in 1947 he 
was again arrested, on a charge of drunkenness. There is no 

record of his ever having revealed anything more about his 

1 
role in the Phagan murder case. 

Governor John M. Slaton remained in exile from his 

native state for a number of years. After the first World 

War he resumed his law practice in Atlanta but was never 



The New York Times, January 18, 1919, p. 2; February 
25, 1919, p. 5; AC, February 25, 1919, p. 6; Golden, A Little 
Girl Is Dead, pp. 311-12. 



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283 

again elected to public office. In 1928, however, the 
Georgia Bar Association honored him by unanimously electing 
him its President. In 1953, Slaton granted Samuel Boors tein, 
a good friend and contemporary of Leo Frank, an interview, 
and reminisced about the Frank case. Slaton recalled that 
Judge Roan had said to him that if Hugh Dorsey's predecessor 
as Solicitor -General of the Atlanta circuit had been alive, 
Frank would never have been prosecuted on the evidence that 
the state had amassed. Slaton also told Boorstein that as 
Governor, he had received word, indirectly, that Jim Conley's 
lawyer believed his client guilty. Toward the end of his 
life, John Slaton expressed the opinion that the passage of 
time had, indeed, established Frank's innocence. Upon his 
death, in 1955, the flags of the state capitol flew at half 
staff, and Ralph McGill, of The Atlanta Constitution , eulo- 
gized, "A giant of his day, it was one of destiny's mocking 

ironies that his great integrity should have cost him his 

1 
political life. ..." 

Hugh Dorsey reaped great political rewards from 



Memo of a conversation had by Samuel A. Boorstein 
in Atlanta, Georgia, with Governor Slaton, October 12, 1953, 
ADL files in New York City; John M. Slaton, Jr. (Gov. 
Slaton 1 s nephew) to Harold Marcus, January 15, 1961, Frank 
Papers, Brandeis; AC, January 12, 1955, p. 1; Time , LXV 
(January 24, 1955), 19; Golden, A Little Girl Is Dead , 
p. 306. 



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284 

prosecuting Frank, and emerged as one of the towering Geor- 

1 
gians of his day* In 1916, the demand for his entrance 

into the gubernatorial race was so great "that it swept the 

state like a prairie fire, rolling from the mountains to the 

2 

sea." In the primary that year, Dorsey received more votes 

than the combined total of his three opponents, as he scored 
one of the greatest electoral victories in Georgia's history. 
Dorsey remained Governor until 1921, when he retired to 
private life. In 1920, Tom Watson thwarted the Governor's 
attempt to oust Hoke Smith from the U. S. Senate, by de- 
cisively defeating both Dorsey and Smith in a three-cornered 
primary race for the Senate. Later on, Dorsey served as 

Judge of Atlanta's City Court and of the Fulton County 

3 
Superior Court. He died in 1949. 

Tom Watson's political power increased as a result 
of his activities against Frank. In the election of 1916, 
when he supported Dorsey for chief executive, all of his can- 
didates won decisive victories. Two years later, Watson 
once again ran for Congress but was narrowly defeated in a 



E. Merton Coulter, Georgia; A Short History (Chapel 
Hill, 1947), p. 400. 

2 

Knight, A History of Georgia , II, 1208. 

3 
AC, September 13, 1916, p. 1; Woodward, Tom Watson , 

p. 473; Golden, A Little Girl Is Dead , p. 305. 



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285 
contested election which the state authorities refused to 
review. The campaign had been marked by overtones of loyalty 
and patriotism: Watson had denounced President Woodrow Wil- 
son and had opposed American entry into the war; his paper, 
The Jeff ersonian. had been suspended for violating the 
espionage act; Watson's opponent, carl Vinson, had gone down 
the line with the administration. After the war, Watson con- 
tinued to strike out at Wilson, opposed American entry into 
the League of Nations and denounced the U.S. Attorney- 
General, A. Mitchell Palmer, for his raids upon Socialists. 

By 1920, Georgians had become less enthusiastic with 
the administration in Washington, and Tom Watson capitalized 
upon this. In the presidential primary, in which the former 
Populist had barely campaigned, he nosed out A. Mitchell 
Palmer, the administration's candidate, and Hoke Smith, and 
carried a plurality of Georgia's counties. But Palmer had 
won the county unit vote and therefore went into the national 
convention with all of Georgia's votes behind him. Watson 
then entered the primary race for U.S. Senate. This time he 
trounced both opponents, Smith and Dorsey, and easily walked 
off with the victory. The Georgian did not serve long in 
the senate, on September 26, 1922, he died from a bronchial 



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286 
attack in Washington, D.C. The Ku Klux Klan sent a cross of 
roses, eight feet high, to his funeral. 

5 
A large number of people who have familiarized them- 
selves with the Frank case have expressed their firm convic- 
tion in his innocence. This is true not only of contemporar- 
ies but of more recent chroniclers as well. Immediately 
after the lynching, one scribe prophesied, "future writers 
. . . will unanimously admit that Leo M. Frank was the victim 
of a biased sentiment, that his judicial rights were denied 
him and that his hanging on a lonely oak was the climax of 
a series of flagrant violations of justice which ignominious- 

ly but undoubtedly will raise him to the position of the 

2 

first American martyr." In 1943, Arthur G. Powell, a prom- 
inent Atlanta Judge and confidant of Judge Leonard S. Roan, 
who had presided at Frank's trial, noted in his autobiography 
that he knew the name of the murderer but could not reveal 
it while certain people were still alive. Powell died, 



Woodward, Tom Watson , pp. 448-49, 458, 461, 466-68, 
473, 486. 

2 

Richard S. Rauh, "The First American Martyr," Jewish 

Criterion (Pittsburgh), August 20, 1915, clipping, Slaton 
Papers, Georgia State Archives, Atlanta. 



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287 
however, without any public declaration* But in private, the 
Atlanta Judge was less hesitant in communicating his knowl- 
edge. He told an old tale, without any new information, 
which indicted Jim Conley. Ralph HcGill, publisher of The 
Atlanta Constitution , who happened to have heard Powell's 

version, labeled the story "a mere hearsay" and by no means 

1 
conclusive evidence. 

Those who have studied the records have also reached 
a verdict exonerating Frank* Charles and Louise Samuels, 
authors of Night Fell on Georgia , ended their work with the 
statement: "Leo Frank was the victim of one of the most 
shocking frame-ups ever perpetrated by American law-and- 
order officials." John Roche, who recently studied the de- 
velopment of civil rights in this century, stated, "As one 
who has read the trial record half a century later, I might 
add . . . that Leo Frank was the victim of circumstantial 
evidence which would not hold up ten minutes in a normal 
courtroom then or now." And Harry Golden, who ha^ written 
perhaps the most detailed account of Leo Frank to date, 
echoed Roche's opinion that no one would be convicted today 



1 
Powell, op. cit ., p. 291; Ralph McGill to Leonard 

Dinnerstein, January 28, 1964. 



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288 

1 
on the evidence which doomed Leo Frank. 

But one still cannot ignore the views of those who 

believed Frank to have been guilty. A few years after the 

Phagan-Frank case passed into history, L. L. Knight, a 

chronicler of Georgia's past, felt constrained to discuss 

the episode "objectively." Hence he included a letter from 

a prominent Georgian defending Slaton's act of commutation. 

But Knight added afterwards that he could not espouse the 

Governor's action "with an unmixed feeling." If Slaton had 

been moved by "the purest and best motives," Knight went on, 

"he can snap his finger at his critics and appeal his case 

with confidence to the mellow wisdom of a riper time and to 

the final judgment of a higher court." In the same spirit 

of "objectivity, " Knight observed that regardless of the 

views one might have about the kidnapping and execution of 

Frank, one had to acknowledge that "no finer piece of ku- 

2 
kluxing was ever known in Georgia. ..." With the perspec- 
tive of a decade behind him, Herbert Asbury, who worked as a 
reporter for The Atlanta Georgian during the crisis over 



0) 

Samuels, op. cit ., p. 222; John P. Roche, T?he Quest 
for the Dream (New York, 1963), p. 91; Golden, A Little Girl 
Is Dead , p. xiv. 

2 
Knight, A History of Georgia , II, 1181, 1196. 



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289 



Mary Phagan's murder, wrote, "Frank's trial could hardly 
have been fairer." And one of the newspapermen who wit- 
nessed the trial from the press table, MacLellan Smith, 

still remained adamant in his belief, fifty years later, 

2 

that Leo Frank murdered Mary Phagan. 

Perhaps the most cogent expressions about the murder 
case have come from those students of the proceedings in 
Atlanta, both before and after the trial, who remained un- 
certain of Frank's guilt, yet were not completely convinced 
of his innocence. Into this category one might include some 
of the most respectable Southerners of their generations. 
Harold Ross, who covered the trial for The Atlanta Journal, 
and who later founded the New Yorker magazine, commented in 

1915 that the evidence "did not prove him guilty beyond that 

3 
'reasonable doubt' required by law." in his penetrating 

study of Tom Watson, C. Vann Woodward penned, "a fateful 

weight of irrelevant but prejudicial fact dogged Frank's 

case to the end, " and then added that a Negro suspect was 

"later implicated by evidence overwhelmingly more incrimin- 



Asbury, op . cit . , p. 91. 

2 

Smith interview. 

3 
Ross' article is reprinted in Golden, A Little Girl 



Is Dead , pp. 355-58. 



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C " 



290 



inating than any produced against Frank." But Woodward 



went- no further in stating his own opinion concerning 
Frank's guilt or innocence. In the more recent past, Ralph 
McGill and Harold Davis, one of the editors of The Atlanta 

Journal , have both indicated that they are still uncertain 

2 
about who murdered Mary Phagan. 

Since so many people have written about Leo Frank, 

perhaps some mention should be made as to why another study 

has here been attempted. Until now the fullest works — those 

of C. P. Connolly, the Samuels, and Harry Golden — have been 

penned by journalists who have been overwhelmed by what they 

viewed as a gross miscarriage of justice. These accounts 

have their merits but to some extent each has been guided by 

a different purpose. Connolly's essays in 1914, and his 

book in 1915, were designed to spur a national audience to 

indignation and action. He had hoped that his readers would 

protest vigorously against the alleged injustice and that as 

a result Frank's sentence would be altered. The Samuels, on 

the other hand, were primarily concerned with retelling the 

story of an exciting trial, and although they were extremely 



Woodward, Tom Watson , p. 435. 

2 
Interview with Harold Davis, in Atlanta, January 

24, 1964. 



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b ' 



291 

insightful, they did not utilize the manuscript collections 
extant, nor did they devote much attention to the problems 
of the South or the activities of Frank's friends. Recently 
Harry Golden attempted the most comprehensive survey of the 
Frank affair. He did extensive research and tried to put 
the Frank case into the broader setting of Georgian society 
circa 1913. However, he has written his book as a testament 
to Frank's innocence — an interesting but not a dispassionate 
way of examining the evidence. Furthermore, Golden has not 
discussed the background of anti-Semitism in the South nor 
has he investigated the nature of the activities undertaken 
in Frank's behalf. Hence a scholarly work, placing the Frank 
case in its historical setting, and more concerned with dis- 
covering why and how the case developed as it did than with 
Frank's guilt or innocence, seemed to be in order. 



In retrospect, it seems that the Frank case illum- 
inated the shape of historical forces long at work. It 
threw into dramatic relief the pressures, the frustrations, 
and the realities of the South' s struggle to adjust to 
new ideas while still reluctant to part with the old. 
It mobilized the American Jews into a concerted defensive 



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V' 



292 



action without precedent in the annals of our country . And 
it quickened the establishment of a new Ku Klux Klan. But 
above all, the Leo Frank case showed as clearly as possi- 
ble, that if the laws of civilization are to be respected, 
societies must eradicate the conditions which turn men 
into beasts. For if they do not, other Leo Franks will 
continue to appear, and suffer punishment for crimes for 
which no single individual can ever be wholly responsible. 



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293 



APPENDIX A 

JIM CONLEY'S LETTERS TO ANNIE MAUD CARTER 

The following letters, written to Annie Maud Carter 
from Jim Conley, while he was in jail, are located within 
the PC Records. 

Letter 1 
My dear little girl: 

I got letter and feel alright and is not made with 
you at all now, and I believe what you say about old Jim 
since I read your mother's letter, and I still love you and 
will always love you, but I must not have a wife that will 
tell people to kiss her ass. 

Well, I will forgive you all about that now, and let 
us see how much we can love each other, Baby Doll. I love 
you more than your Mother do I believe, and I wish that I 
was there to tell you how much that I love you, don't you 
Honey? Baby, you ought not never said anything to me about 
your hipped, why my dick went clean across my cell, and I 
read it all night, your letter, I could not sleep. Honey, 
you was right when you said that you had up there what I 
wants. You know then that I would not be mad with you, when 
you said you could make me call you mama, well Baby, if you 
do, Papa will give you what it takes to bring the bacon home, 
and I like to hear you said that because I always believed 
you could do it, and believe you could make me love it, and 
if you do, I will try to give you anything in the world, if 
I have to go and take something, cause you have got to have 
it Honey. That made me love you that much more, you said 
you would hold from the bottom, why Baby I know you can do 
that. I just know that and every time read that my long 



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294 



dick got on a hard, why I would like to hold it in one of 
your hipped this morning, and let you take everything that 
I have got there with me, because I love you so much and 
if I could put my sweet long dick in your hipped, I think 
I could make Mama call me Papa, one time. Honey could I 
get you not to get out on bond. Baby, I am afraid that you 
will give it a way before you can make Papa call you Mama. 
Baby, I will marry you, but I dont no about in there. I 
love you enough to, but you know they will talk about it. 
Well that all right Honey, don't worry, I will do just 
what I say I would, for I am pleased with you very much 
and think we could be happy, But I would like to wait til 
we get out of there, for I love you so much. Now, dear tell 
I will do now, when we get out and that not long, two weeks 
now, you be a good little girl for I am going to call you 
my girl and a little later I am going to call you my wife 
and give you whatever you wants, that is if you dont spent 
what I have got too fast off. I will do all I can in this 
world for you because I love you and knows that I can take 
care of you because I have many friends to not take care of 
you, and all of them are white friends. Now little girl, 
you ought to see how long my dick has got since I read your 
letter and it has got just as pretty as I can be, and it is 
yours. Be good now, let me hear from you. I would write 
more but Fririk is hurrying me up, so by by, from 

(Signed) James. 



Letter 2 

Now Baby Doll Papa got your letter and was very glad 
to hear from you, and will be glad to get your picture. Now 
Baby, you know we dont want to get mad any more, so you tell 
me now what is that, that somebody has told you a bought me. 
Let me know, it will be alright. 

Dont hold it back because I love you so tell me 
know what it is. I wish I was up there when you was dressing 
so I could feel your ass. Baby I will give you the last 14 
dollars that I have got right now if you will come down there 
and let me see it. Just let me look at it, and I know I 
will come all over myself. I have got the money right there 
waiting for you, if you dont believe it, come on down there 
and see, and if that aint enough, I am going to get some 
more in the morning and that if that aint enough, why just 



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295 



wait til I get out and papa go and get what you want for 
your big fat ass. 

Well Baby Doll you aint got to wait much longer 
that is if you dont get out on no bond. I know if you get 
out on bond, somebody will get it before I do and they will 
make you call them papa before you can make me call you mama. 
I want you to keep your ass right there because it is good 
and you told me this last night in your letter, that two 
hours fucking on your big fat ass would stop all of this 
argument. Well that right but you know that Papa cannot 
lay on your ass that long before you would be done made me 
come, if there ever was a man that want to lay on your ass 
that me, and make me love it and I will show you better than 
I can tell you what I do for you. 

Now Baby if you dont get out on no bond or if you 
do get out on a bond you have that right hip for me cause 
if you hold your fat ass on the bottom and make papa go 
like a kitty cat then you have won a good man, that's me. 
I will try to give you this world, but if you let papa put 
his long ugly dick up in your fat ass and play on your right 
and left hip, just like a monkey playing on a trapeze, then 
Honey Papa will be done played hell with you. Then you will 
call me Papa all the time then. 

Well Baby Mr. Gillilarid was not there to let me 
know what we was talking about but I am going to do so, so 
dont worry now Baby. Do you really mean that you are going 
to get out on bond? I see that your Mother said that some- 
body was going to give something on your bond. Tell her 
that you dont dont wan to get out on bonds, because we are 
going to do what I say, cause I want to stick my long dick 
in your ass. 

Well Honey this is alright now be a good girl and 
save your fat ass for me and will take care of it just as 
sure as I am (Blank) . Give your heart to God and your ass 
to me for you mind. Well Baby, I just dont know what to 
think abought your case. 

Well go and get out on bond, then pay your lawyers 
a little to keep it out of court, but if you dont get out 
on bond I dont think that they can do anything with you for 
you have got a good lawyer. I think you will get a new 
trial, so dont worry. If you dont get out on bond and dont 



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296 



get no new trial and then go to a high court and then get 
a bond. 

Baby, your case is not so much, you know that because 
the bond that they put you under is not anything. TSiat 
negro man has got out on bond. You dont know if they did 
turn him a lose then the detectives must be trying to work 
it off on you. They may not dont like you. 

Well I dont care if you did do it, or if you did not. 
I love you just the same, and if I was out you would get out 
too. For I would spend everything that I have got to help 
you and to help your Mother to get you out. 

So you ask your lawyer do he think it would be best 
to get out on bond. 

Well Dear dont worry about a thing for Papa love you 
and my step mother love you, so tell my step mother I say 
hello, so this is all, go to sleep now, Baby Doll, Sweet 
Dear, bye bye. 

(Signed) James Conley 
P. S. On back of page 2. 

Miss Annie Carter Conley, got a fat ass and a sweet 
pee hole I do believe and they will be mine soon (blank) 
I will just want that ass, Honey. 

P. S. On back of page 4. 

James Conley. 

Answer right away I write it tonight. 



Letter 3 

Well, baby doll papa has got your letter and was glad 
to hear from you, — to know that you are feeling fine. Well 
honey you know if we do wait, why we can love each other just 
the same and when we get out why all that I have got to do 
then is to go and get what I have got put up and give it to 
you. Darling I know you told me to judge well. That alright. 
Papa will do anuthing that you tell him but baby papa is 



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297 

going to let you be boss always. You know that you want to, 
and I will let you have everything that I have got. So now 
dont worry honey. The time is not long. I am going to ask 
Mr. Gilliland again. He asked me did I have any money to 
pay the Pastor and to get the thing with. I told him yes, 
and I told him if they would let one of my friends come to 
see me I could send him to get some money for me. He said 
I better let that stay there until I get out. Well honey 
I think that would be best, but if you think it would be the 
best wait til we get all right. So you be a good girl until 
papa can see what Mr. Gilliland will say in the morning. He 
say that Mr. Roberts may not be there Monday. 

He say he will get them things for us if we know any 
pastor that we could get and get him in there before anybody 
see him. 

Well, baby, I dont know, I will let you be the boss 
all the way through, and I will do whatever you say. So 
By By, from James, dont worry, and dont hurry, just take 
your time and right. 



Letter 4 

Honey, I did not ask Dr. Ren to let you come up 
there because Mr. Billy Land is not there, but just save it 
for me because papa love you and -is going to help you if you 
dont get out on bond or dont get no new trial. Now, you be 
a good little girl until I can get up there, or until I can 
get some money. I have got the money all right but how is 
I going to get it. 

Just to show you honey that I love you if I could 
get it I would do all in this world for you. So dont worry 
now. Time is not so long now before that I can show you 
better than baby. I sure wish that Mr. Gilliland 
was there so I could come up there with you and lay in your 
arms. 

Honey— -dont you think that you will go to no prison, 
because you wont. I know that because I love you so much 
and know what I can do for you for I have it to do for you. 
Now if I could get it that why I say dont worry you wont go 
nowhere that is if you be a good girl— I will help you. If 



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298 



you dont be a good girl then I wont. I have got a negro 
watching you — Now do like I tell you be good and dont 
woory [sic] . 

Save it til I can come up there 



Letter 5 

(1st page) 
Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 26, 1914. 
My dear little girl — 

I got your letter and I did not that you for you 

was playing your lime be— to fall in hard--. Aint that 

so honey I dont think that you meant for me to come up If you 
do I will try to come up there tomorrow So dont worry I love 
you just the same All I want is a woman that can work her 
ass and I believe you can. So dont worry about that other — 
No woman- and I dont want her I want you That is if you 
will be a good little girl. " Over" on next page " Honey 
I will tell you what my lawyer say I have not got . 

2nd page. 

just to fill out your line You have and your 

fat ass just as far up in ass I can get nuts 

and all Now baby I am not made with you, so dont worry 
Do like I do Dont worry Just a good fucking will make you 

feel all playing cards so you forget it 

You was not thinking that much abought me Well that is all 
right I thought of you so I have not got any ting to say 
about that woman for I just knows her and that is all . 

3rd page. 

forgot to and I say but that it is all right I love 

you just the same and love nobody but you I have not told 
you how much I love you yet honey It would brake my heart 

to tell you because you would mistreat me When 

I love you so much sweet dear darling honey baby Papa want 
to fuck you so bad and give you a good fucking to your 



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299 



Over (3) James. 

because honey I love you so much me. I love feel 
now good wish you there to get I am drinking. Dont 
worry honey. Dick and a so got to sleep now . Let 
me hear you say that you worrying any more. You good 
pussy little girl you. 



Letter 6 

Honey, read til you come all over yourself. Well 
dear how are you feeling tonight. I hope you are not 
worrying at all, so go to sleep and let your good fat ass 
rest til I can get on it and that wont be long, baby, 
because we will get out all right and we will marry and 
live happy. Now tell your mother to look for a good house. 
A first class one I am not lying honey. What take to pay 
for that house I have got it. 

What it take to make you happy and give you every- 
thing you want and make you keep your fat ass at that four 
room house dam if I aint got it too and what I am talking 
about nobody aint going to spend it but Miss good fat ass. 
Good pussy Annie Maude all I know that your ass is fat you 
need not say that it aint and I know your pussie is good and 
fat and warm and hairy. How do I know because my dick stay 
on a hard all the time. 

When you pass this door my dick say here she go and 
do you know little girl that I love you to my heart. I 
love you more than any man that you ever went with and how 
I can love you so much is because I believe that you will 
make a good wife for me, and not to tell you no lie I will 
be good to you and will give you anything that you want to 
make you be good to me. I am not talking just to hear 
myself talk. I am talking this because I know that I can 
do and what I have got to do with because you know if a man 
get you he is got to do if he want you to treat him right, 
and I 



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300 



Letter 7 

Now I tell you Miss Annie you dont have to write 
and ask me do I like that not a dam tall. I told you just 
what I heard so you must know that whoever told me that was 
tell the truth. I guess I dont know and dont give a dam 
and if you dont want to write down there to me I dont care. 
But I will say this I love you all right and have loved 
every since we was at court together. 

I am surprised at you Annie to hear you say for 
somebody to kiss your ass. 

So far as you say that your mother told you not to 
eat or drink anything from Jim Well that all right I 
believe you are telling the truth about you dont care any- 
thing about him and I know that he is not your husband and 
not me but I would like to be if we were not in there for 
I love you and has always told you so and was just thinking 
me and Mr. Gilliland how to do. Of course I know that you 
never did love me and know that you are not crazy about 
marrying me for I was the one crazy about marrying you. 
You should know that I would like for you to have been my 
wife because I would have been pleased with you and knows 
that you have had a good time in your life and will change 
now and be a good girl and you and I could get along fine 
and be happy. But I did not know that you tell people to 
kiss your ass and I know that you are not no fool miss and 
I am not no fool. And I dont listen to everything that the 
boys tell me for I just told you just what I heard and did 
not tell you that it was the truth and I know that you dont 
have to tell me no lie for you are your own woman and you 
cannot mess me up for I love you too much and would do any- 
thing in this world for you. I love you and love you to 
my heart and if you dont love me I dont give a dam and you 
dont have to tell me to stop writing up there. Of course 
if you want me to then I wont. But, I will love you just 
the same. I have been writing some good letters up there 
too. To let you know how much I love you and I mean it 
well. I guess I will try to forget you. It will take me 
a long time for every time I read your letter I think that 
much more of you. Well that alright if you did not want 
me you did not have to get on your head. I wish you had 
wrote your smart letter a little sooner before Mr. Gilliland 
left. If you like this write. Please answer all of 



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301 

your letter. I would like to hear from you. I am not mad 
at all with you and you say somebody is telling you something 
around here about me. 

Why nobody cant tell you anything about me for 

nobody around there knowns anything wrong about me and what 
they do know they know I am a good man. Tell me what some 
of them are saying Answer Miss Smart. 

Back of Page (2) 

To Miss Smart. Answer if you like for I am not no 
fool either. Understand it too and I am not mad with you. 



Letter 8 

Atlanta, Ga., February 14, 1914 
Miss Annie Conley, 92 Tatnall street, Ga. 

Well dear I just dont know what to say. You say 
you are made with me and it hurts me to my heart. Did I 
tell you that love you and love nobody but you and I think 
if you go back on me I dont know what to do. So baby dont 
be mad with me please because I think that you and I will 
be happier some day. I know we will Annie if you will be a 
good little girl around there which I know you will if we 
ever get out of there. Because I will do all that a man can 
for you to make you be good for I know that you like a good 
time and have had a good time in your life and I believe that 
you will change now and do right. Sweet dear dont worry for 
I love you more and more. Every day that I hear something 
good abought you and I have always believed that you will 
make a good wife to me or any man that will treat you right 
and honey I know that I can do that and I was not trying to 
fool you dear. I have always loved you and will always love 
and if you be a good girl you will always have a good friend 
because I am a man that loves and will give you all that you 
want and that . You know that I will. You find out 
I will give you what you want then you will love me more. 
But I tell you now dear from my heart that I can do for you 
a long time for I know what I have got you think that I would 
be in thxs case and not get anything out of it. All that I 
would like for you to do is to be a good baby and dont let 



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302 

anybody tell me anything on you no more I_ would like 
to you all in my arms which would make me" do more for 
you. Because I think you could put it where it would go 
to me head, dont you? and I believe that you could put it 
to some man and make him do right for you and I am one of 
them too. Because I have got it in my head that you can 
do it to me if you do, I will go out and bring back the 
money and it would not be long for I am a man that tell 
the truth abought what I will do if I love a woman. I will 
do for her I say that I love you and love nobody but you 
and know what I can do for you. If I did not love you I 
would not write to you at all. That's the man that I am 

Well honey the time aint long as it have been with 
me and I am going to beat my case so help me God. They have 
got to try me in this court or turn me a lose one. So dont 
you worry. If I get out first I will do all I can for you 
if you dont get no new trial in this court, just to show 
you how much I love you I will help to carry it a higher 
court if want me too. I just as well to help you as to 
help someone else for some one is going to spend what I 
have got. Now, baby that woman that you saw talking to me 
is not anu thing to me and could not give me any money, for 
I could give her some money like I am now. I just sent 
around to some of my friend just to see where they are at. 
I could give them something now and if I could get where 
you is I could give you what you want here. Because I think 
that much of you and is pleased with you. If you be a good 
little girl because when I hear things around there about 
you it go to me heart. Just like I told you that I love 
you to my heart and if you do love long will it. 
Of course you like a good time just like anybody else and 
I like a good time and what take to give you a good time, 
I have got it. I wish I was out there where you was are 
you in there with me . Now I have wrote you all the 
paper that I have got. Now you know that I love you and 
will do all in this world for you. If I could get you in 
there I could make you love me or try like hell one. For 
I love you with all the love in the world. If I didn't 
make you love me I would by love from you if it takes every 
dollar I have got. 

P.S. at top of page (8), Annie I spelled my words 
so that you can understand it. I am not writing so fine 
you know 

From James which is scratched. 



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303 



P. S. On page (4) . Now tell me something good 
baby doll- from James Conley. 

Now I tell you Miss Annie you dont have to write 
and ask me do I like that. Not a dam . I told just 
what I heard so you must know that whoever told me was 
telling the truth. 



Letter 9 

Well honey how are you this time. I hope you are 
feeling fine for I am dear. Why do you say that I need 
what I have got. It is not because you cant get to send me 
an y • I would have sent you some money but you know 
that it is to hard to send my money to you of what I want 
to send because you are up there and I am down there. I 
cant tell you what going. You knows that your self of course, 
I could send you some change Annie dear. What I want to send 
I want to send something that will do you some good and I 
would like to help you in your case all that I could. But, 
you have not been a good little girl, so they tell me. Honey 
it would take me a long time to spend what I have got in my 
cell and if I did spend all what I have got I could get more 
for I have got it and if I was out there with you I could 
give you whatever you want because I really love you baby 
and would like to let you spend some of my money because 
somebody is going to do it. But I will just let you do 
what you want to. If you want to marry right there I will 
or if you. So write now and let me know what a bout in 
there. Want to wait til you get out I will then. 

So dont worry I just let you think but dear if you 
really mean what you say about it. I will do all that I can 
do for you and I knows what I can do for you because nobody 
knows I have got but me and Prank and God and Prank he cant 

say anything for he knows where I got it from so. Now 

sweet dear you be a good little girl for my time is not long 

now So if you dont want to marry in there why I hope we 

will be good friends until we get out. It hard to tell 
about that. Have you got to wait til the last of Feb. be- 
fore you be tried. Somebody told me you did well of you 
have. I hope you dont let the chief cook take you away. 
I heard you is loving him, is that so. If it is, me and 
you must do something right away for I am loving you now 
with all the love in the world and will do my best to make 
you happy. 



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304 



Letter 10 

Get it down to two or three years then motion for 
a new trial in a still high court then get out . 



it dont cost much. It will be the 15th of next month before 
you will get a hearing from this court and that aint long. 
I think when that woman come back there I will send her to 

get some money for me If she will bring it back and I 

will let you have some money to help you as I may get out 
before the 15th of next month and if I get out I will help 
you all I can Annie Dear, because I love you so much-If I 
tell anybody where my money is they will go and get the 
whole dam bunch-Then I never would get it and the State may 
be so long paying me, then I would not know what to do then 
but dont you worry. 



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305 



APPENDIX B 
THE BALLAD OF MARY PHAGAN 



Franklyn Bliss Snyder, "Leo Frank and Mary Phagan, " 
The Jou rnal of American Folk-Lore . XXXI (1918), 264-66. 



Little Mary Phagan 
She left her home one day; 
She went to the pencil-factory 
To see the big parade. 

She left her home at eleven, 

She kissed her mother good-by; 

Not one time did the poor child think 

That she was a-going to die. 

Leo Frank he mer her 

With a brutish heart, we know; 

He smiled, and said, "Little Mary, 

You won.'t go home no more." 

Sneaked along behind her 
Till she reached the metal-room; 
He laughed, and said, "Little Mary, 
You have met your fatal doom." 

Down upon her knees 

To Leo Frank she plead; 

He taken a stick from the trash-pile 

And struck her across the head. 

Tears flow down her rosy cheeks 
While the blood flows down her back; 
Remembered telling her mother 
What time she would be back. 



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306 



You killed little Mary Phagan, 
It was on one holiday; 
Called for old Jim Conley 
To carry her body away. 

He taken her to the basement. 
She was bound both hand and feet; 
Down in the basement 
Little Mary she did sleep. 

Newt ley was the watchman 
Who went to wind his key; 
Down in the basement 
Little Mary he did see. 

Went in and called the officers 
Whose names I do not know; 
Come to the pencil-factory, 
Said, "Newtley, you must go." 

Taken him to the jail-*house, 
They locked him in a cell; 
Poor old innocent negro 
Knew nothing for to tell. 

Have a notion in my head, 
When Frank he comes to die, 
Stand examination 
In a court-house in the sky. 

Come, all you jolly people, 
Wherever you may be, 
Suppose little Mary Phagan 
Belonged to you or me. 

Now little Mary's mother 
She weeps and mourns all day, 
Praying to meet little Mary 
In a better world some day. 

Now little Mary's in Heaven, 
Leo Frank's in jail, 
Waiting for the day to come 
When he can tell his tale. 



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307 



Frank will be astonished 
When the angels come to say, 
"You killed little Mary Phagan; 
It was on one holiday. 

Judge he passed the sentence, 

Then he reared back; 

If he hang Leo Prank, 

It won't bring little Mary back. 

Frank he's got little children, 
And they will want for bread; 
Look up at their papa's picture, 
Say, "Now my papa ■ s dead . " 

Judge he passed the sentence 
He reared back in his chair; 
He will hang Leo Frank, 
And give the negro a year. 

Next time he passed the sentence, 
You bet, he passed it well; 
Well, Solister E. M. [Dorsey] 
Sent Leo Frank to hell. 



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308 



APPENDIX C 



FREEMAN'S TALE 



An alternate explanation for the murder of Mary 
Phagan was published in 1923 when alleged data about Jim 
Conley f s participation in the mystery came to light. The 
information had been received eight years earlier by Gov- 
ernor Slaton, from a questionable, but perhaps important, 
source. In 1915, a Negro prisoner, identified only by 
the name, "Freeman," thought that he was dying in the fed- 
eral penitentiary located in Atlanta, and revealed what he 
claimed to have known about Mary Phagan 1 s death. Freeman 
made his statement to a prison doctor, who relayed it to 
Governor Slaton. 

The narrated story follows: Freeman recalled 
playing cards with Jim Conley in the basement of the pencil 
factory on the day of the murder. Shortly before noon Conley 
went up the ladder to the main floor. After a short while 
Freeman heard muffled screams. Inquisitive, he climbed to 
the first floor and saw Conley struggling with someone. 
Frightened, Freeman returned to the basement and left the 
building through a rear door. Later that afternoon, Conley 



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309 
went to Freeman's home and said that he needed $3 but was 
short $1.80. In return for the money, Conley offered his 
friend a woman's mesh handbag. Freeman obliged. The fol- 
lowing day, however, he read about the murder and Mary 
Phagan's missing mesh bag which contained her $1.20 wage. 
Fearing involvement, Freeman gave the mesh bag to a friend 
and admonished her to hide it in a safe place. He then 
fled the city. Within two months, however, he was con- 
victed of a federal crime, and imprisoned in Atlanta. 1 

Why newspapers published Freeman's story for the 
first time in 1923, or how they obtained this information, 
was never explained. But former Governor Slaton, the ex- 
prison doctor, and one of the Georgia Prison Commissioners 
verified, in 1923, that they had heard the tale in 1915. 2 
A* 1 Atlanta Constitution report noted "that proven in- 
accuracie's in [Freeman's] story had discredited it." 3 
Unfortunately the Constitution did not elaborate. 



The Baltimore Sun, October 2, 1923, "Frank's Proph- 
esy of Vindication Comes True 10 Years After Georgia Mob 
Hangs Him as Slayer, " The Jewish Advocate (Boston) , XKCI 
(October 18, 1923), 20; AJ clipping, n.d., probably October 1 
or 2, 1923, Frank Papers, Brandeis. 



2 AC, October 2, 1923, p. 7. 
3 Ibid. 



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310 

Amazingly, The Atlanta Georgian had also received 
part of Freeman's tale, although not identified as such, 
in June, 1913, before Frank had gone to trial. On June 6, 
the Georgian headlined a front page account: "REPORT NEGRO 
WHO SAW PHAGAN ATTACK" and related how a federal prisoner 
was about to be returned to Atlanta by a Pinkerton detective. 
The Negro in question, according to the Georgian . had alleg- 
edly been shooting craps with Conley in the factory basement 
on the day of the murder. Conley, having lost his money 
and in a half-drunken stupor, then allegedly left the base- 
ment and attacked Mary Phagan, who had just come down from 
Frank's office after collecting her pay. The Georgian could 
not verify the report and subsequently dropped the story. 1 

Additional corroboration for Freeman's tale came in 
1959 when an Atlanta attorney published his memoirs. Re- 
lating how he knew of Frank's innocence, the attorney, 
A. L. Henson, claimed that Conley had confessed to his 
lawyer that he had been drinking in the factory basement 
on the day of the murder. According to Henson, Conley had 
also recalled having seen a girl approach him on the main 
floor, remembered struggling with her, and then his mind 



•••AG, June 6, 1913, p. 1; June 10, 1913, p. 1. 



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311 
went blank. When Conley revived, he was sitting opposite 
a dead girl in the factory basement, but could not remember 
anything that had transpired in the previous few hours. 
Henson's narrative fits well with that of Freeman's tale 
and the story published in the Georgian , but if his version 
is correct, one wonders why Conley' s lawyer had not made 
this information public in 1914, when he announced his 
belief in Conley' s guilt. 



Allen Lumpkin Henson, Confessions of a Criminal 
Lawyer (New York, 1959), p. 63. Other facts reported by 
Henson vary from contemporary reports and I cannot vouch 
for his accuracy. In an interview with Samuel A. Boorstein, 
on October 12, 1953, John Slaton admitted that he had been 
told by one of Hugh Dorsey's law partners, that Jim Conley 1 s 
lawyer believed that Conley committed the murder. Memo of 
a conversation had by Boorstein with Slaton, Anti -Defamation 
League files, Leo Frank folder, New York City. 



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BIBLIOGRAPHY 



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313 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



Manuscript Sources 

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Frederic Bancroft Papers. Columbia University, New York City. 

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John M. Slaton Papers. Georgia State Archives, Atlanta. 



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314 



John M. Slaton Papers. Brandeis University, Waltham, 
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Boston Herald-Traveler Library, Boston. 

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315 



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The original stenographic transcript of the trial 
does not seem to be in existence any more. The Brief of 
Evidence , however, was certified by both the prosecution and 
the defense as being an accurate record of the proceedings 
of the trial. It does not include any of the questions 
asked by the attorneys, nor does it record any of the spon- 
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316 

United States. Industrial Commission. Final Report of the 

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317 



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Personal Communications 
A. Interviews 



Alexander Brin, in Boston, August 15, 1964. Mr. Brin covered 
the Frank case for the Boston Traveler in 1915. 

Harold Davis, in Atlanta, January 24, 1964. Mr. Davis is an 
editor of The Atlanta Journal. 



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"7 7^ 



343 

Alexander Miller, in the offices of the Anti-Defamation 
League, New York City, September 15, 1964* Mr. 
Miller was at one time the regional director of 
the Anti-Defamation League in Atlanta. In 1953 he 
sponsored a study of the Leo Prank case. 

McLellan Smith, in Washington, April 2, 1964. Mr. Smith 
covered the Frank case as a cub reporter for The 
Atlanta Georgian . He was at the press table during 
the trial. 



B. Telephone Conversations 

Marjorie Merlin Cohen, February 9, 1964, New York City. Mrs, 
Cohen was interested in the Frank case as a graduate 
student in Georgia. She was refused access to the 
records of the case by Rabbi David Marx. 

Franklin Garrett, in Atlanta, January 24, 1964. Mr. Garrett 
is the author of Atlanta and Environs , and one of 
the best versed people on Atlanta's history. 

Wilbur Kurtz, January 24, 1964, in Atlanta. Mr. Kurtz has 
resided in Atlanta since 1913. He is a student of 
the city's history and extremely well versed in the 
subject. 

Louise Samuels, October 19, 1963. Mrs. Samuels is co-author 
of Night Fell on Georgia . 



C. Letters from: 

Irving M. Engel, February 19, 1964. Mr. Engel is a former 
President of the American Jewish Committee. 

Ralph McGill, January 28, 1964. Mr. McGill is publisher of 
The Atlanta Constitution . 

Harry Golden, January 24, 1966. Mr. Golden has written 
about Frank in his book, A Little Girl Is Dead . 

Alton BuMar Jones, May 21, 1964. Mr. Jones' Ph.D. disserta- 
tion is "Progressivism in Georgia." 



Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. 



344 

Merlo j. pusey, March 3, 1963. Mr. Pusey has written the 
definitive biography of Charles Evans Hughes. 

DeWitt H. Roberts, February 14 and 19, 1964. Mr, Roberts 

did a study of the Frank case for the Atlanta office 
of the Anti-Defamation League in 1953. 

McLellan Smith, February 24, 1964. Mr. Smith covered the 
Frank case as a reporter for The Atlanta Georgian . 

Alden Todd, January 19, 1964. Mr. Todd has written a book 
on the confirmation of Louis D. Brandeis to the 
United states supreme Court. 



Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.