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Mary Phagan 

Far Hills, New Jersey 

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Copyright © 1987 by Mary Phagan/Kean 

Grateful acknowledgement is made by the author to the following: 

To the Atlanta Historical Society for excerpts from Atlanta and Its Environs, Volume 2, 1954, by 

Franklin Garrett. 

To the Atlanta Journal and Constitution for articles dealing with the Mary Phagan/Leo Frank case, 


To the Augusta Chronicle-Herald for the statement by Justice Randall Evans, Jr. which appeared in 

the May 15, 1983 edition. 

To Henry Bowden for use of material from his paper on Leo Frank, which appeared in 1945. 

To Tom Watson Brown for use of material from Notes on the Case of Leo Max Frank and Its Aftermath, 

1982; from personal letters; and from Watson's Magazine, August 1915 edition (Jeffersonian 

Publishing Company). 

To the Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana, successor to the Butler University 

School of Religion, publisher of The Shane Quarterly, for the excerpt from the letter of Dr. Luther 

Otterbein Bricker which appeared in the April 1943 edition (IV:2) of The Shane Quarterly. 

To the East Cobb Neighbor, Marietta, Georgia, for use of the article, "Jewish Leaders Seek 

Exoneration for Frank," which appeared in the April 6, 1982 edition. 

To the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles for the letter of Silas Moore dated January 17, 

1983; and for the Decisions dated December 22, 1983 and March 16, 1986. 

To George H. Keeler for statements of O. B. Keeler on the Leo M. Frank case, 1913-1915. 

To Stewart Lewengrub, Southeast Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, for his letter to 

James Phagan of March 21, 1974. 

To the Nashville Tennessean for articles dealing with the Mary Phagan/Leo Frank case, 1982-1986, 

especially the Special News Section on the Mary Phagan/Leo Frank case appearing in the March 7, 

1982 edition, and the article, "Little Mary Phagan Is Not Forgotten," which appeared in the 

September 5, 1983 edition. 

To Sandra Roberts of the Nashville Tennessean staff, for personal letters dated April 6, 1982, April 

14, 1982, and April 22, 1982. 

To the University of North Carolina Press for the use of excerpt from / Can Go Home Again by Arthur 

Gray Powell, published in 1943. 

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic 

or mechanical, including photocopy and recording, or by any informational or retrieval system, 

except as may be expressly permitted by the 1975 Copyright Act or in writing from the publisher. 

New Horizon Press, P.O. 669, Far Hills, New Jersey 07931. 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Phagan, Mary 
The murder of little Mary Phagan. 
1. Murder — Georgia — Atlanta — Case studies. 
2. Phagan, Mary, d. 1913. 3. Frank, Leo, 1884-1915. I. Title. 
HV6534.A7P46 1987 364. 1'523'0975823 1 87-31263 
ISBN 0-88282-099-7 


I gratefully acknowledge the following individuals for giving me the oral 
history of my family: Mary Richards Phagan; Annabelle Phagan Cochran, Lily 
Phagan Baswell; John Phagan Durham; and to J. C. Girthrie, childhood friend of 
my grandfather. 

The author gratefully acknowledges Lisa Sorrels, who helped me research, 
edit, and rewrite my manuscript and gave me emotional support. To Tom Watson 
Brown, great-grandson of Tom Watson and Bill Kinney, Senior Editor of The 
Marietta Daily Journal, I acknowledge their assistance in the preparation of the 
trial and lynching material. 

I also gratefully acknowledge these individuals for granting me interviews: 
Franklin Garrett, Historian, Atlanta Historical Society; George Keeler, son of O. B. 
Keeler, Mariettan who covered the trial for the Atlanta Georgian; Michael H. Wing, 
Member of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles; Stuart Lewengrub, Southeast 
Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League; Betty Cantor, Associate Director 
of Southeast office of the Anti-Defamation League; Charles Wittenstein; Southern 
Counsel of the Anti-Defamation League. 

And lastly to Bernard and my friends for their love and encouragement. 

To Daddy 


William Joshua Phagan, Jr. (1898-1973) 

Michael Robert Phagan (1959-1982) 


Introduction xi 

Chapter 1 

Chapter 2 

Chapter 3 

Chapter 4 

Chapter 5 




Chapter 6 

Chapter 7 

Chapter 8 

Chapter 9 

Chapter 10 


Chapter 11 



Chapter 12 




I placed a single red rose on the grave. My finger traced over the name Mary 
Phagan. The epitaph was one I knew by heart. 



















Looking up, I saw an old couple trudge up the grassy hill towards the grave. I 
stood up and turned to meet them. "Can I help you?" I inquired. 


The lady wore a light blue dress with a matching striped jacket and white 
sandals. Her brown eyes were framed by glasses and her hair was gray. I guess 
she was in her mid- to late eighties. Her husband also had brown eyes and gray 
hair, balding a little on top. Twin-like, they were almost color-coordinated: he 
wore a light gray wool suit and pale blue shirt. He must have been around ninety 
years old, and he walked with a cane. He towered over her. 

Somehow, from the way they carried themselves, I knew their questions would 
be different. Not the usual, "Do you know where the grave of little Mary Phagan 
is?" "Are you, by any chance, related to little Mary Phagan?" "How do you feel 
about the murder of little Mary Phagan?" 

They seemed to be lost in remembering, too. 

The lady looked at me with concern and intensity, and finally spoke: "It was 
on April 26, 1913, Confederate Memorial Day, that little Mary Phagan was 
murdered in downtown Atlanta. Not many people celebrate Confederate Memorial 
Day anymore. Not many native born here anymore." 

She turned her head slightly, and her eyes swept over Mary Phagan's 
gravestone. "We remember different times. Times long ago. Times that don't come 
back except for her story." 

She paused and added, "We were there. And little Mary Phagan's story 
remains with us. All the sadness and some of the hate — we felt it. Yes, times were 
different all right. A lot of murders happen today. But they don't symbolize 
something like hers did. We were one of her kind, hard-working and striving to 
have a decent life. We made it, but she didn't." 

For the first time, she looked closely at me. "You look a lot like her," she said, 
her voice faltering. 


I nodded sadly. "My name is Mary Phagan. Little Mary Phagan was my 

For a moment the couple stared at me in disbelief, and then they wrapped 
their arms around me to comfort me. "Yes," the old woman said, "I can see the 
resemblance now." Breaking the embrace, she patted my shoulder gently. For a 
while, we were silent and then, as daylight faded, they politely excused 

Chapter 1 



After they left, I stood there feeling again all the conflicting emotions which I 
could not resolve or forget. My mind spun back fifteen years. 

I was thirteen. We were living in Charleston, South Carolina, where my father, 
the First Sergeant of the 17th Air Transport Squadron, was stationed. Mr. Henry, 
my eighth-grade science teacher at R. B. Stall High School, registered 
astonishment when I told him my name was Mary Phagan. "You know," he said, 
"there was a little girl who was murdered in Atlanta years and years ago who had 
the same name as you. Are you, by any chance, related to her?" 

I told him I didn't know. 

That conversation disturbed me. I became curious. Was there really another 
Mary Phagan? 

During recess some of my classmates taunted me. "Are you that dead girl's 
reincarnation?" Another called out, "Are you the little girl who had been 
murdered?" and ran away. 

I cried all the way home from school. My father happened to be home. "What's 
wrong?" he asked when he saw my tear-stained face. 



The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

"I want to know who the little girl named Mary Phagan that was murdered 
was," I said, trembling. "Am I related to her?" 

He put his arm around my shoulders, walked me into the kitchen, and sat me 
down at the table in the sunny alcove. 

He poured two glasses of milk, brought them to the table, and sat opposite 
me. The afternoon sun played up the reddish tints in his light brown hair, worn in 
a severe military crewcut, and glinted off his military-issue glasses. 

"Yes, you are related to little Mary Phagan," he said solemnly. "She was your 
grandfather's sister. She would have been my aunt. You are her greatniece and 
are named for her." 

Gently, he told me the outline of the story of Mary Phagan. That she had 
caught the English Avenue Street Car the morning of Saturday, April 26, 1913, 
Confederate Memorial Day, to go to the National Pencil Company where she had 
worked in downtown Atlanta to pick up her wages of $1.20. She had made plans 
to stay and watch the parade. Governor Joseph M. Brown and other dignitaries 
were to share the reviewing stand. It was a legal holiday that the South still 
celebrated then. The War Between the States had been over for only forty-eight 
years. There were still some surviving Confederate veterans. 

"That day would change the lives of everyone it touched. 

"Tom Watson would reflect the mood of us Georgians in his magazine and 
newspaper. He would be elected to the United States Senate, and his statue 

placed in front of the Georgia State Capital Building. Solicitor Hugh M. Dorsey 
would ride right into the Governorship of Georgia. 

As my father leaned back, the sunlight turned his hazel eyes to green. "Your 
grandmother Fannie Phagan 


"Are You, By Any Chance ... ?" 

Coleman remembered that day the rest of her life," he said. "Little Mary was 
dressed in a lavender dress that her Aunt Lizzie had made for her. She carried a 
parasol and a German silver mesh bag. She had ribbons in her hair that tied her 
long reddish hair up. She was a beautiful young child — " my father paused, " — like 

"Little Mary entered the pencil factory about noon that day," he continued. 
"What happened then, no one will ever really know. Newt Lee, the night 
watchman, found her body in the basement next to the coal bin that Sunday 
morning at about 3:00 a.m. She had been brutally raped and murdered. Newt Lee 
was a Negro, and, remember, in 1906 Atlanta had one of the country's worst race 
riots. So right then he feared for his life. He would have been afraid to lie even if 
he had wanted to. He ran up to the telephone and called the police. Two notes 
were found by her body but Mary did not write these notes, according to 
Grandmother Fannie. 

"Grandmother Fannie had been expecting Mary back home that evening after 
the parade. Sundown came and still no little Mary. My stepgrandfather went 
downtown to try to locate anyone that could give him information on little Mary's 
whereabouts. No luck. It would be the next day, the twenty-seventh of April, 
before they were told that little Mary had been found dead. The family was 
terrified. Shocked. She was so young. And she'd been violated. 

"Little Mary's body was taken to Bloomfield's, a local undertaker, which was 
also used as Atlanta's morgue. The funeral was held that Tuesday, April 29, 1913. 
Her casket was surrounded by flowers — the flowers were expressions of the whole 
state's sympathy to the family. She was laid to rest that day in Marietta City 

"Leo Frank, the supervisor of the factory, was charged with the murder. His 
trial started on the twenty-eighth day of July that year. The case became famous 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

because it was reportedly the first time in the history of Georgia and the South 
that a black man's testimony helped to convict a white man." 

Looking closely at me, my father realized that I did not understand all he was 
telling me. And so he simplified the story as much as he could. 

As soon as we got up from the table I went upstairs to my room and 
examined what I saw in my mirror: Pretty? Was I? 

Satisfied with my father's explanation, I relaxed a bit. It was just a 
coincidence that Mr. Henry, my science teacher, had known the story of little 
Mary Phagan, I told myself. I was positive that I would never be asked that 
question again. 

That was in 1968. My father decided to retire from the United States Air 
Force after serving some twenty-two years in that same year. Then he went to 
work for the United States Post Office as a letter carrier in Charleston. 

During my summer vacation that year I went to Chicago to visit relatives with 
my grandmother, Frances Petullo Mastandrea, who had lived with us for five 
years. A few weeks after our arrival in Chicago, my parents called to say the 

family was moving to Atlanta. "Our family is in Atlanta," my father said, "and my 
parents are getting older. I want us to know them as we do Grandma Frances." 

He was right. We never really knew any of our family. And I was ready to 
settle down and live somewhere for more than a couple of years. I was excited as 
we arrived at our new home in DeKalb County, on the outskirts of metropolitan 
Atlanta and close enough to my grandparents in Atlanta. 

It was a nice suburb in which to raise a family, and the high school, 
Shamrock, was the best the area had to offer. 

When school began, I soon learned that making 


"Are You, By Any Chance ... ?" 

friends might be difficult: most of the cliques had gone to school together since 
kindergarten. That was hard for me to imagine. I had never had a friend more 
than a few years; to have a lifetime friend seemed impossible. 

The first day, the teachers called out our names, glancing at each student in 
order to associate names and faces. To my amazement, most of my teachers asked 
me that question: "Are you, by any chance, related to little Mary Phagan who was 
murdered here in Atlanta? Are you her namesake?" 

I was horrified. What was the truth about my great-aunt? Who knew the 
whole story? 

I decided to ask my grandfather, William Joshua Phagan, Jr. about his little 
sister. Of all people in our family, he'd be the one to know about the pretty girl for 
whom I'd been named. 

But my grandfather was beginning to show his age then. His light blue eyes 
reflected the continual tiredness he felt. His balding head glittered in the sunlight. 
He'd had a stroke earlier and his communication skills were hampered, so I 
decided to wait until the right moment to ask him my questions. 

One day, to everyone's surprise, my grandfather came out with little Mary's 
picture and pointed to me. As he looked at the picture and then me, he sobbed, 
and as he tried to find the words, nothing came out but low sobs and wailings. I 
knew then I could never ask him any questions about little Mary. 

I decided to ask my father if he could tell why he named me after little Mary. 

And he was ready for the question. "I had determined, almost from the day 
your mother and I were married, that we would name our first girl child after your 
greataunt, little Mary Phagan. This was my tribute to my father. Little did I realize 
the impact this would have on you. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

And, yes, I wonder if I knew then what I know today if I would have named you 
after little Mary. 

"Your greataunt had been born on June 1 and you on June 5. As soon as you 
were big enough, I would take you with me on Saturday morning when my friends 
and I went out for coffee. You were my constant companion when I was not out 
flying, and I took a great deal of pleasure in teaching you the things that all young 
children have to learn. A wife, a child, flying, what more could a man want? 

"Some of my friends would from time to time make comments about your size. 
You have always been petite, and it seemed you were taking after your greataunt, 
little Mary: she never was to be over four feet eleven inches. In sheer desperation, 
I would ask, 'Well, what do you expect out of Shetland Ponies, stallions?' This 
method worked with the adults. 

"When you were about four years old, you bore a striking resemblance to your 
greataunt, little Mary. But at that early age, it made no difference or impression 
on you." 

When I was four and a half, in January, 1959, my father had asked for 
reassignment and was assigned to the 1608 Military Air Transport Wing in 
Charleston, South Carolina. When we arrived in Charleston, he was assigned to 
the 17th Air Transport Squadron. He continued: 

"The interest your name caused when we signed you up for kindergarten was 
unreal. People would come up to us and sing 'The Ballad of Mary Phagan.' They 
would tell me stories that I had never heard before. Then the questions would 
come: what relationship we were and had our daughter been named for little 
Mary? They would exclaim about what a pretty little girl you were and that you 
looked just like little Mary." 

In January 1960 my father was presented with an Individual Flying Safety 
Award and was assigned to the 


"Are You, By Any Chance ... ?" 

1503rd Air Transport Wing in Tachikawa Air Base, Japan. By then I had a sister 
and two brothers. 

"Tachikawa was our home for the next three years," he told me. 'These years 
we were flying mostly into Korea and the Phillippines. During this time, few 
questions were asked about little Mary. 

"I extended my tour for another year in order to go to Hawaii. During those 
years out of the country, little Mary had gently slipped to the rear of my mind. In 
December 1964 I was promoted to Master Sergeant. Now it was time to return to 
the continental United States, which we did in July 1965. 

"Your life took a turn then that I had not foreseen. The day you came home 
from school crying and asking me about little Mary was a day I would never 
forget. I had mixed emotions. I wanted you to know your legacy, but on the other 
hand, I became frightened for you. I had hoped that you would never encounter 
discourteous people and I feared that your legacy would submit you to t is. 

Daddy continued, "You carry a proud name, one that is instantly recognized 
not only here in Georgia but all across this great country of ours. Hold your head 
high, stand proud, face the world, let them know that you are Mary Phagan, the 
greatniece of little Mary Phagan." 

It was then I learned that a vow of silence had been kept by our family for 
close to seventy years. It had been imposed on us by Fannie Phagan Coleman, 
Mary Phagan's mother, at the time of little Mary's death. 

The murder, the trial of Leo Frank, and his lynching has deeply affected the 
lives of all involved. All the principals in the trial are dead now — and the obituary 
of each of them mentioned their connection to the murder of little Mary Phagan. 

My family had hoped that the lynching of Leo Frank would be the final ending 
of the horrible tragedy; that 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

they could finally continue their lives; that the pain would ease. It hasn't. 

The legacy left to me is a difficult one but I have had to accept it. Until 
recently, I discussed little Mary Phagan only if I was asked: "Are you by any 
chance related to little Mary Phagan?" But, to my surprise, I have been asked that 
question all my life — both inside and outside of Georgia. 

Chapter 2 


And, as my father said, my legacy is a proud one. And if, as he'd exhorted me, 
I was going to let the world know that I was Mary Phagan, greatniece of little Mary 
Phagan, I wanted to find out everything I could about my namesake — and our 

By age fifteen, I was certain of one thing: my life would be shaped by my 
relationship to little Mary Phagan. And I was excited about discovering my legacy. 
I got the desire to read everything I could on the case. 

My mother and I went to Atlanta's Archives to discover more. My mother, like 
me, was unaware of the family history, especially concerning little Mary, and she, 
too, wanted to learn more. When we signed in at the Archives, the librarian looked 
stunned. Again, I was asked that question: "Are you, by any chance, related to 
little Mary Phagan?" 

I told her I was and she directed us to a smaller room which contained 
photographs of the history of Georgia. One of these photographs was the 
frightening picture of Leo Frank hanging. For me, this was the final catalyst. 

Once I had seen that picture, I attempted to read everything — books, 
newspaper articles, even the Brief of Evidence. The information was difficult and, 
being only a teenager, I found it hard to understand and digest. It raised more 
questions for me. Again I turned to my father for answers. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

This time my questions were more direct. I wanted to know everything about 
the family, the trial of Leo Frank, and the lynching. 

And this time his answers were deeper and more complete. 

"My great-great-grandparents, William Jackson Phagan and Angelina 
O'Shields Phagan, made their home in Acworth, Georgia. Their land off Mars Mill 
Road was also home to their children: William Joshua, Haney McMellon, Charles 
Joseph, Reuben Egbert, John Marshall, George Nelson, Lizzie Mary Etta, John 
Harvell, Mattie Louise, Billie Arthur, and Dora Ruth. Two other children had died 
during childbirth. 

"These children grew up to be very close to one another. Their father, W.J., 
believed that that was what the family unit was meant to be: by depending on 
each other and furthering their education, he was sure, the Phagans would get far 
ahead in the world. 

"The eldest son, William Joshua, loved the land and farmed with his father. 
On December 27, 1891, he married Fannie Benton. The Reverend J.D. Fuller 
presided over the Holy Bans of Matrimony for them in Cobb County, Georgia. W.J. 
gave them a portion of the land and a home of their own, and Fannie and William 
Joshua farmed the land together. They, too, became successful farmers. 

"Around 1895, W.J. moved the family to Florence, Alabama. William Joshua 
and Fannie, now with two young children, Benjamin Franklin and 01 lie Mae, 
moved with them. 

"The family's new home, purchased from General Coffee, had been a hospital 
during the War Between the States. The house needed extensive renovation, but 
posed no financial burden on the family. W.J., Angelina, and their children lived 
in the main house; the young couple's new home was not far away. 

"The years in Alabama were good for them, especially 


The Legacy 

for William Joshua and Fannie. They had two more children, Charles Bryan and 
William Joshua, Jr. They continued to farm the land. 

"In February of 1899, William Joshua Phagan died of measles. Fannie, who 
was then six months pregnant, was left with their four young children. She was 
devastated but kept her courage up: she knew the child she was carrying could be 
in danger. On June 1, Mary Anne Phagan was born to Fannie in Florence, 

"Fannie remained in Alabama long enough for her and her baby daughter to 
gain their strength. Then she moved her family back home to Georgia, where she 
planned to live with her widowed mother, Mrs. Nannie Benton, and her brother, 
Rell Benton." 

"Why did she move away from her husband's family, when they'd been so good 
to her?" I asked. 

"Oh," my father smiled, "I don't believe she was so much moving away from 
her husband's kin as she was moving back to her own kin. Anyway, hang on," he 
grinned at me. "Thing is, it turned out that the families weren't separated in the 
end, after all." 

He shifted in his chair. "Well, anyway, Fannie probably also figured there'd be 
more opportunities in a densely populated — well, relatively densely populated — 
area. Notice I didn't say city. 'Cause Marietta was far from that, then. What it was 
was a country town with a population of about three thousand five hundred. And 
Southern society was changing rapidly: the younger generation did not know the 
high feelings of the War Between the States and Reconstruction. The War and its 
aftermath no longer dominated society and politics. 

"The square in Marietta was the center of every aspect of life. It was an arena 
of sorts for social, political, and agricultural activities and the center of 
transportation and communication for both residents and visitors. 

"Then — see what I meant? — W.J. Phagan moved his 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

family back to Georgia as well. The death of his eldest son so bereaved him that 
the family could no longer remain in Alabama. He purchased a log home and land 
on Powder Springs Road in Marietta. W.J. also provided Fannie with a home for 
her and her five children to live in. He saw to it that they had no hardships. 

"About 1907 the last of the Phagan family left Alabama and returned to 
Georgia. Reuben Egbert and his family moved back to their native state and 
remained there for the rest of their lives. W.J. kept an eye on all his children and 
his grandchildren, and by 1910 had all of them nearby him, as well as financially 
secure, in Marietta. 

"Fannie Phagan and her children appreciated what W.J. was doing for them, 
but they also felt the desire to support their family themselves. So sometime after 
1910 Fannie Phagan and four of her five children moved to East Point — Atlanta — 

Georgia, where she started a boarding house, and the children found jobs in the 
mill. Charlie Joseph, the middle child, decided he wanted to continue farming 
and moved in with his Uncle Reuben on Powder Springs Road in Marietta. 
Around that time Mary found work at the National Pencil Company in Atlanta. 

"The Phagan family remained close with relatives in Marietta. Every so often 
one of Mary's aunts — Lizzie, Ruth, or Mattie — would ride the trolley from Marietta 
Square to East Point to pick up Mary and bring her to W.J.'s house. The family 
always loved having Mary there, especially her female cousins, Willie and Lily. 
When the 'cousins got together — usually in the summer, when school was out — 
they played games — hide and seek, hopscotch, dolls and house. But Mary's 
favorite game was house. The girls would clear a clean spot in the shade, place 
rocks in it for chairs, and then decorate the 'inside' of the 'house' using limbs 
from trees or other big branches already on the ground. Their 'house' would show 
the distinct rooms — 


The Legacy 

kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, etc. But usually in the bed-room they would have a 
babydoll. Dolls were different back then. Most of them had stuffed bodies but 
their heads were called 'China.' When they would push the babydoll in its 
carriage, one foot would fly up! The girls could always be heard giggling and 
laughing together. They cherished those times together. And especially since visits 
were getting fewer. 

"Usually, Aunt Lizzie would make the girls their clothes. How excited they got! 
They loved new things, just like everyone else. Sometimes Aunt Lizzie would take 
them to Marietta Square for a shopping trip. They'd get on the trolley where it 
began — Atlanta Street. Remember, the Square was the center of activity and the 
girls de-lighted in seeing things 'downtown.' Sometimes they would just ride the 
trolley car. 

"Even though Mary stayed busy at W.J.'s, she always found time to drop 
Grandmother Fannie a note." 

Here my father stopped and took a postcard Mary had written to her mother: 
it was postmarked Marietta, Georgia, June 16, 1911, 6:00 p.m.: 

Hello Mama, 

How are you? 

I got here all O.K. 

I would have wrote sooner 

but I hadn't thought about it. 

Willie is up here. 

Aunt Lizzie has got my gingham 

dress made. I am 

going to have my picture made soon. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

We were both deeply touched by the way Mary had signed the card. 

"On February 25, 1912, Fannie married J.W. Coleman, a cabinet maker. He 
was a good man and accepted her children as his own. And they all liked him and 
accepted him as their stepfather. 

"They moved to J.W.'s house at 146 Lindsey Street in Atlanta near Bellwood, 
a white working-class neighbor-hood. 

"Well, Coleman didn't have much money, but he wasn't considered poor by 
any means. After marrying Fannie, he requested that her youngest child, Mary, 
quit work at the Pencil Company and continue her education. But Mary liked her 
work at the factory and didn't really want to quit. 

"Eventually, Fannie's eldest, Benjamin Franklin, who worked as a delivery 
boy for a general merchandise store, joined the Navy. 01 lie Mae became a 
saleslady for Rich's Department Store. William Joshua, Jr., continued to work in 
the mills. They didn't seem to mind working at all, because they were earning 

"Why did anyone mind?" I asked. 

"Oh, mill life was anything but easy then." He looked out the window. "The 
conditions were awful; mills were filthy and lint was everywhere. Child labor laws 
weren't enacted 'til years later. Small children were hired as sweepers and were 
whistled at to keep moving. My mother, Mary Richards Phagan, was eleven years 
old when she became a spinner at the mills. She was so small, she was one of the 
first to be run away from the 'officials' — the labor representatives — when they 
came by. It was hotter than the hinges of Hades, and cotton was always flying 
through the air. In fact, the flying lint eventually became a term for those who 
worked in the mills: lint-heads." 

"Okay, Daddy," I interrupted. "But life in Atlanta 


The Legacy 

must have been more exciting than life in Marietta — or Alabama." 

"Cobb County itself had a county population of twenty-five thousand. There 
were no paved roads in Marietta and Cobb County, including the square in 
Marietta. People used wagons and carriages; virtually no one owned an 
automobile then. If they chose to travel the twenty-five miles to Atlanta, they used 
the N.C. & St. L. Railroad or the electric streetcar line. 

"Telephone service had come in some twenty-five years earlier — about 1890, or 
so. Water and electricity had only been available for five years. 

"Cobb was considered an agricultural county and had practically no 
industries. In late autumn, the square in Marietta was filled with cotton bales. 
Throughout the summer it was filled with vegetables. 

"Justice, law, and order were other areas that were vastly different then. After 
the War Between the States, the antagonism between those upholding the federal 
judicial system and those who wanted more local control of the courts led to night 
riders and lynchings. Men settled their differences immediately. It became a way 
of life. 

"Atlanta in 1913 still hadn't reached a half million in population — but it 
wanted to. It was a mule center and railroad town. But it had grown significantly 
since 1865. 

"Oh, there was light industry, including the National Pencil Company at 37-39 
Forsyth Street. Mills were the most numerous, and a few breweries. 

"Life in 1913 was casual and slow. Folks got most of their news from local 
newspapers, which printed 'extra' editions for late-breaking stories. 

"Sanitary conditions were terrible. The facilities were few and far between and 
were located outside. Sanitation workers were called 'honey dippers.' Typhoid 
fever was all over the place. 

"Boys wore knee pants until they completed gram- 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

mar school. Women wore high laced high-heeled shoes and bloomers made of the 
same material as their dresses. 

"There were no frozen foods. People had streak of lean and perhaps some beef 
for stew. Hogs were plentiful. Biscuits and milk gravy were staples. They had 
apples and oranges occasionally, but raisins had seeds in them. 

"Photography was all over — not just in the newspaper. Tintype, most usually. 

"For recreation, most entertained themselves. There was a form of baseball, 
'peg,' that they played in quiet streets or in vacant lots. Movie theaters ran silent 
films on weekends, especially around the mill neighborhoods. The Grand Theater, 
the Bijou, and the Lakewood Amusement Park helped people forget their daily 

"The South hadn't really recovered from the ravages of the War Between the 
States and Georgia was no exception. The economy was shifting from the land to 
industry. Families were resettling from small towns and farms into the urban 
areas. Wives and children were often forced to work in factories to help the family 

"Mary Phagan was a beautiful little girl with a fair complexion, blue eyes, and 
dimples. Her hair was long and reddish brown and fell softly about her shoulders. 
Since she was well developed, she could have passed for eighteen. Her family all 
called her Mary rather than her full name of Mary Anne. 

"Mary was Grandmother Fannie's youngest child. Your grandfather says that 
she had a bubbly personality and was the life of their home. Mary was jovial, 
happy, and thoughtful toward others. When she was with her family, she'd show 
her affection for them by sitting in their laps and hugging them. 

"The last Phagan family gathering was a 'welcome home' for Uncle Charlie. 
There the family had begun to notice how beautiful Mary was. Lily, her cousin, 
who is still living, tells me that she envied Mary a particular 

1 7 

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dress she had on. It was called a 'Mary Jane dress' — long, with a gathered skirt 
and fitted waist. Lily and her sister Willie were 'skinny,' and Mary's dress looked 
better because she was 'heavier' than them. They both wanted their dresses to 
look like Mary's did on them. 

"Early in April, Mary was rehearsing for a play she was in at the First 
Christian Church. The play was 'Sleeping Beauty,' and of course Mary played the 
role of Sleeping Beauty. Your grandfather tells me that he would take Mary to the 
church and watch her rehearse. The scene where Sleeping Beauty is awakened by 
a kiss always made him and Mary giggle. She would watch her brother with her 
eyes half-closed, and then begin to giggle when he cracked a smile. It seemed 
that that scene took an eternity to rehearse." 

I could picture Mary on the stage playing the little Sleeping Beauty. "April 
twenty-sixth was Confederate Memorial Day, a Saturday, and a holiday complete 
with a parade and picnic. Mary planned to go up to the National Pencil Company 
to pick up her pay and then watch the parade. She told Grandmother Fannie 
she'd be home later that afternoon. One of the last things she did was to iron a 
white dress for Bible School on Sunday. She was a member of the Adrial Class of 
the First Christian Bible School, and she wanted to look her best so she might 
win the contest given by the school. 

"She was excited about the holiday, though, and wore her special lavender 
dress, lace-trimmed, which her Aunt Lizzie had made for her, they tell me. Her 
undergarments included a corset with hose supporters, corset cover, knit 
underwear, an undershirt, drawers, a pair of silk garters, and a pair of hose. She 

wore a pair of low-heeled shoes and carried a silver mesh bag made of German 
silver, a handkerchief, and a new parasol. 

"At 11:30 a.m. she ate some cabbage and bread for lunch. She left home at a 
quarter to twelve to go to the 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

pencil factory. She was to pick up her pay of $1.20, a day's work." My father 
sighed and looked out the window. 

"When Mary had not returned home at dusk, your great-grandmother began 
to worry. It was late, and she had no idea where Mary could be. Her husband 
went downtown to search for Mary. He thought perhaps she had used her pay to 
see the show at the Bijou Theater and waited there for the show to empty, but 
found no sign of her. 

"He returned home and suggested to Fannie that Mary must have gone to 
Marietta to visit her grandfather, W.J. Since they had no telephone, they couldn't 
communicate with the family to verify that Mary was with them. Fannie sort of 
accepted this explanation, since she knew how Mary loved her grandfather. It did 
seem plausible that she could be with the family in Marietta. But Fannie, being a 
mother, spent a restless night." 

My father paused, stared into the middle distance. I could see my grandfather 
pointing to Mary's photograph, then to me, then sobbing almost uncontrollably. 
My father continued. 

"The next day, April 27, 1913, Grandmother Fannie's worst fears were 
confirmed. Helen Ferguson, their friend and neighbor, came to the house to tell 
them she had received a phone call about Mary. Their Mary had been found 
murdered in the basement of the National Pencil Company. 

"The company, a four-story granite building plus basement, was located at 
37-39 Forsyth Street. It employed some one hundred people, mostly women, who 
distributed and manufactured pencils. Its windows were grimy. It was dirty. It 
had little ventilation. Most of the workers were paid twelve cents an hour. It was 
in fact a sweat shop of the northern, urban variety. 

"Mary worked in its second floor metal room fixing metal caps on pencils by 
machine. Her last day of work 


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had been the previous Monday. She was told not to report back until a shipment 
of metal had arrived. 

"Her body was discovered at three o'clock in the morning on April twenty- 
seventh, in the basement of the pencil company by the night watchman, Newt 
Lee. Her left eye had apparently been struck with a fist; she had an inch-and-a- 
half gash in the back of the head, and was strangled by a cord which was 
embedded in her neck." 

He shook his head sadly. "Her undergarments were torn and bloody and a 
piece of undergarment was around her hair, face, and neck. It appeared that her 
body had been dragged across the basement floor; there were fragments of soot, 
ashes, and pencil shavings on the body and drag marks leading from the elevator 

"There didn't seem to be any skin fragments or blood under her fingernails, 
which indicated she hadn't inflicted any harm on whoever did it. 

"Two scribbled notes were found near her body. They were on company 
carbon paper." 

Here, my father got up and walked across the room to the secretary against 
the far wall, opened the desk flap, reached in and retrieved a sheet of paper, and 
returned to his chair near the window. He handed me the sheet. It was a 
photostatic copy of two nearly-illiterate notes: 

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

he said he wood love me and land doun play like night witch did it but that 
long tall black negro did buy his slef. 

My father sat silently while I read the notes. When he continued, his voice 
was almost hoarse. "When they went up to tell William Jackson Phagan — now, 
that's your 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

grandfather's grandfather, he said — my daddy remembered it word for word: 'The 
living God will see to it that the brute is found and punished according to his sin. 
I hope the murderer will be dealt with as he dealt with that tender and innocent 
child. I hope that he suffers anguish and remorse in the same measure that she 
suffered pain and shame. No punishment is too great for him. Hanging cannot 
atone for the crime he has committed and the suffering he as caused both too 
victim and relatives.' " 

My father swallowed hard a couple of times. After a while he continued. 

"Mary was buried that following Tuesday," he said. He suddenly began to 
quote the newspaper account of little Mary's funeral service. He'd committed it to 
memory. " 'A thousand persons saw a minister of God raise his hands to heaven 
today and heard him call for divine justice. Before his closed eyes was a little 
casket, its pure whiteness hidden by the banks and banks of beautiful flowers. 
Within the casket lay the bruised and mutilated body of Mary Phagan, the 
innocent young victim of one of Atlanta's blackest and most bestial crimes.' 

" 'L. M. Spruell, B. Awtrey, Ralph Butler, and W. T. Potts were the pallbearers. 
They carried the little white casket on their shoulders into the Second Baptist 
Church, a tiny country church. Every seat had been taken within five minutes, 
every inch of the church was occupied and hundreds were standing outside the 
church to hear the sermon.' 

"The choir sang 'Rock of Ages,' but what everyone heard was Grandmother 
Fannie, wailing as if her heart would break. 

"And," my father added, "it probably did." 

'"The light of my life has been taken,' she cried, 'and her soul was as pure and 
as white as her body.' 

"The whole church wept before the completion of the hymn. The Reverend 
T.T.G. Linkous, Pastor of Christian 

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Church at East Point, prayed with those at the Second Baptist Church." 
My father continued the words that must be etched in his heart: 
" 'Let us pray. The occasion is so sad to me — when she was but a baby. I 

taught her to fear God and love Him — that I don't know what to do.' 

'"With tears gushing from his eyes, he found the strength to continue. "We 

pray for the police and the detectives of the City of Atlanta. We pray that they 

may perform their duty and bring the wretch that committed this act to justice. 

We pray that we may not hold too much rancor in our hearts — we do not want 

vengeance — yet we pray that the authorities apprehend the guilty party or parties 
and punish them to the full extent of the law. Even this is too good for the imp of 
Satan that did this. Oh, God, I cannot see how even the devil himself could do 
such a thing." 

" 'Fannie Phagan Coleman controlled her crying when he spoke of the 
criminal and W.J. Phagan, Mary's grandfather, exclaimed: "Amen." 

" ' "I believe in the law of forgiveness. Yet I do not see how it can be applied in 
this case. I pray that this wretch, this devil, be caught and punished according to 
the man-made, God-sanctioned laws of Georgia. And I pray, oh, God, that the 
innocent ones may be freed and cleared of all suspicion." 

'"With hearing this, Mary's Aunt Lizzie let out a piercing scream and 
collapsed and she was taken home," my father interjected. 

'" "Mothers,"' Dr. Linkous declared, "I would speak a word to you. Let this 
warn you. You cannot watch your children too closely. Even though their hearts 
be as clean and pure as Mary Phagan's, let them not be forced into dishonor and 
into the grave by some heartless wretch, like the guilty man in this case. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

"' "Little Mary's purity and the hope of the world above the sky is the only 
consolation that I can offer you," he said, speaking directly to the bereaved 
family. "Had she been snatched from our midst in a natural way, by disease, we 
could bear up more easily. Now, we can only thank God that though she was 
dishonored, she fought back the fiend with all the strength of her fine young 
body, even unto death. 

" ' "All that I can say is God bless you. You have my heartfelt sympathy. That 
is all that I can do, for. my heart, too, is full to overflowing." 

'"Mary's grandfather, W.J. Phagan, sat motionless as ' the tears streamed 
down his face while the brothers of Mary — Benjamin, Charlie, and William 
Joshua — comforted their sister, 01 lie.' " 

My father continued in his own words. "After the sermon, they opened the 
little white casket and the crowd viewed the body of the little girl with a mutilated 
and bruised face. The tears watered the flowers that surrounded her. 

"They carried the casket out to the cemetery. J.W. practically carried 
Grandmother Fannie out; Dr. Linkous helped. Mary's sister, 01 lie, and her 
brother Ben, now a sailor on the United States ship Franklin, were behind them, 
while the smaller brothers, Charlie and Joshua, brought up the rear." 

The account of the funeral service went on: 

'" "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bath given, the Lord 
bath taken, blessed be the name of the Lord,' but no words expressed by Dr. 
Linkous could heal the wounds in their hearts, and as the first shovel of earth 
was thrown down into the grave, Fannie Phagan Coleman broke down completely 
and wailed: "She was taken away when the spring was coming — the spring that 
was so like her. Oh, and she wanted to see the spring. She loved it — it loved her. 
She played with it — it was a 

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sister to her almost." She took the preacher's handkerchief and walked to the 
edge of the grave and waved the hand-kerchief. "Goodbye, Mary, goodbye. It's too 
big a hole to put you in, though. It's so big — big, and you were so little — my own 
little Mary." ' " 

My father stopped. The papers slid to the floor. His eyes were filling up. 

I stopped, too. Bursting as I was with questions about the trial of Leo Frank 
and its aftermath, I could not bring myself to cause my father further pain that 
day. I felt guilty for the upset the memories he'd dredged up on my behalf had 
already caused him. 

As if reading my thoughts, he turned to me: "It's all right, Mary. You should 
know the whole story. But — " he'd blinked back the tears, but his smile was 
tremulous — "not today." 

A few days later, we sat down again. This time I started right off with the 


"Daddy, how did Grandmother Fannie stand up while the trial was going on?" 
He told me that she was to be the first witness called to the witness stand. 

She tried to compose herself; her tears were flowing freely down her cheeks and 

she was sobbing as she gave her statement: 

'"I am Mary Phagan's mother. I last saw her alive on the 26th of April, 1913, 
about a quarter to twelve, at home, at 146 Lindsey Street. She was getting 
ready to go to the pencil factory to get her pay envelope. About 11:30, she had 
lunch, then she left home at a quarter to twelve. She would have been 
fourteen years old on the first day of June, she was fair complected, heavy set, 
very pretty, and was extra large for her age. She had on a lavender dress 
trimmed in lace and a blue hat. She had dimples in her cheeks.' 

The Murder of Little May Phagan 

"When Sergeant Dobbs described the condition of Mary's body when they 
found her in the basement, when he stated that she had been dragged across the 
floor, face down, that was full of coal cinders, and this was what had caused the 
punctures and holes in her face, Grandmother Fannie had to leave the 
courtroom," my father said. 

Now it was I who had to compose myself. I was now starting to feel the pain 
and agony that all the family had felt for years. 

"When the funeral director, W.H. Gheesling, gave his testimony, he stated 
that he moved little Mary's body at four o'clock in the morning on April 27, 1913. 
He stated that the cord she had been strangled with was still around her neck. 
There was an impression of about an eighth of an inch on the neck, her tongue 
stuck an inch and a quarter out of her mouth." 

"Daddy, was Mary bitten on her breast?" 

"Yes, but there was no way to prove it because certain documents have 
mysteriously disappeared." 

"Who besides Grandmother Fannie attended the trial?" 

"Other than Grandmother Fannie, all the immediate family, including your 
grandfather and Mary's stepfather, were present every day. Mary's mother and 
sister were the only women, along with Leo Frank's wife and mother, who were 
permitted in the courtroom each day." 

"Daddy, why didn't you tell me about Leo Frank's religious faith?" 

"His religious faith had nothing to do with his trial." "What does anti-Semitic 


"It means hatred of the Jews." 

I was surprised that people could hate each other because of their faith. "How 
do you become prejudiced?" I asked. 

"You have to be taught to be prejudiced, to walk, talk, just about everything 
in life that is worth anything. Preju- 

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dice, I found out, isn't worth a nickel, but can cost you a lifetime of grief and 

"Daddy, what about the courtroom atmosphere?" 

"According to your great-grandmother, Judge Leonard Roan maintained strict 
discipline in his court at all times and would not tolerate any disturbance. Judge 
Roan had the authority to make a change of venue if he in any way felt 
threatened: he made no change of venue. Neither Leo Frank or his lawyers asked 
for a change of venue. 

"The newspapers gave a daily detailed report on the court proceedings, and 
there were many 'extras' printed each day. Not one newspaper ever reported any 
of the spectators shouting 'Hang the Jew' nor did I ever hear that any member of 
our family made that or any similar statement. Judge Roan was considered by all 
to be more than fair. The Atlanta Bar held him in high esteem for his ability in 
criminal law. Otherwise he would have never been on the bench." 

"Was Leo Frank defended well?" 

"Leo Frank's lawyers were the best that money could buy. He had two of the 
best criminal lawyers in the South, Luther Rosser and Reuben Arnold. I have been 
told that Rosser's fee ran well over fifteen thousand dollars. In those years that 
was a small fortune. These lawyers were the most professional and brilliant 
lawyers the South had to offer. But the defense these brilliant lawyers were to 
offer was not good enough to offset Hugh Dorsey's tactics. If there was any 
brilliance at that trial, it was Hugh Dorsey's. The people of Georgia were so 
impressed by him that he was later rewarded with the biggest prize in state 
politics: he was elected governor of Georgia." 

"What was meant by Leo Frank being a Northerner and a capitalist? Did these 
facts have any bearing on the trial?" 

My father reminded me about the War Between the States, what had caused 
it, and that it had been over for 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

only forty-eight years by 1913. He explained how the carpetbaggers had come 
South to run the country and the awfulness of life under their rule. From that 
time on, he said, anyone from the North was called a Northerner. 

"Leo Frank was born in Texas, but shortly thereafter his family moved to 
Brooklyn, New York. He was a graduate of Cornell University and he was given the 
job of superintendent of the National Pencil Company. As for being a capitalist, he 
did come from a family that was wealthy by the standards of those days. But, as 
my father pointed out, the hope of any aspiring productive person is to become a 
capitalist in his own right. In 1913, however, it meant a lifestyle that few people 
could maintain. And that bred resentment." 

Then I asked, "What is a pervert?" 

My father made me get the dictionary and look up the meaning with him. I 
was not satisfied with the meaning. My father then explained that sexual 
perversion is something our society does not accept as normal. 

Today, this charge will outrage any segment of society. In 1913, anyone who 
dared to make that charge had better have been prepared to die for it. 

"Daddy, why did Governor Slaton commute Leo Frank's sentence?" 

"This is one question that our family still asks today. We do not accept 
Governor Slaton's explanation in his order. There had to be something else. No 
man will willingly commit political suicide; but he did just that with the 
commutation order. I've done some research on my own, but I know no more 
today than my grandmother did back in 1915. I've found certain things about 
Governor Slaton that are hard to accept but are facts. 

"The Atlanta newspapers of 1913 show the law firm of Rosser & Brandon, 708 
Empire, and the law firm of Slaton & Phillips, 723 Grant Building, as merging. 
Then the 1914 Atlanta Directory shows the law firm of Rosser, 

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Brandon, Slaton & Phillips, 719 — 723 Grant Building. They were also listed in the 
Atlanta Directory in 1915 and 1916. Slaton was a member of the law firm that 
defended Leo Frank. 

"Governor Slaton was a man that Georgia loved and admired until June 21st, 
1915. Then love turned to hate. The people believed that Governor Slaton had 
been bought. His action caused the people of Georgia to take the law into their 
own hands, to form a vigilante group and seek justice that they believed had been 
denied them. 

"Governor Slaton had Leo Frank moved from Atlanta for his own protection. 
He was moved to the Milledgeville Prison Farm, just south of Macon. The vigilante 
group travelled by car, Model T Fords, and removed Frank from prison. All of 
them were respected citizens. They called themselves the 'Knights of Mary Phagan' 
and this group later became the impetus for the modern Klu Klux Klan. 

"Remember, there were no paved roads in those days. This trip was made at 
night. Not one guard was hurt, not one shot was fired, not one door was forced. 
The prison 'was opened to them. Many in Georgia felt that justice was being done! 
It was the intent of the vigilantes to take Leo Frank to the Marietta Square and 
hang him there. Dawn caught up with them before they could reach Marietta. 
They stopped in a grove not far from where little Mary was buried. Then they 
carried out his original sentence, 'to be hung by the neck until dead.' " 

Shaken, I asked, "Daddy, were there any Phagans at the lynching?" 

He gave me a simple answer. "No! And, everyone knew the identity of the 
lynchers. But not one man was charged with the death of Leo Frank, not one man 
was ever brought to trial." 

The next question I asked upset him tremendously: "How do you feel about 
the lynching, Daddy?" 

He related to me what his father had felt when he 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

had talked about the lynching. Grandfather felt that justice had been served — and 
so did the rest of the family. 

But I would not let up. "But how do you feel, Daddy?" 

"I feel the same way my family did, justice prevailed." To understand the 
actions that these men took on August 17, 1915, I would have to try and 
transport myself to those times, he said. "You must try to understand what they 
felt, what would drive them to take the law into their own hands. You must not 
try to judge yesterday by today's standards. By doing this, you are second- 
guessing history and no one, but no one, has ever been able to do that." 

"Daddy, how about Jim Conley? What part did he have in the death of little 
Mary Phagan?" 

My father said that, reportedly, for the first time in the history of the South, a 
black man's testimony helped to convict a white man. The best criminal lawyers 
in the South could not break this semi-literate black man's story. The 
circumstantial evidence and Jim Conley's testimony caused Leo Frank's 
conviction for the murder of little Mary Phagan. 

"Your grandfather told me — and this can be confirmed by my sister 
Annabelle — that he had met with Jim Conley in 1934, in our home, to discuss the 

trial and the part Conley had played in helping Leo Frank dispose of the body of 
little Mary." My father became adamant: "There is no way my father would have 
let Jim Conley live if he believed that he had murdered little Mary." 

My father then related the conversation that my grandfather told him had 
taken place. He said to Jim Conley, "Let's sit down and talk awhile, Jim." 

And Jim said, "OK." 

My grandfather then said, "I want to know how you helped Mr. Frank." 

Jim said, "Well, I watched for Mr. Frank like before and then he stomped and 
whistled which meant for me to unlock the door and then I went up the steps. Mr. 

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looked funny. He told me that he wanted to be with the little girl, she refused and 
he struck her and she fell. When I saw her, she was dead." 

Grandfather asked, "But why did you help him if you knew it was wrong?" 

And Jim said, "I only helped Mr. Frank because he was white and my boss." 

"Were you afraid of Mr. Frank?" my grandfather asked. 

Jim answered, "I was afraid if I didn't do what he told me — him being white 
and my boss, that I might get hanged. [At that time, it was common for blacks to 
be hanged.] So, I did as he told me." Grandfather then asked, "What did you do 
after you saw that little Mary was dead?" 

There are, my father grinned, two versions of that meeting: his sister 
Annabelle's and his father's — my grandfather's. 

The version my Aunt Annabelle told him was that she was coming out of a 
grocery store and saw their father, William Joshua Phagan, Jr., and a black man 
walking (she said "nigger") down Jefferson Street towards the house. 

She said to her father: 

"Daddy, what are you doing with that nigger man?" Grandfather said, "Now, 
don't you know who this is?" 

"No, I don't," Annabelle said. 

And Grandfather said, "This is Jim Conley." 

"Oh, this is the man who helped kill Aunt Mary," she exclaimed. 

Then Jim Conley said, "No, I didn't kill her but I helped Mr. Frank. I was to 
burn the body in the furnace but didn't." 

They went inside the house and talked about an hour in the kitchen. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Annabelle was in the other room watching her brothers (Jack and my father) 
and her sister Betty. 

My father also remembers that his father continually questioned Jim Conley 
about why he helped Mr. Frank. He recalled that his father got emotional and at 
times had to hold back the tears. 

Jim said, "I got scared. Like I said before, I had to help Mr. Frank — him being 
white and my boss. Mr. Frank told me to roll her in a cloth and put her on my 
shoulder, but she was heavy and she fell. Mr. Frank and I picked her up and went 
to the elevator to the basement. I rolled her out on the floor. Then Mr. Frank went 
up the ladder and I went on the elevator." 

"Did Mr. Frank tell you to burn little Mary in the furnace?" my grandfather 

"Yes, I was to come back later but I drank some and fell asleep," Jim said. 

Then Grandfather said, "Jim, I believe you because if I didn't I'd kill you 
myself." Then, my father recalls clearly, Grandfather and Jim Conley went out 
together for a drink. 

That was all my father could remember. 

"How is it, Daddy, that a black man would help someone dispose of a body?" 

"Remember the times," my father said. "In those years, a black would do 
almost anything his boss told him to do. His life depended on whatever the white 
man decided. Lynchings were taking place almost daily in the South. Jim Conley 
was a black man in Atlanta in 1913, one who could read and write, but more 
importantly, he was not simple. He was a man who would do what any man would 
do to stay alive: he would mix the truth with lies self-consciously, knowing full 
well that his life was at stake." My father shook his head. "He would give four 
different affidavits. 

"Here was a man that knew he was walking on a red- 


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hot bed of cinders. He knew that no matter which way he turned he would be 
burned. Conley returned to the pencil factory with the Atlanta detectives and 
showed them how he had found the body of little Mary in the metal room. How he 
had moved the body, tied up with some cloth, with the help of Leo Frank. How it 
took both of them to move her body to the elevator. Once in the basement, Conley 
said, he rolled the body out on the floor. Then he stated that Leo Frank went up 
the ladder, to be on alert for anyone coming into the factory." 

Here I asked, "Does this explain why little Mary was dragged face down across 
the basement?" 

"Yes," he said. "It seems logical in that one man could not carry her body 
without help. So she was dragged." 

"But, Daddy, why would Jim Conley do this knowing full well that he was now 
mixed up in the murder of little Mary? He must have felt that his actions could 
cost him his life." 

"Jim Conley did know what he was doing, but there were two factors that 
outweighed his sense of righteousness: fear and money! Fear of the white man 
and greed for money. And this is what he later told my father when they met." 

The last thing I wanted to know was a question that my father had asked his 
father over twenty years ago. "Why has the Phagan family taken a vow of silence?" 

"Grandmother Fannie made a request that everyone not talk to the 
newspapers. Her request was honored. It's that simple." 

I thought over my father's words for quite some time. His was the Phagan 
family's story of little Mary Phagan. 

It was some time before we sat down again to talk about the shadow of Mary 
Phagan and how her legacy had affected his life. But one summer morning my 
father sat down beside me wanting to talk about his grandmother — little Mary's 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

"I recollect that many times I woke up in Grand-mother Fannie's bed trying to 
figure out how I got there beside her. My grandmother and step-grandfather, I've 
been told, loved me very much, and they would come to our house and while I was 
asleep, would take me in their loving arms, and take me home with them. 

"Their daughter, Billie, my aunt, would have been little Mary's half-sister. 
Billie was a teenager whom I remember as a beautiful girl, who showed me a lot of 
love and care. It was Billie's job to take care of me while I was staying with my 

grandparents. She was as firm as she was beautiful. To her I was a small brother. 
At lunch time, I was given the choice of a sandwich or soup. Billie would allow me 
to have mustard on my sandwich and to this day each time I eat a sandwich with 
mustard on it, I think of Billie. 

"Grandfather Coleman had a small country store with a gas pump, and one of 
my greatest pleasures was when I was turned loose in that treasure house and 
was allowed to have anything that I wanted. What treasures I saw in that country 
store! It can only be appreciated by another child. What to choose was the biggest 
problem I had to face in those early years, and sometimes I would spend a whole 
minute, which to me was a lifetime. Grand-father Coleman was always there to 
guide me and help me in making my choice. Over fifty years have passed but 
those days are vivid to me now as they were then. 

"Grandmother Fannie was a very special person to me. I remember her talking 
to me about her daughter, little Mary. I could never understand why there were 
tears in her eyes when she talked about little Mary. 

"It's very hard on a small child to watch one's grand-mother cry and not being 
able to understand what's really going on. I took what I felt was the only course 
open to me: I put my arms around her and told her that I loved 

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her. Then, more tears flowed and she hugged me even harder." 

My father stopped and sat, his chin in his hand, looking out the window. I 
could hear the calls of the birds clearly. 

"Daddy," I said, "if you want to stop — " 

"No," he said, "I don't want to stop." He went on. 

"In 1937 my parents bought their first home in Atlanta, 760 Primrose Street 
Southwest. It had three bed-rooms, a living room, kitchen, and dining room 
connected to it and one bathroom with no shower. My dad worked in the cotton 
mills as a weaver and my mother opened a hamburger, hot dog, and sandwich 
stand on the corner of Hunter and Butler Street which was only a half of a block 
from the 'big rock jail.' This was the same jail that Leo Frank was held in, known 
as 'The Tower.' I was a student at Slaton Grammar School, which was named after 
the father of the governor who had commuted Leo Frank's sentence to life 

"Grandmother Fannie meant more and more to me as I was starting to 
understand what life is about. After all," his eyes twinkled, "it had to happen 
sometime! And the question was starting to come up, no matter where I was: 'Are 
you, by any chance, kin to little Mary Phagan?' 

'"Of course,' I replied everytime, 'she was my aunt.' This generally resulted in 
more questions about little Mary. I would answer those questions the best I could 
from what I could remember from stories that I'd heard from members of my 
family. People would then relate them to me on what they had heard from their 
pasts. The one question they always asked was 'How did little Mary's mother take 
her daughter's death?' And this invariably brought a silence in the group of 
people around me. I came to understand that this question would cause adults to 
hang onto every word I said. And just as invariably I'd feel humongously sad as I 
tried to put into words how my 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

grandmother felt. Time had not healed the loss of her daughter. And maybe it 
never would. 

"Little Mary, you understand, was the youngest of five and because she was 
the last child, she was doted on by all, even her grandfather, W. J. 

"Grandmother Fannie would describe to me how she would comb little Mary's 
hair and put it up in pigtails, dress her up in her finest clothes to go to church. A 
small child is always beautiful to its parents, but little Mary was really 
beautiful — and she was going to be a real beauty when she grew up. As she 
approached her teenage years, there was no doubt that she was going to be a 
beautiful young woman." 

My father looked at me intently. "As I've said — and others have said — lots of 
times before: just like you." 

A strange feeling began to rise inside me: a mixture of gratification — I'm as 
lovely as she was — pride — this is my inheritance — and apprehension. Not that I 
thought I'd meet the same fate as my namesake, of course, but I did wonder what 
reverberations there would be from our bond. The vow of silence notwithstanding, 
my name — and appearance — were already causing these reverberations. 

I smiled at my father. "Whatever it is, I believe I can deal with it." He patted 
my shoulder and continued his memories. 

"School was not mandatory back then, and all members of a family that were 
old enough to work in factories would do so. Money was not easy to come by. 
Little Mary did attend school and was a good student, according to my 
grandmother. She had a lively imagination and wanted all the things that any 
young girl wanted in those days: ribbons or a special comb for her hair. And 
while all monies went to help the family, her being the youngest allowed special 

"By the time I was eleven, I began to ask questions about my aunt. My best 
source of information was my 

The Legacy 

father, William Joshua Phagan, Jr., who was known to the family as 'Little Josh.' 
" My father broke into a grin. "No one ever accused the Phagans of being too tall. 
Anyway, I questioned him — as you're questioning me — about everything that had 
happened in those days. Tears would come to his eyes, too, and he would talk 
about his sister very slowly. They were only one year apart: he was born in 
January 1898, and little Mary was born in June 1899. He felt a lot of pride about 
being the older brother to his sister to whom he was a shining white knight. There 
were slow pauses. He took time to hold back his tears. I could feel the pain that 
he was experiencing — even though I didn't understand it then. 

"Dad told me how Grandmother Fannie had everyone put on his or her best 
clothes for church on Sundays and how everyone had a hand in helping little 
Mary to dress up. How pretty she was and the pleasure it brought to see her 
dressed in her best clothes. 

"I don't remember Ollie too well; we didn't visit too much in those days that 
Dad worked for the cotton mills. However, when we visited it was usually for the 
whole weekend. What times those were! When the Phagan family got together it 
was like a picnic, with all the food and stuff that was on hand to eat." 

I tried to picture the family gathering in my mind. I concentrated very hard. I 
wanted to visualize the Phagans in a happy, relaxed atmosphere — playing, joking 
around, eating to their heart's content, and telling stories. 

My father broke into my thoughts: "Before the first day was over, everyone 
would turn to the subject of little Mary. I would sit quietly and listen to the 
stories. Fascinated as I was, I could still feel the tension in the air as each would 
tell some small detail about little Mary. I came to know her not as an aunt but as 
a special person who had lost her life in a brutal attack by Leo Frank, who 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

was convicted of that crime by a jury of his peers in a court of law in Fulton 
County, Georgia. 

"Grandmother Fannie often told us about the death of her husband, William 
Joshua Phagan, who had fathered her five children. He had died in February, 
1899. Life in those days was real rough on a widow with children. Then she would 
talk about J.W. Coleman, whom she married in 1912. This was the man I was to 
know as my grandfather. Then the stories would turn back to little Mary. And the 
tension would start to build up again. 

"Grandmother would usually start her story about that Saturday, Confederate 
Memorial Day, when little Mary had left home to go to town for her wages and to 
see the parade. She would tell about her new lavender dress and silver mesh bag 
that she carried, the ribbons in her hair and her parasol. The area they lived in 
then — the Bellwood subdivision of the Exposition cotton mill area — is only a 
memory today: it's where Ashby Street crosses Bankhead Avenue and Ashby goes 
on into Marietta Street. 

"By the time Grandmother got to where little Mary took the English Avenue 
streetcar that was to take her downtown to the National Pencil Company, her 
tears were usually too much for her, and her story would come to a close, since 
she could no longer continue. Members of the family would quietly take 
grandmother into the house so that she could compose herself. This always left 
me in a state of confusion. 

"Later, the war came. Greatuncle Ben was in the Navy." My father sighed. "The 
Phagan family, like the rest of the country, began to drift apart. The war began to 
push everything else to the rear of our minds. People were starting to work as 
many as six days a week. Family gathering was to become a thing of the past. But 
my family still spoke about little Mary, about how pretty she had been, and all. I 
felt for the first time in my life that I 


The Legacy 

too had lost someone that was very real to me. For the first time I also came to 
feel what grief felt like. 

"But gradually, there was less time for story-telling. My only source of 
information about little Mary then was my Dad. He would still talk about his 
sister to me, but these talks got fewer and farther between — although his grief 
never diminished and it was still hard for him to talk about little Mary. 

"At the same time, my curiosity increased, since people would still ask me 
questions about little Mary. And there was still Fannie, too. Now more than ever, 
Grand-mother would tell me stories about little Mary, how pretty she was and the 
hopes she had for her. Even today when I look at little Mary's picture, I can see 
that my grand-mother was right about how pretty she was. I do believe that she 
would have grown into the beautiful woman that my grandmother expected her to 
be. The years had not stopped the pain and grief she felt, but perhaps they made 
them a little more bearable. 

"In 1943, when I started junior high school, the old question was asked again: 
Are you, by any chance, kin to little Mary Phagan?' As I recall, the teacher was 
the first to ask, and then, as the week went on, children of my age would start to 
ask me questions that their families had asked them to ask me. Some even 
brought articles to school to show me. One kid brought a record, a 78 RPM, that 
had 'The Ballad of Mary Phagan' on it. Fiddling John Carson had written and 
recorded it. I had heard people sing this song all my life but this was the first 
time I had heard it on a record. Later in life, I was to come by this record for my 

family. My mother had bought an RCA radio and record player in the later 
thirties. I had a collection of records. We held onto the record for years but 
somehow it was finally lost. We still have that RCA radio and record player, you 
know. It's in the basement. It doesn't work anymore, but one day I'll probably 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

it — just in case I should find that record again of little Mary Phagan. 

"During the war years women had to work in the plants and shipyards and 
they became a vital part of the work force. My older sister, Annabelle, went to 
work in the shipyards in Portland, Oregon. Even my mother went to work at the 
Bell Bomb Plant in Marietta, Georgia. Her name, Mary Phagan, really started 
questions about little Mary all over again. The stories she told us kids generated a 
closer feeling again with little Mary. 

"In 1944, Europe was invaded and that was the beginning of the end of the 
war there. I joined the Navy in July of 1945, and in August I was sent to boot 
camp in San Diego, California. My name preceded me in the Navy, because by 
then books had been written and even movies had been made of little Mary's 
murder. 'Death in the Deep South,' a fictional book about the murder and its 
after-math was made into a movie. The movie was called 'They Don't Forget,' and 
Lana Turner played the part of little Mary. But the names were changed. And the 
Phagan family remained silent. 

"I had learned to play golf at Piedmont Park where I had worked as a caddie, 
and to my surprise, I was invited to play golf with a group of civilian and naval 
personnel. Then I found out why I'd been invited. They pelted me with questions 
about little Mary. What I thought about the case and how did the Phagans feel 
about the way the public as a whole had treated us. I was only seventeen years 
old, but I was well versed in the way my family felt, and I managed to give fairly 
noncommittal replies. 

"Later, when my shipmates on the U.S.S. Major DE796 began to ask me 
questions about little Mary, I turned out to be a storehouse of information on that 
subject, but again stayed noncommittal as to the family's feelings. I was to serve 
aboard another DE, the U.S.S. 


The Legacy 

Fieberling, for about two years, until she was decommissioned. 

"Grandmother Fannie passed away in 1947, while I was in the Navy. I made 
the trip home for her funeral. But when I arrived home, she had already been 
buried. She was laid to rest beside her daughter, little Mary Phagan. The peace 
she couldn't find in life she found, I hope, in death. 

"Sometime later I met your mother in Chicago. The year was 1952. It was love 
at first sight!" 

He leaned back in his chair, and his face was suffused in light. His smile was 
happy and tender. Things hadn't changed much as far as my parents' feelings for 
each other went. 

"Anyway," he smiled, "at the time I was flying to London out of Warner- 
Robbins Air Force Base in Macon. Being a Georgia boy from Atlanta, I went out of 
my way to meet all the civilian flight line mechanics at Warner Rob-bins in 
Macon. Depot bases use civilian flight line mechanics so that there will be a more 
stable work force. 

"Little Mary had slipped to the back of my mind over the years. When the 
flight line mechanics learned my name, they began to question me about little 

Mary. Again, I was reminded of her. All the mechanics and other personnel made 
sure that I shared lunch with them. They all wanted to hear about little Mary 
Phagan. Most of them had stories that they had heard from their parents and 
grandparents to tell about little Mary. It was beginning to dawn on me that little 
Mary was more than just a passing fancy to Georgians of all walks of life. It was 
part of their history, like it or not, and they wanted to hear firsthand what the 
Phagans felt and how they responded to their questions. Unknown to me at that 
time, this renewed interest in little Mary was to play a major role in the life of 
another little girl who would be born in June of 1954, but that was almost two 
years in the future. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

"Well, the wedding — and it was a huge one — was in 1953, and we spent our 
honeymoon in St. Augustine, Florida. Uncle Frank loaned us his car so that we 
could drive down. We were gone for about seven days, after which we started back 
to Chicago. The plan was to leave your mother until such time as I could find an 
apartment for us in Moses Lake, Washington State, where I'd been transferred. 

"When I arrived back at Larson Air Force Base, I was informed that I had been 
selected to attend Flight Engineer School at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, 
Illinois. Joy heaped upon joy and my cup runneth over! Your mother and I could 
be together after all! The school was to last for six months. 

"We found an apartment near the University of Illinois, in Champaigne- 
Urbana. This break allowed us time to learn more about each other and how we 
would spend the years to come. 

"It was about this time that the question was asked again about my name by 
other student Flight Engineers: Are you, by any chance, kin to little Mary 
Phagan?' I had not told your mother the story of little Mary. 

"I was transferred back to the past again. How did my family feel, especially 
my grandmother? I had become used to these questions and without breaking 
stride, I would answer them and continue on with the story that had become a 
part of my life. I could never understand this interest in a murder that had 
happened way back in 1913, but of course, tragedy has a way of capturing the 
interest of its audience as the story teller retells the story from firsthand 

"As you well know," my father twinkled, "you were born in June of 1954. 
Phyllis, your sister, came along in 1956. 

"By this time, I had accumulated over two thousand hours of flying in Alaska 
and was considered to be a cold 


The Legacy 

weather expert. Personally, I've always felt that anyone who had flown in the 
Arctic and survived was a cold weather expert. We were now under a new 
command, the Military Air Transport Service; undoubtedly the best and biggest 
airlift armada in the world. We were redesignated the 62nd Military Airlift Wing 
on January 8, 1956, 'M.A.T.S., the Backbone of Deterrence.' It was our motto and 

"We were now flying all over the world, in all kinds of trouble spots where 
there was dire need for airlift. And once again, I found that my name rang bells 
with those people who were familiar with little Mary Phagan. I got all kinds of 
messages asking about her past and what relationship I was to her. They followed 
me wherever I flew, but more so when I was to fly in the South, where my family's 
history was well known. 

"Your brother James was born in November 1957, during the Lebanon-Beirut 
troubles which our Wing was flying into. 

"By the time you were about four years old, you bore a striking resemblance 
to your greataunt, little Mary. 

"In January 1959 I asked for reassignment and was assigned to the 1608 
Military Air Transport Wing in Charleston, South Carolina. When we arrived in 
Charleston, I was assigned to the 17th Air Transport Squadron. 

"The interest your name caused when we signed you up for kindergarten was 
unreal. People would come up to us and sing 'The Ballad of Mary Phagan.' They 
told me stories that I had never heard before. Then the questions would come: 
what relationship we were and how had our daughter been named for little Mary? 
They would say, 'My, what a pretty girl!' and 'She looks just like little Mary.' 

"Your brother Michael was born in September 1959, in Charleston. Soon after 
that, we all went to Japan and Hawaii, and returned to the continental U.S. in 
1964, to 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Charleston. And it was there that Mr. Henry, your eighth-grade teacher, asked 
you if you were related to little Mary Phagan. That must have been pretty difficult 
for you, Mary." 

I nodded, unable to speak. 

"But I'm proud that you want to understand your heritage." 

There are always two — or more — sides to everything. Clearly, the Phagan 
family believed in Leo Frank's guilt. But my father again encouraged me to 
research and investigate the facts for myself. He told me that the trial record 
spoke for itself. He also pointed out that for my own peace of mind I would have to 
interpret the facts myself to the best of my ability and to draw my own 

What was Atlanta really like in 1913? I still wondered: Did Leo Frank get a 
fair trial? Did the shouts that came through the open windows in the courtroom 
have any influence on the jury? Did his being Jewish affect the trial outcome? 
Why were eleven witnesses who were employed at the National Pencil Company 
not cross-examined by the defense as to Frank's lascivious conduct? Was Jim 
Conley the actual criminal? 

These unanswered questions remained with me throughout my high school 
years. At the same time that my resolve to learn all I could about my greataunt 
intensified, my aspirations as to a future career became both evident and 
important to me. I wanted to teach blind and visually impaired children. I began 
exploring opportunities. And my senior year was especially gratifying. Since I 
finished classes early in the day, I was allowed to leave campus for joint- 
enrollment at a college or for employment, and my counselor, Mrs. Drury, had 
discovered that McLendon Elementary School, not far from the high school 
campus, would love to have me as a volunteer. 


The Legacy 

I spent ten hours a week at McLendon, and it made my mind up definitely: I 
was going to teach the blind and visually impaired. 

The star in my crown that year was the award I received from the DeKalb 
County Rotary Clubs: the Youth Achievement Award. I was the very first recipient 

of this award, and the only disappointment was that my blind students couldn't 
read it. But I read it to them. 

I'd applied to and been accepted at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. I 
was to start classes in September, 1972. 

And, yes, at that moment I hoped that the story of little Mary Phagan would 
be left behind. 

So I consciously left the unanswered questions in Atlanta. But my subconscious 
was still busy with them, and they came with me to Florida, "haunting" me even 
as I was sleeping. 

Chapter 3 


The dream was always the same. The funnel-shaped cloud was the largest I 
had seen, and it was heading directly for me and those I love. Miraculously, my 
brother Michael found a cave in which we could be safe. The cloud destroyed 
everything in its path, but those in the cave remained safe. Screaming and 
sweating, I would awaken with my heart palpitating — and then realize that it was 
only a dream. But I became afraid to sleep for fear that the dream would come 
back. And it did. Again and again. 

The story of little Mary Phagan had indeed followed me to Florida. 

A history professor asked me, "Are you, by any chance, related to little Mary 
Phagan?" Then several classmates quizzed me about the story. 

I decided that I had to know the answers to the questions that haunted me. I 
just had to know. I couldn't be Mary Phagan without this shadow of my past. It 
was my history, my legacy. And I had to answer those questions. 

I became friends with Amy. Amy was Jewish, and, as with all friends, religion 
came up between us. Amy and I exchanged our beliefs and answered the "why's" 
of our faiths. There were no barriers between us. Once a group 



My Search Begins 

of us were talking, and someone asked me in front of Amy that question: "Are you, 
by any chance, related to little Mary Phagan?" 

"Yes," I replied. 

"Wasn't Leo Frank a Jewish man?" she persisted. 

I told her "yes," again. But Amy never mentioned the story of little Mary 
Phagan, and I never told her. I never felt obliged to tell her more; it didn't have 
anything to do with our friendship. We were best friends and that was that. 

My family delighted in my friendship with Amy and her family. During one 
Christmas vacation my Dad related to me how he had become part of a Jewish 
family. For the first time I realized why I had always called this particular couple 
Grandma and Grandpa — and still do. 

It happened around Christmastime in 1952. My Dad had just been promoted 
to Staff Sergeant and was flying out of the Warner Robbins Air Force Base in 
Macon, Georgia. 

"As Christmas approached, we geared up to make flights back east to provide 
transportation for all the Military Services," he explained. "Plans were made that 
each flight would make certain strategic stops to drop off troops and pick them up 
after Christmas and bring them back to Larson Air Force Base. On December 20, 
1952, there was a fatal crash that took the lives of about eighty-seven young 
military men. It was the worst military air disaster in history. 

"Airplane crashes are terrible in more ways than one: they create havoc in the 
loss of lives and materials, and they put men to a test that they cannot survive. 
The dead men must be escorted home for burial. The escorts are called Color 
Guards. They are hand picked as a rule, versed in the nature of life at its worst. 
Each family that has lost a loved one will have a thousand questions to ask the 
Color Guard. He will have no answers and must rely 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

on his own ability to handle the situation. And no two will be the same. Some 
Color Guards will break under the pressure, particularly if they were friends. One 
of the crew members on the flight was my close friend, Robert Jacobs. He was a 
radio operator whose position was on the flight deck with the pilot, co-pilot, 
navigator, and flight engineer. All of these crew members perished in that crash. I 
knew them all. Tears still come to my eyes when I think about it and how many 
lives it claimed. 

"Brigadier General H.W. Bowman, commander of the 62nd Troop Carrier Wing 
(H), and Lt. Colonel Roland K. McCoskrie, commander of 7th Troop Carrier 
Squadron, suffered only as commanders can suffer when they lose men in a tragic 

"As in any accident, the clean up crew was mostly volunteers; these men are 
true heroes. At times some even risk their lives in trying to save others. It took 
over three days just to recover all the bodies. And then there was the horrible task 
of identifying some of the bodies. Preparations and transportation arrangements 
were made, and then came the selection of the Color Guards. There was no 
Jewish man to escort our radio operator. One would have to be selected from 
another squadron, someone who did not even know his name, unless someone in 
our squadron would step forward to be his Color Guard. With head held high, 
tears in my eyes, my heart about to burst, I took that step forward. I could not 
allow a stranger to escort my friend and fellow crew member home to his parents. 
In my mind, that would hurt them even more. 

"I felt that I would break under that pressure when I presented the American 
flag to Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs at the gravesite. I did! When I presented the flag to 
them, I could hardly talk for the tears rolling down my cheeks: 'This flag is 
presented to you by a grateful nation in remembrance of your loved one.' For one 
moment, time stood still for three broken hearts, the parents and mine became 

My Search Begins 

one in grief. They invited me home to say the Kaddish, a memorial prayer, for 
their son. I became an adopted 'son,' and to this day I call them Mom and Dad 

and you children call them Grandma and Grandpa. Every Mother's Day, I send 
flowers to my friend's mother. She's a very special person. 

"They asked me questions I had no answers for, except the simple truths and 
personal knowledge that I had of their son. Of course they wanted to know 'why.' I 
explained that their son was one of the best and the best always are selected for 
the tough flights. I don't think that I would have the guts to do that job again. I 
was to receive four letters of appreciation and commendation: one from the 
Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.; one from Brigadier General H.W. Bowman, 
Commanding General 62nd Troop Carrier Wing (H); one from Colonel Richard 
Jones, Commanding Officer 62nd Troop Carrier Group (H); and one from Lt. 
Colonel Roland K. McCoskrie, Commanding Officer 7th Troop Carrier Squadron 
(H). These letters are still in my personal folders today. 

"Life takes a pause and then continues on!" 

After two years at Flagler, both Amy and I felt that it wasn't offering the 
programs that we needed for our careers. We both transferred to Florida State 
University in Tallahassee, Florida, during the summer of 1974. 

I worked hard, and in August of 1977, I received my Master of Science in the 
College of Education Program at Florida State University with honors. And what 
was even more exciting was I already had a job: I was to be the 
Consultant/ Itinerant Teacher for the Visually Impaired for the Griffin Cooperative 
Educational Service in Griffin, Georgia. I would be going back home. 

I began at the agency the first week of September. I was introduced to the 
various superintendents of the sys- 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

terns in which I would be responsible for setting up the vision program. Several of 
the superintendents asked me that question: "Are you, by any chance, related to 
little Mary Phagan?" One of them privately called me in his office and sang me 
"The Ballad of Mary Phagan" by Fiddling John Carson of Blue Ridge, Georgia: 

Little Mary Phagan went to town one day, 
And went to the pencil factory 

to see the big parade. 
She left her home at eleven, 
And kissed her mother goodbye, 
Not one time did the poor child think 
that she was going to die. 

Leo Frank met her, with a brutal heart we know, 
He smiled and said, "Little Mary, 
Now you will go home no more." 
He sneaked along behind her, 
Till she reached the metal room, 
He laughed and said, "Little Mary, 

you have met your fatal doom." 
She fell upon her knees, and to 
Leo Frank she pled, 
He took his stick from the trash pile 
And hit her across the head. 
The tears rolled down her rosy cheeks, 

While the blood flowed down her back, 
But still she remembered telling her mother 
What time she would be back. 

He killed little Mary Phagan— 

it was on a holiday— 
And he called on Jim Conley to take her body away. 
He took her to the basement, 
She was bound hand and feet, 
And down in the basement little Mary 

lay asleep. 

Angelina Phagan with her daughters and grandchildren. 
Mary Phagan is at right on her lap. 

Oltie Mae and Mary Phagan (Mary is on right). 

Ollie Mae and Mary Phagan (Mary is on right). 

The farm Fannie Phagan moved to after the death of William Joshua. 

William Joshua and Fannie Phagan. 

The Marietta-Atlanta trolley in 1913. 

The Marietta-Atlanta trolley in 1913. 

■'"..r^*%^>-\ ...^v< v.. ■■■'■■■■ : :■■-.:■ :,,•*■•■ ■ 5 "- : '- 

( * * « » u* 

A postcard Mary Phagan sent to her mother in 1911. 

A postcard Mary Phagan sent to her mother in 1911. 

* • 


My Search Begins 

Newt Lee was the watchmen — 

when he went to wind his key, 
Down in the basement, 

little Mary he could see. 
He called for the officers — their 

names I do not know. 
They came to the pencil factory 
Says "Newt Lee, you must go. " 

They took him to the jailhouse, 
They locked him in a cell, 
But the poor innocent negro 
Knew nothing for to tell. 

I have a notion in my head that 

when Frank comes to die, 
And stands the examination in 

the courthouse in the skies, 
He will be astonished at the questions 
The angels are going to say 

of how he killed little Mary on one holiday. 

Come all you good people 

wherever you may be, 
And supposing little Mary 

belonged to you or me. 

Her mother sat a weeping — she 

weeps and mourns all day — 
She prays to meet her darling in a 

better world some day. 
Little Mary is in Heaven, while 
Leo Frank is in jail, 
Waiting for the day to come when 
he can tell his tale. 

Judge Roan passed the sentence 
And you bet he passed it well; 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Solicitor Hugh M. Dorsey 
sent Leo Frank to hell. 

Now, God Bless her mother. 

He told me that his mother had sung the ballad throughout his childhood. He 
had never forgotten a word. While he was singing the ballad, I realized that little 
Mary Phagan was me too — not a separate entity — and I could not evade our 
relationship. Nor did I want to. 

I was ready to search for answers to those haunting questions. Now I had to 
know if what my father taught me was accurate and factual. I began extensive 
research. I looked again at the Brief of Evidence, reference books, and the 
newspaper accounts in a different way, a critical way. I read everything I could 
find on the economic, political, social and psychological climate of the South in 

By the time little Mary Phagan was murdered, the Civil War had been over 
only forty-eight years. Today, other parts of the country accuse Southerners of 
"still fighting the Civil War." To an extent that is true. It was true to an even 
greater extent in 1913. 

The focus of Southern society was tradition — which also meant opposition to 
change. And the commitment to tradition was often manifested in a loyalty on the 
part of Southerners to "their own kind" which usually resulted in a paranoid 
suspicion of outsiders. 

Another strong part of this tradition is the esteem in which white women, and 
particularly young white girls, are held. Southerners have always had a fear — 
whatever its origins — of assaults upon women. 

The industrialization which began in the last part of the nineteenth century 
centered on the cities, and it was in the rural areas that the commitment to 
tradition held most strongly. But life in rural areas was difficult — very difficult for 
most of the poorer people. So they emigrated to urban areas. 


My Search Begins 

Apparently, life wasn't much better in the cities, although the opportunities 
to make money were far greater, and it was especially dreary in Atlanta. Those 
who came in from the country to find work in the mills and factories were white 
tenant farmers and they lived for the most part in the bleak factory slums which 
surrounded Atlanta's industrial sections. Just as Grand-mother Fannie Phagan 
Coleman was preparing to move her fatherless children from Alabama back to 
Atlanta/ Marietta around 1908 or 1909, about a third of Atlanta's population had 
no water mains or sewers. Two years before little Mary Phagan was slain, between 
fifty and seventy-five percent of the schoolchildren of Atlanta suffered from 
anemia, malnutrition, and heart disease. In 1906, 22,000 out of a population of 
115,000 were held by the police for disorderly conduct or drunkenness. That year, 
one of the worst race riots in memory broke out in Atlanta, and the newspapers 
seized upon stories — true or not — of Negro assaults on white women. 

Wages were low in the mills and factories and the normal workday began at 
6:00 a.m. and ended at 6:00 p.m. Mary Phagan had earned only ten cents an hour 
at the National Pencil Company. Children were exploited — especially in the cotton 

I thought of my father's description of his grand-mother Mary Richards 
Phagan, whom the factory bosses would hide from the labor inspectors. 

It was probably inevitable that family and community ties, another bulwark of 
tradition, began to weaken, despite people's struggles to hold onto them, and they 
grew increasingly resentful of those whom they considered to be their exploiters. 

I realized, as my research began to clarify a lot of things for me, that little 
Mary Phagan, white, pretty, well-liked, just short of fourteen, a laborer in a 
factory or "sweat shop," came to stand for what was good, pure, 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

sweet and exploited about the South. And that Leo Frank, a Northerner, a Jew, 
superintendent, part owner of the factory, and well-to-do, would have fit perfectly 
the idea of the outsider which Southerners traditionally held in such suspicion 
and the exploiter of whom they were growing increasingly resentful. The entire 
family believed that he killed Mary Phagan. So did I. 

On April 28, 1913, Leo Frank sent a telegram to Adolph Montag in New York: 

Atlanta, Ga. Apr. 28, 1913 
Mr. Adolph Montag, 

c/o Imperial Hotel, New York. 

You may have read in Atlanta papers of factory girl found dead Sunday 
morning in cellar of pencil factory. Police will eventually solve it. Assure my 
uncle I am all right in case he asks. Our company has case well in hand. 

Leo M. Frank 

On April 29, 1913, three days after little Mary Phagan's body was discovered, 
the Atlanta Georgian reported that four suspects were being held. The headline 

These men were: 

1. A black night watchman, who is thought to know much more about the 
crime than he has told, but who has not been regarded as the perpetrator. 

2. A former street car conductor for whom a strong alibi has never been 
established, and from whom suspicion is shifting. 

3. A black elevator boy, who has never been held as a material witness, but 
against whom no evidence has been obtained. 


My Search Begins 

4. A former employee of the National Pencil Company was located at the Plant 
Saturday and identified as being the "man with a little girl on Saturday 
night." In neither the conductor's nor the elevator boy's case do police place 
much dependence on the so-called identifications. 

All of these men were cleared. At that time, neither Leo Frank, the factory 
superintendent, nor Jim Conley, the pencil factory janitor, appeared on the list. 
Leo Frank was at police headquarters that day but police were quoted as saying, 
"Frank is not under arrest," but that "he was under police guard for his own 
personal safety," and that "there are no charges against him." 

What led to the eventual arrest of Leo Frank, the factory superintendent? 

When Newt Lee, the night watchman who discovered the body of little Mary 
Phagan, was questioned by the police, he stated that he had been at the factory 
on April 26, 1913, and that when he began working at the pencil factory, Mr. 
Frank had told him to report at 6:00 p.m. on weekdays and at 5:00 p.m. on 
Saturdays. He said that, on Friday, the 25th of April, Leo Frank told him, 
"Tomorrow is a holiday and I want you to come back at four o'clock. I want to get 
off a little earlier than I have been getting off." Frank had plans to go to the 
baseball game with his brother-in-law. The game started at 4:00 p.m. Newt Lee 
said that he arrived at the factory at about three or four minutes before four. He 
then told the detectives: 

The front door was not locked. I pushed it open, went on in and got to the 

double door there. I was paid off Friday night at six o'clock. It was put out that 

everybody would be paid off then. Every Saturday when I get off he gives me 

the keys at twelve o'clock, so that if he happened to be gone when I get back 

there at five or six o'clock I could get in, and every Monday 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

morning I return the keys to him. The front door had always been unlocked on 
previous Saturday afternoons. After you go inside and come up about middle 
ways of the steps, there are some double doors there. It was locked on 
Saturday when I got there. Have never found it that way before. I took my key 
and unlocked it. When I went upstairs I had a sack of bananas and I stood to 
the left of that desk like I do every Saturday. I says like I always do "Alright 
Mr. Frank" and he come bustling out of his office. He had never done that 
before. He always called me when he wanted to tell me anything and said, 
"Step here a minute, Newt." This time he came up rubbing his hands and says, 
"Newt, I am sorry that I had you come so soon, you could have been at home 
sleeping, I tell you what you do, you go out in town and have a good time." He 
had never let me off before that. I could have laid down in the shipping room 
and gone to sleep, and I told him that. He says, "You needs to have a good 
time. You go downtown, stay an hour and a half, and come back your usual 
time at six o'clock." I then went out the door and stayed until about four 
minutes to six. When I came back the doors were unlocked just as I left them 
and I went and says, "Alright, Mr. Frank," and he says, "What time is it?" and I 
says, "It lacks two minutes of six." He says, "Don't punch yet, there is a few 
worked today and I want to change the slip." It took him twice as long this time 
than it did the other times I saw him fix it. He fumbled putting it in, while I 
held the lever for him and I think he made some remark about he was not used 
to putting it in. When Mr. Frank put the tape in I punched and I went 
downstairs. While I was down there Mr. Gantt came from across the street 
from the beer saloon and says, "Newt, I got a pair of old shoes that I want to 
get upstairs to have fixed." I 

My Search Begins 

says, "I ain't allowed to let anybody in here after six o'clock." About that time 
Mr. Frank come bustling out of the door and run into Gantt unexpected and he 
jumped back frightened. Gantt says, "I got a pair of old shoes upstairs, have 
you any objection to my getting them?" Frank says, "I don't think they are up 
there, I think I saw the boy sweep some up in the trash the other day." Mr. 
Gantt asked him what sort they were and Mr. Frank says "tans." Gantt says, 
"Well, I had a pair of black ones too." Frank says, "Well, I don't know," and he 
dropped his head down just so. Then he raised his head and says, "Newt, go 
with him and stay with him and help him find them" and I went up there with 
Mr. Gantt and found them in the shipping room, two pair, the tans and the 
black ones. Mr. Frank phoned me that night about an hour after he left, it was 
sometime after seven o'clock. He says, "How is everything?" and I says, 
"Everything is all right so far as I know," and he says "Goodbye." 

There is a light on the street floor just after you get in the entrance to the 
building. The light is right up here where that partition comes across. Mr. 
Frank told me when I first went there, "Keep that light burning bright, so the 
officers can see in when they pass by." It wasn't burning that day at all. I lit it 

at six o'clock myself. On Saturday I always lit it, but weekdays it would always 
be lit when I got there. On Saturdays I always got there at five o'clock. This 
Saturday he got me there an hour earlier and let me off later. There is a light 
in the basement down there at the foot of the ladder. He told me to keep that 
burning all the time. It has two little chains to it to turn on and turn off the 
gas. When I got there on making my rounds at seven o'clock on the 26th of 
April, it was burning just as low as you could turn it, like a lightning bug. I left 
it Saturday morning burn- 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

ing bright. I made my rounds regularly every half hour Saturday night. I 
punched on the hour and punched on the half and I made all my punches. 
The elevator doors on the street floor and office floor were closed when I got 
there on Saturday. They were fastened down just like we fasten them down 
every other night. When three o'clock came I went down the basement and 
when I went down and got ready to come back I discovered the body there. I 
went down to the toilet and when I got through I looked at the dust bin back 
to the door to see how the door was and it being dark I picked up my lantern 
and went there and I saw something laying there which I thought some of the 
boys had put there to scare me, then I got out of there. I got up the ladder 
and called up the police station. It was after three o'clock ... I tried to get 
Mr. Frank on the telephone and was still trying ... I guess I was trying about 
eight minutes. 

L. S. Dobbs, Sergeant of Police, and J. N. Starnes, City Officer, went to the 
National Pencil Factory after receiving the call from Newt Lee. They discovered 
the notes under the sawdust, a hat without ribbons on it, paper and pencils, and 
a shoe near the boiler; a bloody handkerchief about ten feet further from the 
body towards the rear on a sawdust pile. 

While Dobbs was reading the notes — "and land down play like night" — when 
he said the word "night," Lee said, "That means the night watchman." 

J. N. Starnes finally reached Frank by telephone around 6:30 a.m. and sent 
Boots (W.W.) Rogers with John R. Black after him. The earlier calls made by Lee 
and the police had not been answered. 

Boots Rogers and Mr. Black said they found Frank extremely nervous and 
that he asked to eat his breakfast before leaving — a request the police denied 
him. Frank also denied knowledge of a little girl named Mary Phagan. 

My Search Begins 

They then took Frank to the morgue. They stated that he scarcely looked at 
the body and would not enter the room where it lay. He continued to be agitated 
and nervous. Upon arriving at the factory, he consulted his time book and 
reported, "Yes, Mary Phagan worked here, and she was here yesterday to get her 


He then told the police, "I will tell you about the exact time she left here. My 
stenographer left about twelve o'clock, and a few minutes after she left, the office 
boy left, and Mary came in and got her money and left." 

Further questioning revealed that Frank maintained he was inside his office 
"every minute" from noon to 12:30. On Sunday, he confirmed to the police that 
the time slips punched by Newt Lee were correct, but the next day he said the 
time slips contained errors. 

Frank appeared at police headquarters on Monday morning with his attorneys 
Luther Z. Rosser and Herbert Haas, who evidently had been contacted on Sunday. 

Frank advised police that Newt Lee and J. M. Gantt had been at the factory 
and that Gantt "knew Mary Phagan very well." This led to their arrests. 

On Monday morning, April 28, when the factory opened, R. P. Barrett, a 
machinist, reported that he found blood spots near a machine at the west end of 
the dressing room on the second floor which had not been there Friday. Hair was 
also found on the handle of a bench lathe and strands of cords of the type that 
were used to strangle Mary Phagan were hung near the dressing room. 

Leo Frank was arrested on Tuesday, April 29, and incarcerated in the Fulton 
Tower. The police said his hands were quivering and that he was pale. He again 
reported that Mary Phagan came in "between 12:05 and 12:10, maybe 12:07, to get 
her pay envelope, her salary." He stated, "I paid her and she went out of the 

Later that evening Frank had a conversation with Newt Lee, who was 
handcuffed to a chair. Newt Lee 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

reported that when Frank came in, he dropped his head and looked down. They 
were all alone and Lee said, "Mr. Frank, it's mighty hard for me to be handcuffed 
here for something I don't know anything about." 

Frank said, "That's the difference, they have got me locked up and a man 
guarding me." 

Lee then asked, "Mr. Frank, do you believe I committed that crime," and he 
said, "No, Newt, I know you didn't, but I believe you know something about it." 

Lee then said, "Mr. Frank, I don't know a thing about it, no more than finding 
the body." 

Frank said, "We are not talking about that now, we will let that go. If you 
keep that up we will both go to hell." 

The police had also learned that Frank refused to send Mary Phagan's pay 
home with Helen Ferguson, a friend. Then, not too long after Leo Frank's 
indictment and Jim Conley's statements, the police also obtained a statement 
from Minola McKnight, the black cook in the Frank home. She reported that when 
Frank came home that Saturday, he was drunk, talked wildly, and threatened to 
kill himself, thus forcing his wife to sleep on the floor. Minola's sworn statement 
was witnessed by her lawyer, George Gordon. 

Yet, three days later Mrs. McKnight publicly repudiated her affidavit, claiming 
that she had signed it to obtain release from the police. It seems that while her 
original statement made the front page of the newspapers, her repudiation was 
printed unobtrusively on an inside page. 

Other questions nagged at me. My family maintained that Mary Phagan had 
been violated. What did the medical evidence disclose? Was the blood found on 
her legs and underwear the result of rape or menstrual blood? Was undisputable 
evidence of rape found? 

Had she been bitten on the breasts? X-rays of her body had apparently shown 
teeth indentations on her 


My Search Begins 

neck and shoulder. Where were the X-ray records? Were the marks made by Leo 
Frank's teeth? Did Solicitor Dorsey have Mary's body exhumed a second time to 
check the marks against X-rays of Leo Frank's teeth? 

Was Leo Frank a "pervert," as the state attempted to establish? The state had 
certainly enough people to state on the witness stand that he'd made sexual 
overtures to the female employees at the factory. 

But does that mean — did the answers to any of my questions mean — that Leo 
Frank killed Mary Phagan? 

On the Saturday following the murder, Monteen Stover, a fellow worker at the 
factory with Mary Phagan, came forward to tell the police that she had come for 
her pay on April 26 but was unable to collect it because Frank was absent from 
his office. 

Monteen informed the police that "it was five minutes after twelve. I was sure 
that Mr. Frank would be in his office, so I stepped in. He wasn't in the outer 
office, so I stepped into the inner one. He wasn't there either. I thought he might 
have been somewhere around the building so I waited. I went to the door and 
peered further down the floor among the machinery. I couldn't see him there. I 
stayed until the clock hand was pointing to ten minutes after twelve. Then I went 
downstairs. The building was quiet, and I couldn't hear a sound. I didn't see 

On April 30, 1913 a coroner's inquest began. Leo Frank repeated his story 
concerning his whereabouts on April 26. A point of contention between the police, 
the coroner, and Frank was Frank's physical location when the whistles blew. 
Since Saturday was Confederate Memorial Day, police argued that no whistles 
blew. Leo Frank had difficulty establishing his whereabouts during that time 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Monteen Stover repeated the testimony which she had reported to the police 
at the coroner's inquest. On May 8, 1913 the jury returned a verdict of murder at 
the hands of a person or persons unknown. Both Frank and Lee were returned to 
the Fulton Tower. 

Why did people feel it was Leo Frank, rather than Newt Lee, who was 
responsible for the murder? 

Some who have studied the Mary Phagan case seem to feel that many people 
in Atlanta — including the police and the Fulton County Solicitor-General, Hugh 
Dorsey — demanded Leo Frank's indictment and conviction because of his status 
as an outsider. 

Moreover, the Atlanta Police Department had a series of unsolved murders on 
their hands and were desperate for a conviction. They were also pressured by the 
public, who vociferously demanded that Mary Phagan's assailant be discovered. 

Then there was Jim Conley. On rounding up witnesses from the National 
Pencil Company, they apparently paid special attention to Jim Conley, who had 
been seen washing a shirt at a faucet in the factory, thereby causing an 
anonymous informer to suggest to the police that there could have been blood on 
the shirt. 

Conley apparently began by lying: he told the police he could neither read nor 
write, but he could do both. Over the next few weeks he gave four affidavits — the 
last of which helped convict Leo Frank — each of which told a different version 
than the previous one. Yet it was largely on his testimony that Leo Frank was 
found guilty of murder. Could Jim Conley have been the culprit? 

It would have been easy to convict Jim Conley, a semi-literate, poor, 
friendless Negro with a chain gang record. Leo Frank, on the other hand, a white 
man with allegedly rich relatives, would be another story: he could raise sufficient 

funds to defend himself vigorously and effectively. Why did they home in on Leo 


My Search Begins 

Some writers, such as Harry Golden in his book A Little Girl Is Dead, feel that 
many Atlantans were grossly anti-Semitic and accused Frank of the murder 
because he was Jewish. 

Luther Otterbein Bricker, who was the pastor of the First Christian Church in 
Bellwood where Mary Phagan went to Bible school, described the high feelings 
which ran through Atlanta regarding the murder of little Mary Phagan in a letter 
to a friend dated May 26, 1942 which he allowed to be published in 1943. 

The letter states his impression upon hearing of the murder: 

But, when the police arrested a Jew, and a Yankee Jew at that, all of the 
inborn prejudice against the Jews rose up in a feeling of satisfaction, that 
here would be a victim worthy to pay for the crime. 

From that day on the newspapers were filled with the most awful stories, 
affidavits and testimonies, which proved the guilt of Leo M. Frank beyond the 
shadow of a doubt. The police got prostitutes and criminals, on whom they 
had something, to swear anything and everything they wanted them to swear 
to. And reading these stories in the paper day by day, there was no doubt left 
in the mind of the general public but that Frank was guilty. And the whole 
city was in a frenzy. We were all mad crazy, and in a blood frenzy. Frank was 
brought to trial in mob spirit. One could feel the waves of madness which 
swept us all. 

Had I been a member of the jury that tried Frank I would have assented 
to the verdict of guilty, for the jury did exactly as I wanted it to and I 
applauded the verdict. 

It has also been said that Solicitor-General Hugh Dorsey had strong feelings 
about Leo Frank's guilt, and through the years there has been much speculation 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

what brought about Dorsey's certainty that Frank was guilty. 

In a 1948 study of the Mary Phagan-Leo Frank case, Henry L. Bowden 
reported a discussion with Hugh Dorsey that seems to shed light on the 
prosecutor's feelings about Leo Frank. Bowden had, in conversation with Dorsey, 
asked him just what it was that had made him suspicious of Frank, and Dorsey 
reportedly replied that someone had planted a bloody shirt in a well on the 
property where Newt Lee lived, and that as he and several of the force, including 
Boots Rogers, the local detective who according to Dorsey was the best detective 
around, were riding out to the property to check on the shirt, Rogers described to 
Dorsey Leo Frank's "extreme" uneasiness and nervousness when confronted with 
the murder at the factory. This, Dorsey related, had led him to be suspicious of 

Dorsey stated further to Bowden that he had arranged that all the detectives 
and operatives on the case reported to him directly rather than to the police 
force, and that the two advantages of this were that the papers were not informed 
of every little thing that the investigation disclosed and, moreover, that defense 
counsel were kept in complete ignorance as to what Dorsey's evidence consisted 
of and were therefore unable to prepare defenses in advance to such evidence. 

Dorsey sought Frank's indictment for the following reasons: Frank had sent 
Newt Lee away at 4:00 p.m. and then called the factory at 7:00 p.m. (which Lee 
claimed Frank had never done before) to check that things were all right. Frank 
had not answered Newt Lee's or Captain Starnes's telephone calls. He hadn't 
wanted to come to the factory. He had said he couldn't tell if Mary Phagan 
worked at the factory since he didn't know the names of most of the factory girls 
(later at the office he was able to 


My Search Begins 

tell the exact time Mary had come for her pay on Saturday). Frank had then 
accused J. M. Gantt of being intimate with Mary Phagan, although earlier Frank 
had said he hadn't known her. The police officers who had taken Frank to the 
mortuary recalled his extreme nervousness. They now considered this emotional 
agitation important, as well as the fact that Frank had inquired about their 
finding Mary Phagan's pay envelope. 

At the inquest, J. W. Coleman stated: "Mary often said things went on at the 
factory that were not nice and that some of the people there tried to get fresh. She 
told most of those stories to her mother." Yet the defense for Frank never asked 
Fannie Phagan Coleman any direct questions about this. Of course, the state had 
other witnesses and perhaps chose not to upset the mother any more than was 

Additional information which seemed to point to Leo Frank's guilt was his 
failure to throw suspicion on Conley who testified that he helped Frank dispose of 
the body and his concealment of his ballgame date. 

Most importantly, Dorsey felt that Frank's cook, Minola McKnight's, first 
statement was true: 

Sunday, Miss Lucile said to Mrs. Selig that Mr. Frank didn't rest so good 
Saturday night; she said he was drunk and wouldn't let her sleep with him, 
and she said she slept on the floor on the rug by the bed because Mr. Frank 
was drinking. Miss Lucile said Sunday that Mr. Frank told her Saturday night 
that he was in trouble, and that he didn't know the reason why he would 
murder, and he told his wife to get his pistol and let him kill himself. I heard 
Miss Lucile say that to Mrs. Selig, and it got away with Mrs. Selig mighty bad, 
she didn't know what to think. I haven't heard Miss Lucile say whether she 
believed it or not. I don't know why Mrs. Frank didn't come to see her 
husband, but it was a pretty good while before she 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

would come to see him, maybe two weeks. She would tell me "Wasn't it 
mighty bad that he was locked up." She would say: "Minola, I don't know 
what I am going to do." 

The affidavit of Monteen Stover following the coroner's verdict added credence 
to Dorsey's suspicions that Frank was the murderer, since Miss Stover reported 
that she got to the office at 12:05 p.m. to get her pay, and Frank wasn't there. 
This contradicted Frank, who had said he was continuously in his office from 
12:00 noon on. 

Dorsey also weighed heavily the record and comments of the jury which 
pointed to their theory that the murder took place on an upper floor of the factory 
and that the body was taken to the basement with the intention of burning it. 
There were other comments by jury members on the factory being used by Frank 
for immoral purposes and his relations with some of the female employees. 

Not yet sure of whom the actual murderer was, Dorsey had indictment forms 
drawn up for both Leo Frank and Newt Lee. On May 24, however, after the last 
testimony was heard, he asked for a true bill against Frank. The jury complied 
and returned an indictment charging Leo Frank with first degree murder. 

Chapter 4 


Because the ninety-degree heat had already begun to take its toll, the 
Honorable Leonard Strickland Roan ordered the windows and doors thrown open 
when he convened the Leo Frank case in the temporary Atlanta court-room on 
July 28, 1913, at 10:00 a.m. The two hundred and fifty seats in the courtroom 
were packed full. Outside, crowds milled, spilling over onto Pryor and Hunter 

Twenty officers guarded the courtroom. Judge Roan, an experienced and able 
jurist, who had served as the presiding judge in almost all of the murder trials in 
the Stone Mountain area, was determined that strict decorum would be observed 
inside his courtroom. Although various accounts tell that the words "Hang the 
Jew" were shouted by the crowd outside, jurors, bailiffs, clerks, and court officials 
claimed that there were no disturbances or crowd noises until the verdict was 

The jurors, all white men and Atlanta residents, were chosen within three 
hours of the first morning of the trial. One hundred and forty-four people were 
drawn. Fifty-four were excused; thirty-seven because they confessed an already- 
formed opinion, three because they were over sixty, fourteen because they 
opposed capital punishment. The 



The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

defense used eighteen of its twenty strikes without a cause while the prosecution 
used seven of the ten it was allowed. The twelve men chosen were: C.J. Basshart 
(Pressman), A.H. Henslee (Head Salesman, Buggy Co.), J.F. Higdon (Building 
Contractor), W.N. Jeffries (Real Estate), M. Johenning (Shipping Clerk), W.F. 
Medcalf (Mailer), J.T. Ozburn (Optician), Frederic V.L. Smith (Paying Teller), D. 
Townsend (Paying Teller), F.E. Windburn (Railroad Claims Agent), A.L. Wiseby 
(Cashier), M.S. Woodward (Cashier, King Hardware). They were lodged at the Old 
Kimball House and not allowed to read the newspapers or talk with their families 
concerning the trial. 

The chief prosecutor, Solicitor-General Hugh A. Dorsey, according to the 
newspapers, was handsome and forceful. At forty- two, he was Solicitor General 
for the Fulton County courts. Fully convinced of Frank's guilt, he was assisted by 
Frank Arthur Hooper, a successful corporate attorney who had volunteered his 
services, and Edward A. Stephens, Assistant Solicitor General. 

Leo Frank was defended by Atlanta's two well-known trial lawyers, Luther Z. 
Rosser who, according to the Atlanta Constitution, was the "most persuasive and 
most domineering lawyer in Atlanta in the art of examining witnesses" and 
Reuben Arnold, "best known attorney in Georgia," and "one of the ablest criminal 
lawyers in the South," according to the Atlanta Journal. They were assisted by 
Stiles Hopkins and Herbert Haas. 

In his opening argument for the prosecution, Special Assistant Solicitor 
Hooper described the state's case against Frank. According to his outline, Mary 
Phagan had died as a result of a premeditated rape by the defendant, Leo Frank. 
It was alleged that Frank had seduced and taken liberties with other young 
factory girls and had made unsuccessful advances to Mary Phagan. Several 
surviving family members have said that Frank harassed Mary Phagan and that 
she went home and told her 


The Case for the Prosecution 

mother. Several former National Pencil Company employees who are still living, 
but wish that their names not be disclosed, have also alleged that they heard 
Frank sexually harass Mary Phagan. 

According to the state, Frank expected Mary Phagan to come to the factory on 
the Saturday she died, because a fellow employee had asked Frank for Mary's pay 
envelope earlier and he refused to give it to her. The state contended that Jim 
Conley had previously acted as a lookout for Frank, so Frank's immoral activities 
would not be discovered, and Frank had told Conley to work on April 26. 
Assistant Solicitor Hooper then sketched in the state's contention that Frank was 
alone in the office, gave Mary Phagan her pay envelope, whereupon she asked him 
if the metal for her work had come. Saying he didn't know, Frank followed Mary to 
the metal room and made sexual overtures to her. She repulsed him and he 
knocked her down and, while she was unconscious, raped her. Then, fearful of 
the consequences, he strangled her. Thereafter, he went up to the fourth floor to 
get the workers out of the building and called Conley, confessing "that he guessed 
he had struck her too hard." With Conley, Frank dragged the body to the 
basement and made plans for Conley to burn it later. He gave Conley two dollars 
and fifty cents and then two hundred dollars, but later had Conley return the 
money, promising he would give it back to Conley after Conley disposed of the 

As Hooper went over the outline of the rest of the state's case, he singled out 
the expected testimony of Monteen Stover, who he claimed would contradict 
Frank's contention that he had been in his office continuously from 12:00 p.m. to 
12:45 p.m. 

Testimony began that Monday afternoon as Mrs. J.W. Coleman (Fannie 
Phagan Coleman), the mother of little Mary Phagan, testified. Dressed in a black 
mourning dress and heavy veil which she threw back, she spoke in a low 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

voice, telling that she last saw her daughter alive on April 26, 1913, at their 
residence, 146 Lindsey Street, about a quarter to twelve, before Mary went to the 

pencil factory to get her pay. Tearfully, she described her daughter and the 
clothing she was wearing. 

A court officer drew forth a suitcase which had been hidden behind several 

Standing in front of the mother, he undid the satchel and lifted out the dress 
and shoes that Mary Phagan had worn when her mother last saw her. The officer 
first laid the dress upon the witness stand, almost under the mother's feet and 
placed the shoes beside it. Everyone had leaned forward when the satchel had 
been brought from behind the chairs; everyone, the lawyers, the audience, the 
jury, waited as the torn clothing and shoes were placed close to Mary's mother for 
her identification. 

After the most hurried glance at the clothing, which almost touched the hem 
of her dress, Mrs. Coleman covered her eyes with a palm fan and began to sob. 
This was how Fannie Phagan Coleman, without speaking, identified the clothing 
of her murdered daughter. 

At that time, few women attended a court trial except for those who were 
related either to the victim or to the defendant. Fannie Phagan Coleman and Ollie 
Mae Phagan, little Mary's sister, as well as her brothers, all attended the trial, as 
did Lucille Selig Frank, Frank's wife, and Mrs. Rae Frank, his mother. When 
asked for her thoughts by a reporter for the Atlanta Journal on the first day's 
proceedings of the trial, Fannie Phagan Coleman said: "I would rather not talk 
about it ... I don't want to express an opinion." It was this profession of silence 
which caused the rest of the Phagan family not to speak of the trial for the next 
seventy years. 

On that day, 01 lie Mae Phagan agreed: "I'm like my mother in not wanting to 
talk about the trial. The trial is almost more than my mother can bear. She was 


The Case for the Prosecution 

youngest of us — Mary, I mean — she was the life of our home. Now everything is 

Among the testimonies that proved especially damaging to Frank was that of 
Newt Lee, the night watchman who usually worked weekdays from 6:00 p.m. to 
6:00 a.m., but on Saturdays began work at 5:00 p.m. He reported that on the 
Saturday of the murder he got to the factory at 4:00 p.m.: 

On the 26th day of April, 1913, I was night watchman at the National Pencil 
Factory. I had been night watchman there for about three weeks. When I 
began working there, Mr. Frank carried me around and showed me everything 
that I would have to do. I would have to get there at six o'clock on weekdays, 
and on Saturday evenings I have to come at five o'clock. On Friday the 25th 
of April, he told me "Tomorrow is a holiday and I want you to come back at 
four o'clock. I want to get off a little earlier than I have been getting off." I got 
to the factory on Saturday about three or four minutes before four. The front 
door was not locked. I pushed it open, went on in and got to the double door 
there. I was paid off Friday night at six o'clock. It was put out that everybody 
would be paid off then. Every Saturday when I got off he gives me the keys at 
twelve o'clock, so that if he happened to be gone when I get back there at five 
or six o'clock I could get in, and every Monday morning I return the keys to 
him. The front door has always been unlocked on previous Saturday 
afternoons. After you go inside and come up about middle ways of the steps, 
there are some double doors there. It was locked on Saturday when I got 
there. Have never found it that way before. I took my key and unlocked it. 

When I got upstairs I had a sack of bananas and I stood to the left of that 
desk like I do every Saturday. 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

I says like I always do "Alright Mr. Frank," and he come bustling out of his 
office. He had never done that before. He always called me when he wanted to 
tell me anything and said "Step here a minute, Newt." This time he came up 
rubbing his hands and says, "Newt, I am sorry that I had you come so soon, 
you could have been at home sleeping. I tell you what you do, you go out in 
town and have a good time." He had never let me off before that. I could have 
laid down there in the shipping room and gone to sleep, and I told him that. 
He says, "You need to have a good time. You go down town, stay an hour and a 
half and come back your usual time at six o'clock. Be sure and be back at six 
o'clock." I then went out the door and stayed until about four minutes to six. 
When I came back the doors were unlocked just as I left them and I went and 
says, "Alright Mr. Frank," and he says, "What time is it?" and I says, "It lacks 
two minutes of six." He says, "Don't punch yet, there is a few worked today 
and I want to change the slip." It took him twice as long this time than it did 
the other times I saw him fix it. He fumbled putting it in, while I held the lever 
for him and I think he made some remark about he was not used to putting it 
in. When Mr. Frank put the tape in I punched and I went on down-stairs. 
While I was down there Mr. Gantt came from across the street from the beer 
saloon and says, "Newt, I got a pair of old shoes that I want to get upstairs to 
have fixed." I says, "I ain't allowed to let anybody in here after six o'clock." 
About that time Mr. Frank come busting out of the door and run into Gantt 
unexpected and he jumped back frightened. Gantt says, "I got a pair of old 
shoes upstairs, have you any objection to my getting them?" Frank says, "I 
don't think they are up there, I think I saw the boy sweep some up in the trash 
the other day." Mr. Gantt 

The Case for the Prosecution 

asked him what sort they were and Mr. Frank says "tans." Gantt says, "Well, I 
had a pair of black ones too." Frank says, "Well, I don't know," and he dropped 
his head down just so. Then he raised his head and says, "Newt, go with him 
and stay with him and help him find them," and I went up there with Mr. 
Gantt and found them in the shipping room, two pair, the tans and the black 
ones. Mr. Frank phoned me that night about an hour after he left, it was 
sometime after seven o'clock. He says, "How is every-thing?" and I says, 
"Everything is all right so far as I know," and he says, "Goodbye." No, he did 
not ask anything about Gantt. Yes, that is the first time he ever phoned to me 
on a Saturday night. 

There is a light on the street floor just after you get in the entrance to the 
building. The light is right up here where that partition comes across. Mr. 
Frank told me when I first went there, "keep that light burning bright, so the 
officers can see in when they pass by." It wasn't burning that day at all. I lit it 
at six o'clock myself. On Saturdays I always lit it, but weekdays it would 
always be lit when I got there. On Saturdays I always got there at five o'clock. 
This Saturday he got me there an hour earlier and let me off later. There is a 
light in the basement down there at the foot of the ladder. He told me to keep 
that burning all the time. It has two little chains to it to turn on and turn off 
the gas. When I got there on making my rounds at seven o'clock on the 26th of 
April, it was burning just as low as you could turn it, like a lightning bug. I 

left it Saturday morning burning bright. I made my rounds regularly every half 
hour Saturday night. I punched on the hour and punched on the half and I 
made all my punches. The elevator doors on the street floor and office floor 
were closed when I got there on Saturday. They were fas- 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

tened down just like we fasten them down every other night. When three 
o'clock came I went down the basement and when I went down and got ready to 
come back I discovered the body there. I went down to the toilet and when I got 
through I looked at the dust bin back to the door to see how the door was and 
it being dark I picked up my lantern and went there and I saw something 
laying there which I thought some of the boys had put there to scare me, then I 
walked a little piece towards it and I seen what it was and I got out of there. I 
got up the ladder and called up [the] police station. It was after three o'clock. I 
carried the officers down where I found the body. I tried to get Mr. Frank on the 
telephone and was still trying when the officers came. I guess I was trying 
about eight minutes. I saw Mr. Frank Sunday morning at about seven or eight 
o'clock. He was coming in the office. He looked down on the floor and never 
spoke to me. He dropped his head right down this way. Mr. Frank was there 
and dint say nothing while Mr. Darley was speaking to me. Boots Rogers, Chief 
Lanford, Darley, Mr. Frank and I were there when they opened the clock. Mr. 
Frank opened the clock and said — the punches were all right, that I hadn't 
missed any punches. I punched every half hour from six o'clock until three 
o'clock, which was the last punch I made. I don't know whether they took out 
that slip or not. On Tuesday night, April 29th, at about ten o'clock I had a 
conversation at the station house with Mr. Frank. They handcuffed me to a 
chair. They went and got Mr. Frank and brought him in and he sat down next 
to the door. He dropped his head and looked down. We were all alone. I said, 
"Mr. Frank, it's mighty hard for me to be handcuffed here for something I don't 
know anything about." He said, "What's the difference, they have got me locked 


The Case for the Prosecution 

and a man guarding me." I said, "Mr. Frank, do you believe I committed that 
crime," and he said, "No, Newt, I know you didn't, but I believe you know 
something about it." I said, "Mr. Frank, I don't know a thing about it, no more 
than finding the body." He said, "We are not talking about that now, we will 
let that go. If you keep that up we will both go to hell." Then the officers both 
came in. When Mr. Frank came out of his office that Saturday he was looking 
down and rubbing his hands. I have never seen him rubbing his hands that 
way before. 

When Defense Attorney Rosser cross-examined Lee, the witness said that the 
locked double doors inside the entrance to the building were unlocked when 
he came back. 

Next the prosecution called to the stand Sergeant L.S. Dobbs. He testified: 

On the morning of April 27, about 3:25, a call came from the pencil 
factory that there was a murder up there. We went in Boots Rogers's 
automobile and when we arrived, the door was locked. We knocked and in 
about two minutes the Negro came down the steps and opened the door and 
said a woman was murdered in the basement. We went through a scuttle 

hole, a small trapdoor. The Negro led the way back in the basement about 
150 feet to the body. 

The girl was lying on her face, not directly lying on her stomach, with the 
left side up just a little. We couldn't tell by looking at her whether she was 
white or black, only by her golden hair. They turned her over, and her face 
was full of dirt and dust. They took a piece of paper and rubbed the dirt off 
her face, and we could tell then that it was a white girl. I pulled up her 
clothes, and could tell by the skin of the knee that it was a white girl. Her 
face was punctured, full of 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

holes, and swollen and black. She had a cut on the left side of her head as if 
she had been struck, and there was a little blood there. The cord was around 
her neck, sunk into the flesh. She also had a piece of her underclothing around 
her neck. The tongue was protruding just the least bit. The cord was pulled 
tight, and had cut into the flesh, and tied just as tight as it could be. The 
underclothing around the neck was not tight. 

There wasn't much blood on her head. It was dry on the outside. I stuck my 
finger under the hair, and it was a little moist. 

This scratch pad was lying on the ground, close to the body. I found the 
notes under the sawdust, lying near the head. The pad was lying near the 
notes. They were all right close together. 
On cross-examination, Dobbs testified: 

Newt Lee told us it was a white woman. 

There was a trash pile near the boiler, where this hat was found, and paper 
and pencils down there, too. The hat and shoe were on the trash pile. Every- 
thing was gone off it, ribbons and all. 

The place where I thought I saw someone dragged was right in front of the 
elevator, directly back. The little trail where I thought showed the body was 
dragged, went straight on down where the girl was found. It was a continuous 

It looked like she had been dragged on her face by her feet. I thought the 
places on her face had been made by dragging. That was a dirt floor, with 
cinders on it, scattered over the dirt. 

Back door was shut, staple had been pulled. The lock was locked still. It 
was a sliding door, with a bar across the door, but the bar had been taken 
down. It looked like the staple had been recently drawn. 


The Case for the Prosecution 

I was reading one of the notes to Lee, with the following words, "A tall, 
black negro did this; he will try to lay it on the night," and when I got to the 
word "night," Lee says, "That means the night watchman." 

On Dorsey's re-direct examination, Dobbs testified that "A man couldn't get 
down that ladder with another person. It is difficult for one person to get through 
that scuttle hole. The back door was shut; staple had been pulled. 

"The sign of dragging . . . started east of the ladder. A man going down the 
ladder to the ear of the basement, would not go in front of the elevator where the 
dragging was. 

"The body was cold and stiff. Hands folded across the breast. 

"I didn't find any blood on the ground, or on the sawdust, around where we 
found the body." 

Further re-direct examination revealed that Dobbs had found the 
handkerchief on a sawdust pile, about ten feet from the body. When he was 
shown the handkerchief on re-cross examination, he stated: "It was bloody, just 
as it is now." Later recalled for the state, Dobbs revealed that "The trap-door 
leading up from the basement was closed when we got up there." 

City Officer John N. Starnes was the next important state's witness. He 

I reached the factory between five and six o'clock on April 27th. I called 
up the superintendent, Leo Frank, and asked him to come right away. He 
said he hadn't had any breakfast. He asked where the night watchman was. I 
told him to come, and if he would come, I would send an automobile for him. 

I didn't tell him what had happened, and he didn't ask me. 

When Frank arrived at the factory, a few minutes 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

later, he appeared to be nervous, he was in a trembling condition. Lee was 
composed at the factory, he never tried to get away. 

That first morning of the trial, Starnes stated that "I saw splotches that 
looked like blood about a foot and a half, or two feet, from the end of the dressing 
room, some of which I chipped up. It looked like splotches of blood and 
something had been thrown there and in throwing it had spread out and 

"I chipped two places off the back door, which looked like they had bloody 

"It takes not over three minutes to walk from Marietta Street, at the corner of 
Forsyth, across the viaduct, and through Forsyth Street, down to the factory." 

Starnes further testified, "I could not give the words of the telephone 
conversation between me and Frank be-cause I could be mistaken as to the 
words he used." 

Concerning the splotches, he said, "I don't know if they were blood." 
Another witness, W. W. ("Boots") Rogers testified: 

After Starnes's telephone conversation, John Black and I went to Frank's 
residence where Mrs. Frank answered the door. Mr. Black asked, 'Is Frank 
in?' Mr. Frank stepped into the hall through the curtain partly dressed and 
asked if anything happened at the factory. When Mr. Black didn't answer, Mr. 
Frank said, 'Did the night watchman call up and report anything to you?' 

Mr. Black then asked him to finish dressing and go to the factory to see 
what had happened. 

Frank said that he thought he dreamt in the morning, about three o'clock, 
about hearing the telephone ring. 

Frank seemed to be extremely nervous and was rubbing his hands and 
asked for a cup of coffee. After 


The Case for the Prosecution 

we got in the automobile, one of the officers asked Frank if he knew a little 
girl named Mary Phagan. 

Frank asked, "Does she work at the factory?" 

Then I said, "I think she does," and Frank stated, "I cannot tell whether 
she works there or not, until I look at my payroll book. I know very few of the 
girls that work there. I pay them off, but I very seldom go back in the factory." 

Frank's references to not knowing Mary Phagan were later to take on added 

We went to the undertaking establishment but I did not see Frank look at 
the corpse, I did see him step away into a side room. After the morgue, we 
went to the pencil factory where Frank opened the safe, consulted his time 
book and said: "Yes, Mary Phagan worked here. She was here yesterday to get 
her pay. I will tell you about the exact time she left here. My stenographer left 
about twelve o'clock, and a few minutes after she left, the office boy left, and 
Mary came in and got her pay and left." 

He then wanted to see where the girl was found. Mr. Frank went around to 
the elevator, where there was a switch box on the wall, and put the switch in. 
The box was not locked. As to what Mr. Frank said about the murder, I don't 
know that I heard him express himself, except down in the basement. 

The officers showed him where the body was found, and he made the 
remark that it was too bad, or something like that. 

On re-cross examination, Rogers stated that "No one could have seen the 
body at the morgue unless he was somewhere near me. I was inside and Mr. 
Frank never came into that little room, where the corpse lay." On re-direct 
examination he stated that, "When the face was 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

rued toward me, Mr. Frank stepped out of my vision in e direction of Mr. 
Gheesling's sleeping room." John Black was sworn and stated: 

We didn't know it was a white girl or not until we rubbed the dirt from the 
child's face, and pulled down her stocking a little piece. The tongue was not 
sticking out; it was wedged between her teeth. She had dirt in her eye and 
mouth. The cord around her neck was drawn so tight it was sunk in her flesh, 
and the piece of undershirt was loose over her hair. 

She was lying on her face with her hands folded up. One of her eyes was 
blackened. There were several little scratches on her face. A bruise on the left 
side of her head, some dry blood in her hair. 

There was some excrement in the elevator shaft. When we went down on the 
elevator, the elevator mashed it. You could smell it all around. 
He had come with Boots Rogers to Frank's residence: 

Mrs. Frank came to the door; she had on a bathrobe. I stated that I would 
like to see Mr. Frank and about that time Mr. Frank stepped out from behind a 
curtain. Frank's voice was hoarse and trembling and nervous and excited. He 
looked to me like he was pale. He seemed nervous in handling his collar; he 
could not get his tie tied, and talked very rapid in asking what had happened. 
He kept insisting on a cup of coffee. 

When we got into the automobile, Mr. Frank wanted to know what had 
happened at the factory, and I asked him if he knew Mary Phagan, and told him 
she had been found dead in the basement. Mr. Frank said he did not know any 
girl by the name of Mary Phagan, that he knew very few of the employees. [This 
was the second time, according to testimony at 


The Case for the Prosecution 

the trial, that Frank had denied knowing Mary Phagan]. 

In the undertaking establishment, Mr. Frank looked at her; he gave a 
casual glance at her, and stepped aside; I couldn't say whether he saw the face 

of the girl or not. There was a curtain hanging near the room, and Mr. Frank 
stepped behind the curtain. 

Mr. Frank stated, as we left the undertaker's that he didn't know the girl, 
but he believed he had paid her off on Saturday. He thought he recognized her 
being at the factory Saturday by the dress that she wore. 

At the factory, Mr. Frank took the slip out, looked over it, and said it had 
been punched correctly. 

On Monday and Tuesday following, Mr. Frank stated that the clock had 
been mispunched three times. 

I saw Frank take it out of the clock and went with it back toward his office. 

When Mr. Frank was down at the police station, on Monday morning Mr. 
Rosser and Mr. Haas were there. Mr. Haas stated, in Frank's presence, that he 
was Frank's attorney. This was about eight, or eight thirty Monday morning. 
That's the first time he had counsel with him. 

On Tuesday night, Mr. Scott and myself suggested to Mr. Frank to talk to 
Newt Lee. They went into a room, and stayed about five or ten minutes, alone. I 
couldn't hear enough to swear that I under-stood what was said. Mr. Frank said 
that Newt Lee stuck to the story that he knew nothing about it. 

Mr. Frank stated that Mr. Gantt was there on Saturday evening, and that he 
told Lee to let him get the shoes, but to watch him, as he knew the 
surroundings of the office. 

[After this conversation Gantt was arrested.] 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Mr. Frank was nervous Monday; after his release, he seemed very jovial. 

On Tuesday night, Frank said at the station house, that there was nobody 
at the factory at six o'clock but Newt Lee, and that Newt Lee ought to know 
more about it, as it was his duty to look over the factory every thirty minutes. 

On cross-examination, Black said, "After the visit to the morgue, the party 
went to the factory, where Frank got the book, ran his finger down until he came 
to the name of Mary Phagan, and said: 'Yes, this little girl worked here and I paid 
her $1.20 yesterday.' 

"We went all over the factory. Nobody saw that blood spot that morning." 

Frank's attorney, Mr. Haas, told Black to go out to Frank's house, and search 
for the clothes he had worn the week before and his laundry as well. Frank went 
with them and showed them the dirty laundry. 

Black went on: "I examined Newt Lee's house. I found a bloody shirt at the 
bottom of a clothes barrel there, on Tuesday morning, about nine o'clock." 

On re-direct examination by Dorsey, Black stated that Frank said, "After 
looking over the time sheet, and seeing that it had not been punched correctly, 
that it would have given Lee an hour to have gone out to his house and back." 

The next person to take the stand had been arrested by the police in their 
preliminary investigation of the murder. J. M. Gantt testified that he was shipping 
clerk at the pencil factory and that Frank discharged him on April 7 for an alleged 
shortage in the payroll. 

"I have known Mary Phagan since she was a little girl, and Mr. Frank knew 
her too. 

"One Saturday afternoon, she came in the office to have her time corrected, by 
me, and after I had gotten 


The Case for the Prosecution 

through with her, Mr. Frank came in and said: 'You seem to know Mary pretty 

well.' " 

On two occasions after Gantt was discharged, he went back to the factory 

where, he said, "Mr. Frank saw me both times. He made no objections to my going 


"One girl used to get the pay envelope for another, with Frank's knowledge." 
Gantt swore that Mr. Frank discharged him because he refused to make good 

the $2.00 shortage in the payroll which he said he knew nothing about. He then 

described Frank's behavior Saturday when he went for his shoes: 

I stood at the front door and when Frank saw me he kind of stepped back, 
like he was going to go back, but when he looked up and saw I was looking at 
him, he came on out, and I said, "Howdy, Mr. Frank," and he sorter jumped 

I asked permission to get my shoes. Frank hesitated, inquired the kind of 
shoes, was told they were tans, and stated that he thought he had a Negro 
sweep them out. I said I left a black pair as well and Frank studied a little bit 
and told Newt to go with me, and stay with me till I got my shoes. Mr. Frank 
looked pale, hung his head, and kind of hesitated and stuttered, like he didn't 
like me in there, somehow or another. 

On cross-examination Gantt revealed that when he testified at the coroner's 
inquest he did not testify about Frank having known Mary Phagan very well. 

Mrs. J. R. White, whose husband worked at the factory, testified that she 
went to the factory at 11:30 to see her husband and stayed until 11:50. She 
returned about 12:30 and, she said, "Mr. Frank was in the outside office standing 
in front of the safe. I asked him if Mr. White had gone back to work; he jumped, 
like I surprised him, and turned and said, 'Yes.' I then went upstairs to see Mr. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

White. At about one o'clock, Frank came up to the fourth floor and told me that if 
I wanted to get out by three o'clock, I had better come down as he was going to 
leave the factory and that I had better be ready to leave as soon as he got his coat 
and hat. 

"As I was going down the steps, I saw a Negro sitting on a box, close to the 
stairway on the first floor. 

"Mr. Frank did not have his coat or hat on when I passed out." 

In a later statement about which there was much conjecture, Mrs. White 
swore "I saw a Negro sitting between the stairway and the door, about five or six 
feet from the foot of the stairway. I wouldn't be able to identify him." 

Harry Scott was sworn in. "I am the superintendent of the local branch of the 
Pinkerton Detective Agency and work with John Black, city detective. I was 
employed by Frank for the National Pencil Company. On Monday, April 28th, I 
witnessed, along with Mr. Darley and a third party, Frank telling his detailed 
accounts of his movements the Saturday before. He told of going to Montag and 
the coming of Mrs. White to the factory." 

Scott related that Frank said that Mary Phagan came into the factory at 12:10 
p.m. to draw her pay. She had been laid off the Monday previous, and she was 
paid $1.20. "He paid her off in his inside office, where he was at his desk, and 
when she left his office and went into the outer office she had reached the outer 
office door leading into the hall, and turned around to Mr. Frank, and asked if the 
metal had come yet. Mr. Frank replied that he didn't know. Mary Phagan, he 
thought, reached the stairway, and he heard voices, but he couldn't distinguish 
whether they were men or girls talking." 

Harry Scott's next words about Leo Frank created a stir in the courtroom. 


The Case for the Prosecution 

He (Frank) stated during our conversation with him that Gantt knew Mary 
Phagan very well, that he was familiar and intimate with her. He seemed to 
lay special stress on it at the time. He said that Gantt paid a good deal of 
attention to her. As to whether anything was said by any attorney of Frank's 
as to our suppressing any evidence as to this murder, it was the first week in 
May when Mr. Pierce and I went to Mr. Herbert J. Haas's office in the Fourth 
National Bank Building and had a conference with him as to the Pinkerton 
Agency's position in the matter. Mr. Haas stated that he would rather we 
would submit our reports to him first before we turned it over to the police 
and let them know what evidence we had gathered. We told him we would 
withdraw before we would adopt any practice of that sort, that it was our 
intention to work in hearty co-operation with the police. 

I saw the place near the girls' dressing room on the office floor, fresh chips 
had already been cut out of the floor. 

After Frank was arrested Scott asked Frank to see if he could use his 
influence with Newt Lee since he was his employer and try to get Lee to tell what 
he knew. Lee and Frank were put in a private room and: 

When about ten minutes was up, Mr. Black and I entered the room and 
Lee hadn't finished his conversation with Frank; and was saying: "Mr. Frank, 
it is awful hard for me to remain handcuffed to this chair," and Frank hung 
his head the entire time the Negro was talking to him, and finally, after about 
thirty seconds, he said, "Well, they have got me, too." After that, we asked Mr. 
Frank if he had gotten any-thing out of the Negro and he said, 'No, Lee still 
sticks to his original story.' 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Mr. Frank was extremely nervous at that time. He was very squirmy in his 
chair, crossing one leg after the other, and didn't know where to put his 
hands; he was moving them up and down his face, and he hung his head a 
great deal of the time while the Negro was talking to him. He breathed very 
heavily, and took deep swallows, and hesitated somewhat. His eyes were about 
the same as they are now. 

That interview between Lee and Frank took place shortly after midnight, 
Wednesday, April 30th. On Monday afternoon, Frank said to me that the first 
punch on Newt Lee's slip was 6:33 p.m., and his last punch was 3 a.m. 
Sunday. He didn't say anything at that time about there being any error in 
Lee's punches. Mr. Black and I took Mr. Frank into custody about 11:30 a.m. 
Tuesday, April 29th. 

His hands were quivering very much, he was very pale. On Sunday, May 
3rd, I went to Frank's cell at the jail with Black, and I asked Mr. Frank if, from 
the time he arrived at the factory from Montag Bros., up until 12:50 p.m., the 
time he went upstairs to the fourth floor, was he inside of his office in the 
entire time, and he stated, "Yes." 

Then I asked him if he was inside his office every minute from twelve 
o'clock until 12:30, and he said, "Yes." 

I made a very thorough search of the area around the elevator and 
radiator, and back in there. I made a surface search; I found nothing at all. I 
found no ribbons or purse, or pay envelope, or bludgeon or stick. I spent a 

great deal of time around the trap door, and I remember running the light 
around the doorway, right close to the elevator, looking for splotches of blood, 
but I found nothing. 

When Luther Rosser questioned him, Scott admitted that he did not give the 
defense attorney the details in his reports of Mr. Frank's movements, about his 


The Case for the Prosecution 

about Gantt being familiar with Mary Phagan, and told the attorney that he did 
not hear Lee but stated now that he did hear the last words of Lee, and the 
description of Frank's extreme nervousness. 

After Lee, the next damaging testimony was given by Monteen Stover, a pretty 
girl with dark hair who was about the same age as Mary Phagan. Her allegations 
contradicted Frank's claim about being in his office continually Mrs. Stover 

I worked at the National Pencil Company prior to April 26, 1913. I was at 
the factory at five minutes after twelve on that day. I stayed there five 
minutes and left at ten minutes after twelve. I went there to get my money. I 
went in Mr. Frank's office. He was not there. I didn't see or hear anybody in 
the building. The door to the metal room was closed. I had on tennis shoes, a 
yellow hat, and a brown rain coat. I looked at the clock on my way up, it was 
five minutes after twelve and it was ten minutes after twelve when I started 
out. I had never been in his office before. The door to the metal room is 
sometimes open and sometimes closed. 
On cross-examination she revealed: 

I didn't look at the clock to see what time it was when I left home or when 
I got back home. I didn't notice the safe in Mr. Frank's office. I walked right 
in and walked right out. I went right through into the office and turned 
around and came out. I didn't notice how many desks were in the outer office. 
I didn't notice any wardrobe to put clothes in. I don't know how many 
windows are in the front office. I went through the first office into the second 
office. The factory was still and quiet when I was there. I am fourteen years 
old and I worked on the fourth floor of 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

the factory. I knew the paying-off time was twelve o'clock on Saturday and 
that is why I went there. They don't pay off in the office, you have to go up to 
a little window they open. 

Albert McKnight, the husband of Frank's cook, Minola McKnight (whose 
statement to the police concerning Frank's condition the night of the murder had 
further aroused police suspicions of Frank), testified that "Between one and two 
o'clock on Memorial Day I was at the home of Mr. Frank to see my wife. He came 
in close to one thirty. He did not eat any dinner. He came in, went to the 
sideboard of the dining room, stayed there a few minutes and then he goes out 
and catches a car. Stayed there about five or ten minutes." 

On cross-examination, McKnight stated that he saw Frank in the mirror in the 
corner and that you could look through the mirror and see in the sitting room and 
in the dining room. He did not see the Seligs, but heard Mr. Selig talking and he 
did not see Mrs. Frank or Mrs. Selig through the mirror. He couldn't tell who was 
in the dining room without looking through the mirror. 

Miss Helen Ferguson, a friend of the murdered girl, testified that she saw "Mr. 
Frank Friday, April 25, about seven o'clock in the evening and asked for Mary 
Phagan's money. Mr. Frank said, 'I can't let you have it,' and before he said 
anything else I turned around and walked out. I had gotten Mary's money before, 
but I didn't get it from Mr. Frank." 

On cross-examination, Miss Ferguson stated that she had gotten Mary's 
money before and she did not remember if Mr. Schiff was in the office or not when 
she asked Frank for Mary's money and that it had been some time since she 
asked for Mary's pay by number. 

Three medical experts were sworn in. Doctors Claude Smith, J. W. Hurt, and 
F. H. Harris, had very different 


The Case for the Prosecution 

contentions about the question of Mary Phagan's rape. All agreed there had been 
a savage struggle after which the girl was strangled. 

According to the undertaker, W. H. Gheesling, "There was a two and one-half 
inch wound on the back of the victim's head exposing part of the skull. Her hair 
was clotted with blood, and a tight cord indenting the flesh was drawn around 
the neck. Blood, urine, and some discharge stained her panties which had been 
cut or torn at the seam." 

The county physician, Dr. J. W. Hurt, testified, "The head wound was induced 
by a blunt-edged instrument and occurred before death. She died of 

Although Dr. Hurt said he found blood on her genitals, he contended there 
was no evidence of violence to the vagina. 

This finding was in direct contradiction to that of Dr. H. F. Harris, the 
medical examiner. He stated, "Besides a ruptured hymen, Mary Phagan's vagina 
showed evidence of violence before death due to the internal bleeding. The 
epithelium was pulled loose from the inner walls and detached in some places." 

Dr. Harris stated that this violence occurred before death. Nowhere in the 
testimony can it be found that Mary Phagan was bitten on her breast, although 
the report of such a bite surfaced many years later when in 1964, Pierre Van 
Passen, who had studied the evidence and 

X-rays of the Frank case in 1922, reported that he found X-ray pictures showing 
the girl had been bitten on the left shoulder and neck before strangulation, and 
that, moreover, those indentations did not correspond to the X-rays of Leo 
Frank's teeth. 

Having examined Mary's stomach contents, Dr. Harris asserted that she had 
eaten her last meal of bread and cabbage approximately one half to three 
quarters of an hour before she died. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

C.B. Dalton, the man whom Jim Conley alleged brought women, with Leo 
Frank, to the factory for immoral purposes, took the stand: 

I know Leo M. Frank, Daisy Hopkins, and Jim Conley. I have visited the 
National Pencil Company three, four, or five times. I have been in the office of 
Leo M. Frank two or three times. I have been down in the basement. I don't 
know whether Mr. Frank knew I was in the basement or not, but he knew I 
was there. I saw Conley there and the night watchman, and he was not 
Conley. There would be some ladies in Mr. Frank's office. Sometimes there 

would be two, and sometimes one. May be they didn't work in the mornings 
and they would be there in the evenings. 

Later, on cross-examination, he mentioned Daisy Hopkins again: 

I don't recollect the first time I was in Mr. Frank's office. It was last fall. I have 
been down there one time this year but Mr. Frank wasn't there. It was 
Saturday evening. I went in there with Miss Daisy Hopkins. I saw some parties 
in the office but I don't know them. They were ladies. Sometimes there would 
be two and sometimes more. I don't know whether it was the stenographer or 
not. I don't recollect the next time I saw him in his office. I never saw any 
gentle-men but Mr. Frank in there. Every time I was in Mr. Frank's office was 
before Christmas. Miss Daisy Hopkins introduced me to him. I saw Conley 
there one time this year and several times on Saturday evenings. Mr. Frank 
wasn't there the last time. Conley was sitting there at the front door. When I 
went down the ladder Miss Daisy went with me. We went back by the trash 
pile in the basement. I saw an old cot and a stretcher. 


The Case for the Prosecution 

On re-direct examination, Dalton stated that "Frank had Coca-Cola, lemon 
and lime, and beer in his office. When re-cross examined, he admitted that he had 
served time in the chain gang in 1894 for stealing. But he claimed in later re- 
direct testimony that it had been almost twenty years since he had been in 

Mell Stanford, who had worked for Frank for two years, testified that he swept 
the whole floor in the metal room on Friday, April 25. "On Monday thereafter, I 
found a spot that had some white haskoline over it, on the second floor, near the 
dressing room that wasn't there Friday when I swept. The spot looked to me like it 
was blood with dark spots scattered around." 

On cross-examination, Stanford said that he "moved everything and swept 
everything. I swept under Mary's and Barrett's machine." 

Finally, it was the testimony of the state's star witness, Jim Conley, a short, 
stocky black man who was a sweeper at the factory, that stunned the jury with 
his findings. He testified: 

I had a little conversation with Mr. Frank on Friday, the 25th of April. He 
wanted me to come to the pencil factory that Friday morning, that he had 
some work on the third floor he wanted me to do . . . Friday evening about 
three o'clock Mr. Frank came to the fourth floor where I was working and said 
he wanted me to come to the pencil factory on Saturday morning at eight 
thirty; that he had some work for me to do on the second floor. I had been 
working for the pencil company a little over two years ... I got to the pencil 
factory about eight-thirty on April 26th. Mr. Frank and me got to the door at 
the same time. Mr. Frank walked to the inside and I walked behind him and 
he says to me, "Good morning," and I says, "Good morning, Mr. Frank." He 
says, "You are a little early 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

this morning," and I says, "No sir, I am not early." He says, "Well, you are a 
little early to do what I wanted you to do for me, and I want you to watch for 
me like you have been doing the rest of the Saturdays." I always stayed on the 
first floor like I stayed the 26th of April and watched for Mr. Frank, while he 
and a young lady would be up on the second floor chatting. I don't know what 

they were doing. He only told me they wanted to chat. When young ladies 
would come there, I would sit down at the first floor and watch the door for 
him. I couldn't exactly tell how many times I have watched the floor for him 
previous to April 26th, it has been several times that I watched for him, but 
there would be another young man, another young lady during the time I was 
at the door. A lady for him and one for Mr. Frank. Mr. Frank was alone there 
once, that was Thanksgiving Day. I watched for him. Yes, a woman came there 
Thanks-giving Day, she was a tall, heavy-built lady. I stayed down there and 
watched the door just as he told me the last time, April 26th. He told me when 
the lady came he would stomp and let me know that was the one and for me to 
lock the door. Well, after the lady came and he stomped for me I went and 
locked the door as he said. He told me when he got through with the lady he 
would whistle and for me then to go and unlock the door. That was last 
Thanksgiving Day, 1912. On April 26th, me and Mr. Frank met at the door. He 
says, "What I want you to do is to watch for me today as you did other 
Saturdays," and I says, "All right." I said, "Mr. Frank, I want to go to the 
Capital City Laundry to see my mother," and he said, "By the time you go to 
the laundry and come back to Trinity Avenue stop at the corner of Nelson and 
Forsyth Street until I go to Montag's." I don't know exactly what time I got to 
the corner of Nelson and 


The Case for the Prosecution 

Forsyth Streets but I came there sometime between ten o'clock and ten thirty. I 
saw Mr. Frank as he passed by me, I was standing on the corner, he was 
coming up Forsyth Street toward Nelson Street. He was going to Montag's 
factory. While I was there on the corner he said, "Ha, ha, you are here, is yer." 
And I says, "Yes, sir, I am right here, Mr. Frank." He says, "Well, wait until I go 
to Mr. Sig's, I won't be very long, I'll be right back." I says, "All right, Mr. 
Frank, I'll be right here." I don't know how long he stayed at Montag's. He 
didn't say anything when he came back from Montag's but told me to come on. 
Mr. Frank came out Nelson Street and down Forsyth Street towards the pencil 
factory and I followed right be-hind. As we passed up there the grocery store, 
Albert-son Brothers, a young man was up there with a paper sack getting some 
stuff out of a box on the sidewalk, and he had his little baby standing by the 
side of him, and just as Mr. Frank passed by him, I was a little behind Mr. 
Frank, and Mr. Frank said something to me and by him looking back at me and 
saying some-thing to me, he hit up against the man's baby, and the man 
turned around and looked to see who it was, and he looked directly in my face, 
but I never did catch the idea what Mr. Frank said. Mr. Frank stopped at 
Curtis' Drug Store, corner Mitchell and Forsyth Street, went in to the soda 
fountain. He came out and went straight on to the factory, me right behind 
him, when we got to the factory, we both went on the inside, and Mr. Frank 
stopped me at the door, and when he stopped me at the door, he put his hand 
on the door and turned the door and says, "You see, you turn the knob just 
like this and there can't no-body come in from the outside," and I says, "All 
right," and I walked back to a little box back there by the trash barrel. He told 
me to push the box up 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

against the trash barrel and sit on it, and he says, "Now there will be a young 
lady up here after awhile, and me and her are going to chat a little," and he 
says, "Now, when the lady comes, I will stomp like I did before," and he says, 

"That will be the lady, and you go and shut the door," and I says, "All right, 
sir." And he says, "Now, when I whistle I will be through, so you can go and 
unlock the door and you come upstairs to my office then like you were going to 
borrow some money from me and that will give the young lady time to get out." 
I says, "All right, I will do just as you say," and I did as he said. Mr. Frank hit 
me a little blow on my chest and says, "Now, whatever you do, don't let Mr. 
Darley see you." I says, "All right, I won't let him see me." Then Mr. Frank went 
upstairs and he said, "Remember to keep your eyes open," and I says, "All 
right, I will Mr. Frank." And I sat there on the box and that was the last I seen 
of Mr. Frank until up in the day sometime. The first person I saw that morning 
after I got in there was Mr. Darley, he went upstairs. The next person was Miss 
Mattie Smith, she went on upstairs, then I saw her come down from upstairs. 
Miss Mattie walked to the door and stopped, and Mr. Darley comes on down to 
the door where Miss Mattie was, and he says, "Don't you worry, I will see that 
you get that next Saturday." And Miss Mattie came on out and went up 
Alabama Street and Mr. Darley went back upstairs. Seemed like Miss Mattie 
was crying, she was wiping her eyes when she was standing down there. This 
was before I went to Nelson and Forsyth Street. After we got back from Montag 
Brothers, the first person I saw come along was a lady that worked on the 
fourth floor, I don't know her name. She went on up the steps. The next person 
that came along was the Negro drayman, he went on upstairs. He was a peg- 
legged fellow, real 


The Case for the Prosecution 

dark. The next I saw this Negro and Mr. Holloway coming back down the steps. 
Mr. Holloway was putting on his glasses and had a bill in his hands, and he 
went out towards the wagon on the sidewalk, then Mr. Holloway came back up 
the steps, then after Mr. Darley came down and left, Mr. Holloway came down 
and left. Then this lady that worked on the fourth floor came down and left. 
The next person I saw coming there was Mr. Quinn. He went upstairs, stayed a 
little while, and then came down. The next person that I saw was Miss Mary 
Perkins, that's what I call her, this lady that is dead, I don't know her name. 
After she went upstairs I heard footsteps going towards the office and after she 
went in the office, I heard two people walking out of the office and going like 
they were coming down the steps, but they didn't come down the steps, they 
went towards the metal department. After they went back there, I heard the 
lady scream, then I didn't hear no more, and the next person I saw coming in 
there was Miss Monteen Stover. She had on a pair of tennis shoes and a rain 
coat. She stayed there a pretty good while, it wasn't so very long either. She 
came back down the steps and left. After she came back down the steps and 
left, I heard somebody from the metal department come running back there 
upstairs, on their tiptoes, then I heard somebody tiptoeing back towards the 
metal department. After that I dozed off and went to sleep. Next thing I knew 
Mr. Frank was up over my head stamping and then I went and locked the 
door, and sat on the box a little while, and the next thing I heard was Mr. 
Frank whistling. I don't know how many minutes it was after that I heard him 
whistle. When I heard him whistling I went and unlocked the door just like he 
said, and went up the steps. Mr. Frank was standing up there at the top of the 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

and shivering and trembling and rubbing his hands like this. He had a little 
rope in his hands and 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 come 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 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. Frank. 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 back flat on 
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. I noticed the clock after 


The Case for the Prosecution 

I went back there and found the lady was dead and came back and told him. 
The clock was four minutes to one. She was dead when I went back there, and 
I came back and told Mr. Frank 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. I didn't hear what Mr. Frank said and I came on up 
there to hear what he said. He was standing on the top of the steps, like he 
was going down the steps, and while I was back in the metal department I 
didn't understand what he said, and I came back there to understand what he 
did say, and he said to go and get a piece of cloth to put around her, and I 
went and looked around the cotton box and got a piece of cloth and went back 
there. The girl was lying flat on her back and her hands were out this way. I 
put both of her hands down, they went down easily, and rolled her up in the 
cloth and taken the cloth and tied her up, and started to pick her up, and I 
looked back a little distance and saw her hat and piece of ribbon laying down 
and her slippers and I taken them and put them all in the cloth and I ran my 
right arm through the cloth and tried to bring it up on my shoulder. The cloth 
was tied just like a person that was going to give out clothes on Monday, they 
get the clothes and put them on the inside of a sheet and take each corner and 
tie the four corners together, and I run my right arm through the cloth after I 
tied it that way and went to put it on my shoulder, and I found I couldn't get it 
on my shoulder, it was heavy and I carried it on my arm the best I could, and 
when I got away from the little dressing room that was in the metal 
department, I let her fall, and I was scared and I kind of jumped, and I said, 
"Mr. Frank, you will have to help me with this girl, she is heavy," and he came 
and caught her by the feet 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

and I laid hold of her by the shoulders, and when we got her that way I was 
backing and Mr. Frank had her by the feet, and Mr. Frank kind of put her on 
me, he was nervous and trembling, and after we got her a piece from where we 
got her at, he let her feet drop and then he picked her up and we went on the 
elevator, and he pulled down on one of the cords and the elevator wouldn't go, 
and he said, "Wait, let me go in the office and get the key," and he went in the 
office and got the key and come back and unlocked the switch box and the 
elevator went down the basement, and we carried her out and I opened the 
cloth and rolled her out there on the floor, and Mr. Frank turned around and 
went on up the ladder, and I noticed her hat and slipper and piece of ribbon 
and I said, "Mr. Frank, what am I going to do with these things?" and he said, 
"Just leave them right there," and I taken the things and pitches them over in 
front of the boiler, and after Mr. Frank had left I goes on over to the elevator 
and he said, "Come on up and I will catch you on the first floor," and I got on 
the elevator and started it on to the first floor, and Mr. Frank was running up 
there. He didn't give me time to stop the elevator, he was so nervous and 
trembly, and before the elevator got to the top of the first floor Mr. Frank made 
the first step on to the elevator and by the elevator being a little down like that, 
he stepped down on it and hit me quite a blow right over about my chest and 
that jammed me up against the elevator and when we got near the second floor 
he tried to step off before it got to the floor and his foot caught on the second 
floor as he was stepping off and that made him stumble and he fell back sort of 
against me, and he goes on and takes the keys back to his office and leaves the 
box unlocked. I followed him into his private office and I sat down and he corn- 

The Case for the Prosecution 

menced to rubbing his hands and began to rub back his hair and after a while 
he got up and said, "Jim," and I didn't say nothing, and all at once he happened 
to look out of the door and there was somebody coming, and he said, "My God, 
here is Emma Clark and Corinthia Hall," and he said, "Come over here, Jim, I 
have got to put you in this wardrobe," and he put me in this wardrobe, and I 
stayed there a good while and they come in there and I heard them go out, and 
Mr. Frank come there and said, "You are in a tight place," and I said, "Yes," and 
he said, "You done very well." So after they went out and he had stepped in the 
hall and had come back he let me out of the wardrobe, and he said, "You sit 
down," and I went and sat down, and Mr. Frank sat down. But the chair he has 
was too little for him, or too big or it wasn't far enough back or something. He 
reached on the table to get a box of cigarettes and a box of matches, and he 
takes a cigarette and a match and hands me the box of cigarettes and I lit one 
and went to smoking and I handed him back the box of cigarettes, and he put it 
back in his pocket and then he took them out again and said, "You can have 
these," and I put them in my pocket, and then he said, "Can you write," and I 
said, "Yes, sir, a little bit," and he taken his pencil to fix up some notes. I 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 
dictated 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 wrote on the next page 
there, and he looked at that and kind of liked it and he said that was all right. 
Then he reached over and got another piece of paper, a green 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

piece, and told me what to write. He took it and laid it on his desk and looked 
at me smiling and rubbing his hands, and then he pulled out a nice little roll 
of greenbacks, and he said, "Here is two hundred dollars," and I taken the 
money and looked at it a little bit and I said, "Mr. Frank, don't you pay 
another dollar for that watchman, because I will pay him myself," and he said, 
"All right, I don't see what you want to buy a watch for either, that big fat wife 
of mine wanted me to buy an automobile and I wouldn't do it." And 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. He said, "There's no need of 
my going down there," 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 frightened 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, I was coming to 


The Case for the Prosecution 

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, "There will be a place for you to get in all right, but if you 
are not coming back let me know, and I will take those things and put them 
down with the body," and I said, "All right, I will be back in about forty 
minutes." Then I went down over to the beer saloon across the street and I took 
the cigarettes out of the box and there was some money in there and I took that 
out and there was two paper dollar bills in there and two silver quarters and I 
took a drink, and then I bought me a double header and drank it and I looked 
around at another colored fellow standing there and I asked him did he want a 
glass of beer and he said "No," and I looked at the clock and it said twenty 
minutes to two and the man in there asked me was I going home, and I said 
"Yes," and I walked south on Forsyth Street to Mitchell and Mitchell to Davis, 
and I said to the fellow that was with me, "I am going back to Peters Street," 
and a Jew across the street that I owed a dime to called me and asked me about 
it, and I paid him that dime. Then I went on over to Peters Street and stayed 
there awhile. Then I went home and I taken fifteen cents out of my pocket and 
gave a little girl a nickel to go and get some sausage and then I gave her a dime 
to go and get some wood, and she stayed so long that when she came back I 
said, "I will cook this sausage and eat it and go back to Mr. Frank's," and I laid 
down across the bed and went to sleep, and I didn't get up no more until half 
past six o'clock that night, that's the last I saw of Mr. Frank that Saturday. I 
saw him next time on Tuesday, on the fourth floor when I was sweeping. He 
walked up and he said, "Now remember, keep your mouth shut," and I said, 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

right," and he said, "If you'd come back on Saturday and done what I told you 
to do with it down there, there wouldn't have been no trouble." This 
conversation took place between ten and eleven o'clock Tuesday. Mr. Frank 
knew I could write a little bit, because he always gave me tablets up there at 
the office so I could write down what kind of boxes we had and I would give 
that to Mr. Frank down at his office and that's the way he knew I could write. I 
was arrested on Thursday, May 1st, Mr. Frank told me just what to write on 
those notes there. The girl's body was lying somewhere along there about #9 
on that picture [State's Exhibit A]. I dropped her somewhere along #7. We got 
on elevator on the second floor. The box that Mr. Frank unlocked was right 
around here on side of elevator. He told me to come back in about forty 
minutes to do that burning. Mr. Frank went in the office and got the key to 
unlock the elevator. The notes were fixed up in Mr. Frank's private office. I 
never did know what became of the notes. I left home that morning about 
seven or seven-thirty. I noticed the clock when I went from the factory to go to 
Nelson and Forsyth Streets, the clock was in a beer saloon on the corner of 
Mitchell Street. It said nine minutes after ten. I don't know the name of the 
woman who was with Mr. Frank on Thanksgiving day. I know the man's name 
was Mr. Dalton. When I saw Mr. Frank coming towards the factory Saturday 
morning he had on his raincoat and his usual suit of clothes and an umbrella. 
Up to Christmas I used to run the elevator, then they put me on the fourth 
floor to clean up. I cleaned up twice a week on the first floor under Mr. 
Holloway's directions. The lady I saw in Mr. Frank's office Thanksgiving Day 
was a tall built lady, heavy weight, she was nice looking, she had on a blue 
looking dress with white dots on it and a graying 

The Case for the Prosecution 

looking coat with kind of tails to it. The coat was open like that and she had 
on white slippers and stockings. On Thanksgiving Day Mr. Frank told me to 
come to his office. I have never seen any cot or bed down in the basement. I 
refused to write for the police the first time. I told them I couldn't write. 

Defense Attorney Rosser spent three days attacking Conley's testimony. 
Conley never changed his story and cheerfully admitted to having lied on 
numerous occasions, including those statements submitted to police prior to his 
full confession in late May. Conley also admitted to a number of arrests that had 
resulted in fines of nominal amounts for drunkenness or disorderly conduct and 
one sentence of thirty days for an altercation with a white man. Rosser was able 
to show that Conley had a poor memory about everything except the murder and 
was repeatedly denounced by those who knew him as a "dirty, filthy, black, 
drunken, lying nigger." 

Those who believe Leo Frank guilty of the murder of little Mary Phagan are 
convinced that Jim Conley could not have possibly fabricated the involved, 
detailed account of what had happened, as well as withstood the hours of cross- 

O.B. Keeler, a native Mariettan, reporter, and journalist who covered the trial 
for the Atlanta Georgian, claimed it would have been impossible for Conley to 
invent such testimony, and the Atlanta Constitution reported: "No such record has 
ever been made in a criminal court case in this country. Conley may be telling 

the truth in the main, or he may be lying altogether. He may be the real murderer 
or he may have been an accomplice after the fact. 

"Be these things as they may, he is one of the most remarkable Negroes that 
has ever been seen in this section of the country. His nerve seems unshakable. 
His wit is 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

ever ready. As hour by hour the attorneys for the defense hammered away and 
failed to entrap the Negro, the enormity of the evidence became apparent. 

"Finally came the virtual confession of the defense that they had failed to 
entrap the Negro and they asked that the evidence be stricken from the records. 
The Negro withstood the fire and Frank's attorneys are seeking to have the 
evidence expunged from the records." 

As I continued to read the evidence, I realized that the long litany of 
witnesses called by the state was to be superseded only by the long litany of 
witnesses called by the defense. Indeed, some witnesses seemed to be called by 
the wrong side. One state witness, Holloway, gave testimony which supported 
defense contentions. Holloway testified, "I am the day watchman for the factory 
and I forgot to lock the elevator on Saturday when I left at 11:45." He admitted 
that he had previously sworn twice that he did leave the elevator locked: once in 
the affidavit he gave to Solicitor-General Dorsey and at the coroner's inquest. 

On cross-examination, he stated "Frank got back from Montag's at about 
eleven o'clock and he was in his office on the books. When I was leaving at eleven 
forty-five, I saw Corinthia Hall and Emma Clark were coming toward the factory. 

"I had seen blood spots on the floor but I did not remember having seen the 
blood spots Barrett found." 

Holloway went on, "I have never seen Frank speak to Mary Phagan." Further, 
he said, "The cords like that used to strangle Mary Phagan could be found all 
over the place. They came on the bundles of slats that are tied around the 
pencils. It was Barrett who discovered the blood, hair, and pay envelope." 

His explanation of the difference between his former testimony about the 
elevator and that at the trial was: "I sawed a plank for Mr. Denham and Mr. 
White on the 


The Case for the Prosecution 

fourth floor and forgot about it. When I remembered that I sawed the plank, I 
recollected I had forgotten to lock the elevator." 

Despite these few contradictions at this point, I could not help feeling that my 
family's assessment of Leo Frank's guilt was true. But I turned my attention to 
the defense's case and promised myself I would be fair in assessing the evidence. 

Chapter 5 


Perhaps the most important element of Leo Frank's defense concerned time. 
If, as Jim Conley testified, Mary Phagan had come to the pencil factory before 
Monteen Stover, she had to arrive there before 12:05. Ms. Stover testified that was 
the time she arrived. But the motorman and conductor of the trolley asserted that 
Mary Phagan had gotten off at 12:10. Either Conley or Stover was incorrect. Most 
witnesses, including Conley, agreed that it would have taken, at best, one half 
hour for the murder and movement of the body to the cellar, the writing of the 
murder notes, and Conley's hiding in the wardrobe, to occur. But there were only 
thirty minutes, between 12:00 and 12:30, that Frank's time was not accounted 

Had Frank enough time to commit the murder and move the body? It was a 
question that many people, including me, asked themselves over and over again. 

Thinking over that anomaly, I felt weary. How difficult it was seventy years 
later to understand the meaning of these inconsistencies. Yet, difficult as it was, I 
was determined to go on to try to piece together from the newspapers' accounts, 
the trial transcript, and the evidence my family had gathered the real truth about 
my greataunt's death. 



The Case for the Defense 

Making that resolution once again, I returned to the transcript and Leo 
Frank's contentions. 

According to his pre-trial statements, Frank had gotten to the factory on the 
day of the murder at 8:30 a.m. At approximately 9:40, he had gone to Montag 
Brothers and returned to the factory at 10:55. He left the factory at 12:45 or 
12:50, going home for lunch. At about 3:00 he returned, staying at the factory 
until 6:00. Upon going home at 6:25, he had dinner, was visited by some friends, 
and went to sleep about 10:30. He learned of the murder the next morning. 

The defense called more than twenty witnesses to corroborate Frank's version 
of when the murder happened, where Frank had been, and at what time. 

The first two witnesses, W. H. Matthews, motorman, and W. T. Hollis, 
conductor of the English Avenue car, testified that Mary Phagan got on at Lindsey 
Street at about 11:50 and was alone. The scheduled arrival time was seven and a 
half after twelve and the car was running on time on April 26. 

On cross-examination, Hollis admitted that the English Avenue car time 
schedule was a hard one to maintain and that the company could suspend men 
for running ahead of time. 

Then Herbert Schiff, assistant superintendent of the pencil factory, testified to 
the system of business, the preparation of the financial sheet, the procedure for 
paying off employees, and how the pencils are made. He remembered paying off 

Helen Ferguson and said he was the one, not Frank, who paid off on Friday, April 
25. "Helen Ferguson did not ask for Mary Phagan's pay Friday, April 25." He also 
stated, "There was no bed, cot, lounge, or sofa anywhere in the building." And 
later said, "I have never seen Mr. Frank talk to Mary Phagan." On cross- 
examination, Schiff said that "On Monday, Mrs. White claimed she saw a Negro 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Among the witnesses to testify about Frank's action on that Saturday were: 

Miss Mattie Hall, stenographer for Montag, the company Frank alleged he 
visited on Saturday morning, who testified that "I finished my work, left around 
12:02 and punched the clock." 

Although she admitted she testified differently at the inquest, she testified 
that Frank did not make up the financial sheet that Saturday morning. 

Miss Corinthia Hall swore that she was the forelady for the factory and got 
there Saturday around 11:35 a.m. with Mrs. Emma Clark Freeman. Frank was in 
his office when they left around 11:45. On cross-examination she testified that 
she and Mrs. Freeman met Lemmie Quinn at the Greek Cafe. He told then that he 
had just finished seeing Frank. 

Mrs. Freeman's testimony gave evidence to the same effect. 

Miss Magnolia Kennedy swore that she was behind Helen Ferguson and Helen 
Ferguson did not ask for Mary Phagan's pay envelope. 

On cross-examination, she stated: "Barrett called my attention to the hair. It 
looked like Mary's. My machine was right next to Mary's. Mary's hair was a light 
brown, kind of sandy color." She did not see the blood spots on the floor, but, she 
said, "You could plainly see the dark spots and white spot over it ten or twelve 
feet away." 

Wade Campbell, another employee, was the brother of Mrs. White, who told 
him about seeing the Negro on Saturday. "I saw the spots they claim was blood. I 
couldn't say whether it was blood or not." 

On cross-examination, he said, "It is not unusual to see spots all over the 
metal room floor." Further, he stated, "I have never seen Frank talk to Mary 

Lemmie Quinn, foreman of the factory, testified that one hundred women 
worked at the factory: "We have some 


The Case for the Defense 

blood spots quite frequently when people get their hands cut." However, he said, 
"I noticed the blood spots at the ladies' dressing room on Monday." Further, he 
declared, "I was in the office and saw Mr. Frank between 12:20 and 12:25." 

Several witnesses later testified that Quinn advised them he had visited 
Frank prior to noon in the factory the Saturday of the murder. 

Harry Denham, one of the carpenters on the fourth floor, testified that he was 
hammering about forty feet from the elevator. "I am sure that the elevator did not 
run that day, as I could have seen the wheels moving and heard the noise." He 
completed his work about 3:00 p.m. and left. 

A testimony that caused further speculation was that of Minola McKnight, the 
cook for the Seligs, who testified: 

I work for Mrs. Selig. I cook for her. Mr. and Mrs. Frank live with Mr. and 
Mrs. Selig. His wife is Mrs. Selig's daughter. I cooked breakfast for the family 
on April 26th. Mr. Frank finished breakfast a little after seven o'clock. Mr. 

Frank came to dinner about twenty minutes after one that day. That was not 
the dinner hour, but Mrs. Frank and Mrs. Selig were going off to the two 
o'clock car. They were already eating when Mr. Frank came in. My husband, 
Albert McKnight, wasn't in the kitchen that day between one and two o'clock 
at all. Standing in the kitchen door you can-not see the mirror in the dining 
room. If you move up to the north end of the kitchen, where you can see the 
mirror, you can't see the dining room table. My husband wasn't there all that 
day. Mr. Frank left that day sometime after two o'clock. I next saw him at half 
past six at supper. I left about eight o'clock. Mr. Frank was still at home 
when I left. He took supper with the rest of the family. After this happened 
the detectives 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

came out and arrested me and took me to Mr. Dorsey's office, where Mr. 
Dorsey, my husband, and an-other man were there. I was working at the 
Seligs when they come and got me. They tried to get me to say that Mr. Frank 
would not allow his wife to sleep that night and that he told her to get up and 
get his gun and let him kill himself, and that he made her get out of bed. They 
had my husband there to bull-doze me, claiming that I had told him that. I 
had never told him anything of the kind. I told them right there in Mr, 
Dorsey's office that it was a lie. Then they carried me down to the 
stationhouse in the patrol wagon. They came to me for another statement 
about half past eleven or twelve o'clock that night and made me sign 
something before they turned me loose, but it wasn't true. I signed it to get 
out of jail, because they said they would not let me out. It was all written out 
for me before they made me sign it. 

On cross-examination she was shown a copy of her original statement and 

I signed that statement, but I didn't tell you some of the things you got in 
there. I didn't say he left home about three o'clock. I said somewhere about 
two. I did not say he was not there at one o'clock. Mr. Graves and Mr. Pickett, 
of Beck & Gregg Hardware Co., came down to see me. A detective took me to 
your [Hugh Dorsey's] office. My husband was there and told me that I had told 
him certain things. Yes, I denied it. Yes, I wept and cried and stuck to it. 
When they first brought me out of jail, they said they did not want anything 
else but the truth, then they said I had to tell a lot of lies and I told them I 
would not do it. That man sitting right there [pointing to Mr. Campbell] and a 
whole lot of men wanted me to tell lies. They wanted me to witness to what my 
husband was 

The Case for the Defense 

saying. My husband tried to get me to tell lies. They made me sign that 
statement, but it was a lie. If Mr. Frank didn't eat any dinner that day I ain't 
sitting in this chair. Mrs. Selig never gave me no money. The statement that I 
signed is not the truth. They told me if I didn't sign it they were going to keep 
me locked up. That man there [indicating] and that man made me sign it. Mr. 
Graves and Mr. Pickett made me sign it. They did not give me any more 
money after this thing happened. One week I was paid two week's wages. 

Finally, when the defense requestioned her she declared: 

None of the things in that statement is true. It's all a lie. My wages never 
have been raised since this thing happened. They did not tell me to keep 
quiet. They [the Seligs] always told me to tell the truth and it couldn't hurt. 

Mrs. A. P. Levy testified that she saw Frank get off the trolley car on Memorial 
Day between one and two o'clock. Her cross-examination stated that it was 
definitely 1:20 because she was looking at the clock. 

Mrs. M. G. Michael of Athens testified that she saw Frank at two o'clock that 
day and observed nothing unusual about him. Her husband, Jerome Michael, 
stated that he saw Frank between one and two o'clock and noticed absolutely 
nothing unusual about him. "No scratches, bruises, marks, and no nervousness." 

Mrs. Hennie Wolfsheimer swore to the same thing. She was Frank's aunt and 
was corroborated by Julian Loeb, a cousin to Mrs. Frank, as well as by Cohen 
Loeb and H. J. Hinchey. 

Emil Selig, Frank's father-in-law, testified to Leo Frank's natural conduct: 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

My wife and I live with Mr. Frank and his wife. The kitchen in our house is next 
to the dining room. There is a small passage way between them. The sideboard 
in the dining room is in the same position now as it has always been. Mr. 
Frank took breakfast before I did on April 26th and left the house before I 
breakfasted. I got back home to dinner at about 1:15. My wife and Mrs. Frank 
were eating then. They told me in the morning to come home a little sooner, 
that they wanted to go to Grand Opera that afternoon and have dinner a little 
earlier than usual, and I came home a little earlier. Mr. Frank came in after I 
did, about 1:20. There was nothing unusual about him. No scratches or 
bruises about him. He sat down to his meal. The ladies left us while he was 
still eating. I don't know what Mr. Frank did after dinner. I went out to the 
chicken yard. Mr. Frank was still in the hall when I got back. I laid down and 
went to sleep. I did not see him when he left. I saw him about 6:30 that 
evening. Mrs. Frank and Mrs. Selig had not yet gotten back. They came in a 
short while. We ate supper about seven o'clock. I noticed nothing unusual 
about him at supper. We finished supper about seven twenty- five. Mr. Frank 
sat in the hall and read. A party of our friends came to the house and played 
cards after supper. Frank and his wife did not play. They don't play poker. 
They play bridge. He was reading in the hall while we were playing. He came in 
one time while we were playing and said he read a story about a baseball 
umpire's decision and he was laughing. Frank answered the doorbell several 
times that evening when the guests came. He and his wife went to bed before 
the company left, about ten or ten-thirty. He came to the door and told us 
goodnight and went upstairs. His wife went up shortly afterwards. 

The Case for the Defense 

Mrs. Rhea Frank, Frank's mother, took the stand. On cross-examination, she 
stated, "Leo does not have any rich relatives in Brooklyn." Later she said, 

As to what my means of support are, we have about $20,000, out at interest, 
my husband and I, at six per cent. We own the house we live in. We have a 
$6,000 mortgage on it. The house is worth about $10,000. My husband is 
doing nothing. He is not in good health. Up to a year ago he was a traveling 
salesman. These are the only relatives my son has in Brooklyn. Mr. Moses 
Frank, my brother-in-law, generally spends a Sunday with us in Brooklyn, 

before he sails for Europe. He spends Sunday with us in Brooklyn and has 
dinner with us. He was not in Brooklyn on April 26th. He is supposed to be 
very wealthy. I don't know how much cash my husband has in [the] bank. A 
few hundred dollars possibly. My husband is 67 years old. He is broken down 
from hard work and in very poor health. He was too unwell to come down here. 

C. F. Urssenbach, Frank's brother-in-law, said he had an engagement with 
Frank to go to the ballgame on Saturday, but Frank called and cancelled it. 

L. Strauss testified that he was at the Selig home Saturday night playing cards 
and that Frank sat in the hall reading. 

Sig Montag, the treasurer of the factory, testified to Frank's coming to him 
Sunday morning after the murder and he looked all right. He went to the pencil 
factory that morning, and he called Mr. Haas, his personal counsel. 

In total, the defense produced nearly two hundred witnesses, all white and 
principally from Atlanta, who largely corroborated Frank's version of what had 
happened the day of the murder and to discredit the state's witnesses. In 
addition, so as to offset the testimony concerning sexual liaisons in the factory as 
well as Frank's 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

alleged misconduct with female employees, the defense was determined to 
establish Frank's good character, which, of course, carried with it the opportunity 
for the prosecution to introduce subsequent evidence as to Frank's alleged bad 
reputation and character. 

Jim Conley's reputation and past experiences, including his drinking habits, 
problems with the law, and history of petty theft and disorderly conduct, were 
heavily attacked by the defense lawyers and witnesses. The core of this focus was 
the question: could Jim Conley be believed? 

Mrs. Rebecca Carson, a forelady at the pencil factory, testified that the 
elevator was noisy when it ran and that Jim Conley told her on Monday he was so 
drunk the previous Saturday he did not know where he was or what he did. She 
also stated that she overheard Jim say that "Frank is innocent as an angel; and 
when my mother said 'The murderer will be the Negro Mrs. White saw sitting on a 
box at the foot of the stairs,' Jim dropped his broom quick and didn't finish 

Mrs. E. M. Carson testified that she saw blood spots around the ladies 
dressing room three or four times later she recalled that Conley said, "Mr. Frank 
is as innocent as you is, and I know you is." She told Conley that "Whenever they 
find the murderer of Mary Phagan it's going to be the 'nigger' that was sitting near 
the elevator when Mrs. White went upstairs." "Further," she said, "I would not 
believe Conley on oath." 

Miss Mary Pirk, another forelady at the factory, testified "I talked with Jim 
Conley the Monday after the murder. I accused him of the murder and he took his 
broom and walked right out of the office." She swore that she wouldn't believe Jim 
on oath. 

On cross-examination, Miss Pirk stated that she did not tell Frank of her 
suspicions and that she suspected Jim "because he looked and acted so 

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Luther Z. Rosser, Jr. 
Solicitor General Hugh Dorsey 

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Alonzo Mann 
Alonzo Mann 

Judge Leonard Strickland Roan 
Tom Watson 

The Case for the Defense 

I accused Jim before I saw the blood at the ladies' dressing room. It was all 
smeared over with some kind of white stuff. It covered about two feet in area. I 
mentioned it to the girls before Jim was arrested. I am not sure whether it was 
before or after. It was after the Coroner's inquest. I have seen several spots in 
the factory that looked like that spot many times. All kinds of spots. I have 
seen spots before that looked like that. I don't know exactly when. My opinion 
is that Mr. Frank is a perfect gentleman. I always found him to be one in my 
dealings with him. I have never heard any of the girls say anything about him. 

Another important defense witness was Daisy Hopkins. She had been named 
by Jim Conley as one of the girls Dalton and Frank brought to the factory for 
immoral purposes: 

I am a married woman. I worked in the factory from October 1911 to June 1st, 
1912. I worked in the packing department on the second floor. Mr. Frank 
never spoke to me when he would pass. I never did speak to him. I've never 
been in his office drinking beer, Coca-Cola, or anything else. I know Dalton 
when I see him. I never visited the factory with him, I never have been with 
him until I went to his to see Mrs. Taylor, who lived with him then. That was 
the only place I have ever seen him. I never have been to the factory on 
Saturday or any other day. I never introduced him to Mr. Frank. There isn't a 
word of truth in that. I have never gone down in the basement with this fellow, 
Dalton. I don't even know where the basement is at all. I have never been 
anywhere in the factory, except at my work. 

It was brought out under cross-examination by Dorsey that Mrs. Hopkins had 
been arrested but not tried for fornication. She said: 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

I have never been in jail. Mr. W.W. Smith got me out of jail. Somebody told a 
tale on me, that's why I was put in jail. I don't know what they charged me 
with, they accused me of fornication. 
On redirect examination, she stated: 

I never was tried. I never had to pay anything except my lawyer's fee, which I 
paid to Mr. William Smith. I never was taken to court. 

Miss Dora Small testified that she worked at the factory and saw Jim Conley 
on the fourth floor Tuesday. "I did not see Frank talk to Conley," she said. Later, 
she said, "Jim worried me with money so he could buy a newspaper, and every 
time he heard a newsboy yell 'Extra!' Jim would go to me and beg to see the 
paper before I finished reading." She continued by stating that Conley's 
reputation for truth and veracity was bad. 

Miss Julia Fuss said, after being sworn in, "I work on the fourth floor of the 
factory and I talked to him (Conley) Wednesday morning after the murder. He told 
me he believed Mr. Frank was just as innocent as the angels from heaven." 
Further she said, "Jim was never known to tell the truth." 

On cross-examination, she testified that Frank came up the stairs Tuesday 
where Conley was but she did not see them talking. 

In all, forty-nine women employees at the pencil factory testified that Leo 
Frank's general reputation and his reputation for moral rectitude was good. 

No one realized when Alonzo Mann, Frank's office boy, testified that it would 
be his revelations sixty-nine years later which brought the Leo Frank-Mary 
Phagan murder case once again into national prominence. 

I am office boy at the National Pencil Company. I began working there April 1, 
1913. I sit sometimes in the outer office and stand around in the outer hall. I 


The Case for the Defense 

left the factory at half past eleven on April 26th. When I left there Miss Hall, 
the stenographer from Montag's, was in the office with Mr. Frank. Mr. Frank 
told me to phone Mr. Schiff and tell him to come down. I telephoned him, but 
the girl answered the phone and said he hadn't got up yet. I telephoned once. I 
worked there two Saturday afternoons of the weeks previous to the murder 
and stayed there until half past three or four. Frank was always working 
during that time. I never saw him bring any women into the factory and drink 
with them. I have never seen Dalton there. On April 26, I saw Holloway, Irby, 
McCrary and Darley at the factory. I didn't see Quinn. I don't remember seeing 
Corinthia Hall, Mrs. Freeman, Mrs. White, Graham, Tillander, or Wade 
Campbell. I left there eleven-thirty. 

Despite Jim Conley's allegations that Leo Frank had said, "You know I ain't 
built like other men;" several physicians who examined Frank during his 
incarceration testified that he was anatomically normal. Other physicians tried to 
ascertain more precisely the exact time of Mary Phagan's death by giving their 
opinions on the digestive processes entailed after Mary's last meal, but they were 
largely unsuccessful as there was much difference of opinion. 

Fifty-six associates of Frank at Cornell University, in Brooklyn, and in Atlanta 
testified as to his general good character as an upright and law-abiding citizen. 

Georgia law in 1913 stipulated that no defendant could be sworn to testify for 
himself. Judge Roan read Frank the law: "In criminal procedure the prisoner will 
have the right to make to the court and jury such statement in the case as he 
shall deem proper in his defense. It shall be not under oath and shall have such 
force as the jury shall think right to give it. They may believe it in 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

preference to sworn testimony. The prisoner shall not be compelled to answer any 
questions on cross-examination. He should feel free to decline to answer. Now you 
can make such statements as you see fit." Concluding the defense's case, Frank 
submitted a lengthy statement on the stand and he refused to be cross-examined. 
He spoke for four hours: 

Gentlemen of the Jury: In the year 1884, on the 17th day of April, I was born 
in Paris, Texas. At the age of three months, my parents took me to Brooklyn, 
New York, and I remained in my home until I came South, to Atlanta, to make 
my home here. I attended the public schools of Brooklyn, and prepared for 
college at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. In the fall of 1902, I entered 
Cornell University, where I took the course in mechanical engineering, and 
graduated after four years, in June, 1906. I then accepted a position as 
draftsman with the B.F. Sturtevant Company, of High Park, Massachusetts. 
After remaining with this firm for about six months, I returned once more to 
my home in Brooklyn, where I accepted a position as testing engineer and 
draftsman with the National Meter Company of Brooklyn, New York. I 
remained in this position until about the middle of October, 1907, when, at 
the invitation of some citizens of Atlanta, I came South to confer with them in 

reference to the starting and operation of a pencil factory, to be located in 
Atlanta. After remaining here for about two weeks, I returned once more to 
New York, where I engaged passage and went to Europe. I remained in Europe 
nine months. During my sojourn abroad, I studied the pencil business, and 
looked after the erection and testing of the machinery which had been 
previously contracted for. The first part of August, 1908, I returned once more 
to America, and immedi- 


The Case for the Defense 

ately came South to Atlanta, which has remained my home ever since. I 
married in Atlanta, an Atlanta girl, Miss Lucile Selig. The major portion of my 
married life has been spent at the home of my parents-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. E. 
Selig, at 68 East Georgia Avenue. My married life has been exceptionally 
happy — indeed, it has been the happiest days of my life. . . . 

On my arrival at the factory, I found Mr. Holloway, the day watchman, at 
his usual place, and I greeted him in my usual way; I found Alonzo Mann, the 
office boy, in the outer office. I took off my coat and hat and opened my desk 
and opened the safe, and assorted the various books and files and wire trays 
containing the various papers that were placed there the evening before, and 
distributed them in their proper places about the office. I then went out to the 
shipping room and conversed a few minutes with Mr. Irby, who at that time 
was shipping clerk, concerning the work which he was going to do that 
morning, though, to the best of my recollection, we did no shipping that day, 
due to the fact that the freight offices were not receiving any shipments, due 
to its being a holiday. I returned to my office and looked through the papers, 
and assorted out those which I was going to take over on my usual trip to the 
General Manager's office that morning. ... Of all the mathematical work in 
the office of the pencil factory, this very operation, this very piece of work that 
I have now before me, is the most important, it is the invoices covering 
shipments that are sent to customers, and it is very important that the prices 
be correct, that the amount of goods shipped agrees with the amount which is 
on the invoice, and that the terms are correct, and that the address is correct, 
and also in some cases, I don't know whether there is one like that here, there 
are freight deductions, all of 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

which have to be very carefully checked over and looked into, because I know 
of nothing else that exasperates a customer more than to receive invoices that 
are incorrect; moreover, on this morning, this operation of this work took me 
longer than it usually takes an ordinary person to complete the checking of the 
invoices, because usually one calls out and the other checks, but I did this 
work all by myself that morning, and as I went over these invoices, I noticed 
that Miss Eubanks, the day before, had evidently sacrificed ac-curacy to speed, 
and every one of them was wrong, so I had to go alone over the whole invoice, 
and I had to make the corrections as I went along, figure them out, extend 
them, make deductions for freight, if there were any to be made, and then get 
the total shipments, because, when these shipments were made on April 24th, 
which was Thursday, this was the last day of our fiscal week, it was on this 
that I made that financial sheet which I make out every Saturday after-noon, 
as has been my custom, it is on this figure of total shipments I make that out, 
so necessarily it would be the total shipments for the week that had to be 

figured out, and I had to figure every invoice and arrange it in its entirety so I 
could get a figure that I would be able to use. . . . 

I started on this work, as I said, and had gone into it in some detail, to 
show you the carefulness with which the work must be carried out. I was at 
work on this one at about nine o'clock, as near as I remember, Mr. Darley and 
Mr. Wade Campbell, the inspector of the factory, came into the outer office, and 
I stopped what work I was doing that day on this work, and went to the outer 
office and chatted with Mr. Darley and Mr. Campbell for ten or fifteen minutes, 
and conversed with them, and joked with them, and while I was talking to 
them, I should figure about 


The Case for the Defense 

nine fifteen, a quarter after nine, Miss Mattie Smith came in and asked me for 
her pay envelope, and for that of her sister-in-law and I went to the safe and 
unlocked it and got out the package of envelopes that Mr. Schiff had given me 
the evening before, and gave her the required two envelopes, and placed the 
remaining envelopes that I got out, that were left over from the day previous, 
in my cash box, where I would have them handy in case others might come in, 
and I wanted to have them near at hand without having to jump up and go to 
the safe every time in order to get them; I keep my cash box in the lower 
drawer on the left hand side of my desk. After Miss Smith had gone away with 
the envelopes, a few minutes, Mr. Darley came back with the envelopes, and 
pointed out to me an error in one of them, either the sister-in-law of Miss 
Mattie Smith, she had gotten too much money, and when I had deducted the 
amount that was too much, that amount balanced the payroll, the error in the 
payroll that I had noticed the night before, and left about five or ten cents 
over; those things usually right themselves anyhow. I continued to work on 
those invoices, when I was interrupted by Mr. Lyons, Superintendent of 
Montag Brothers, coming in, he brought me a pencil display box that we call 
the Panama assortment box, and he left it with me, he seemed to be in a 
hurry, and I told him if he would wait for a minute I would go over to Montag 
Brothers with him, as I was going over there; and he stepped out to the outer 
office, and as soon as I come to a convenient stopping place in the work, I put 
the papers I had made out to take with me in a folder, and put on my hat and 
coat and went to the outer office, when I found that Mr. Lyons had already 
left. Mr. Darley left with me, about nine thirty-five or nine forty, and we 
passed out of the factory, and stopped 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

at the corner of Hunter and Forsyth Streets, where we each had a drink at 
Cruickshank's soda fount, where I bought a package of favorite cigarettes, and 
after we had our drink, we conversed together there for some time, and I 
lighted a cigarette and told him good-bye, as he went in one direction, and I 
went on my way then to Montag Brothers where I arrived, as nearly as may be, 
at ten o'clock, or a little after; on entering Montag Brothers, I spoke to Mr. Sig 
Montag, the General Manager of the business, and then the papers which I 
collected, which lay on his desk, I took the papers out and transferred them 
into the folder, and distributed them at the proper places at Montag Brothers. 
I don't know just what papers they were, but I know there were several of 
them, and I went on chatting with Mr. Montag, and I spoke to Mr. Matthews, 
and Mr. Cross, of the Montag Brothers, and after that I spoke to Miss Hattie 
Hall, the pencil company's stenographer, who stays at Montag Brothers, and 

asked her to come over and help me that morning; as I have already told you, 
practically every one of these invoices was wrong, and I wanted her to help me 
on that work, and in dictating the mail; in fact, I told her I had enough work to 
keep her busy that whole afternoon if she would agree to stay, but she said 
she didn't want to do that, she wanted to have at least half a holiday on 
Memorial Day. I then spoke to several of the Montag Brothers' force on 
business matters and other matters, and after that I saw Harry Gottheimer, 
the sales manager of the National Pencil Company, and I spoke at some length 
with him in reference to several of his orders that were in work at the factory, 
there were two of his orders especially that he laid special stress on, as he said 
he desired to ship them right away, and I told him I didn't know how far along 
in process of manu- 


The Case for the Defense 

facture the orders had proceeded, but if he would go back with me then I 
would be very glad to look for it, and then tell him when we could ship them, 
and he said he couldn't go right away, he was busy, but he would come a little 
later, and I told him I would be glad for him to come over later that morning 
or in the afternoon, as I would be there until about one o'clock, and after 
three. I then took my folder and returned to Forsyth Street alone. On arrival 
at Forsyth Street, I went to the second or office floor, and I noticed the clock, 
and it indicated five minutes after eleven o'clock. I saw Mr. Holloway there, 
and I told him he could go as soon as he got ready, and he told me he had 
some work to do for Harry Denham and Arthur White, who were doing some 
repair work up on the top floor, and he would do the work first. I then went 
into the office, I went into the outer office, and found Miss Hattie Hall, who 
had preceded me over from Montag's, and another lady who introduced herself 
to me as Mrs. Arthur White, and the office boy; Mrs. Arthur White wanted to 
see her husband, and I went into the inner office, and took off my coat and 
hat, and removed the papers which I had brought back from Montag Brothers 
in the folder, and put the folder away. It was about this time that I heard the 
elevator motor start up and the circular saw in the carpenter shop, which is 
right next to it, running. I heard it saw through some boards, which I 
supposed was the work that Mr. Holloway had referred to. I separated the 
orders from the letters which required answers, and took the other material, 
the other printed matter that didn't need immediate attention. I put that in 
various trays, and I think it was about this time that I concluded I would look 
and see how far along the reports were, which I use in getting up my financial 
report every Saturday 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

afternoon, and to my surprise I found that the sheet which contains the record 
of pencils packed for the week didn't include the report for Thursday, the day 
the fiscal week ends; Mr. Schiff evidently, in the stress of getting up, figuring 
out, and filling the envelopes for the payroll on Friday, instead of, as usual, on 
Friday and half the day Saturday, had evidently not had enough time. I told 
Alonzo Mann, the office boy, to call up Mr. Schiff, and find out when he was 
coming down, and Alonzo told me the answer came back over the telephone 
that Mr. Schiff would be right down, so I didn't pay any more attention to that 
part of the work, because I expected Mr. Schiff to come down any minute. It 
was about this time that Mrs. Emma Clark Freeman and Miss Corinthia Hall, 
two of the girls who worked on the fourth floor, came in, and asked permission 

to go upstairs and get Mrs. Freeman's coat, which I readily gave, and I told 
them at the same time to tell Arthur White that his wife was downstairs. A 
short time after they left my office, two gentlemen came in, one of them a Mr. 
Graham, and the other the father of a boy by the name of Earle Burdette; these 
two boys had gotten into some sort of trouble during the noon recess the day 
before, and were taken down to police headquarters, and of course didn't get 
their envelopes the night before, and I gave the required pay envelopes to the 
two fathers, and chatted with them at some length in reference to the trouble 
their boys had gotten into the day previous. But just before they left the office, 
Mrs. Emma Clark Freeman and Miss Corinthia Hall came into my office and 
asked permission to use the telephone, and they started to the telephone, 
during which time these two gentlemen left my office. But previous to that, 
when these two gentlemen came in, I had gotten Miss Hattie Hall in and 
dictated what mail I had to 


The Case for the Defense 

give her, and she went out and was typewriting the mail; before these girls 
finished the typewriting of these letters and brought them to my desk to read 
over and sign, which work I started. Miss Clark and Miss Hall left the office, as 
near as may be, at a quarter to twelve, and went out, and I started to work 
reading over the letters and signing the mail . . . 

Miss Hall left my office on her way home at this time, and to the best of my 
information there were in the building Arthur White and Harry Denham and 
Arthur White's wife on the top floor. To the best of my knowledge, it must have 
been from ten to fifteen minutes after Miss Hall left my office, when this little 
girl, whom I afterwards found to be Mary Phagan, entered my office and asked 
for her pay envelope. I asked for her number and she told me; I went to the 
cash box and took her envelope out and handed it to her identifying the 
envelope by the number. She left my office and apparently had gotten as far as 
the door from my office leading to the outer office, when she evidently stopped 
and asked me if the metal had arrived, and I told her, no. She continued on 
her way out and I heard the sound of her footsteps as she went away. It was a 
few moments after she asked me this question that I had an impression of a 
female voice saying something; I don't know which way it came from; just 
passed away and I had that impression. This little girl had evidently worked in 
the metal department by her question and had been laid off owing to the fact 
that some metal that had been ordered had not arrived at the factory; hence, 
her question. I only recognized this little girl from having seen her around the 
plant and did not know her name, simply identifying her envelope from her 
having called her number to me. 

She had left the plant hardly five minutes when 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Lemmie Quinn, the foreman of the plant, came in and told me that I could not 
keep him away from the factory, even though it was a holiday; at which I smiled 
and kept on working. He first asked me if Mr. Schiff had come down and I told 
him he had not and he turned around and left. I continued work until I finished 
this work and these requisitions and I looked at my watch and noticed that it 
was a quarter to one. I called my home up on the telephone, for I knew that my 
wife and my mother-in-law were going to the matinee and I wanted to know 
when they would have lunch. I got my house and Minola answered the phone 
and she answered me back that they would have lunch immediately and for me 

to come right on home. I then gathered my papers together and went upstairs to 
see the boys on the top floor. This must have been, since I had just looked at my 
watch, ten minutes to one. I noticed in the evidence of one of the witnesses, 
Mrs. Arthur White, she states it was twelve thirty-five that she passed by and 
saw me. That is possibly true; I have no recollection about it; perhaps her 
recollection is better than mine; I have no remembrance of it; however, I expect 
that is so. When I arrived upstairs I saw Arthur White and Harry Denham who 
had been working up there and Mr. White's wife. I asked them if they were ready 
to go and they staid they had enough work to keep them several hours. I noticed 
that they had laid out some work and I had to see what work they had done and 
were going to do. I asked Mr. White's wife if she was going or would stay there 
as I would be obliged to lock up the factory, and Mrs. White said, No, she would 
go then. I went down and gathered up my papers and locked my desk and went 
around and washed my hands and put on my hat and coat and locked the inner 
door to my 

The Case for the Defense 

office and locked the doors to the street and started to go home. 

Now, gentlemen, to the best of my recollection from the time the whistle 
blew for twelve o'clock until a quarter to one when I went upstairs and spoke to 
Arthur White and Harry Denham, to the best of my recollection, I did not stir 
out of the inner office; but it is possible that in order to answer a call of nature 
or to urinate I may have gone to the toilet. Those are things that a man does 
unconsciously and can not tell how many times not when he does it. Now, 
sitting in my office at my 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. 

I continued on up Forsyth to Alabama and down Alabama to Whitehall 
where I waited a few minutes for a car, and after a few minutes a Georgia 
Avenue car came along; I took it and arrived home at about one twenty. When I 
arrived at home, I found that my wife and my mother-in-law were eating their 
dinner, and my father-in-law had just sat down and started his dinner. I sat 
down to dinner and before I had taken anything, I turned in my chair to the 
telephone, which is right behind me and called up my brother-in-law to tell him 
that on account of some work I had to do at the factory, I would be unable to 
go with him, he having invited me to go with him out to the ballgame. I 
succeeded in getting his residence and his cook answered the phone and told 
me that Mr. Ursenbach had not come back home. I told her to give him a 
message for me, that I would be unable to go with him. I turned around and 
continued eating my lunch, and after a few minutes my wife and mother-in-law 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

finished their dinner and left and told me goodbye. My father-in-law and myself 
continued eating our dinner, Minola McKnight serving us. After finishing 
dinner, my father-in-law said he would go out in the back yard to look after his 
chickens and I lighted a cigarette and laid down. After a few minutes I got up 
and walked up Georgia Avenue to get a car. I missed the ten minutes to two car 
and I looked up and saw in front of Mr. Wolfsheimer's residence, Mrs. Mickle, 
an aunt of my wife who lives in Athens, and there were several ladies there and 
I went up there to see them and after a few minutes Mrs. Wolfsheimer came out 
of the house and I waited there until I saw that I could catch the car. I got on 

the car and talked to Mr. Loeb on the way to town. The car got to a point about 
the intersection of Washington Street and Hunter Street and the fire engine 
house and there was a couple of cars stalled up ahead of us, the cars were 
waiting there to see the memorial parade; they were all banked up. After it 
stood there a few minutes as I did not want to wait, I told Mr. Loeb that I was 
going to get out and go on as I had work to do. So I went on down Hunter 
Street, going in the direction of Whitehall and when I got down to the corner of 
Whitehall and Hunter, the parade had started to come around and I could not 
get around at all and I had to stay there fifteen or twenty minutes and see the 

Then I walked on down Whitehall on the side of Mr. M. Rich & Bros. Store 
towards Brown and Aliens; when I got in front of M. Rich & Bros, store, I stood 
there between half past two and a few minutes to three o'clock until the parade 
passed entirely; then I crossed the street and went on down to Jacobs and went 
in and purchased twenty five cents worth of cigars. I then left the store and 
went on down Alabama Street to Forsyth Street and down Forsyth 


The Case for the Defense 

Street to the factory. I unlocked the street door and then unlocked the inner 
door and left it open and went on upstairs to tell the boys that I had come back 
and wanted to know if they were ready to go, and at that time they were 
preparing to leave. I went immediately down to my office and opened the safe 
and my desk and hung up my coat and hat and started to work on the financial 
report, which I will explain. Mr. Schiff had not come down and there was 
additional work for me to do. 

In a few minutes after I started to work on the financial sheet, which I am 
going to take up in a few minutes, I heard the bell ring on the time clock 
outside and Arthur White and Harry Denham came into the office and Arthur 
White borrowed $2.00 from me in advance on his wages. I had gotten to work 
on the financial sheet, figuring it out, when I happened to go out to the 
lavatory and on returning to the office, the door pointed out directly in front, I 
noticed Newt Lee, the watchman, coming from towards the head of the stairs, 
coming towards me. I looked at the clock and told him the night before to come 
back at four o'clock for I expected to go to the baseball game. At that time Newt 
Lee came along and greeted me and offered me a banana out of a yellow bag 
which he carried, which I presume contained bananas; I declined the banana 
and told him that I had no way of letting him know sooner that I was to be 
there at work and that I had changed my mind about going to the ballgame. I 
told him that he could go if he wanted to or he could amuse himself in any way 
that he saw fit for an hour and a half, but to be sure and be back by half past 
six o'clock. He went off down the stair-case leading out and I returned to my 
office. Now, in reference to Newt Lee, the watchman, the first night he came 
there to watch, I personally took him around 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

the plant, first, second, and third floors and into the basement, and told him 
that he would be required, that it was his duty, to go over that entire building 
every half hour; not only to completely tour the upper four floors but to go 
down to the basement; and I specially stressed the point that that dust bin 
along here was one of the most dangerous places for a fire and I wanted him to 
be sure and go back there every half hour and to be careful how he held his 
lantern. I told him it was a part of his duty to look after and lock that back 

door and he fully understood it, and I showed him the cut-off for the electric 
current and told him in case of fire that ought to be pulled so no fireman 
coming in would be electrocuted. I explained everything to him in detail and 
told him he was to make that tour every half hour and stamp it on the time 
card and that that included the basement of the building. . . . Now, on one of 
these slips, Newt Lee would register his punches Saturday night, and on 
Sunday night he would register his punches on the other. His punches on 
Monday night would be registered on two new slips that would be put into the 
clock on Monday night. As I was putting these time slips into the clock, as 
mentioned, I saw Newt Lee coming up the stairs, and looking at the clock, it 
was as near as may be six o'clock — looking straight at the clock; I finished 
putting the slip in and went back to wash up, and as I was washing, I heard 
Newt Lee ring the bell on the clock when he registered his first punch for the 
night, and he went downstairs to the front door to await my departure; after 
washing, I went downstairs — I put on my hat and coat — got my hat and top 
coat and went downstairs to the front door. As I opened the front door, I saw 
outside on the street, on the street side of the door, Newt Lee in conversation 
with Mr. J. M. Gantt, a man that I had 


The Case for the Defense 

let go from the office two weeks previous. They seemed to be in discussion, and 
Newt Lee told me that Mr. Gantt wanted to go back up into the factory, and he 
had refused his admission, because his instructions were for no one to go back 
into the factory after he went out, unless he got contrary instructions from Mr. 
Darley or myself. I spoke to Mr. Gantt, and asked him what he wanted, he said 
he had a couple of pairs of shoes, black pair and tan pair, in the shipping room. 
I told Newt Lee it would be all right to pass Gantt in and Gantt went in, Newt 
Lee closed the door, locking it after him — I heard the bolt turn in the door. I 
then walked up Forsyth Street to Alabama, down Alabama to Broad Street, 
where I posted the two letters, one to my uncle, Mr. M. Frank, and one to Mr. 
Pappenheimer, a few minutes after six, and continued on my way down to 
Jacobs Whitehall and Alabama Street store, where I went in and got a drink at 
the soda fount, and bought my wife a box of candy. I then caught the Georgia 
Avenue car and arrived home about six twenty-five. I sat looking at the paper 
until about six-thirty when I called up at the factory to find out if Mr. Gantt had 
left. I called up at six-thirty because I expected Newt Lee would be punching the 
clock on the half hour and would be near enough to the telephone to hear it 
and answer it at that time. I couldn't get Newt Lee then, so I sat in the hall 
reading until seven o'clock, when I again called the factory; this time I was 
successful in getting Newt Lee and asked him if Mr. Gantt had gone again; he 
said, "Yes," I asked if everything else was all right at the factory; it was, and 
then I hung up. . . . The next day, Sunday, April 27th, I was awakened at 
something before seven o'clock, by the telephone ringing. I got out of bed — was 
tight asleep, it awakened me — but I got out of bed, put on a bathrobe and 
1 30 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

went down to answer the telephone, and a man's voice spoke to me over the 
phone and said — I after-wards found out this man that spoke to me was City 
Detective Starnes — said "Is this Mr. Frank, Superintendent of the National 
Pencil Company?" I said, "Yes, sir," he says, "I want you to come down to the 
factory right away," I says, "What's the trouble, has there been a fire?" He says, 
"No, a tragedy, I want you to come down right away," I says, "All right," he 

says, "I'll send an automobile for you," I says, "All right," and hung up and 
went upstairs to dress. I was in the midst of dressing to go with the people who 
should come for me in the automobile, when the automobile drove up, the bell 
rang, and my wife went downstairs to answer the door. She had on — just had a 
night dress with a robe over it. I followed my wife — I wasn't completely dressed 
at that time — didn't have any trousers and shirt on — I went downstairs — 
followed my wife in a minute or two. I asked them what the trouble was, and 
the man who I afterwards found out was Detective Black, hung his head and 
didn't say anything. Now, at this point, these two witnesses, Mr. Rogers and 
Mr. Black, differ with me on the place where the conversation occurred — I say, 
to the best of my recollection, it occurred right there in the house in front of 
my wife; they say it occurred just as I left the house, in the automobile; but be 
that as it may, this is the conversation: They asked me did I know Mary 
Phagan, I told them I didn't, they said to me, "Didn't a little girl with long hair 
hanging down her back come up to your office yesterday sometime for her 
money — a little girl who works in the tipping plant?" I says, "Yes, I do 
remember such a girl coming up to my office, that worked in the tipping room, 
but I didn't know her name was Mary Phagan." "Well, we want you to come 
down right away with us to the 


The Case for the Defense 

factory," and I finished dressing; and as they had said they would bring me 
right away back, I didn't have breakfast, but went right on with them in the 
automobile, made the trip to the undertaking establishment very quickly — I 
mean, they made the trip downtown very quickly, and stopped at the corner of 
Mitchell and Pryor Streets, told me they were going to take me to the 
undertaker's first, that they wanted me to see the body and see if I could 
identify the little girl. I went with them to the undertaking establishment and 
one of the two men asked the attendant to show us the way into where the body 
was, and the attendant went down a long dark passageway with Mr. Rogers 
following, then I came, and Black brought up the rear; we walked down this 
long passageway until we got to a place that was apparently the door to a small 
room — very dark in there, the attendant went on and suddenly switched on the 
electric light, and I saw the body of the little girl. Mr. Rogers walked in the room 
and stood to my right, inside of the room. I stood right in the door, leaning up 
against the right facing the door, and Mr. Black was to the left, leaning on the 
left facing, but a little to my rear, and the attendant, whose name I have since 
learned was Mr. Chessling, [sic] was on the opposite side of the little cooling 
table to where I stood — in other words, the table was between him and me; he 
re-moved the sheet which was covering the body, and took the head in his 
hands, turned it over, put his finger exactly where the wound in the left side 
back of the head was located — put his finger right on it; I noticed the hands and 
arms of the little girl were very dirty — blue and ground with dirt and cinders, 
the nostrils and mouth — the mouth being open — nostrils and mouth just full of 
sawdust and swollen, and there was a deep scratch over the left eye on the 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

about the neck, there was twine — a piece of cord similar to that which is used 
at the pencil factory and also a piece of white rag. After looking at the body, I 
identified that little girl as the one that had been up shortly after noon the day 
previous and got her money from me. We then left the undertaking 

establishment, got in the automobile, and rode over to the pencil factory. Just 
as we arrived opposite the pencil factory, I saw Mr. Darley going into the front 
door of the pencil factory with another man, whose name I didn't know; we 
went up to the second floor, the office floor, I went into the inner office, hung 
up my hat, and in the inner office, I saw the night watchman, Newt Lee, in the 
custody of an officer, who I think was Detective Starnes — the man who had 
phoned me. I then unlocked the safe and took out the payroll book and found 
that it was true that a little girl by the name of Mary Phagan did work in the 
metal plant, and that she was due to draw $1.20, the payroll book showed 
that, and as the detective had told me that someone had identified the body of 
that little girl as that of Mary Phagan, there could be no question but that it 
was one and the same girl. The detectives told me then they wanted to take me 
down in the basement and show me exactly where the girl's body was found, 
and the other paraphernalia that they found strewed about; and I went to the 
elevator box — the switch box, so that I could turn on the current, and found it 
open. . . . However, I turned on the switch, started the motor, which runs the 
elevator, then Mr. Darley and half dozen more of us and the detectives got on 
the elevator; I got on the elevator and I started to pull the rope to start the 
elevator to going, and it seemed to be caught, and I couldn't move it, I couldn't 
move it with a straight pull, and couldn't get it loose, so I jumped out, we all 
got off, and I asked Mr. Darley to 


The Case for the Defense 

try his hand — he's a great deal larger man and a great deal stronger man than I 
was — so he was successful in getting it loose — it seemed like the chain which 
runs down in the basement had slipped a cog and gotten out of gear and needed 
somebody to force it back; however, Mr. Darley was successful in getting it 
loose, and it started up, and I got on and the detectives got on and I caught 
hold of the rope and it worked all right. 

In the basement, the officers showed us just about where the body was 
found, just beyond the partition of the Clark Woodenware Company, and in 
behind the door to the dust bin, they showed us where they found the hat and 
slipper on the trash pile, and they showed us where the back door, where the 
door to the rear was opened about eighteen inches. After looking about the 
basement, we all went upstairs and Mr. Darley and myself got some cords and 
some nails and hammer and went down the basement again to lock up the back 
door, so that we could seal the factory from the back, and nobody would enter. 
After returning upstairs, Mr. Darley and myself accompanied Chief Lanford on a 
tour of inspection through the three upper floors of the factory, to the second 
floor, to the third floor and to the fourth floor, we looked into each bin, and 
each partition, and each dressing room and looked into that very dressing room 
that has figured so prominently in this trial, and neither Mr. Darley nor myself 
noticed anything peculiar on that floor, nor did Sergeant Lanford, Chief of the 
Atlanta detectives, notice anything peculiar. . . . 

Now, gentlemen, I have heard a great deal, and have you, in this trial, about 
nervousness, about how nervous I was that morning. Gentlemen, I was nervous, 
I was completely unstrung, I will admit it; imag- 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

ine, awakened out of my sound sleep, and a morning run down in the cool of 
the morning in an automobile driven at top speed, without any food or 
breakfast, rushing into a dark passageway, coming into a darkened room, and 

then suddenly an electric light flashed on, and to see that sight that was 
presented by that poor little child; why, it was a sight that was enough to drive 
a man to distraction; that was a sight that would have made a stone melt; and 
then it is suspicious, because a man who is ordinary flesh and blood should 
show signs of nervousness. Just imagine that little girl, in the first blush of 
young womanhood, had had her life so cruelly snuffed out, might a man not be 
nervous who looked at such a sight? Of course I was nervous; any man would 
be nervous if he was a man. We went with the officers in the automobile, Mr. 
Rogers was at the driving wheel, and Mr. Darley sat next to him, I sat on Mr. 
Darley's lap, and in the back was Newt Lee and two officers. We rode to 
headquarters very quickly and on arrival there Mr. Darley and I went up to 
Chief Lanford's office where I sat and talked and answered every one of their 
questions freely and frankly, and discussed the matter in general with them, 
trying to aid and to help them in any way that I could. It seemed that, that 
morning the notes were not readily accessible, or for some other reason I didn't 
get to see them, so I told them on leaving there that I would come back that 
afternoon, which I ultimately did; after staying there a few minutes, Mr. Darley 
and myself left, and inasmuch as Mr. Darley hadn't seen the body of the little 
girl, we went over to Bloomfield's on Pryor Street and Mitchell, and when we 
went into the establishment, they told us somebody was busy with the body at 
that time and we couldn't see it, and we started to leave, when we met a certain 
person with whom we made 


The Case for the Defense 

arrangements to watch the building, because Newt Lee was in custody at that 
time... . 

I was working along in the regular routine of my work, in the factory and 
about the office, and a little later Detectives Scott and Black came up to the 
factory and said: "Mr. Frank, we want you to go down to headquarters with us," 
and I went with them. We went down to headquarters and I have been 
incarcerated every since. We went down to headquarters in an automobile and 
they took me up to Chief Lanford's office. I sat up there and answered any 
questions that he desired, and I had been sitting there sometime when 
Detective Scott and Detective Black came back with a bundle under their arm. 
They showed me a little piece of material of some shirt, and asked me if I had a 
shirt of that material. I looked at it and told them I didn't think I ever had a 
shirt of that description. In the meantime they brought in Newt Lee, the night 
watchman, brought him up from a cell and showed him the same sample. He 
looked at it and immediately recognized it; he said he had a shirt like that, but 
he didn't remember having worn it for two years, if I remember correctly, that 
is what he said. Detectives Scott and Black then opened the package they had 
and disclosed the full shirt [State's Ex. F] of that material that had all the 
appearance of being freshly stained with blood, and had a very distinct odor. 
Newt Lee was taken back to the cell. After a time Chief Lanford came over to 
me and began an examination of my face and of my head and my hands and 
my arms. I suppose he was trying to hunt to see if he could find any scratches. 
I stayed in there until about twelve o'clock when Mr. Rosser came in and spoke 
to the detectives, or to Chief Beavers. After talking with Chief Beavers he came 
over to me and 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

said to me that Chief Beavers thought it better that I should stay down there. 
He says: "He thinks it better that you be detained at headquarters, but if you 
desire, you don't need to be locked up in a cell, you can engage a 
supernumerary policeman who will guard you and give you the freedom of the 
building." I immediately acquiesced, supposing that I couldn't do anything 
else, and Mr. Rosser left. Now, after this time, it was about this time they took 
me from up-stairs down to the District Sergeant's desk and detective Starnes — 
John N. Starnes, I think his name is — came in and dictated from the original 
notes that were found near the body, dictated to me to get a sample of my 
handwriting. I wrote this note at the dictation of Mr. Starnes [State's Ex. K], 
which was given to me word by word, and of course I wrote it slowly. When a 
word was spelled differently they usually stopped — take this word "buy" for 
instance, the detective told me how that was spelled so they could see my 
exact letters, and compare with the original note. Now I had no hesitation in 
giving him a specimen of my handwriting. Now, this photograph is a 
reproduction of the note. You see, J. N. Starnes in the corner here, that is 
detective Starnes, and then is dated here. I put that there myself so I would be 
able to recognize it again, in case they tried any erasures or anything like that. 
It is a photographic reproduction of something that was written in pencil, as 
near as one can judge, a photographic reproduction of the note that I wrote. 
Detective Starnes then took me down to the desk sergeant where they 
searched me and entered my name on the book under a charge of suspicion. 
Then they took me back into a small room and I sat there for awhile while my 
father-in-law was arranging for a supernumerary police to guard me for the 
night. They took me then to a room on the top 

The Case for the Defense 

of the building and I sat in the room there and either read magazines or 
newspapers and talked to my friends who came to see me until — I was about 
to retire at midnight. I had the cover of my cot turned back and I was going to 
bed when Detective Scott and Detective Black, at midnight, Tuesday, April 
29th, came in and said: "Mr. Frank, we would like to talk to you a little bit. 
Come in and talk to us." I says, "Sure, I will be only too glad to." I went with 
them to a little room on the top floor of the headquarters. In that room was 
Detective Scott and Detective Black and myself. They stressed the possibility 
of couples having been let into the factory at night by the night watchman, 
Newt Lee. I told them that I didn't know anything about it, that if I had, I 
certainly would have put a stop to it long ago. They said: "Mr. Frank, you have 
never talked alone with Newt Lee. You are his boss and he respects you. See 
what you can do with him. We can't get anything more out of him, see if you 
can." I says: "All right, I understand what you mean; I will do my best," 
because I was only too willing to help. Black says: "Now put it strong to him, 
put it up strong to him, and tell him to cough up and tell all he knows. Tell 
him that you are here and that he is here and that he better open up and tell 
all he knows about happenings at the pencil factory that Saturday night, or 
you will both go to hell." Those were the detective's exact words. I told Mr. 
Black I caught his meaning, and in a few minutes afterwards Detective 
Starnes brought up Newt Lee from the cell room. They put Newt Lee into a 
room and hand-cuffed him to a chair. I spoke to him at some length in there, 
but I couldn't get anything additional out of him. He said he knew nothing 
about couples coming in there at night, and remembering the instructions Mr. 
Black had given me I said: "Now, Newt, you are 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

here and I am here, and you had better open up and tell all you know, and tell 
the truth and tell the full truth, because you will get us both into lots of 
trouble if you don't tell all you know," and he answered me like an old Negro: 
"Before God, Mr. Frank, I am telling you the truth and I have told you all I 
know." And the conversation ended right there. Within a minute or two 
afterwards the detectives came back into the room, that is, Detective Scott and 
Detective Black, and then began questioning Newt Lee, and then it was that I 
had my first initiation into the third degree in Atlanta police department. The 
way that fellow Black cursed at that poor old Negro, Newt Lee, was something 
awful. He shrieked at him, he hollered at him, he cursed and did everything 
but beat him. Then they took Newt Lee down to a cell and I went to my cot in 
the outer room. . . . 

Gentlemen, I know nothing whatever of the death of little Mary Phagan. I 
had no part in causing her death nor do I know how she came to her death 
after she took her money and left my office. I never even saw Conley in the 
factory or anywhere else on that date, April 26th, 1913. 

The statement of the witness Dalton is utterly false as far as coming to my 
office and being introduced to me by the woman Daisy Hopkins is concerned. 
If Dalton was ever in the factory building with any woman, I didn't know it. I 
never saw Dalton in my life to know him until this crime. . . . 

The statement of the Negro Conley is a tissue of lies from first to last. I 
know nothing whatever of the cause of the death of Mary Phagan and Conley's 
statement as to his coming up and helping me dispose of the body, or that I 
had anything to do with her or to do with him that day, is a monstrous lie. 
The story as to women coming into the factory 

The Case for the Defense 

with me for immoral purposes is a base lie and the few occasions that he 
claims to have seen me in indecent positions with women is a lie so vile that I 
have no language with which to fitly denounce it. 

I have no rich relatives in Brooklyn, New York. My father is an invalid. My 
father and mother together are people of very limited means, who have barely 
enough upon which to live. My father is not able to work. I have no relative 
who has any means at all, except Mr. M. Frank who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Nobody has raised a fund to pay the fees of my attorneys. These fees have 
been paid by the sacrifice in part of the small property which my parents 

Gentlemen, some newspaper men have called me "the silent man in the 
tower," and I kept my silence and my counsel advisedly, until the proper time 
and place. The time is now, the place is here, and I have told you the truth, 
the whole truth. 

On rebuttal, the state called more than seventy witnesses. A friend of Minola 
McKnight's husband and the maid's attorney, George Gordon, testified that 
Minola said she made a complete and true statement to the police of everything 
she knew. Her damaging affidavit referred to Frank's drinking on the night of the 
murder, sleeping restlessly, and threatening to kill himself with a pistol. 

Two witnesses, O. Tillander and E. K. Graham, who had come to the factory to 
obtain their sons' money, testified they saw a Negro about the same size as Conley 
at the stairs on the first floor but swore they could not positively identify him. 

Fourteen witnesses testified that Dalton's reputation for truth was good. In a 
prosecution attempt to rebut Daisy Hopkins's assertion that she did not know 
Frank and had never been to the factory with Dalton, eight 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

witnesses testified that the woman's reputation for truth and veracity was bad. 

Three witnesses testified that they had seen Frank talk to Mary Phagan 
frequently and call her by her first name. Others testified to seeing him touch her 
and attempt to intercept her for conversation. Testimony was introduced that her 
machine was just a few feet from the men's second floor restroom on the same 
floor as Frank's office. 

At the climax of the prosecution's rebuttal, twenty women, former employees 
of the pencil company, testified that Frank's reputation for lascivious conduct was 
bad. None were cross-examined so their testimony went unchallenged. Since they 
were not cross-examined, Dorsey was unable to examine them as to the details on 
which they based their conclusions as to Frank's bad character. Three residents 
of homes for unwed mothers, formerly employees of the factory, had been called 
by the state to testify as to Frank's bad character, but Judge Roan did not permit 
the jury to hear their testimony. 

An example of the testimony by Nellie Wood: 

Q. Do you know Mr. Frank? 

A. I worked for him two days. 

Q. Did you observe his conduct toward the girls? 

A. His conduct didn't suit me very much. 

Q. You say he put his hands on you; is that all he ever did? 

A. Well, he asked me, one evening — I went into his office, and he got too 
familiar and too close. 

Q. Did he put his hands on you? 

A. Well, I did not let him complete what he started. I resisted him. 

Q. Did he put his hands on your breast? 

A. No, but he tried to. 

Q. Well, did he make any attempts on your lower limbs? 


The Case for the Defense 

A. Yes, sir. 

Q. And on your dress? 

A. Yes, sir. 

Defense Attorney Arnold argued to the jury: "We are not trying this case on 
whether you or I or Frank have been perfect in the past. This is a case of murder. 
Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." But this evidence provided the 
motive for the crime. 

In their closing arguments, Frank's counsel asserted that Frank could not 
have committed the murder, moved the body, and dealt with Jim Conley as the 
sweeper alleged in the thirty to forty-five minutes Frank was unable to account 
for. For three and one-half hours, defense attorney Luther Rosser pleaded for 
Frank's life: 

Gentlemen, take a look at this spectacle, if you can. Here is a Jewish boy from 
the North. He is unacquainted with the South. He came here alone and 
without friends and he stood alone. 

This murder happened in his place of business. He told the Pinkertons to 
find the man, trusting to them entirely, no matter where or what they found 

might strike. He is defenseless and helpless. He knows his innocence and is 
willing to find the murderer. They try to place the murder on him. God, all 
merciful and all powerful, look upon a scene like this. 

The thing that arises in this case to fatigue my imagination is that men 
born of such parents should believe the statement of Conley against the 
statement of Frank. Who is Conley? Who was Conley as he used to be and as 
you have seen him? He was a dirty, filthy, black, drunken, lying nigger. Who 
was it that made this dirty nigger come up here looking so slick? Why didn't 
they let you see him as he was? They shaved him, washed him, and dressed 
him up. Gentlemen of the jury, the charge of moral perversion against a 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

man is a terrible thing for him, but it is even more so when that man has a 
wife and mother to be affected by it. Dalton, even Dalton did not say this 
against Frank. It was just Conley. 

Gentlemen, I want only the straight truth here, and I have yet to believe 
that the truth has to be watched and cultivated by these detectives and by 
seven visits of the Solicitor General. I don't believe any man, no matter what 
his race, ought to be tried under such testimony. If I was raising sheep and 
feared for my lambs, I might hand a yellow dog on it. I might do it in the 
daytime, but when things got quiet at night and I got to thinking, I'd be 
ashamed of myself. You have been overly kind to me, gentlemen. True, you 
have been up against a situation like that old Sol Russell used to describe 
when he would say, "Well, I've lectured off and on for forty years, and the 
benches always stuck it out, but they was screwed to the floor." You 
gentlemen have been practically in that fix, but I feel, nevertheless, that you 
have been peculiarly kind, and I thank you. 

Reuben Arnold then addressed the jurors: "If Frank hadn't been a Jew, there 
never would have been any prosecution against him," he said, and called the case 
against Frank "the greatest frame-up in the history of the state." He then 
compared the case with the case of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the French soldier and 
Jewish descendant who had been condemned to Devil's Island through a racial 

There were two witnesses who quoted anti-Semitic remarks of others. T.Y. 
Brent, sworn for the defendant in sur-rebuttal, said: "I have heard George Kendley 
on several occasions express himself very bitterly towards Leo Frank. He said he 
felt in this case just as he did about a couple of 'niggers' hung down in Decatur: 
that he didn't 

The Case for the Defense 

know whether they had been guilty or not but somebody had to be hung for killing 
those street car men and it was just as good to hang one nigger as another, and 
that Frank was nothing but an old Jew and they ought to take him out and hang 
anyhow." S.L. Asher, sworn for the defendant in sur-rebuttal, said: "About two 
weeks ago I was coming to town between five and ten minutes to one on the car 
and there was a man who was talking very loud about the Frank case and all of a 
sudden he said, 'They ought to take that damn Jew out and hang him anyway.' I 
took his number down to report him." 

Solicitor-General Hugh Dorsey's summation was much longer. He spoke until 
court adjourned, six more hours on Saturday and three Monday morning. Dorsey 

I say to you here and now that the race from which that man comes in as good 

as our race. His ancestors were civilized when ours were cutting each other up 

and eating human flesh; his race is just as good as ours — just as good but no 


I honor the race that produced a Disraeli — the greatest prime minister that 

England has ever produced. I honor the race that produced Judah P. 

Benjamin — as great a lawyer as ever lived in America or England, because he 

lived in both places. 

I honor the Strauss brothers — Oscar, the diplomat, and the man who went 
down with his wife by his side on the Titanic. I roomed with one of his race at 
college; one of his race is my law partner. I served with old man Joe Hirsch on 
the Board of Trustees of the Grady Hospital. I know Rabbi Marx but to honor 
him, and I know Doctor Sonn, of the Hebrew Orphans Home, and have listened 
to him with pleasure and pride. 

But, on the other hand [he then related crimes 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

that had been committed by Jews] these great people are amenable to the 
same laws as you and I and the black race. They rise to heights sublime, but 
they sink to depths of degradation. 

Gentlemen, every act of that defendant proclaims him guilty. Gentlemen, 
every word of that defendant proclaims him responsible for the death of this 
little factory girl. Gentlemen, every circumstance in this case proves him 
guilty of this crime. Extraordinary? Yes, but nevertheless true, just as true as 
Mary Phagan is dead. 

She died a noble death, not a blot on her name. She died because she 
wouldn't yield her virtue to the demands of her superintendent. I have no 
purpose and have never had from the beginning in this case that you oughtn't 
to have, as a honest, upright citizen. 

In the language of Daniel Webster, I desire to remind you "that when a 
jury, through whimsical and unfounded scruples, suffers the guilt of escape, 
they make themselves answerable for the augmented danger to the innocent." 

Your honor, I have done my duty. I have no apology to make. There can be 
but one verdict, and that is: We the jury find the defendant, Leo M. Frank, 
guilty, GUILTY! GUILTY! 

As Dorsey uttered these words, the noon church bells tolled and the factory 
whistles blew, reminding all of the hour of Mary Phagan's death. 

Before Fulton Superior Court Judge L.S. Roan charged the jury, he asked to 
see all counsel in his chambers where he showed them letters from the editors of 
three of Atlanta's newspapers predicting the results of Leo Frank's acquittal. 
"Gentlemen," said Roan, "I think we know. The defendant would be lynched." He 

Impatient Crowd Waiting for Doors to Open for Frank 

Crowds outside the Atlanta court building during the trial. 

Lucille anc Leo Prank during the trial. 

Lucille and Leo Frank during the trial. 

rfc fttf' 

W Conley Leaving Courtroom After Testimony 

Left to rigtn : 
f„ Ffcavers. 

Left to right: Chief of Detectives Newport Lanford, Jim Conley and Chief of Police James L. 


The trial. Leo Frank, seated between his wife and mother, is in front of 

the judge's bench. Attorney's Reuben Arnold and Luther Rosser, Jr., are seated 

at the adjacent table. Solicitor-General Hugh Dorsey, standing to the rear of 

the table, addresses the court. 

The Case for the Defense 

that both counsel agree that the defendant not be present in the courtroom when 
the jury told their verdict in case of acquittal. The state militia was alerted. The 
defense counsel agreed to Frank's absence a well as their own. Solicitor-General 
Dorsey gave his consent only after Rosser and Arnold agreed that this absence 
would not be used as a basis for appeal. 

Within four hours, the jury returned a guilty verdict. Dorsey wept as he polled 
the jury. A wild demonstration was begun by the large crowd outside the 
courtroom, but inside there was little demonstration. J. W. Coleman, little Mary's 
stepfather, walked over to the jury box with tears streaming down his face, and 
silently thanked each man on the jury with a grip of his hand. He then turned to 
Judge Roan, and shaking his hand, thanked him for the pains he had taken with 
the trial and for his fair dealing with all parties concerned. 

He made the following statement to a Constitution reporter: 

I want to say that I am entirely satisfied with the manner in which the trial 
has been conducted and also with the verdict returned. 

I knew by looking at the faces of the jurors as they were chosen that they 
were all men who could be relied upon to give fair and careful consideration to 
each point and that they were of the high type of character who would give 

their best efforts as citizens of this commonwealth without thought of 
themselves to determine the guilt or innocence of Leo Frank. 

I would not, for any consideration, like to see an innocent man pay the 
death penalty, but I feel sure that anyone in the world who has kept up with 
the trial in all its phases and with every scrap of evidence submitted, would 
have found Frank guilty as these honorable gentlemen have done. I am deeply 
grateful to them and to Judge Roan. 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Hugh Dorsey, upon emerging from the courtroom building, was seized by the 
laughing, cheering, rejoicing crowd and passed bodily over the heads of the crowd 
to his office across the street. 

Later, Fannie Phagan Coleman, who had been unable to attend court that 
day, told another Constitution reporter, 

I could not begin to tell you how glad and relieved I feel now that it is all over. 

For weeks I have felt that I just could not sleep another wink for thinking 
of that man Frank, and the possibility that he might escape the consequences 
of his crime. I have felt satisfied all the time that he was guilty, and the 
verdict of the jury is no surprise to me. They are good, noble men, and should 
be commended by all for doing their duty as they have done. I do not see how 
anyone who has read all the evidence could possibly think there is the 
smallest doubt as to Frank's guilt. 

I have not been well for the last week, and my mother also has been sick, 
so you see I could not attend all the sessions of the court, but I have gone as 
often as possible, and I have read every line regarding the progress of the trial 
published in the papers. I hope that they will not be hard on that Conley 
Negro. Although he lied a great deal at first, he did turn round and tell the 
whole truth at last, and in my opinion, he should be let off with a light 

The only real regret I feel about the entire trial is that I was unable to 
attend court this afternoon, and shake hands with each member of the jury 
and with Judge Roan. I will take the first opportunity of seeing every one of 
them and thanking them for the patient, careful consideration they have 
shown to everything connected with the trial any way. 


The Case for the Defense 

Rabbi Marx sat with Frank and his wife at the Fulton Tower awaiting the 
verdict. A friend told Frank the verdict. Unbelievingly he exclaimed: "Guilty? My 
God, even the jury was influenced by mob law. I am as innocent as I was a year 

Chapter 6 


Because Judge Roan feared a public uprising against Leo Frank, he secretly 
brought Frank and the other principals together in the courtroom for the formal 
sentencing. The sentence read: 

Whereupon, it is considered, ordered and adjudged by the Court that the 
defendant, Leo M. Frank, be taken from the bar of this court to the common 
jail of the county of Fulton, and that he be safely there kept until his final 
execution in the manner fixed by law. 

It is further ordered and adjudged by the Court that on the 10th day of 
October, 1913, the defendant, Leo M. Frank, shall be executed by the Sheriff 
of Fulton County in private, witnessed only by the executing officer, a 
sufficient guard, the relatives of such defendant and such clergymen and 
friends as he may desire, such execution to take place in the common jail of 
Fulton County and that said defendant, on that day, between the hours often 
o'clock a.m. and two o'clock p.m., be by the Sheriff of Fulton County hanged 
by the neck until he shall be dead, and may God have mercy on his soul. 

In Open Court, this 26th day of April, 1913. 



Sentencing and Aftermath 

Frank addressed the Court: "Your Honor, I say now as I have always said, I 
am innocent. Further than this, my case is in the hands of my counsel." 

The trial of Leo Frank had been the longest and most expensive trial in 
Georgia history at that time. The steno-graphic record itself was 1,080,060 words. 
The state's star witness, Jim Conley, had been on the witness stand longer than 
any other witness in state history, and it was the first time that a black man's 
testimony helped to convict a white man. 

Upon its conclusion Rosser and Arnold said: "We deem it not amiss to make a 
short statement, as the attorneys of Leo M. Frank to the public. 

"The trial which has just occurred and which has resulted in Mr. Frank's 
conviction, was a farce and not in any way a trial. In saying this, we do not make 
the least criticism of Judge Roan, who presided. Judge Roan is one of the best 
men in Georgia and is an able and conscientious judge." (Judge Roan was 
Rosser's senior law partner from 1883 to 1886.) 

"The temper of the public mind was such that it invaded the courtroom and 
invaded the streets and made itself manifest at every turn the jury made; and it 
was 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. 

"In doing this we are making no criticism of the jury. They were only men and 
unconsciously this prejudice rendered any other verdict impossible. 

"It would have required a jury of stoics, a jury of Spartans, to have withstood 
this situation. 

"The time ought to come when this man will get a fair trial, and we profoundly 
believe that it will. 

"The final judgment of the American people is a fair one. It is sometimes 
delayed in coming, but it comes. "We entered into this case with the profound 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

tion of Mr. Frank's innocence. The result has not changed our opinion. Every step 
of the trial has intensified and fortified our profound conviction of his innocence." 

A series of appellate moves followed. 

Frank's lawyers began to prepare their appeal immediately after the 
sentencing. One hundred and three points were covered in this appeal, including 
affidavits about the alleged prejudice toward Leo Frank of two members of the 
jury, A. H. Henslee and M. Johenning. "They are going to break that Jew's neck," 
Henslee was quoted as saying to Dr. W. L. Ricker, who later swore an affidavit 
filed with Judge Roan prior to the trial. "He stated that Frank was guilty of 
murder," Ricker's testimony continued. The family of H. C. Lovenhard swore that 
on meeting Marcellus Johenning on the street before the trial he had told them "I 
know he is guilty." 

Other points raised included the jurors being influenced by the crowd's 
demonstrations outside the court-room, that Conley's allegation of Frank's 
immoral activities should not have been allowed into evidence, and that the 
evidence did not support the verdict. 

Solicitor-General Dorsey argued that the trial had been fair and countered 
with affidavits from eleven jurors who swore they did not hear or see 
demonstrations from crowds outside the courtroom and had reached their 
decisions solely because of the weight of the evidence. Both jurors who had been 
deemed prejudiced by the defense denied the charges. 

Rosser and Arnold made a final plea to Judge Roan. Arnold said "It is the 
most horrible persecution of a Jew since the death of Christ." 

On October 31, 1913, Judge Roan denied the defense's motion for a new trial, 
but he commented: "I am not convinced of the guilt or innocence of the defendant, 
but I do not have to be convinced. The jury was convinced and that was enough." 


Sentencing and Aftermath 

The ruling was affirmed by the Georgia Supreme Court on February 17, 1914, 
by a unanimous decision. However, two judges, Beck and Fish, dissented on the 
question of admissibility of Jim Conley's testimony as to Frank's sexual 
perversion, but did not find the evidence in question sufficient cause to alter the 
guilty verdict. 

Not long after the Georgia Supreme Court decision, the Atlanta Journal 
reported that the state biologist who examined the body of Mary Phagan had 
concluded after microscopic analysis that the hair found on the lathe which the 
prosecution had cited as a major factor in its case was not Mary Phagan's. The 
biologist told Solicitor-General Dorsey, who when later confronted by the Journal's 
reporters said "I did not depend on the biologist's testimony. Other witnesses in 
the case swore that the hair was that of Mary Phagan, and that sufficed to 
establish my point." 

Several prosecution witnesses retracted their original testimony. The first was 
Albert McKnight, who now said he hadn't seen Frank the day of the murder; Mrs. 

Nina Formby related that the police had filled her with liquor and unduly 
influenced her to invent the story that Frank had phoned her on the murder night 
asking for a room for himself and a girl. A third, George Epps, Jr., a friend of 
Mary Phagan's, now said he and Mary had not had a conversation aboard the 
trolley she rode to the factory on the day of her murder. Other witnesses conveyed 
that they had invented or lied about evidence because of the pressure brought by 
police detectives and/or Solicitor Dorsey. Later many of these same people 
repudiated their retractions. 

In addition to repudiated testimony, the defense lawyers restudied every 
aspect of the Frank case. Henry Alexander, one of the defense team, made a study 
of the murder notes allegedly written by Conley at Frank's direction. Since these 
were written on old carbon pads, Alex- 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

ander studied the dateline which read 190-. He concluded that the pads were at 
least four years old. They had been placed in the basement in 1912 along with 
the records of H.F. Becker, the master of machinery who signed them and was 
no longer employed by the company. 

Mr. Alexander also alleged in a pamphlet that the words "night witch" in the 
note beside Mary Phagan's body, which had been interpreted to mean night 
watch or watchman by those who believed the notes had been written under the 
direction of a white man, actually referred to a Negro folk tale "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 a cord around their necks." 

However, at the time the notes were discovered and read in the factory 
basement early in the morning of April 27, when the detectives read the words 
"nigt witch" on two separate occasions, Newt Lee brightly volunteered "that's 
me." In addition, when Conley was directed to write "night watchman" by police 
during his interrogation, he promptly wrote down "nigt witch," reciting that that 
was his nickname for the night watchman whom Conley had never met, and thus 
could not know that he was in fact a tall, slim black Negro. 

On March 7, 1914, Frank was resentenced to die. The scheduled date was 
April 17, 1914. The day before he was to hang, a stay of execution was obtained 
on an extraordinary motion for a new trial which was based on newly found 

Three witnesses said the state's star witness, Jim Conley, the black floor 
sweeper, was the killer. They were Conley's ex-girlfriend, a federal prisoner, and 
Conley's own lawyer. 

The celebrated private detective, William Burns, got an affidavit from Annie 
Maud Carter in New Orleans. This 


Sentencing and Aftermath 

affidavit stated that Jim Conley told her he had called Mary Phagan over as she 
left Frank's office with her pay envelope, hit her over the head, and pushed her 
over a scuttle hole in the back of the building. 

Annie Maud Carter also said Conley told her he wrote the notes found by the 
body of Mary Phagan to put the suspicion on Newt Lee, the night watchman. She 
gave the Burns agency some love letters from Conley which the Constitution said 
were "so vile and vulgar" that they couldn't be published in the newspaper. The 
defense contended these love letters showed that Conley had "perverted passion 

and lust." Among the lines pointed to by the defense as evidence of Conley's 
perversion were: 

Give your heart to God and your ass to me. 

Now baby if you don't get out on no bond or if you do get out on bond you 
have that right hip for me cause if you hold your fat ass on the bottom and 
make papa go like a kittycat 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 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. 

Solicitor-General Dorsey returned Annie Maud Carter to Atlanta and put her 
in jail. Several days later she refuted the affidavit given to the Burns agency and 
said that her whole story was a lie. However, it was later alleged that Conley had 
definitely written the letters. 

A black prisoner named Freeman told his story to the prison doctor who 
reported that Conley was the killer. Freeman said he and Conley were playing 
cards in the basement of the pencil factory and that Conley left to go up the 
ladder to the main floor. 

Freeman said he had heard some muffled screams, 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

saw Conley wrestling with someone, and became so scared that he fled. He later 
claimed that he saw Conley with a mesh bag containing the amount of Mary 
Phagan's pay, $1.20. 

Conley's court-appointed attorney, William Smith, thought Frank was 
innocent and made a public statement on October 2, 1914, saying so. He said 
that Conley's testimony was "a cunning fabrication," and thought Conley himself 
was probably the murderer. This extraordinary revelation, which went against the 
lawyer-client confidentiality privilege, was extolled by those who believed in 
Frank's innocence and castigated as being caused by bribery by those who 
believed him guilty. Smith revealed no new facts to support his beliefs but instead 
tried to show how the already known facts had been misinterpreted because of 
Conley's lies. 

It has been said that Jim Conley confessed to William Smith, and a confession 
statement, allegedly by Conley, has been published, in, for one, Confessions of a 
Criminal Lawyer by Allen Lumpkin Henson, who worked in the Georgia Attorney 
General's office at the time of the Leo Frank trial. 

The chapter of Henson's book dedicated to the Frank case contains a third- 
hand, or perhaps fourth-hand, account of Conley's supposed confession. 

However, Walter Smith, William Smith's son, in an article by Bob Montgomery 
for the Atlanta Journal in 1932 about Smith's father, denied the authenticity of 
Conley's "confession," but brought to light facts which had been previously 
undisclosed regarding William Smith's relationship to his client. 

William Smith was reputed to be a very conscientious and ethical lawyer. His 
prime obligation was to his client. If he was charged to defend a man, he did his 
best to do so. And he did so in the case of Jim Conley. Smith had been appointed 
to defend Conley by the court and he 

1 55 
Sentencing and Aftermath 

worked very closely with the prosecutor, Hugh Dorsey. From the beginning, 
Smith believed in Frank's guilt, as did just about everyone else. Before Jim 
Conley went on trial, Smith visited him in his cell and coached him in how to 
react in the courtroom when he was cross-examined by Frank's defense. Smith 

acted out the style and gyrations of Luther Rosser to Conley so well, that when 
the actual trial was in session and Rosser began yelling at Conley and shaking 
his fist in Conley's face, Conley was not rattled in the least, but, on the contrary, 
seemed amused. Smith went to great lengths to defend Conley and to dig up facts 
against Frank. 

At some point in the course of the trial, Smith began to doubt that his client 
had been telling the truth. Because he had an obligation to defend Conley, Smith 
tried to get him the lightest sentence possible. Conley was convicted as an 
accessory to the fact and sentenced to one year on the chain gang. Smith, having 
fulfilled his obligation to his client, and remembering the double jeopardy clause, 
which assured him that Conley could never be tried for the same crime again, felt 
morally and legally free to do some investigating and probing on his own. He 
increasingly felt that Frank was innocent, and that he himself was much 
responsible for Frank's conviction. And he tried to convince others of Frank's 
innocence. He felt that he had the blood of an innocent man on his hands. 

He launched a thorough investigation which totally convinced him that Frank 
was innocent and that Conley was guilty. Smith went to Governor Slaton with his 
conclusions, and it is quite probable that Smith's story was important in helping 
Slaton reach the decision to commute Frank's sentence. Smith's conclusions were 
not made public for some time, but, when they were, he was not very popular. 
Public opinion went against Smith and his family. William Smith carried a gun 
for protection when he walked the streets of Atlanta. Smith's life was 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

threatened in so many ways that he and his family were forced to leave Georgia, 
not to return for many years. He gave up criminal law completely, and for many 
years worked in a shipyard in New York as a detective for the Burns Agency. 
Many years later, he practiced civil law. 

In the last years of his life, Smith's vocal cords were paralyzed and he could 
not speak. He carried a pad of paper on which to write messages. In the hospital 
room just before he died, William Smith was very weak, but he picked up a pad 
and scrawled the following letters: "In articles of death, I believe in the innocence 
and good character of Leo M. Frank." 

None of this evidence was considered by the Superior Court because in 1906 
a constitutional amendment had been passed that the only grounds for reversal 
of verdicts in the higher court of Georgia were errors of law. Ruling that new 
evidence was not an indication of procedural errors, on May 8, 1914, Superior 
Court Judge Ben H. Hill denied the defense motion for a new trial. This denial 
was affirmed unanimously on October 14, 1914, by the Georgia Supreme Court. 

Even before Leo Frank's trial had ended, certain Jewish organizations and 
groups raised the issue of religious prejudice. Appeals for funds for Frank's 
defense were made through mailing circulars and newspaper advertisements 
throughout the country and particularly in the North. This aggravated the 
already strong feelings against Frank in Atlanta. And it resulted in a virtual re- 
enactment of the Civil War between Northern and Southern newspapers, which 
increased in intensity as the trial progressed. 

At Frank's conviction and death sentence, virtually every Northern newspaper 
proclaimed a travesty of justice. Detectives and well-known attorneys were sent 
to Atlanta by some of the Northern newspapers to "review and investigate" the 
case: many concluded that Leo Frank was innocent, that the trial had been no 
trial at all. 

Sentencing and Aftermath 

The New York Times became interested in the case, but they were admonished 
to print nothing "which would arouse the sensitiveness of the Southern people 
and cause the feeling that the North is criticizing the courts of the people of 
Georgia." The New York Times and Collier's Weekly called for a new trial. 

Mass rallies were held in United States cities and in London, Paris, and 
Frankfurt, calling for Frank's life to be spared. Thousands of letters, petitions, 
and telegrams were sent to Governor Slaton and soon-to-be Governor Nat Harris. 

However, the vitriolic exchanges between the Northern and Southern press 
helped to make the conviction of Frank an article of faith for Southerners. At the 
same time, the belief in Frank's innocence became the litmus test in the Jewish 
community of Atlanta for anti-Semitism. 

On March 10, 1914, the Atlanta Journal editorially called for a new trial. The 
Journal piece was titled "Frank Should Have a New Trial," and it said: 

. . . The Journal cares absolutely nothing for Frank, or for those who were 
engaged in his defense or prosecution. If Frank is found guilty after a fair 
trial, he ought to be hanged and his case should be made a horrible example 
to those who would destroy human life, for generations to come. . . . 

Leo Frank has not had a fair trial. He has not been fairly convicted and 
his death without a fair trial and legal conviction will amount to judicial 

We say this with a full understanding of the import of our words and the 
responsibility that rests upon us in making this appeal. We do so, not in 
disrespect for the court or the lawyers or the jury. They did the best they 
could with the lights before them. We honor them for faithfully performing a 
most unpleasant duty as they saw it. 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

But this we do say without qualification: it was not within the power of 
human judges and human lawyers and human jurymen to decide impartially 
and without fear the guilt or innocence of an accused man under the 
circumstances that surrounded this trial. 

The very atmosphere of the courtroom was charged with an electric 
current of indignation which flashed and scintillated 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. 
(When the jury returned the guilty verdict, Frank was not in the courtroom. 
He was at the Fulton Tower.) 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 and the police were unable to control the crowd outside. 

So great was the danger that the Fifth Regiment of the National Guard was 
kept under arms throughout a great part of the night, ready to rush on a 
moment's warning to the protection of the defendant. The press of the city 
united in an earnest request to the presiding judge to not permit the verdict of 
the jury to be received on Saturday as 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. Under such indescribable conditions as 
these, Frank was tried and convicted. Was a fair trial, under these 
circumstances, possible? 

The evidence on which he was convicted is not clear (the evidence was 
circumstantial, but on the strong side). Suppose he is hanged and it should 

Sentencing and Aftermath 
develop that the man was innocent as he claims? The people of this state 
would stand before the world convicted of murdering an innocent man by 
refusing to give him an impartial trial. Such a horrible thing is unthinkable. 
And yet it is possible; yea, an absolute certainty, that we are going to do that 
very thing unless the courts interfere. 

Ought Frank to have a new trial? The question carries its own answer: Let 
Justice be done, though the Heavens fall. 

The outbursts in the courtroom and that the police were unable to control the 
crowds outside were events that all three newspapers had not printed during the 
trial. The Journal remained quiet about these events for a year. The Atlanta 
Georgian, which also was silent during the trial, later called for a new trial. 

This sudden announcement by the Journal brought Tom Watson into the 
controversy. Watson had been defeated for Vice President of the United States on 
the Populist ticket in 1896 and afterwards devoted most of his time to writing 
history and editing his weekly newspaper, the Jeffersonian, and his monthly 
publication, Watson's Monthly Magazine. He immediately launched a scathing 
attack against those criticizing the results of the Frank case. Watson referred to 
Frank as being a "Jew pervert." More of his vitriol was directed to Frank's being a 
member of and having access to wealth, thereby denying, he said, justice to the 
family of a "poor factory girl," a view shared by a substantial number of Georgia's 
population. In fact, an informal poll indicated that four out of five individuals 
believed in Frank's guilt. 

The fact that the Atlanta Journal was edited by Watson's political enemy, 
Hoke Smith, did not endear its editorial opinions to Watson, and he claimed the 
paper's demand for a new trial was an effort by Smith to drag the 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

case into politics. Repeatedly, Watson asked the questions, "Does a Jew expect 
extraordinary favors or immunities because of his race?" and "Who is paying for 
all this?" Watson described Mary Phagan as "a daughter of the people, of the 
common clay, of the blouse and overall, of those who earn 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 its heart of stone." 

Employment of Burns Detective Agency by Frank supporters after the trial 
further inflamed Georgians. Burns offered a thousand-dollar reward to anyone 
who could provide evidence that Frank was a sexual pervert. No one came 
forward. The reward was increased to five thousand dollars. No one came forward. 
Burns also brought forth evidence given to him by the Reverend C.B. Ragsdale, 
pastor of the Atlanta Baptist Church, who told the story of overhearing two black 
men, one of whom confessed to killing "a little girl at the factory the other day." 
Later Ragsdale repudiated his statement. 

A Burns' operative, Mr. Tobie, had earlier been retained by members of the 
Phagan family and their neighbors to investigate the murder and discover the 
murderer. After several weeks of investigating, Tobie at length re-signed from the 
matter, but announced that he, like Scott of the Pinkerton Agency, the detectives 
of the Atlanta Police Department, and Dorsey's staff, had concluded that Frank 
was the guilty party. 

Dorsey alleged in court that Burns tried to bribe witnesses to give false 
testimony and finally Burns's connection was dropped. 

The hearing on extraordinary motion for a new trial was based on the absence 
of Frank at the reception of the verdict. This absence was agreed on by the 

defense, prosecutors, and Frank. This motion was denied on June 6, 1914, and 
the denial was affirmed unanimously by the 

Sentencing and Aftermath 

Georgia Supreme Court on November 14, 1914. On December 7, 1914, a writ of 
error was taken to the United States Supreme Court and was denied. 

On December 9, 1914, Frank was sentenced to be hanged on January 22, 
1915. Frank's attorneys then filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus to 
the United States Supreme Court. On April 19, 1915, this was dismissed by a 
seven-to-two vote and was the last judicial avenue for Frank. The two justices 
who dissented were Oliver Wendell Holmes and Charles Evans Hughes. They 
dissented on the basis that a lower court hearing should have been held to 
determine the validity of the defense affidavits asserting mob pressure on the 
jury. They wrote: "The single question in our minds is whether a petition alleging 
that the trial took place in the midst of a mob savagely and manifestly intent on a 
single result is shown on its face. . . . This is not a matter for polite 
presumptions. We must look the facts in the face. Any judge who has sat with 
juries knows that in spite of forms they are extremely likely to be impregnated by 
the environing atmosphere. . . . 

"Of course we are speaking only of the case made by the petition, and 
whether it ought to be heard. Upon allegations of this gravity in our opinion it 
ought to be heard, whatever the decision of the state court may have been. ... It 
may be that on a hearing a different complex-ion would be given to the judge's 
alleged request and expression of fear. But supposing the alleged facts to be true, 
we are of opinion that if they were before the Supreme Court [of Georgia] it 
sanctioned a situation upon which the Courts of the United States should act, 
and if for any reason they were not before the Supreme Court, it is our duty to 
act upon them now and to declare lynch law as little valid when practiced by a 
regularly drawn jury as when administered by one elected by a mob intent on 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

The only hope left for Frank was Governor John Slaton. Frank's attorneys 
appealed to Slaton for a commutation of his sentence from hanging to life 
imprisonment. Slaton referred this request to the State Prison Commission and 
asked them to pass their recommendation to the governor. Meanwhile, Frank's 
attorneys filed an appeal for a clemency hearing before the three-man Georgia 
Prison Commission. The hearing date was scheduled for May 31, 1915. 

On May 31, 1915, out-of-state and in-state delegations appeared to plead for 
Frank's life. They asked that his life be spared in the name of Georgia's honor, 
decency, and God. They had submitted voluminous documents to convince the 
Commission an error had been made. Included was a letter by Presiding Judge 
Leonard Roan written shortly before his death on March 23, 1915. 

Tom Watson commented that Roan was "out of his mind." Some members of 
Roan's family doubted the authenticity of the letter for years. They indicate that 
at the time the letter was written, Judge Roan's physical and mental state were 
critical. They also stated that one of Frank's lawyers went to the sanitorium and it 
was at this time that the letter was written and signed by Roan. The family also 
felt that since Judge Roan refused Frank a new trial, the letter causes some 
questions. However, Roan's rational mental state was attested to by Dr. Wallace 
E. Brown, owner of the Berkshire Hills Sanitorium: 


Berkshire, ss: 

Personally appeared before the undersigned authority, Wallace E. Brown, 
who being duly sworn, deposes and says on oath, that he is owner and 
proprietor of the Berkshire Hills Sanitorium, that he has been a resident of 
North Adams, Massachusetts, prac- 


Sentencing and Aftermath 

tically all his entire life; that he is now serving his third term as mayor of the 
city of North Adams. 

Deponent says that on Sunday, November 29, 1914, Judge L.S. Roan, of 
Atlanta, Ga., dictated to Mrs. Wallace E. Brown, who was then Miss Jane 
Dadie, a letter, a copy of which herinafter follows: 

North Adams, Mass. 
December, 1914 

Rosser & Brandon & R.R. Arnold, 

Attys. for Leo M. Frank. 

Gentlemen: — 

After considering your communication, asking that I recommend executive 
clemency in the punishment of Leo M. Frank I wish to say, that at the proper 
time, I shall ask the Prison Commission to recommend, and the Governor to 
commute Frank's sentence to life imprisonment. This, however, I will not do 
until the defendant's application shall have been filed and the Governor and 
Prison Commission shall have had opportunity to study the record in the case. 

It is possible that I showed undue deference to the opinion of the jury in 
this case, when I allowed their verdict to stand. They said by their verdict that 
they had found the truth. I was still in a state of uncertainty, and so expressed 
myself. My search for the truth, though diligent and earnest, had not been so 
successful. In the exercise of judicial discretion, restricted and limited, 
according to my interpretation of the decisions of the reviewing courts, I 
allowed the jury's verdict to remain undisturbed. I had no way of knowing it 
was erroneous. 

After many months of continued deliberation I am still uncertain of Frank's 
guilt. This state of uncertainty is largely due to the character of the Negro 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Conley's testimony, by which the verdict was evidently reached. 

Therefore I consider this a case in which the chief magistrate of the state 
should exert every effort in ascertaining the truth. The execution of any 
person, whose guilt has not been satisfactorily proven to the constituted 
authorities, is too horrible to contemplate. I do not believe that a person 
should meet with the extreme penalty of the law until the Court, Jury, and 
Governor shall all have been satisfied of that person's guilt. Hence, at the 
proper time, I shall express and enlarge upon these views directly to the 
Governor and Prison Commission. 

However, if for any cause, I am prevented from doing this, you are at liberty 
to use this letter at the hearing. 

Very truly 

:SEAL L.S. Roan 

Deponent heard Judge Roan dictate the letter hereinbefore copied and saw 
him read and sign the same. Prior to the time Judge Roan dictated and signed 
said letter he had stated to deponent that he was not convinced of Frank's 
guilt, and that if executive clemency should ever be asked for Frank that he 
intended to recommend commutation. 

Deponent says that Judge Roan became a patient in his sanatorium on the 
tenth day of July, 1914, and remained there as such until the twenty-first day 
of February, 1915. 

During the entire time Judge Roan was a patient in said Sanatorium, there 
was positively no doubt that Judge Roan was mentally responsible in every 

Deponent is a practising physician of twenty- five years, having graduated 
from Bellevue Hospital Med- 

Sentencing and Aftermath 

ical College, New York City, and is now a resident of North Adams, 

(Signed) Wallace E. 


Subscribed and sworn to before me, this fourth day of August, 1915, at 
North Adams, Massachusetts. 

(Signed) C.T. Phelps 

:SEAL Notary Public 

No one had spoken against commutation of Frank's sentence. Finally, the 
defense's long, hard fight seemed won. But the next morning, some fifty 
determined-looking men from Cobb County, where Mary Phagan's family lived, 
marched into the Prison Commission office and demanded the hearing be re- 

Included in the group were former Governor Joseph M. Brown and Herbert 
Clay, solicitor of the Blue Ridge Circuit. Clay spoke for hours against 
commutation, arguing that Georgia would be dishonored for all time if Frank were 
spared for his alleged abominable crime. The newspapers reported that "there was 
no doubting that they really believed with all their hearts" that Frank was guilty. 
The Commission re-opened the hearing. 

The commissioners listened intently and said nothing. At the end of the re- 
opening, they issued a statement that they would offer their recommendation to 
Governor Slaton in a week. 

By a two-to-one vote, on June 9, 1915, the commissioners refused to 
recommend commutation to Governor Slaton. It was now up to the governor. 

Chapter 7 


John Marshall Slaton had begun wrestling with the idea of commutation of 
Leo Frank's sentence long before June 1915. "Excepting in a general way," he 
wrote to a Chicago judge in December 1914, "I do not know the facts of the case 
and abstained from acquainting myself with them because I desire to remain 
open minded until the case comes before me, if it ever does." By April, 1915, 
however, he strongly doubted that anything to do with Frank would reach him 
before he left office in June. Only a week before he convened the extraordinary 
clemency hearing at his offices, he told people that he didn't think the case would 
reach him before he left office. 

He received over one hundred thousand letters favoring commutation or 
pardon for Frank, and the Georgia as well as the national press reminded him — 
and the public — of his power of pardon and his responsibility to use it. Atlanta 
Constitution editors prepared a cartoon of a yellow chicken with Slaton's head 
with the caption, "Showing his yellow feathers," to be used in the event Slaton 
declined to hear Frank's commutation request. 

Several governors and senators supported the request for Frank's pardon, but 
the support of prominent persons for pardons was — and is — far from unusual. 
Perhaps more 


The Commutation 

unusual was that the effort on behalf of Leo Frank came from leaders in every 
part of the country. 

The North-South resentments and hostility revived with a vengeance. 
Newspapers throughout the country picked up on this development. Most outside 
Georgia were sympathetic to Leo Frank, and reopened their attacks on Georgia's 
anti-industrialist and anti-Semitic feelings, as well as its police incompetence. 
The Baltimore Sun termed the case "the American counterpart of the Dreyfus 
[affair]"; many newspapers reiterated that the jury had merely followed the 
vociferous demands of the crowds who stayed outside the courtroom during the 
trial. And of course they called for a pardon — or, at least, a commutation. 

Georgians, and Atlantans particularly, resented this renewed intrusion into an 
affair in which they felt justice had been done. They became adamant against 
reexamining the conclusions of the trial. 

When the Supreme Court rejected Frank's plea in April, 1915, his lawyers 
began working for executive clemency. They of course wanted a complete pardon, 
but in view of the series of court decisions, probably felt it wise to seek a 
commutation to life imprisonment. 

And they undoubtedly felt that if and when Frank's innocence was established, 
sometime in the future, a complete pardon might be feasible. 

They were advised that Frank's chances for commutation were better with the 
incumbent, Governor John Marshall Slaton, than with his successor, who would 
take over on June 26, 1915. John M. Slaton was highly regarded politically. He 
was said to be the most popular governor Georgia had since the Civil War. In 
1914, while in office, he ran for the U.S. Senate. Judge Newt A. Morris and 
Solicitor Clay were looking ahead. They predicted that Slaton would end up with 
the Frank case and might commute his sentence. 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Judge Morris, through the Cobb Democratic Executive Committee, alleged 
that Slaton was a member of the law firm defending Frank. Slaton had been a 
name partner of the Rosser, Brandon, Slaton & Phillips law firm since May of 
1913 and is so listed in the newspaper announcements of the day. This law 
partnership name was also listed in the Atlanta City Directories of 1914, 1915, 
and 1916, even though Slaton was then serving as governor. This conflict was 
readily seized upon by Tom Watson who said: 

You must keep in your mind the astounding fact that he [Slaton] joined 
Rosser's firm, after that firm had been employed to defend Frank, and had 
publicly taken part in this case. 

A Governor cannot practise law openly and in June, 1913, John M. Slaton 
was to be inaugurated for a term of two years. 

Why, then, did he, in May, join a firm in which he could not openly act, 
until after June, 1915? 

And why did Rosser, in May, 1913, take a partner whom he could not 
openly use, during the next two years? 

The Cobb Democratic Executive Committee publicly called on Slaton to resign 
as governor or assure Georgians he would not commute Frank's sentence. 

Slaton declined to do either, and his statement made state headlines. 

Frank was now scheduled to hang on June 22, 1915. Slaton was to be 
succeeded by Nat Harris on June 26, 1915. Slaton could have granted a reprieve 
and let Harris determine the petition for commutation, a move which many had 
anticipated. However, he, and others, felt that Harris would deny the petition. 

While speculations raged in Atlanta, Slaton retired to his home outside the 
city, carrying the full printed record 


The Commutation 

of the trial with him. He requested the Supreme Court ruling on the question of 
mob influence at the trial along with Justice Holmes's dissent. He requested 
specific citations to the trial record. He researched the official judgments of other 
appellate courts while trying to reach a balance between Georgia's judiciary 
integrity and mob rule. 

In visiting the pencil factory, Slaton determined that Conley must have lied 
about using the elevator to carry Mary Phagan's body from the second floor to the 
basement: though Conley testified that he had defecated at the bottom of the 
shaft on Saturday morning, the detectives, while at the factory, found the 
excrement (along with an umbrella) uncrushed at the bottom of the shaft. Though 
this could have been used at the trial to show Conley's perjury, it was not until 
Slaton personally rode the elevator, determining that it indeed hit the bottom, 
that this evidence was brought to light. Slaton spent a great deal of time and 
attention studying the elevator. Much of the best evidence for Frank, Slaton later 

stated in his official commutation order, came out after the trial, including that 
uncovered by himself. 

Slaton shut himself in his library for the entire day on June 20, 1915, 
working on the Frank case. He had listened to Hugh Dorsey's and to Leo Frank's 
lawyers' arguments, as well as to a Marietta delegation headed by former 
Governor Joseph M. Brown. 

It is said that he worked until 2:00 a.m. on June 21. His wife had stayed 
awake, waiting for him, and when he emerged from the library, asked him if he'd 
reached a decision. 

"Yes," he is said to have replied, "and it may mean my death or worse, but I 
have ordered the sentence commuted." 

Mrs. Slaton is said to have responded, "I would rather 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

be the widow of a brave and honorable man than the wife of a coward." 

He had taken the precaution of having Leo Frank removed from the Fulton 
Tower to the railroad station at one minute after midnight and onto a train to 
Macon, then by car to the Milledgeville Prison Farm. 

Partly through his own detective work, and partly through his readings of the 
extensive documentation of the crime, John Slaton came to believe that Leo Frank 
was innocent. However, in public John Slaton made no declarations about Frank's 
innocence; he expressed his "doubts." 

Slaton had in mind, also, that Judge Roan had publicly written to him: "It is 
possible that I showed undue deference to the jury in this case, when I allowed 
the verdict to stand," and that Roan asked Slaton to commute the sentence. 

Later that day Slaton gave his statement to the press, announcing he was 
commuting Frank's sentence to life imprisonment. 

The statement was very carefully worded to stand as nothing more substantial 
than the correction of a trial judge's error, to deny any extra-legal issues 
surrounding the case, and to assure the public that there was no mob influence 
on the trial, but that the atmosphere merely reflected the "disclosing of a horrible 

Executive Minutes June 21st, 1915 

In Re Leo M. Frank, Fulton Superior Court, Sentenced to be Executed, 
June 22, 1915. 

Saturday, April 26th, 1913, was Memorial Day in Georgia and a general 
holiday. At that time Mary Phagan, a white girl, of about fourteen years of age 
was in the employ of the National Pencil Company 

The Commutation 

located near the corner of Forsyth and Hunter Streets in the City of Atlanta. 
She came to the pencil factory a little after noon to obtain the money due her 
for her work on the preceding Monday, and Leo M. Frank, the defendant, paid 
her $1.20, the amount due her and this was the last time she was seen alive. 

Frank was tried for the offense and found guilty the succeeding August. 
Application is now made to me for clemency. 

This case has been the subject of extensive comments through the 
newspapers of the United States and has occasioned the transmission of over 
one hundred thousand letters from various states requesting clemency. Many 
communications have been received from citizens of this state advocating or 
opposing interference with the sentence of the court. 

I desire to say in this connection that the people of the State of Georgia 
desire the esteem and good will of the people of every state in the Union. Every 
citizen wishes the approbation of his fellows and a state or nation is not 
excepted. In the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Thomas 
Jefferson wrote that "When in the course of human events, it becomes 
necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected 
them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate 
and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitles them, 
a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare 
the causes which impel them to the separation." 

Many newspapers and multitudes of people have attacked the State of 
Georgia because of the conviction of Leo M. Frank and declared the conviction 
to have been through the domination of a mob and with no evidence to 
support the verdict. This opinion has been formed to a great extent by those 
who have not 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

read the evidence and who are unacquainted with the judicial procedure in our 

I have been unable to even open a large proportion of the letters sent me, 
because of their number and because I could not through them gain any 
assistance in determining my duty. 

The murder committed was a most heinous one. A young girl was strangled 
to death by a cord tied around her throat and the offender deserves the 
punishment of death. The only question is to the identity of the criminal. 

The responsibility is upon the people of Georgia to protect the lives of her 
citizens and to maintain the dignity of her laws, and if the choice must be 
made between the approbation of citizens of other states and the enforcement 
of our laws against offenders, whether powerful or weak, we must choose the 
latter alternative. 


It is charged that the court and jury were terrorized by a mob and the jury were 
coerced into their verdict. 

I expect to present the facts in this case with absolute fairness and to state 
conditions with regard only to the truth. 

When Frank was indicted and the air was filled with rumors as to the 
murder and mutilation of the dead girl, there was intense feeling and to such 
extent that my predecessor, Governor Brown, stated in argument before me 
that he had the military ready to protect the defendant in the event any attack 
was made. No such attack was made and from the evidence that he obtained 
none was contemplated. 

Some weeks after this, the defendant was put on trial. Georgia probably 
has the broadest provisions 


The Commutation 

for change of venue in criminal cases that exist in any state. Our law permits 
the judge to change the venue on his own motion, in the event he thinks a fair 
trial cannot be given in any county. The defendant can move for a change of 
venue on the same ground, and if it be refused, the refusal of the judge is 
subject to an immediate appeal to the Supreme Court, and in fact, the entire 
genius of our law demands a fair trial absolutely free from external influence. 

Frank went to trial without asking a change of venue and submitted his 
case to a jury that was acceptable to him. He was ably represented by counsel 
of conspicuous ability and experience. 

During the progress of the case, after evidence had been introduced laying 
the crime with many offensive details upon Frank, the feeling against him 
became intense. He was the general superintendent of the factory and Mary 
Phagan was a poor working girl. He was a Cornell graduate and she dependent 
for her livelihood upon her labor. According to a witness, whose testimony will 
subsequently be related more completely, when this girl came to get her small 
pay, since she only worked one day in the week, because of lack of material, 
this general superintendent solicited her to yield to his importunities and on 
her refusal slew her. 

The relation of these facts anywhere and in any community would excite 
unbounded condemnation. 

If the audience in the courtroom manifested their deep resentment to 
Frank, it was largely by this evidence of feeling beyond the power of a court to 
correct. It would be difficult anywhere for an appellate court, or even a trial 
court, to grant a new case which occupied thirty days, because the audience in 
the courtroom upon a few occasions indicated their sympathies. However, the 
deep feeling against Frank 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

which developed in the progress of the evidence was in the atmosphere and 
regardless of the commission of those acts of which the court would take 
cognizance, the feeling of the public was strong. 

Since Governor Brown has related secret history in his public argument 
before me, I may state that Friday night before the verdict was expected 
Saturday, I had the sheriff call at the Mansion and inquire whether he 
anticipated trouble. This was after many people had told me of possible danger 
and an editor of a leading newspaper indicated his anticipation of trouble. The 
sheriff stated he thought his deputies could avert any difficulty. Judge Roan 
telephoned me that he had arranged for the defendant to be absent when the 
verdict was rendered. Like Governor Brown, I entered into communication with 
the Colonel of the Fifth Regiment, who stated he would be ready if there were 

I was leaving on Saturday, the day the verdict was expected, for Colorado 
Springs to attend the Congress of Governors, and did not wish to be absent if 
my presence was necessary. I have now the original order prepared by me at 
the time, in the event there were a necessity for it. I became convinced there 
would be slight change for any use of force and therefore filled my engagement 
in Colorado. 

Judge Roan, in the exercise of precaution, re-quested that both counsel 
and defendant be absent when the verdict was rendered, in order to avoid any 
possible demonstration in the event of acquittal. 

The jury found the defendant guilty and, with the exception of 
demonstration outside the court room, there was no disorder. 

Hence, it will be seen that nothing was done which courts of any state 
could correct through legal machinery. A court must have something more 

1 75 

The Commutation 

an atmosphere with which to deal, and especially when that atmosphere has 
been created through the process of evidence in disclosing a horrible crime. 

Our Supreme Court, after carefully considering the evidence as to 
demonstrations made by spectators, declared them without merit, and in this 
regard the orderly process of our tribunal are not subject to criticism. 


The charge against the State of Georgia of racial prejudice is unfair. A 
conspicuous Jewish family in Georgia is descended from one of the original 
Colonial families of the state. Jews have been presidents of our Boards of 
Education, principals of our schools, mayors of our cities, and conspicuous in 
all our commercial enterprises. 


Many newspapers and nonresidents have declared that Frank was convicted 
without any evidence to sustain the verdict. In large measure, those giving 
expression to this utterance have not read the evidence and are not 
acquainted with the facts. The same may be said regarding many of those who 
are demanding his execution. 

In my judgment, no one has a right to an opinion who is not acquainted 
with the evidence in the case, and it must be conceded that the jury who saw 
the witnesses and beheld their demeanor upon the stand are in the best 
position as a general rule to reach the truth. 

I cannot, within the short time given me to decide the case, enter into the 
details outlined in thou- 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

sands of pages of testimony. I will present the more salient features, and have 
a right to ask that all persons who are interested in the determination of the 
matter, shall read calmly and dispassionately the facts. 


The state proved that Leo M. Frank, the general superintendent of the factory, 
was in his office a little after 12:00 o'clock on the 26th day of April, 1913, and 
he admitted having paid Mary Phagan $1.20, being the wages due her for one 
day's work. She asked Frank whether the metal had come, in order to know 
when she could return for work. Frank admits this and so far as is known, he 
was the last one who saw her alive. At three o'clock the next morning (Sunday), 
Newt Lee, the night watchman, found in the basement the body of Mary Phagan 
strangled to death by a cord of a kind kept generally in the Metal Room, which 
is on Frank's floor. She had a cloth tied around her head which was torn from 
her underskirt. Her drawers were either ripped or cut and some blood and 
urine were upon them. Her eye was very black, indicating a blow, and there 
was a cut two and one-half inches in length about four inches above the ear 
and to the left thereof, which extended through the scalp to the skull. The 
County Physician who examined her on Sunday morning declared there was no 
violence to the parts and the blood was characteristic of menstrual flow. There 
were no external signs of rape. The body was not mutilated, the wounds 
thereon being on the head and scratches on the elbow, and a wound about two 
inches below the knee. 

The State showed that Mary Phagan had eaten her dinner of bread and 
cabbage at 11:30 and had 

1 77 

The Commutation 

caught the car to go to the pencil factory which would enable her to arrive at the 
factory within the neighborhood of about thirty minutes. The element of exact 
time will be discussed later. 

Dr. Harris, the Secretary of the State Board of Health, and an expert in this 
line, examined the contents of Mary Phagan's stomach ten days after her burial 
and found, from the state of digestion of the cabbage and bread, that she must 
have been killed within about thirty minutes after she had eaten the meal. 

Newt Lee, the Negro night watchman, testified that Frank had "told me to be 
back at the factory at four o'clock Saturday afternoon," and when he "came 
upstairs to report, Frank, rubbing his hands," met Newt Lee and told him to "go 
out and have a good time until six o'clock," although Lee said he would prefer to 
lie down and sleep. When Lee returned, Frank changed the slip in the time 
clock, manifesting nervousness and taking a longer time than usual. 

When Frank walked out of the front door of the factory, he met a man 
named Gantt, whom he had discharged a short time before. Frank looked 
frightened, his explanation that he anticipated harm. Gantt declared he wished 
to go upstairs and get two pairs of shoes, which permission Frank finally 
granted, stating that he thought they had been swept out. 

About an hour after this occurrence, Frank called up Lee over the telephone, 
a thing he had never done before, and asked him if everything was all right at 
the factory. Lee found the double inner doors locked, which he had never found 
that way before. Subsequently, when Lee was arrested and Frank was re- 
quested by the detectives to go in and talk to him in order to find what he knew, 
Lee says that Frank 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

dropped his head and stated, "If you keep that up, we will both go to hell." 

On Sunday morning at about three o'clock, after Newt Lee, the night 
watchman, had telephoned the police station of the discovery of the dead body 
and the officers had come up to the factory, they endeavored to reach Frank by 
telephone, but could not get a response. They telephoned at seven o'clock 
Sunday morning and told Frank that they wanted him to come down to the 
factory, and when they came for him, he was very nervous and trembled. The 
body at that time had been taken to the undertakers, and according to the 
evidence of the officers who took Frank by the undertaker's establishment to 
identify the girl, he (Frank) showed a disinclination to look at the body and did 
not go into the room where it lay, but turned away at the door. 

Frank had made an engagement on Friday to go to the baseball game on 
Saturday afternoon with his brother-in-law, but broke the engagement, as he 
said in his statement, because of the financial statement he had to make up, 
while before the Coroner's Jury, he said he broke the engagement because of 
threatening weather. 

The contention of the State, as will hereafter be disclosed, was that Frank 
remained at the factory Saturday afternoon to dispose of the body of Mary 
Phagan, and that that was the reason he gave Newt Lee his unusual leave of 

The cook's husband testified that on Saturday, the day of the murder, he 
visited his wife at the home of Mr. Selig, the defendant's father-in-law, where 
Frank and his wife were living, and that Frank came in to dinner and ate 
nothing. The Negro cook of the Seligs was placed upon the stand and denied 
that her husband was in the kitchen at all on that day. For 


The Commutation 

purposes of impeachment, therefore, the State introduced an affidavit from 
this cook taken by the detectives, and, as she claimed, under duress, which 
tended to substantiate the story of her husband and which affidavit declared 
that on Sunday morning after the murder, she heard Mrs. Frank tell her 
mother that Mr. Frank was drinking the night before and made her sleep on a 
rug and called for a pistol to shoot himself, because he (Frank) had murdered 
a girl. This affidavit was relevant for purposes of impeachment, although, of 
course, it had no legal probative value as to the facts contained therein. On 
the stand, the cook declared that she was coerced by her husband and 
detectives under threat of being locked up unless she gave it, and it was made 
at the Station House. The State proved it was given in the presence of her 
lawyer and said that her denial of the truth of the affidavit was because her 
wages had been increased by the parents of Mrs. Frank. No details are given 
as to where the conversation occurred between Mrs. Frank and her mother, 
nor is there any explanation as to how she happened to hear the conversation. 
It will be easily seen that the effect of the affidavit upon the jury might be 

It is hard to conceive that any man's power of fabrication of minute details 
could reach that which [Jim] Conley showed, unless it be the truth. 

The evidence introduced tended to show that on Sunday morning Frank 
took out of the time clock the slip which he had admitted at that time was 
punched for each half hour, and subsequently Frank claimed that some 
punches had been missed. The suggestion was that he had either manipulated 
the slip to place the burden on Lee, or was so excited as to be unable to read 
the slip correctly. 

The State introduced a witness, Monteen Stover, 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

to prove at the time when Mary Phagan and Frank were in the Metal Room, she 
was in Frank's office and he was absent, although he had declared he had not 
left his office. The State showed that the hair of Mary Phagan had been washed 
by the undertaker with pine tar soap, which would change its color and thereby 
interfere with the ability of the doctor to tell the similarity between the hair on 
the lathe and Mary Phagan's hair. 

The State further showed that a cord of the character which strangled Mary 
Phagan was found in quantities on the Metal Room floor, and was found in less 
quantities and then cut up in the basement. As to this, Detective Starnes 
testified: "I saw a cord like that in the basement, but it was cut up in pieces. I 
saw a good many cords like that all over the factory." 

Holloway testified: "These cords are all over the building and in the 

Darley testified to the same effect. 

However, this contradicts the testimony that was presented to the jury for 
the solution. 

The State claimed to the jury that witnesses for the defendant, under the 
suggestion of counsel in open court, would change their testimony so that it 
might not operate against the defendant. 

I have not enumerated all the suspicious circumstances urged by the State, 
but have mentioned what have appeared to me the most prominent ones. 
Where I have not mentioned the more prominent ones, an inspection of record 
fails to maintain the contention. 

It is contended that a lawyer was engaged for Frank at the Station House 
before he was arrested. This is replied to by the defense that a friend had 
engaged counsel without Frank's knowledge, and the lawyer advised Frank to 
make a full statement to the detectives. 

The Commutation 


The most startling and spectacular evidence in the case was that given by a 
Negro, Jim Conley, a man of twenty-seven years of age, and one who 
frequently had been in the chain gang. Conley had worked at the factory for 
about two years and was thoroughly acquainted with it. He had worked in the 
basement about two months and had run the elevator about a year and a half. 

On May 1st [1913] he was arrested by the detectives. 

Near the body in the basement had been found two notes, one written on 
brown paper and the other on a leaf of a scratch pad. That written on white 
paper in a Negro's handwriting showed the following: 

"He said he wood love me and land doun play like night witch did it but 
that long tall black negro did buy hisslef." 

On the brown paper, which was the carbon sheet of an order headed 

"Atlanta, Ga. , 190 ," which hereafter becomes important, was written in 

a Negro's handwriting the following: 

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

The detectives learned about the middle of May that Conley could write, 
although at first he denied it. He made one statement and three affidavits 
which are more fully referred to in stating the defendant's case. The affidavits 
were introduced by the defendant under notice to produce. 

By these affidavits there was admitted the substance of the evidence that 
he delivered on the stand, which in brief was as follows: 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Conley claimed that he was asked by Frank to come to the factory on 
Saturday and watch for him, as he previously had done, which he explained 
meant that Frank expected to meet some woman and when Frank stamped his 
foot Conley was to lock the door leading into the factory and when he whistled, 
he was to open it. 

Conley occupied a dark place to the side of the elevator behind some boxes, 
where he would be invisible. 

Conley mentioned several people, including male and female employees, 
who went up the steps to the second floor where Frank's office was located. He 
said that Mary Phagan went up the stairs and he heard a scream and then he 
dozed off. In a few minutes Frank stamped and then Conley unlocked the door 
and went up the steps. Frank was shivering and trembling and told Conley "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 do not know how bad she got hurt. Of course, you know I ain't built like 
other men." 

Conley described Frank as having been in a position which Conley thought 
indicated perversion, but the facts set out by Conley do not demand such 

Conley says that he found Mary Phagan lying in the Metal Room some two 
hundred feet from the office, with a cloth tied about her neck and under the 
head as though to catch blood, although there was no blood at the place. 

Frank told Conley to get a piece of cloth and put the body in it and Conley 
got a piece of striped bed tick and tied up the body in it and brought it to a 
place a little way from the dressing room and dropped it and then called on 
Frank for assistance in 


The Commutation 

carrying it. Frank went to his office and got a key and unlocked the 
switchboard in order to operate the elevator, and he and Conley rolled the 
body off the cloth. Frank returned to the first floor by the ladder, while Conley 
went by the elevator and Frank on the first floor got into the elevator and went 
to the second floor on which the office is located. They went back into Frank's 
private office and just at that time Frank said, "My God, here is Emma Clark 
and Corinthia Hall," and Frank then put Conley into the wardrobe. After they 
left Frank let Conley out and asked Conley if he could write, to which Conley 
gave an affirmative reply. Frank then dictated the letters heretofore referred 
to. Frank took out of his desk a roll of green-backs and told him, "Here is two 
hundred dollars," but after a while requested the money back and got it. 

One witness testified she saw some Negro, whom she did not recognize, 
sitting at the side of the elevator in the gloom. On the extraordinary motion 
for new trial, a woman, who was unimpeached, made affidavit that on the 31st 
of May, through the newspaper report, she saw that Conley claimed he met 
Frank by agreement at the corner of Forsyth and Nelson Streets on the 26th of 
April, 1913, and she became satisfied that she saw the two in close 
conversation at that place on that date between ten o'clock and eleven o'clock. 

Frank put his character in issue and the State introduced ten witnesses 
attacking Frank's character, some of whom were factory employees, who 
testified that Frank's reputation for lasciviousness was bad and some told 
that he had been seen making advances to Mary Phagan, whom Frank had 
professed to the detectives either not to have known, or to have been slightly 
acquainted with. Other witnesses testified 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

that Frank had improperly gone into the dressing room of the girls. Some 
witnesses who answered on direct examination that Frank's reputation for 
lasciviousness was bad, were not cross-examined as to details, and this was 
made the subject of comment before the jury. 

The above states very briefly the gist of the State's case, omitting many 
incidents which the State claims would confirm Frank's guilt when taken in 
their entirety. 


The defendant introduced approximately one hundred witnesses as to his good 
character. They included citizens of Atlanta, collegemates at Cornell, and 
professors of that college. 

The defendant was born in Texas and his education was completed at the 
institution named. 

The admission of Conley that he wrote the notes found at the body of the 
dead girl, together with the parts he admitted he played in the transaction, 
combined with his history and his explanation as to both the writing of the 

notes and the removal of the body to the basement, make the entire case 
revolve around him. Did Conley speak the truth? 

Before going into the varying and conflicting affidavits made by Conley, it 
is advisable to refer to some incidents which cannot be reconciled to Conley's 
story. Wherever a physical fact is stated by Conley, which is admitted, this can 
be accepted, but under both rules of law and of common sense, his statements 
cannot be received, excepting where clearly corroborated. He admits not only 
his participation as an accessory, but also glibly confesses his own infamy. 


The Commutation 

One fact in the case, and that of most important force in arriving at the 
truth, contradicts Conley's testimony. It is disagreeable to refer to it, but 
delicacy must yield to necessity when human life is at stake. 

The mystery in the case is the question as to how Mary Phagan's body got 
into the basement. It was found one hundred and thirty-six feet away from the 
elevator and the face gave evidence of being dragged through dirt and cinders. 
She had dirt in her eyes and mouth. Conley testified that he and Frank took 
the body down to the basement in the elevator on the afternoon of April 26, 
1913, and leaves for inference that Frank removed the one hundred and thirty- 
six feet toward the end of the building, where the body was found at a spot 
near the back door which led out towards the street in the rear. Conley swears 
he did not return to the basement, but went back up in the elevator, while 
Frank went back on the ladder, constituting the only two methods of ingress 
and egress to the basement, excepting through the back door. This was 
between one and two o'clock on the afternoon of April 26th. 

Conley testified that on the morning of April 26th, he went down into the 
basement to relieve his bowels and utilized the elevator shaft for the purpose. 

On the morning of April 27th at three o'clock, when the detectives came 
down into the basement by way of the ladder, they inspected the premises, 
including the shaft, and they found there human excrement in natural 

Subsequently, when they used the elevator, which everybody, including 
Conley, who had run the elevator for one and one-half years, admits only stops 
by hitting the ground in the basement, the elevator struck the excrement and 
mashed it, thus demonstrating that the elevator had not been used since 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Conley had been there. Solicitor-General Dorsey, Mr. Howard, and myself 
visited the pencil factory and went down on this elevator and we found it hit 
the bottom. I went again with my secretary with the same result. 

Frank is delicate in physique, while Conley is strong and powerful. Conley's 
place for watching, as described by himself, was in the gloom a few feet from 
the hatchway, leading by way of ladder to the basement. Also he was [with]in a 
few feet of the elevator shaft on the first floor. Conley's action in the elevator 
shaft was in accordance with his testimony that he made water twice against 
the door of the elevator shaft on the morning of the 26th, instead of doing so in 
the gloom of his corner behind the boxes where he kept watch. 

Mary Phagan in coming downstairs was compelled to pass within a few feet 
of Conley, who was invisible to her and [with]in a few feet of the hatch-way. 
Frank could not have carried her down the hatchway. Conley might have done 
so with difficulty. If the elevator shaft was not used by Conley and Frank in 

taking the body to the basement, then the explanation of Conley, who 
admittedly wrote the notes found by the body, cannot be accepted. 

In addition there was found in the elevator shaft at three o'clock Sunday 
morning, the parasol, which was unhurt, and a ball of cord which had not been 

Conley in his affidavits before the detectives testified he wrapped up the 
body in a crocus sack at the suggestion of Frank, but in the trial he testified he 
wrapped up the body in a piece of bed-tick "like the shirt of the Solicitor 
General." The only reason for such a change of testimony, unless it be the 
truth, was that a crocus sack, unless split open, would be 

The Commutation 

too small for that purpose. If he split open the crocus sack with a knife, this 
would suggest the use of a knife in cutting the drawers of the girl. 

So the question arises, whether there was any bed-tick in the pencil 
factory, and no reason can be offered why bed-tick should be in the pencil 
factory. It has no function there. Had such unusual cloth been in the factory, 
it certainly must have been known, but nobody has ever found it. 

Conley says that after the deed was committed, which everybody admits 
could not have been before 12:05, Frank suddenly said: "Here comes Emma 
Clark and Corinthia Hall," and put Conley in a wardrobe. 

The uncontradicted evidence of these two witnesses, and they are 
unimpeached, was they reached the factory at 11:35 a.m. and left it at 11:45 
a.m., and therefore this statement of Conley can hardly be accepted. 

Conley says that when they got the body to the bottom of the elevator in 
the basement, Frank told him to leave the hat, slipper, and piece of ribbon 
right there but he'd "taken the things and pitched them over in front of the 
boiler" which was fifty-seven feet away. 

Conley says that Frank told him when he watched for him to lock the door 
when he (Frank) stamped and to open the door when he whistled. In other 
words, Frank had made the approach to the girl and had killed her before he 
had signaled Conley to lock the door. 

Conley says, "I was upstairs between the time I locked the door and the 
time I unlocked it. I unlocked the door before I went upstairs." This 
explanation is not clear, nor is it easy to comprehend the use of the signals 
which totally failed their purpose. 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

It is curious during the course of the story that while Frank explained to 
Conley about striking the girl when she refused him and Conley found the girl 
strangled with a cord, he did not ask Frank anything about the use of the 
cord, and that subject was not mentioned. 

The wound on Mary Phagan was near the top of the head and reached the 
skull. Wounds of that character bleed freely. At the place Conley says he found 
blood, there was no blood. Conley says there was a cloth tied around the head 
as though to catch the blood, but none was found there. 

One Barrett says that on Monday morning he found six or seven strands of 
hair on the lathe with which he worked and which were not there on Friday. 
The implication is that it was Mary Phagan's hair and that she received a cut 
by having her head struck at this place. It is admitted that no blood was found 
there. The lathe is about three and one-half feet high and Mary Phagan is 
described as being chunky in build. A blow which would have forced her with 

sufficient violence against the smooth handle of the lathe to have produced the 
wound must have been a powerful one since the difference between her height 
and that of the lathe could not have accounted for it. It was strange, therefore, 
that there was a total absence of blood and that Frank, who was delicate could 
have hit a blow of such violence. 

Some of the witnesses for the State testified the hair was like that of Mary 
Phagan, although Dr. Harris compared Mary Phagan's hair with that on the 
lathe under a microscope and was under the impression it was not Mary 
Phagan's hair. This will be the subject of further comment. 

Barrett and others said they thought they saw 

The Commutation 

blood near the dressing room, at which place Conley said he dragged the body. 

Chief of Police Beavers said he did not know whether it was blood. 

Detective Starnes said, "I do not know that the splotches I saw were blood." 

Detective Scott says: "We went to the Metal Room where I was shown some 
spots supposed to be blood spots." 

A part of what they thought to be blood was chipped up in four or five chips 
and Dr. Claude Smith testified that on one of the chips he found, under a 
microscope, from three to five blood corpuscles, a half drop would have caused 

Frank says that the part of the splotch that was left after the chips were 
taken up was examined by him with an electric flash lamp, and it was not 

Barrett, who worked on the Metal floor, and who several witnesses declare 
claimed a reward because he discovered the hair and blood, said the splotch 
was not there on Friday, and some witnesses sustained him. 

There was testimony that there were frequent injuries at the factory and 
blood was not infrequent in the neighborhood of the ladies' dressing room. 
There was no blood in the elevator. 

Dr. Smith, the City Bacteriologist, said that the presence of blood 
corpuscles could be told for months after the blood had dried. All of this bore 
upon the question as to whether the murder took place in the Metal Room, 
which is on the same floor of Frank's office. Excepting near the Metal Room at 
the place mentioned where the splotches varied, according to Chief Beavers' 
testimony, from the size of a quarter to the size of a palm leaf fan, there was no 
blood whatever. It is to be remarked that a white substance 
1 90 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

called haskoline used about the factory was found spread over the splotches. 


The defense procured under notice one statement and three affidavits taken by 
the detectives from Conley and introduced them in evidence. 

The first statement, dated May 18, 1913, gives a minute detail of his 
actions on the 26th day of April and specifies the saloons he visited and the 
whiskey and beer he bought, and minutely itemizes the denomination of the 
money he had and what he spent for beer, whiskey, and pan sausage. This 
comprehends the whole of Affidavit #1. 

On May 24, 1913, he made for the detectives an affidavit in which he says 
that on Friday before the Saturday on which the murder was committed, Frank 
asked him if he could write. This would appear strange, because Frank well 

knew he could write, and had so known for months, but according to Conley's 
affidavit Frank dictated to him practically the contents of one of the notes 
found by the body of Mary Phagan. Frank, then, according to Conley's 
statement, took a brown scratch pad and wrote on that himself, and then gave 
him a box of cigarettes in which was some money and Frank said to him that 
he had some wealthy relatives in Brooklyn, and "Why should I hang?" 

This would have made Frank guilty of the contemplated murder on Friday 
which was consummated Saturday and which was so unreasonable, it could 
not be accepted. 

On May 28, 1913, Conley made for the detectives another affidavit, which 
he denominates as "second and last statement." In that he states that on 


The Commutation 

day morning after leaving home he bought two beers for himself and then went 
to a saloon and won ninety cents with dice, where he bought two more beers 
and a half pint of whiskey, some of which he drank, and he met Frank at the 
corner of Forsyth and Nelson Streets and Frank asked him to wait until he 

Conley went over to the factory and mentioned various people whom he saw 
from his place of espionage going up the stairs to Mr. Frank's office. Then 
Frank whistled to him and he came upstairs and Frank was trembling and he 
and Frank went into the private office when Frank exclaimed that Miss Emma 
Clark and Corinthia Hall were coming and concealed Conley in the wardrobe. 
Conley said that he stayed in the wardrobe a pretty good while, for the whiskey 
and beer had gotten him to sweating. Then Frank asked him if he could write 
and Frank made him write at his dictation three times and Frank told him he 
was going to take the note and send it in a letter to his people and recommend 
Conley to them. Frank said, "Why should I hang?" 

Frank took a cigarette from a box and gave the box to Conley, and when 
Conley got across the street, he found it had two paper dollars and two silver 
quarters in it, and Conley said, "Good luck has done struck me." At the Beer 
Saloon he bought one-half pint of whiskey and then got a bucket and bought 
fifteen cents' worth of beer, ten cents' worth of stove wood, and a nickel's worth 
of pan sausage and gave his old woman $3.50. He did not leave home until 
about twelve o'clock Sunday. On Tuesday morning Frank came upstairs and 
told him to be a good boy. On Wednesday Conley washed his shirt at the 
factory and hung it on the steam pipe to dry, occasioning a 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

little rust to get on it. The detectives took the shirt and, finding no blood on it, 
returned it. 

On the 29th of May, 1913, Conley made another affidavit, in which he said 
that Frank told him that he had picked up a girl and let her fall and Conley 
hollered to him that the girl was dead, and Frank told him to go to the cotton 
bag and get a piece of cloth, and he got a big wide piece of cloth and took her 
on his right shoulder, when she got too heavy for him and she slipped off when 
he got to the dressing room. He called Frank to help and Frank got a key to 
the elevator and the two carried the body downstairs and Frank told him to 
take the body back to the sawdust pile, and Conley says he picked the girl up 
and put her on his shoulder, while Frank went back up the ladder. 

It will be observed that the testimony and the appearance of the girl 
indicated that she was dragged through the cinders and debris on the floor of 
the basement, yet Conley says he took her on his shoulder. 

The affidavit further states that Conley took the cloth from around her and 
took her hat and slipper, which he had picked up upstairs, right where her 
body was lying, and brought them down and untied the cloth and brought 
them back and "throwed them on the trash pile in front of the furnace." This 
was the time that Conley says Frank made the exclamation about Emma Clark 
and Corinthia Hall. 

An important feature in this affidavit is as follows: 

Conley states in it that Mr. Frank said: "Here is two hundred dollars," and 
Frank handed the money to him. 

All of the affidavit down to this point is in typewriting; the original was 
exhibited to me. At the end 

Governor John Marshall Slaton 

The lynching of Leo Frank 

The lynching of Leo Frank 

The lynching site today 

?*» -^" V: ■ q ' 

"i'-' ■■■' 

,. s i ■■■f^.ssr.. -. 

Marietta Square 

J 93 
The Commutation 

of the affidavit in handwriting is written the following: "While I was looking at 
the money in my hands, Mr. Frank said, 'Let me have that and I will make it all 
right with you Monday, if I live and nothing happens,' and he took the money 
back and I asked him if that was the way he done, and he said he would give it 
back Monday." 

It will be noticed that the first question which would arise would be, what 
became of the two hundred dollars? This could not be accounted for. Therefore, 

when that query presumably was propounded to Conley, the only explanation 
was that Frank demanded it back. 

The detectives had Conley for two or three hours on May 18th trying to 
obtain a confession; and he denied he had seen the girl on the day of the 
murder. The detectives questioned him closely for three hours on May 25th, 
when he repeated this story. On May 27th, they talked to him about five or six 
hours in Chief Lanford's office. 

Detective Scott, who was introduced by the State, testified regarding 
Conley's statement and affidavits as follows: 

"We tried to impress him with the fact that Frank would not have written 
those notes on Friday, that that was not a reasonable story. That it showed 
premeditation and that would not do. We pointed out to him why the first 
statement would not fit. We told him we wanted another statement. He declined 
to make another statement. He said he told the truth. 

"On May 28th, Chief Lanford and I grilled him for five or six hours again, 
endeavoring to make clear several points which were farfetched in his 
statement. We pointed out to him that his statement would not do and would 
not fit, and he then made the statement of May 28th, after he had been told 
that his previous 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

statement showed deliberation and could not be accepted. He told us nothing 
about Frank making an engagement to stamp and for him to lock the door, and 
told nothing about Monteen Stover. He did not tell us about seeing Mary 
Phagan. He said he did not see her. He did not say he saw Quinn. Conley was a 
rather dirty Negro when I first saw him. He looked pretty good when he testified 

"On May 29th, we talked with Conley almost all day. We pointed out things 
in his story that were improbable and told him he must do better than that. 
Anything in his story that looked to be out of place, we told him would not do. 
We tried to get him to tell about the little mesh bag. We tried pretty strong. He 
always denied ever having seen it. He denied knowing anything about the 
matter down in the basement in the elevator shaft. He never said he went down 
there himself between the time he came to the factory and went to Montag's. He 
never said anything about Mr. Frank having hit her, or having hit her too hard, 
or about tiptoes from the Metal Department. He said there was no thought of 
burning the body. 

"On May 18th we undertook in Chief Lanford's office to convince him he 
could write, and we under-stood he said he could not write and we knew he 
could. We convinced him that we knew he could write and then he wrote." 

In his evidence before the jury in the redirect examination, Conley thought 
it necessary to account for the mesh bag, and for the first time, said that "Mary 
Phagan's mesh bag was lying on Mr. Frank's desk and Mr. Frank put it in the 
safe." This is the first mention of the bag. 

The first suggestion that was made of Frank being a pervert was in Conley's 
testimony. On the 

1 95 
The Commutation 

stand, he declared Frank said, "He was not built like other men." 

There is no proof in the record of Frank being a pervert. The situation in 
which Conley places him and upon Conley's testimony must that charge rest, 
does not prove the charge of perversion if Conley's testimony be true. 

On argument before me, asked what motive Conley would have to make 
such a suggestion and the only reason given was that someone may have 
made him the suggestion because Jews were circumcised. 

Conley in his evidence shows himself amenable to a suggestion. He says, 
"If you tell a story, you know you have got to change it. A lie won't work and 
you know you have got to tell the whole truth." 

Conley, in explaining why his affidavits varied, said: "The reason why I told 
that story was I do not want to know that these other people passed by me for 
they might accuse me. I do not want people to think that I was the one that 
done the murder." 


Conley admits he wrote the notes found by the body of Mary Phagan. Did 
Frank dictate them? Conley swears he did. The State says that the use of the 
word "did" instead of "done" indicates a white man's dictation. Conley admits 
the spelling was his. The words are repeated and are simple, which 
characterizes Conley's letters. In Conley's testimony, you will find frequently 
that he uses the word "did" and according to calculation submitted to me, he 
used the word "did" over fifty times during the trial. 

While Conley was in jail charged with being an accessory, there was also 
incarcerated in the jail a woman named Annie Maud Carter, whom Conley had 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

met at the court house. She did work in the jail and formed an acquaintance of 
Conley, who wrote to her many lengthy letters. These letters are the most 
obscene and lecherous I have ever read. In these letters, the word "did" is 
frequently employed. It will be observed that in Conley's testimony, he uses 
frequently the word "Negro," and in the Annie Maude Carter notes, he says: "I 
have a Negro watching you." 

The Annie Maud Carter notes, which were powerful evidence in behalf of 
the defendant, and which tended strongly to show that Conley was the real 
author of the murder notes, were not before the jury. 

The word "like" is used in the Mary Phagan notes, and one will find it 
frequently employed in Conley's testimony. The word "play" in the Mary Phagan 
notes, with an obscene significance, is similarly employed in the Annie Maud 
Carter notes. The same is true as to the words "lay" and "love." 

In Conley's testimony, he used the words "make water" just as they are 
used in the Mary Phagan notes. 

In Conley's testimony he says the word "hisself" constantly. 

It is urged by the lawyers for the defense that Conley's characteristic was to 
use double adjectives. 

In the Mary Phagan notes, he said "long tall negro, black," "long slim, tall 

In his testimony Conley used expressions of this sort. "He was a tall, slim 
build heavy man." "A good long side piece of cord in his hands." 

Conley says that he wrote four notes, although only two were found. These 
notes have in them one hundred twenty-eight words, and Conley swears he 
wrote them in two and one-half minutes. Detective Scott swore he dictated 
eight words to Conley and it took him about six minutes to write them. 


The Commutation 

The statement is made by Frank, and that statement is consistent with the 
evidence in the record, that the information that Conley could write came from 
Frank when he was informed that Conley claimed he could not write. Frank 
says he did not disclose this before, because he was not aware Conley had been 
at the factory on the 26th of April, and therefore the materiality of ether Conley 
could write any more than any other Negro employee, had not been suggested 
to him. Frank says that he gave the information that Conley had signed 
receipts with certain jewelers, with whom Conley had dealings. 


At the time of the trial, it was not observed that the Death Note written on 

brown paper was an order blank, with the date line 'Atlanta, Ga. , 190 ." 

Subsequently, the paper was put under a magnifying glass and in blue pencil, 
it was found that one Becker's name was written there. He had been employed 
at the factory on the fourth floor. Investigation was made and Becker testified 
that he worked for the pencil factory from 1908 until 1912, and the order blank 
was #1018. During that entire time, he signed orders for goods and supplies. 
The brown paper on which the Death Note was written bears his signature, and 
at the time he left Atlanta in 1912, the entire supply of blanks containing the 

figures 190 , had been exhausted, and the blanks containing the figures 

191 , had already been put in use. Becker makes affidavit that before 

leaving Atlanta, he personally packed up all of the duplicate orders which had 
been filled and performed their functions, and sent them down to the basement 
to be burned. Whether the order was carried out, he did not know. 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

In reply to this evidence, the State introduced on the extraordinary motion, 
the testimony of Philip Chambers, who swears that unused order blanks en- 
titled "Atlanta, Ga. , 191 ," were in the office next to Frank's office and 

that he had been in the basement of the factory and found no books or papers 
left down there for any length of time, but some were always burned up. 

This evidence was never passed upon by the jury and developed since the 
trial. It was strongly corroborative of the theory of the defense that the Death 
Notes were written, not in Frank's office, but in the basement, and especially in 
view of the evidence of Police Sergeant Dobbs, who visited the scene of the 
crime on Sunday morning, as follows: 

"This scratch pad was also lying on the ground close to the body. The 
scratch pad was lying near the notes. They were all right close together. There 
was a pile of trash near the boiler where this hat was found, and paper and 
pencils were down there, too." 

Police Officer Anderson testified: "There are plenty of pencils and trash in 
the basement." 

Darley testified: "I have seen all kinds of paper down in the basement. The 
paper that note is written on is a blank order pad. That kind of paper is likely 
to be found all over the building for this reason, they write an order and 
sometimes fail to get a carbon under it, and at other times, they change the 
order and it gets into the trash. That kind of pad is used all over the factory." 

Over the boiler is a gas jet. 

Another feature which was not known at the trial and which was not 
presented to the jury, but came up by extraordinary motion, was regarding the 

hair alleged to have been found by Barrett on the lathe. The evidence on the 
trial of some of the witnesses was 

1 99 
The Commutation 

that the hair looked like that of Mary Phagan. It was not brought out at the 
trial that Dr. Harris had examined the hair under the microscope and by 
taking sections of it and comparing it with Mary Phagan's hair, thought that 
on the lathe was not Mary Phagan's hair, although he said he could not be 
certain of it. 

This, however, would have been the highest and best evidence. 

The evidence as to the probability of the blank on which the death note was 
written being in the basement, and the evidence as to the hair, would have 
tended to show that the murder was not committed on the floor on which 
Frank's office was located. 


The State contended that Mary Phagan came to the office of Leo M. Frank to 
get her pay at some time between 12:05 and 12:10 and that Frank had 
declared that he was in his office the whole time. 

It is true that at the coroner's inquest held on Thursday after the murder, 
he said he might have gone back to the toilet, but did not remember it. 
However, in some of his testimony, Frank said he had remained the whole time 
in his office. Monteen Stover swears that she came into Frank's office at 12:05 
and remained until 12:10, and did not see Frank or anybody. She is 
unimpeached, and the only way to reconcile her evidence would be that she 
entered Frank's office, as she states, for the first time in her life, and did not 
go into the inner room, where Frank claimed to have been at work. If Frank 
were to work at his desk, he could not be seen from the outer room. Monteen 
Stover said she wore tennis shoes and her steps may not have attracted him. 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

However, the pertinency of Monteen Stover's testimony is that Mary 
Phagan had to come to get her pay and Frank had gone with her back to the 
Metal Room and was in process of killing her while Monteen Stover was in his 
office, and this was at a time when he had declared he was in his office. 

The evidence loses its pertinency if Mary Phagan had not arrived at the 
time Monteen Stover came. What is the evidence? 

The evidence, uncontradicted, discloses that Mary Phagan ate her dinner 
at 11:30, and the evidence of the streetcar men was that she caught the 11:50 
car, which was due at the corner of Forsyth and Marietta Streets at 12:07 and 
one-half. The distance from this place to the pencil factory is about one-fifth of 
a mile. It required from four to six minutes to walk to the factory, and 
especially would the time be enlarged, because of the crowds on the streets on 
Memorial Day. 

While the streetcar men swear the car was on time, and while George 
Epps, a witness for the State, who rode with Mary Phagan, swears he left her 
about 12:07 at the corner of Forsyth and Marietta Streets, there is some 
evidence to the effect that the car arrived according to custom, but might have 
arrived two to three minutes before schedule time. If so, the distance would 
have placed Mary Phagan at the pencil factory sometime between 12:05 and 
12:10. Monteen Stover looked at the clock and says she entered at 12:05. A 

suggestion is made that the time clocks, which were punched by the 
employees, might have been fast. This proposition was met by W. W. Rogers, 
who accompanied the detectives to the scene of the murder on Sunday 
morning, and who testified, "I know that both clocks were running, and I 
noticed both of them had the exact time." Therefore, Monteen 


The Commutation 

Stover must have arrived before Mary Phagan, and while Monteen Stover was 
in the room, it hardly seems possible under the evidence, that Mary Phagan 
was at that time being murdered. 

Lemmie Quinn testifies that he reached Frank's office about 12:20 and saw 
Mr. Frank. At 12:30, Mrs. J. A. White called to see her husband at the factory 
where he was working on the fourth floor, and left again before one o'clock. 

At 12:50, according to Denham, Frank came up to the fourth floor and said 
he wanted to get out. The evidence for the defense tends to show that the time 
taken for moving the body' according to Conley's description, was so long that 
it could not have fitted the specific times at which visitors saw Frank. It will be 
seen that when Mrs. White came up at 12:30, the doors below were unlocked. 

Another feature of the evidence is that the back door in the basement was 
the former means of egress for Conley, when he desired to escape his creditors 
among the employees. On Sunday morning, April 27th, the staple of this door 
had been drawn. Detective Starnes found on the door the marks of what he 
thought were bloody fingerprints, and he chipped off two pieces from the door, 
which looked like "bloody fingerprints." The evidence does not disclose further 
investigation as to whether it was blood or not. 

The motive of this murder may be either robbery, or robbery and assault, or 

There is no suggestion that the motive of Frank would be robbery. The 
mesh bag was in Mary Phagan's hands and was described by Conley, in his 
redirect examination, at the trial for the first time. The size of this mesh bag I 
cannot tell, but since a bloody handkerchief of Mary Phagan's was found by her 
side, it was urged before me by counsel for the 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

defense, that ladies usually carried their handkerchiefs in their mesh bags. 

If the motive was assault, either by natural or perverted means, the 
physician's evidence, who made the examination, does not disclose its 
accomplishment. Perversion by none of the suggested means could have 
occasioned the flood of blood. The doctors testified that excitement might have 
occasioned it under certain conditions. Under the evidence, which is not set 
forth in detail, there is every probability that the virtue of Mary Phagan was not 
lost on the 26th of April. Her mesh bag was lost, and there can be no doubt of 
this. The evidence shows that Conley was as depraved and lecherous a Negro 
as ever lived in Georgia. He lay in watch and described the clothes and 
stockings of the women who went to the factory. 

His story necessarily bears the construction that Frank had an engagement 
with Mary Phagan, which no evidence in the case would justify. If Frank had 
engaged Conley to watch for him, it could only have been for Mary Phagan, 
since he had made no improper suggestion to any other female on that day, 
and it was undisputed that many did come up prior to twelve o'clock, and 
whom could Frank have been expecting except Mary Phagan under Conley's 

story? This view cannot be entertained, as an unjustifiable reflection on the 
young girl. 

Why the Negro wrote the notes is a matter open to conjecture. He had been 
drinking heavily that morning, and it is possible that he undertook to describe 
the other Negro in the building so that it would avert suspicions. 
It may be possible that his version is correct. 

The testimony discloses that he was in the habit of allowing men to go into 
the basement for immoral purposes for a consideration, and when Mary Phagan 

The Commutation 

passed by him close to the hatchway leading into the basement and in the 
gloom and darkness of the en-trance, he may have attacked her. What is the 
truth we may never know. 


The jury which heard-tie evidence and saw the witnesses found the defendant, 
Leo M. Frank, guilty of murder. They are the ones, under our laws, who are 
chosen to weigh evidence and to determine its probative value. They may 
consider the demeanor of the witness upon the stand and in the exercise of 
common sense will arrive with wonderful accuracy at the truth of the contest. 


Under our law, the only authority who can review the merits of the case and 
question the justice of a verdict which has any evidence to support it, is the 
trial judge. The Supreme Court is limited by the Constitution and the 
correction of errors of law. The Supreme Court found in the trial no error of 
law and determined as a matter of law, and correctly in my judgment, that 
there was sufficient evidence to sustain the verdict. 

But under our judicial system, the trial judge is called upon to exercise his 
wise discretion, and he cannot permit a verdict to stand which he believes to 
be unjust. A suggestion in the order overruling a motion for a new trial, that 
the judge was not satisfied with the verdict, would demand a reversal by the 
Supreme Court. 

In this connection Judge Roan declared orally from the bench that he was 
not certain of the defen- 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

dant's guilt — that with all the thought he had put on this case, he was not 
thoroughly convinced whether Frank was guilty, or innocent — but that he did 
not have to be convinced — that the jury was convinced and that there was no 
room to doubt that — that he felt it his duty to order that the motion for a new 
trial be overruled. 

This statement was not embodied in the motion overruling new trial. 

Under our statute, in cases of conviction of murder on circumstantial 
evidence, it is within the discretion of the trial judge to sentence the defendant 
to life imprisonment (Code Section 63). 

The conviction of Frank was on circumstantial evidence, as the Solicitor 
General admits in his writ-ten argument. 

Judge Roan, however, misconstrued his power, as evidenced by the 
following charge to the jury in the case of the State against Frank: 

"If you believe beyond a reasonable doubt from the evidence in this case 
that the defendant is guilty of murder, then, you would be authorized in that 

event to say, 'We, the jury, find the defendant guilty.' Should you go further, 
gentlemen, and say nothing else in your verdict, the court would have to 
sentence the defendant to the extreme penalty of murder, to wit: 'To be hanged 
by the neck until he is dead.' " 

Surely if Judge Roan entertained the extreme doubt indicated by his 
statement and had remembered the power granted him by the Code, he would 
have sentenced the defendant to life imprisonment. 

In a letter written to counsel he says: "I shall ask the Prison Commission to 
recommend to the Governor to commute Frank's sentence to life imprisonment. 
It is possible that I showed undue deference to the jury in this case, when I 
allowed the verdict to 


The Commutation 

stand. They said by their verdict that they had found the truth. I was in a 
state of uncertainty, and so expressed myself. After many months of continued 
deliberation, I am still uncertain of Frank's guilt. This state of uncertainty is 
largely due by the character of the Conley testimony, by which the verdict was 
largely reached. 

"Therefore, I consider this a case in which the Chief Magistrate of the State 
should exert every effort in ascertaining the truth. The execution of any 
person, whose guilt has not been satisfactorily proven, is too horrible to 
contemplate. I do not believe that a person should meet with the extreme 
penalty of the law, until the court, jury, and Governor shall have all been 
satisfied of that person's guilt. Hence, at the present time, I shall express and 
enlarge upon these views, directly to the Prison Commission and Governor. 

"However, if for any cause I am prevented from doing this, you are at liberty 
to use this letter at the hearing." 

It will thus be observed that if commutation is granted, the verdict of the 
jury is not attacked, but the penalty is imposed for murder, which is provided 
by the state and which the judge, except for his misconception, would have 
imposed. Without attacking the jury, or any of the courts, I would be carrying 
out the will of the judge himself in making the penalty that which he would 
have made it and which he desires it shall be made. 

In the case of Hunter, a white man, charged with assassinating two white 
women in the City of Savannah, who was found guilty and sentenced to be 
hung, application was made to me for clemency. Hunter was charged together 
with a Negro with having committed the offense, and after he was convicted 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Negro was acquitted. It was brought out by the statement of the Negro that 
another Negro who was half-witted committed the crime, but no credence was 
given to the story, and he was not indicted. 

The Judge and Solicitor General refused to recommend clemency, but upon 
a review of the evidence, and because of the facts and at the instance of the 
leading citizens of Savannah, who were doubtful of the guilt of the defendant, I 
commuted the sentence, in order that there should be no possibility of an 
innocent man being executed. This action has met with the entire approbation 
of the people of Chatham County. 

In the case of John Wright in Fannin County, two men went to the 

mountain home of a citizen, called him out and shot him and were trampling 

on his body, when his wife, with a babe in her arms, came out to defend her 
husband. One of the men struck the babe with his gun and killed it. Wright 
was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. Evidence was introduced as to 
his borrowing a gun. His threats, his escape after the shooting occurred at the 
time he was an escapee from the Fannin County Jail under indictment for 

I refused to interfere unless the Judge, or Solicitor, would recommend 
interference, which they declined to do. Finally, when on the gallows the 
Solicitor General recommended a reprieve, which I granted, and finally, on 
recommendation of the Judge and Solicitor General, as expressed in my Order, 
I reluctantly commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. The doubt was 
suggested as to the identity of the criminal and as to the credibility of the 
testimony of a prejudiced witness. The crime was as heinous as this one and 
more so. 

In the Frank case three matters have developed 

The Commutation 

since the trial which did not come before the jury, to wit: the Carter notes, the 
testimony of Becker, indicating that the death notes were written in the 
basement, and the testimony of Dr. Harris, that he was under the impression 
that the hair on the lathe was not that of Mary Phagan, and thus tending to 
show that the crime was not committed on the floor of Frank's office. 

While defense made the subject an extraordinary motion for a new trial, it 
is well known that it is almost a practical impossibility to have a verdict set 
aside by this procedure. 

The evidence might not have changed the verdict, but it might have caused 
the jury to render a verdict with the recommendation to mercy. 

In any event, the performance of my duty under the Constitution is a 
matter of my conscience. The responsibility rests where the power is reposed. 
Judge Roan, with that awful sense of responsibility, which probably came over 
him as he thought of that Judge before whom he would shortly appear, calls 
to me from another world to request that I do that which he should have done. 
I can endure misconstruction, abuse, and condemnation, but I cannot stand 
the constant companionship of an accusing conscience, which would remind 
me in every thought that I, as Governor of Georgia, failed to do what I thought 
to be right. There is a territory "beyond A REASONABLE DOUBT and absolute 
certainty," for which the law provides in allowing life imprisonment instead of 
execution. This case has been marked by doubt. The trial judge doubted. Two 
judges of the Court of Georgia doubted. Two judges of the Supreme Court of 
the United States doubted. One of the three Prison Commissioners doubted. 

In my judgment, by granting a commutation in 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

this case, I am sustaining the jury, the judge, and the appellate tribunals, and 
at the same time am discharging that duty which is placed on me by the 
Constitution of the State. 

Acting, therefore, in accordance with what I believe to be my duty under 
the circumstances of this case, it is ORDERED: That the sentence in the case 

of Leo M. Frank is commuted from the death penalty to imprisonment for life. 
This 21st day of June, 1915. 

/s/John M. Slaton 


The reaction to the commutation was immediate and vociferous. Mass 
meetings of indignation were held in Cobb, Fulton, and other counties. 

In Marietta a group hanged effigies of both Frank and Slaton in the city park. 
They put the sign "Our Traitor Governor" on the governor's effigy; he was labelled 
the "King of the Jews." 

The first issue of Tom Watson's Jeffersonian proclaimed: "Our grand old Empire 
State HAS BEEN RAPED!" and went on in a no less ferocious vein of 
condemnation and denunciation of John Slaton. 

According to Henry Bowden: 

Soon after the governor had commuted the sentence a mob formed and 
marched to the State Capitol seeking the governor ostensibly to do him bodily 
harm. When they reached the Capitol they gathered in the house of 
representatives. Judge John J. Hart, brother-in-law of our own Federal Judge 
Samuel Sibley, tried to talk to them as a pacifist, but they howled him down. It 
so happened that Slaton was not in his office at the time and the crowd soon 
broke up and departed. 

Still later a mob formed in Atlanta with the idea 

The Commutation 

of marching on the Governor at his home. Governor Slaton did not occupy the 
Governor's mansion which was then located on the site of the present Henry 
Grady Hotel, but being a native Atlantan he resided in his own home in which 
he now lives located at 2962 Peachtree Road, NW. Fearing violence, the 
governor called out the Governor's guards, part of the state militia. Capt. 
Stokes was the officer in charge while one of the Lts. in the outfit was Walter 
W. Foote who is a kinsman of Pollard Turman's wife Laura Troutman and who 
now lives in Decatur, Georgia at 239 Kings Highway. The troops stationed 
themselves around the governor's home at a respectable distance. Jefferson 
Davis McCord, ex-athletic director at Emory University, was a private in the 
militia stationed there. A dead line was drawn in the street in front of the 
house. Finally the marching mob reached the line of troops. Lt. Foote got up 
and tried to make a speech to the mob in an effort to discourage them from 
carrying out their apparent purpose of doing bodily harm to the governor. He 
was hit with a beer bottle. One smart aleck in the mob stepped across the 
dead line and the soldier stationed nearest to that point flattened his nose to 
his face with the butt of his rifle, but other than that there were no blows 
struck nor shots fired. During the entire proceedings the Governor was sitting 
on his porch playing cards with Messrs. Robert F. Maddox, J. K. Orr and John 
Eagan, his friends. The mob, which numbered about 1000 men, soon saw the 
situation and dispersed, although the militia remained on guard for about 
three days. 

During that week, there were fierce outbursts of anti-Semitism. Jewish 
businessmen in Atlanta and in Marietta closed their shops. Some of Atlanta's 
well-to-do Jewish citizens checked into the city's hotels and stayed there for the 
better part of a week. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Slaton insisted on attending Nat E. Harris's inauguration, despite threats on 
his life. The state floor house booed, hissed, and gave loud catcalls as Slaton 
handed over the seal of Georgia and commented, "Governor Harris, I know that 
during my term of Governor this great seal of our state has not been dishonored." 

Slaton slipped out of Georgia, unharmed, the following week. He and his wife 
vacationed in the Adirondacks in New York, then embarked on an odyssey 
through the country — the Northeast, the Midwest, the far West — which lasted for 
years. They were, in effect, exiles. Many years went by before it was considered 
safe for the Slatons to return to Georgia. 

Thirty years later, when his wife died, John Slaton again expressed his belief 
in Frank's innocence in a letter to his cousin: 

March 15th, 1945 

Dear Cousin Lamar: 

I am deeply appreciative of your letter of condolence. Few people could 
have written such a letter. It was so descriptive of Sallie. 

After forty-seven years I can say to you she never thought an evil thought 
or did an evil thing. 

When the mob threatened my home and my life, on account of the Frank 
case, she was my strength and my fortress. If I heard a light step back of me, 
it was hers. She wished to be by my side. 

She received multitudes of letters and anonymous telephone 
communications that if I prevented the execution of Frank I would be killed, 
and she said to me: "I would rather be the widow of an honorable man than 
the wife of a dishonorable one." 

In my judgment Frank was as innocent as I, and it was a question whether 
through political ambition 

The Commutation 

I should shirk my duty as Governor and allow the State to commit a murder. 

Sallie went with me to all the meetings of the American Bar Association, 
and Judge Arthur Powell said of her that she was the Queen of that Body. 

I received telegrams and letters from all over the United States, from 
judges and leading members of the Bar, expressing appreciation of Sallie's 
wonderful character, her sweetness and dignity. One letter came from 
Portland, Maine, and another from Portland, Oregon. 

She made her debut at Greenbriar, White Sulphur Springs, and her 
sponsor and chaperon with Miss Mildred Lee, the daughter of Robert E. Lee. 

My wife represented the tender grace of a day which I fear is fast fading. 

I have that faith that makes me believe we shall meet in a reunion where 
there is no separation. 

I have written you this letter because of the remarkable sweetness and 
tenderness of yours. It would have made Sallie so happy to have read it in life. 

(signed) John M. Slaton 
Give my love to Cousin Bessie, 
(signed) J. M.S. 

Chapter 8 


Leo Frank's removal from Fulton Tower to the Milledgeville Prison Farm was 
carried out with the utmost secrecy and efficiency. 

A car pulled up in front of the main doors of the prison and kept its motor 
running. Reporters kept watch over it; they could not get information in any other 
way: the telephone lines into the prison had been disconnected. Meanwhile, Frank 
was removed from his cell, taken to the basement, and from there to a back alley 
where another car waited. That car took Frank and the sheriff and deputies 
escorting him to Atlanta's main railroad station, where they caught a train to 
Macon. They arrived in Macon at approximately 3:00 a.m. and drove the 
remaining twenty-five miles or so to Milledgeville. 

Frank had lost a substantial amount of weight during his two years in Fulton 
Tower, and the general dankness there had undermined his health. At 
Milledgeville, he was put to work in the fields, and his health, along with his 
spirits, improved. 

The warden at Milledgeville, James T. Smith, informed newsmen that he did 
not need the assistance of troops: he would be able to defend his prison against 

Within two weeks of Frank's arrival at Milledgeville, 


The Lynching 

Georgia newspapers gave prominent coverage to the unveiling of Mary Phagan's 

Shortly afterwards, the Knights of Mary Phagan met near her grave. They 
vowed to avenge little Mary's death. A few days later, there were rumors of a plan 
to kidnap and lynch Leo Frank. Governor Harris put the state police on alert. The 
plan was, for the moment, thwarted. 

Compared to the previous two years, life in Milledgeville was comfortable for 
Leo Frank. His daily chores, which took place outside, usually took up only four 
or five hours; the rest of the day he spent in voluminous correspondence. Among 
those with whom he corresponded was Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell 
Holmes, and to him, as to others, Frank expressed his expectation that "right and 
justice would hold complete sway," and that he would be completely exonerated. 

The idyll didn't last. On the night of July 17, approximately four weeks after 
Frank's sentence had been commuted to life, William Creen, a twice-convicted 
murderer, slashed Frank's throat with a butcher knife, nearly severing the jugular 
vein. Frank probably would have died, had not Warden Smith summoned J. W. 
McNaughton, a physician who was also serving a life sentence at Milledgeville. 
Creen told the authorities he meant to kill Frank because he wanted to keep the 
other inmates safe from mob violence, that Frank's presence was a disgrace to the 
prison, and that he felt he would be pardoned if he killed Frank. 

Frank hovered near death for about two weeks. Two letters, one to his mother 
on August 4, and one to his brother, written the day before, give some idea of Leo 
Frank's state of mind: 

Dear Mother: 

Just a few words to let you know that I am improving daily and that my 
dear Lucille is well and on the job. We let the night nurse go, and the day 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

nurse will take her place, dear Lucille holding the fort in the daytime. 

I hope you did not yesterday or today hear the rumor I heard — viz: that I 
was dead. I want to firmly and decisively deny that rumor. I am alive by a big 
majority. You know by my yesterday's letter that the head surgical brace story 
is also another fabrication. 

I had a short nice letter today from Simon Wolf. He has taken a great 
interest in me since I am here. 

With much love to you and all the folks, I am devotedly your son, 

Dear Lucille joins me in fond greetings to all. 

Dear Chas: 

Lucille got the package OK and I thank you for the cigars. Lucille wants to 
know the price of the whole wheat crackers as they will be paid for by the man 
for whom they were bought. 

I trust that this finds you and all at home well. Dear Lucille is OK and I am 
continually progressing to the goal of health. The wound continues to heal 

Tomorrow we let one of the nurses go and by the end of the week, the other 
will be unnecessary. 

My appetite continues fine. We get the fresh Elberta peaches and 
watermelons here, grown on the Farm. The apples are stewed for me, I also 
sleep well. It is now just a matter of fully regaining my strength. I sit up in bed, 
but it will be some time before I can walk about. You know I lost a large 
quantity of blood which must be regenerated and made up. 

The piece that I understand was in the Constitu- 

The Lynching 

tion about my having my head in a surgical brace is a lie out of the whole . . . 
In fact, I haven't now even adhesive plaster on my neck or head. Just a 
bandage of gauze about my neck (Please phone about this to Herbert Haas). I 
can move my head reasonable well now, and in time will have use of neck as 
before. The wound will heal up well and leave only a reasonable scar which 
will not show much. 

I look forward to seeing you the end of the week. Lucille joins me in much 
love to you and all the folks. 

Devotedly your brother 

Leo M. Frank 

The incident put the carefully-laid plans of the Knights of Mary Phagan to 
abduct Frank on hold. 

Also during August, Tom Watson thoroughly and completely "reviewed" the 
governor's commutation order in Watson's Magazine. Watson's words undoubtedly 
further inflamed the feelings against the order — and against Slaton himself. 
Watson said: 

It was the snob governor of high society, gilded club life, and palatial 
environment that proved to be the rotten pippin in our barrel. With splendid 
integrity our whole legal system withstood the attacks of Big Money until at 
length nothing was left but the perfidy of a governor who, in the interest of his 
client, betrayed a high office and great people. 

Our grand old Empire has been raped. We have been violated, and we are 
ashamed . . . The Great Seal of State was gone, like a thief in the night, to do 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

for an unscrupulous law firm, a deed of darkness which dared not bask in the 
light of the sun. 

Watson reminded the public that Slaton had been a partner in Luther Rosser's 
law firm since May 1913, and that the governor had had a secret midnight 
conference with Rosser before he issued his order: "The noble Rosser went up a 
back street in his automobile late at night, stopped it a block or two away from the 
Governor's; and footed it through the alley," he wrote, "like an impecunious 
person who desired to purloin the portable property of an unsuspecting fellow 

"Rosser went into the home of Slaton, and remained for hours, and until after 
midnight. " 

According to Henry Bowden, everyday citizens were more than willing to act as 
informers in the case. Telephone operators, switchboard girls, elevator operators, 
telegraph clerks, and many others kept the phones to Dorsey's home and office 
busy with little facts they picked up through their jobs. One morning at 6:00 a.m. 

Dorsey found a street car motorman sitting on his doorstep with full information 
as to the time that Luther Rosser arrived it Governor Slaton's home the night 
before he issued his commutation order, how long he stayed, and who was with 

Watson stated that Governor Slaton did not cross-examine Leo Frank or Jim 
Conley. Watson argued the following points, quoting from the official record at 
some times in his arguments and at others giving his own views: 


There were only two ways of getting into the basement, the elevator and a 
ladder. The ladder rested on the dirt floor and it ran up to a hole which 

The Lynching 

was covered by a trap door. The hole was two feet square and witnesses said 
that it was difficult for one person to pass through the hole and descend the 

Governor Slaton went to the factory and travelled up and down the 
elevator. He claimed that the body of Mary Phagan could not have been 
transported to the basement because there was excrement in the elevator 
shaft which was unmashed. 

The bottom of the shaft was uneven so the elevator could rest upon the 
dirt on one part and not touch it at others; elevators at that time did not 
always stop exactly at the bottom. 


Even though Governor Slaton argued there was no use for cloth or sacks at 
a pencil factory, Herbert Schiff, Assistant Superintendent and sworn for the 
defendant, indicated in his evidence that "empty sacks are usually moved a 
few hours after they are taken off the cotton." 


Barrett discovered hair on the handle of his bench lathe early Monday 
morning and the hair was almost immediately recognized as Mary Phagan's, 
as there was only one other girl who had hair like Mary's, Magnolia Kennedy. 
Magnolia Kennedy had not been in the factory after Friday and she testified 
that the hair "was not hers and looked like Mary's." 

Governor Slaton gave the public the understanding that Dr. Harris 
destroyed the value of that part of the State's case. 

Ten days after her death, the grave of Mary Pha- 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

gan was opened and hair was taken from her head. Gheesling, the undertaker, in 
preparation of the body, cleansed her hair by washing it with tar soap. 

Dr. Harris did make a microscopic examination of the hair — one found on 
the handle of the bench lathe and the other from Mary Phagan's exhumed body. 
He said: "Affiant further says that the two specimens were so much alike that it 
was impossible for him to form any definite and absolute opinion as to whether 
they were from the head of the same person or not." His examination failed to 
reveal any decided difference in color, size, and texture between the two stands. 
The conclusion had to be made that it was Mary's hair because the defense could 
not prove it to be anybody else's. 


Mell Stanford, who had worked for Frank for two years, testified that he 
swept up the whole floor in the Metal Room on Friday, April 25th. "I moved 
every-thing, and swept everything; I swept under Mary's and Barrett's machines. 
On Monday thereafter, I found a spot that had some white haskoline over it, on 
the second floor, near the dressing room, that wasn't there Friday when I swept. 
The spot looked to me like it was blood, with dark spots scattered around." 
Herbert Schiff, Assistant Superintendent and sworn for the defendant, testified 
that he had seen the spots as well as other witnesses. 

Governor Slaton admitted that the white sub-stance, haskoline, was found 
spread over the splotches. 


Conley was reluctant to betray his boss, a white man, and denied all 
knowledge of the crime. He 

The Lynching 

admitted that he did not tell the truth when he finally confessed, he asked to 
be taken to see Frank. Frank refused to face Conley because his lawyer was 
out of town. 


The Testimony set forth by Doctors Harris and Hurt said that there was 
blood caked in Mary Phagan's thick hair; she had blood on her drawers, and 
blood on her vagina. Evidence indicated some sort of violence and penetration 
in the vagina which appeared to have been made prior to death. 

Governor Slaton's contention was that the blood stains came from her 
"monthly sickness." Mary Phagan was not filthy in her personal hygience 
habits and there was no evidence such as a "bandage" which would have 
indicated that she had "monthly sickness." 


William Burns, the celebrated private detective, obtained an affidavit from 
Annie Maud Carter in which she claimed that Jim Conley wrote her notes. She 
later refuted her affidavit and both Conley and Carter swore that "their letters 
had been changed and that the unprintable filth put in them had been forged." 


Not only did Philip Chambers swear that the order blanks were "in the 
office next to Frank's office" but Herbert Schiff, the Assistant Superintendent 
and sworn for the defendant, testified that the paper the 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

notes were written on "can be found all over the plant," not just in the 


Frank was accurate in fixing the time his stenographer left "about 12:00 or 
a little after" and of the time of Mary Phagan's arrival "between 12:05 and 
12:10, maybe 12:07." Frank did not know that Mon-teen Stover had come to 
his office and claimed that he was in his office "every minute." In his attempt 
to excuse his absence when Monteen Stover came to his office he stated that 
he might have "inadvertently left to answer a call of nature." 

Governor Slaton argued that Frank must have been in the second office 
while Monteen Stover waited five minutes for him even though she swore that 
she looked for Frank in both the outer and inner offices and that "the door to 
the metal room was closed." Where was Mary, that "Monteen Stover could not 
see her, when Monteen was in the office, from 12:05 to 12:10? 


Why did Frank's lawyers not require Jim Conley, the State's star witness, 
to make an imprint of his fingers? 


Governor Slaton said that Judge Roan requested a commutation. This 
statement is false, Judge Roan continued to say, notably to his pastor and 
daughter, that the evidence unquestionably demonstrated 

The Lynching 

Frank's guilt; and not until Judge Roan had been dead more than two months 
was a forged letter presented which stultified Judge Roan's record, and 
contradicted his judicial declarations of record in this case. 


The twenty-three grand jurors, four of whom were Jews, thought Frank 
guilty, the twelve trial jurors thought so, Judge Roan at least thought the jury 
was satisfied in its opinion, for he refused to disturb the verdict, and none of 
the four appellate judges had expressed doubt, simply dissents, as to legal 
procedure. The Prison Commissioner was not satisfied with the sentence. 

Watson's frenzied views on the facts and conjectures about the case further 
fanned the fears, prejudices, and anger of those in Atlanta, especially the working 
class, who felt so strongly about the tragedy of Mary Phagan's death. 

In a July editorial of the Jeffersonian, Tom Watson mentioned the name, 
Knights of Mary Phagan, and in each subsequent issue of the newspaper, declared 
the great "Invisible Power" of these Knights. 

He wrote that lynch mobs were a necessary tool in a democracy and were 
acceptable as "guardians of liberty." In the August 12, 1915 issue he wrote, "The 
next Jew who does what Frank did is going to get the same thing we give Negro 

By then a group of about two dozen men from the Knights of Mary Phagan had 
been selected to reactivate the mission to abduct Leo Frank. Each was a husband 
and father, a wage-earner, and a church-goer. They all bore 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

well-known Cobb County names. There were no heavy drinkers, no hotheads, no 
braggarts, and they were mostly older men. Each took a vow never in his lifetime 
to reveal the name of any participant. 

There is an individual alive today who knows all the vigilante group members 
names and has told them to me. No Phagan was involved in the lynching. 

The mission was prepared like a military operation. An experienced 
electrician was selected to cut the prison wires; auto mechanics were selected to 
keep the cars running. The group also included a locksmith, a telephone man, a 
medic, a hangman, a lay preacher: each was chosen for a reason. 

The route the abductors would take had been travelled, measured, and timed. 
Alternate routes were selected and a timetable set. D-Day was August 16, 1915. 
The weather was perfect. 

Lucille Frank had visited her husband the day before, Sunday, August 15. 
She started back to Atlanta the morning of the 16. That afternoon the eight cars 
of the lynch party left Marietta one by one — inconspicuously. They arrived at the 
prison shortly before midnight on the 16th. They first cut the phone wires. Then 
they split into four groups: One went to the garage and emptied the gas out of all 
the cars. One forced themselves into the home of Warden Smith and handcuffed 
him. "We have come for Leo Frank," they said. "You will find him tomorrow on 
Mary Phagan's grave. You can come with us, if you want." 

"Damned if I go any place with you," Smith answered. 

Another group went to Superintendent Burke's house and handcuffed him, 
and then forced him to lead them to the administrative office, where they 
overpowered the guard. 

The fourth group rushed to Frank's cell to awaken 


The Lynching 

him, shackle his hands behind him, and remove him to the back seat of one of the 

Within the prison, only the leader of the abductors spoke, and he did so 
briefly. The men who entered the prison said not a word and neither did the 
frightened Frank, clad in a monogrammed nightshirt. 

It all took eighteen minutes. Frank's captors had a blueprint of the prison, 
and where his cell was located as well as where guard stations, phones, and 
electric wires were. No effort was made to resist the group that whisked Frank 
away. Actually, many guards were sympathetic to the abductors. 

Everything went as planned except for two incidents. The man assigned to 
guard the warden was left behind. There was a delay while some abductors 
returned to the warden's residence to bring out their companion. 

The other incident involved the failure to cut a long distance line to Augusta. 
This line was used to alert sheriffs in county seats along the possible routes to 

From several of these places, the local sheriff replied: "The parties have just 
passed through on their way north in automobiles." 

The motorcade on the seven-hour, one hundred fifty-mile trip travelled 
through small towns and back roads as they returned to Marietta via Roswell 
Road. Forty-nine years before, General William T. Sherman had gone that way 
from Marietta on his march to the sea. 

Along the way, the group experienced tire trouble as the rough roads took 
their toll. One car had to be abandoned, but the others were repaired. By then the 
group was aware that they had missed a telephone wire — and that officials 
probably knew what they were up to. 

The original plan was to hang Frank either from a tree in the Marietta City 
Cemetery, where Mary Phagan was buried, or in the Marietta Square. But dawn 
was breaking when the group reached Marietta's outskirts. Too 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

much time had been lost, and knowing they would be seen, they wen+ to a more 
remote side of town. 

Frank, frightened but apparently reconciled to his fate, said little. When asked 
if he wished to confess to the murder of Mary Phagan before being hanged, he is 
re-ported to have said "I think more of my wife and mother than I do of my life." 

"Mr. Frank, we are going to do what the law said to do, hand you by the neck 
until you are dead," the leader said to Frank, asking if he had any last request. 
Frank asked that his gold wedding band be removed and re-turned to his widow. 

In the grove hidden from Roswell Road at Frey's Gin Mill (where developer Roy 
Varner's Professional Building now stands), they prepared Leo Frank to be 
hanged. A piece of brown khaki cloth was tied around Frank's waist, since he had 
been taken from prison wearing only a nightshirt. A white handkerchief was 
fastened over his eyes. He was placed on a table. A three-quarter-inch rope tied 
by the hangman was lowered over a tree branch and around his neck. 

The table was kicked from under his feet. Frank was lifted high in the air. The 
drop from the makeshift gallows opened the wound on his neck. The time was 
about 7:00 a.m., on August 17, 1915. 

The word spread fast that Leo Frank had been hanged. Scores of people raced 
to the hanging site on foot, via bicycles, by horseback, and in what few autos then 
were available. 

One of the first to arrive was a prominent young Mariettan who had been 
rejected as a lyncher because of his high temper and drinking habits. "We thank 
you, God, for allowing these men to do this grand and glorious deed," the rejected 
lyncher shouted, "but damn their souls for not letting me help. They won't put 
any monument 

The Lynching 

over you (Frank). They are not going to get a piece of you as big as a cigar." 

People with cameras snapped Frank's picture as his body swayed in the 
breeze. Picture post cards of the lynching were sold for years as souvenir items in 
Georgia stores. Pieces of Frank's clothing were cut away, the tree stripped of 
many low-hanging limbs, and the rope cut up and taken as souvenirs. 

Marietta hardware stores sold out of rope after the hanging. Enterprising 
citizens bought the rope, cut in into pieces, and sold it as mementoes. 

When Frank's body was cut down, a citizen tried to grind his shoe into 
Frank's face. Newt A. Morris, a former judge of the Blue Ridge Circuit, stepped 
forward to stop him and to quiet the crowd. 

"Whoever did this thing left nothing more for us to do," Morris told the crowd. 
"Little Mary is vindicated; her foul murder is avenged. Now I ask you, I appeal to 
you as citizens of Cobb County, not to do more. I appeal to you to let this 
undertaker take it." 

Morris soon was joined by Canton attorney John Wood, who later became a 
congressman, in appealing to the crowd. He helped Morris load the body into a 
basket and place it in a W. J. Black Funeral Home wagon that hauled it to the 
National Cemetery gate where it was placed in Wood's car and rushed to Atlanta. 

At Ashby and Marietta Streets, an ambulance from Greenberg & Bond met 
Wood's wagon and took the body. 

A crowd gathered around the funeral home, demanding to see the dead man's 
body. Fearing violence, police persuaded Mrs. Frank to consent. The crowds were 
allowed to view the body. 

Later, Leo Frank's body was shipped to his parents' Brooklyn home and 
buried on August 20th in Mount Carmel Cemetery. Carved on his tombstone is 
the Latin 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

phrase Semper Idem — which means "always the same, nothing changes." 

Before the day's end, Fiddling John Carson was wailing on the courthouse 

Little Mary Phagan went to town one day, 
And went to the pencil factory 

to see the big parade. 
She left her home at eleven, 
And kissed her mother good-bye, 
Not one time did that poor child think 
That she was going to die. 

Leo Frank met her, with a brutely heart we know, 
He smiled and said, "Little Mary, 
Now you will go home no more. " 
He sneaked along behind her, 
Till she reached the metal room, 

He laughed and said, "Little Mary 
you have met your fatal doom." 

Ex-Governor Slaton and Mayor Woodward, of Atlanta, were in San Francisco 
on the day of the lynching. 

On August 18 Slaton addressed the California Civic League and declared he 
preferred to have Frank lynched by a mob rather than by judicial mistake because 
"one reached the soul of civilization, the other merely reached the body." 

Mayor Woodward addressed the California State Assessors' Association and 
declared that Frank had suffered a "just penalty for an unspeakable crime." 

A Cobb County coroner's jury met on August 24, heard witnesses, and ruled 
that Frank was "hanged by persons unknown." A Cobb grand jury investigated the 
hanging for several days but said it couldn't identify any of the men involved. 
Several lynchers reportedly were members of the grand jury. No lyncher was ever 

The Lynching 

Tom Watson sent the following telegram to Mariettan Robert E. Lee Howell: 
"There's life in the old land yet." He applauded the hanging: "In putting the 
sodomite murderer to death, the viligance committee has done what the sheriff 
would have done, if Slaton had not been of the same mould as Benedict Arnold . . 
. Georgia is not for sale to rich criminals." 

In the Jeffersonian, he raged: 

The ominous triune combination which has so rapidly given our country a 
foreign complexion, is made up of Priest, Capitalist, and Jew. The Priest wants 
the illiterate papal slave of Italy, Poland and Hungary; the Capitalist wants 
cheap labor; and the Jew wants refuge from the race-hatred which he himself 
has engendered throughout Europe. 

As yet, the South has not been deluged by the foreign flood; as yet, our 
native stock predominates, and the old ideals persist. With us, it is, as yet, 
dangerous for an employer of young girls to assume that he buys the girl, 
when he hires her. A Jew from the North, coming South to act as boss over 
one hundred girls, may fall into a fatal mistake by forgetting that he is no 
longer in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, or New York. When such a Jew comes 
to Georgia, he is sure to run into trouble if he acts as though he believed he 
had a right to carnally use the persons of the girls who work for him. 

That was the mistake made by Leo Frank, and it cost him his life. 

And the mistake made by Jews throughout the Union, was that they made 
Frank's case a race issue in total, contemptuous and aggressive disregard of 
the question of guilt. They arrogantly asserted, and kept on asserting, that he 
had not had a fair trial, without ever offering a scintilla of evidence to prove it. 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

They tried to "run over" the people and the courts of Georgia, and we 
wouldn't let them do it. That's all. 

Leo Frank's wedding ring was delivered to O. B. Keeler, Marietta reporter for 
the Atlanta Georgian, at his Marietta home the following evening. 

On Thursday, August 19, Keeler's account of the incident was published in 
the Atlanta Georgian. Some idea of the importance attached to the story may be 
gained from the prominence given the story. 

The banner headline read "FRANK'S WEDDING RING RETURNED" across the 
top of page one. A two-column, three-line readout said "DYING WISH OF MOB'S 
headline. The story was in twelve-point type; it occupied the two right-hand 
columns of page one and continued on page two, where it filled two more 

Keeler's first-person account read: 

Old Books say if you put beneath your pillow an object that has been 
associated with tragedy, or any scene of great stress and profound emotional 
excitement — if such an object be placed near you while you sleep — you will 
dream the thing that gave the object its most terrible significance; the scene 
will be reconstructed for you, and the act reenacted. 

This is not true. Not always true, at least. For in my pillow last night was 
the wedding ring of Leo M. Frank. And I dreamed of nothing that could 
concern him in any way. 

And if any object in this world today has been close to tragedy and aligned 
with horror, it is the wedding ring of Leo M. Frank. 

The Lynching 

Keeler, who had covered every session of the trial for the Atlanta Georgian, then 
told of the many times he had seen the ring on Frank's finger during the trial and 
during Frank's stay of nearly two years in the Fulton County Tower. 

Whatever is the truth of April 26, 1913, Leo M. Frank wore that ring at the 
National Pencil Factory that day. And Leo Frank wore that ring on the 
dreadful ride to his doom, in the oak grove just outside of Marietta. And who 
will say that the supreme moment of his agony was not when he took off that 
ring and stood up to die? 

If ever an object was charged with tragedy, it is the wedding ring of Leo M. 
Frank. And it was in my pillow Wednesday night. And I dreamed a ridiculous 
little dream of being a kid again, at dancing school, and the waltz they were 
playing was "Beaming Eyes." So I should say there is not much to the old idea 
of psychic dream-influences. 
Keeler related how the ring came into his possession: 

It was a little later than 8:00 Wednesday evening, and I was in the front room 
of my small house at No. 303 Polk Street in Marietta [Today it is at the 
southwest corner of Polk Street and Powder Springs Connector]. 

I had just started the Victrola on a selection passionately adored by the 
two very young members of my family — "The Robert E. Lee Medley," by a lively 
band. It is very lively and ragged. 

The band had just got into full swing when there was a step on the 
veranda outside the open door, then a knock. I went to the door, opened the 
screen, and stepped out. 

There was a man on the veranda. He had something white in his hand. 
The following dialogue took place: 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

"Is this Mr. O. B. Keeler?" 

"It is." 

"I have a note for you." 

That was all. He spoke clearly and deliberately. He handed me an envelope. 
He turned and walked down the steps and away in the dark. He wasted no 
time, but he was not in a hurry. 

Keeler opened the envelope, which contained the ring and a typewritten note. 
He took the note to the dining room where there was a light on the table. The note 

Frank's dying request was that his wedding ring be given to his wife. Will you 
see that this request is carried out? 

This note will be delivered to you by a man who you do not know and who 
does not know you. Make no effort to find out his identity. 

Keeler wrote, "I am making no effort to find out his identity. And I am 
undertaking to deliver the ring to Mrs. Leo M. Frank. It is a trust." 

On the following day, Keeler delivered the ring to Mrs. Frank in Atlanta. She 
denounced Keeler roundly, and accused him of being among the group of men 
who hanged her husband. 

Keeler said that he had accepted the trust with mingled emotions. "It was 
because of something else — another circumstance, which I will tell too, because 
the outside world may find it of interest and perhaps of information concerning 
the county and town in which I live — Cobb County and Marietta — in which county 
and near which place Leo M. Frank was hanged at 7:05 o'clock the morning of 
Tuesday, August 17." 

Keeler said he knew what bad things were being said by the newspapers of the 
state and he had an idea of what would be said by newspapers outside of it. 

The Lynching 

He related: 

I am a newspaper man. But I am not writing this as a newspaper man. I am 

writing this as a man who has lived in Cobb County for twenty-five years. And I 

am telling it to the limit of my ability as a reporter and observer of some little 


In our home when the ring came was a guest — a young woman from Kansas 
City, Missouri. She had arrived the evening before, from the North. She had 
never been in the South before. She had read stories of the Frank Case in the 
Kansas City newspapers — which in the end made a great effort to show Frank's 

This guest, you might say, was a "stranger within our gates." And the 
experience of the ring, following so closely the tragedy of the day before, had a 
tremendous effect on her. I sought an unbiased view. I found it — and the 
intelligent one. 

She was saying: 

"Why it is something out of a book — I can't believe such things happen, 
really. But . . . why — I SAW the man, myself . . . and the ring. I can't believe it, 
but I know it is so." 

I said: "What do you think about it now?" 

And she told me: "I read about the Frank lynching coming down on the 
train from Nashville. And I wondered: What am I getting into — what sort of 
people are these? I knew it took place quite near where I was going. And it 
frightened me." 

I said: "You reached this town exactly twelve hours after the hanging. Did it 
look like that kind of a town to you then?" 

She said: "It did not. I thought it was the quietest, most peaceful-looking 
little place I ever was in. I never met more kindly or hospitable or friendly peo- 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

pie than at the party this afternoon. Why, I just know they are good people." 

Of course, she hadn't met them all, having been in Marietta only twenty- 
five hours. But I have lived here the same number of years. And our opinions 
agreed exactly. 

Explaining what he meant by "agreeing exactly," Keeler said: 

I know what was done to Leo M. Frank, in that oak grove, the morning of 
August 17. It is said that men of Cobb County did it. I do not know about 
that. But I do know what was done that morning. 

Also I know what the people of Marietta did for me and my family when I 
lay near death from pneumonia last spring. 

And then you see, I have lived among these people for twenty-five years. 

And I know they are good people. 

One of the "young members" Keeler referred to was his son, George Keeler. 
George Keeler related to me the events that occurred. He told me: "My father, the 
late O. B. Keeler, was on the staff of the Atlanta Georgian in 1913 and reported 
every session of the Frank trial for that newspaper, and he said many times there 
was never any doubt in his mind as to Frank's guilt. He said the defense did 
everything it could to lay the blame on the Negro janitor, Jim Conley. 

"He said, 'Conley, an illiterate Negro, could not possibley have made up the 
complicated story he told of Frank's sexual adventures, a story the defense 
lawyers could not shake after days of hammering on him.' And, my father pointed 
out, Frank had the best lawyers in the state that money could buy. 

The Lynching 

"Two years later, and well into the night of August 16, 1915, a telephone call 
from the Georgian informed my father the paper had received a report that a 
group of men was headed for the State Prison at Milledgeville with the intention of 
seizing Frank and taking him to Marietta and there to hang him over the grave of 
Mary Phagan. My father was instructed to go to the cemetery and await 

"My father went to the cemetery, and when nothing happened by dawn, he 
proceeded to the Cobb County Courthouse on the City Square. Shortly after my 
father arrived at the Courthouse, a farmer came in and said, 'There's a bunch of 
men at Frey's Gin and they're up to something.' This was early morning of August 
17, 1915. 

"The next evening, about dusk, a stranger appeared at the Keeler home on 
Polk Street and handed my father an envelope. The envelope contained a 
typewritten note and a wedding ring. The note said the ring was Frank's, and 
requested my father to deliver the ring to his wife. 

"The next day, August 19, 1915, my father delivered the ring to Mrs. Frank 
and wrote the account of how the ring had come into his possession and what he 
had done with it — in a story that was published that day in the Georgian under an 
eight-column banner headline on page one. 

Chapter 9 


The Knights of Mary Phagan stood guard for at least one day and one night at 
the tree from which they had hung Leo Frank, apparently expecting that 
someone — perhaps souvenir hunters or someone on the orders of Governor Harris, 
who had offered a reward for the conviction of any of the lynch party — might cut it 

Two months after the lynching, the group climbed to the top of Stone 
Mountain, outside Atlanta, and burned a large cross. They say it was visible all 
over Atlanta. 

On October 26, 1915, William J. Simmons, an ex-Methodist minister and a 
member of at least eight fraternal orders, gathered together thirty-four men, 
including members of the Knights of Mary Phagan and three former Ku Klux Klan 
members, and signed an application to the State of Georgia to charter the Knights 
of the Ku Klux Klan. 

On November 25, Thanksgiving Day, Simmons again convened this group and 
they again ascended Stone Mountain and formally inaugurated the new Invisible 
Empire of the Ku Klux Klan. They again burned a large cross. 

The original Ku Klux Klan, founded in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1867, was a 
secret society opposed to the Reconstruction policies of the radical Republican 
Congress and whose purpose was the re-establishment of white supremacy in the 
South. General N. B. Forrest, well- 



known Confederate cavalry leader, was the first Grand Wizard of the Empire. The 
Empire immediately began a campaign of terror against ex-slaves and whites who 
involved themselves in black causes. They operated at night, their identities 
obliterated under white sheets. Their methods were flogging, torture, and 
lynching. They usually planted a burning cross on the property of someone whom 
they felt they had to threaten. It was their calling card. 

It has been said that the Mary Phagan-Leo Frank case was the spark that 
rekindled the Ku Klux Klan. 

As whites regained control of state governments in the South the Klan's power 
faded. In 1869 General Forrest ordered the abandonment of the Klan and resigned 
as Grand Wizard. But local organizations continued, some for many years. 

The release, in 1915, of D. W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" further fueled the 
fires of the new Invisible Empire, which added to its motto of "white supremacy" 
anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism. Its appeal, therefore, was wider than that of 
the original Klan. In the early 1920s, with the help of experienced promoters and 
fundraisers Edward Y. Clarke and Elizabeth Tyler, the Klan began exercising 
strong control over local politics throughout the South and spread rapidly into the 
North, especially Oregon, Oklahoma, Indiana, Maine, and Illinois. In 1922, 1924, 
and 1926, it elected many state officials and a number of Congressmen. At one 
point the Invisible Empire claimed a million members. 

For ten years after its inauguration — or re-inauguration — the Klan exercised a 
career of terror. Then the death of another girl destroyed its power. In 1926, 
David C. Stephenson, who had ousted William Simmons from the leadership of 
the Klan and was at that time Imperial Wizard, was convicted of second-degree 
murder in the death of Madge Oberholtzer, whom, in consort with other 
Klansmen, he had kidnapped, raped, and abducted to 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Chicago from Irvington, Indiana. The case, which included some revolting 
perversions, created a widespread revulsion against the Ku Klux Klan. 
Throughout the 1930s its influence weakened irreparably. In 1944 it was formally 

Five years later, however, groups from six Southern states met to attempt to 
reform a national organization. During the Civil Rights era, the Klan again raised 
its head. It has never really died. It is recruiting members today. It recently 
attempted to involve my family. 

In the months following the lynching about three thousand Jews left the State 
of Georgia. Those who remained — and particularly those in Atlanta — were 
financially crippled by a huge boycott of Jewish businesses. 

The Jewish community, or at least some of its more prominent members, had 
felt, in fact, an increasing anti-Semitism for the previous three decades or so. This 
feeling mounted as resentment of the monies which poured in from Jewish 
organizations around the country — particularly in the North — to aid in Leo Frank's 
defense and subsequent appeals soared. 

If Mary Phagan's death and Leo Frank's lynching gave impetus to the 
resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, they also gave impetus to the formation of the 
Anti- Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. 

At the time of his arrest, Leo Frank was president of the Atlanta chapter of 
B'nai B'rith, the Jewish fraternal order which had been founded in 1843. There 
were plans for the organization of its Anti-Defamation League, to combat anti- 
Semitism in the United States and "to work for equality of opportunity for all 
Americans in our time," as their charter reads, but it took the condemnation of 
Leo Frank to galvanize it into being. The League was established four weeks after 
Leo Frank's trial ended. As Dave Schary, the fourth national chairman of the 
League has stated, "Certainly the B'nai B'rith would have founded the League 
sooner or later, but the story of Leo Frank 


struck the American Jewish community like nothing be-fore in its experience. It 
was Frank's destiny to give the League a sense of urgency that characterizes its 
operations to this day." 

At the founding ceremonies of the League, Adolph Kraus, then national 
president of B'nai B'rith, commenting on the widespread prejudice and 
discrimination, said: 

Remarkable as it is, 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, it demands organized and 
systematic effort on behalf of all right-thinking Americans to put a stop to this 
most pernicious and un-American tendency. 

The Anti-Defamation League practically from its inception vigorously opposed 
all lynchings. It, along with the NAACP, works to correct falsehoods in all forms 
of media and to distribute information correcting misconceptions about Judaism. 
It owes its genesis to Leo Frank. And to Mary Phagan. 

After Leo Frank's death, Lucile Frank became a pillar of the Atlanta Jewish 
community. She worked in one of the better women's clothing shops, never 
remarried, and until she died, in 1957, signed all her checks and papers "Mrs. 
Leo M. Frank." 

In March 1916 Fannie Phagan Coleman sued the National Pencil Company for 
damages. It was settled out of court and she was awarded several thousand 
dollars. She died in August 1947 at age seventy-five. She was buried beside Mary. 

Tom Watson was indicted and tried in the United States District Court for 
sending obscene matter through 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

the mail and was acquitted in 1916. Initially he supported Hugh Dorsey in the 
gubernatorial race. Dorsey won, and remained governor of Georgia until 1921. In 
1920 Dorsey ran for the United States Senate, but Watson himself ran and won. 
Two years later he died from a bronchial attack. One of the memorials on his 
grave was a cross, eight feet high, made of roses. The Ku Klux Klan had sent it. 

Jim Conley served less than a year of his sentence on a chain gang. 

Some months after that, he was convicted of breaking and entering a 
business establishment in the vicinity of the Fulton County court house, and was 
sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment, which he served. It was after that that 
he and my grandfather and my aunt had the famous (in our family) conversation 
about little Mary Phagan. Then he apparently disappeared. 

In 1941 he was among a group picked up for gambling by the Atlanta police. 
In 1947 he was again arrested — on a charge of drunkenness. 

He died in 1962. Rumors of a deathbed confession of his having killed Mary 
Phagan have grown increasingly more persistent. On April 6, 1987 my father and 
I spoke with three members of the Anti-Defamation League — Stuart Lewengrub, 
Regional Director of the Southeast Office; Betty Canter, Assistant Regional 
Director of the Southeast Office; and Charles Wittenstein, Counsel for the 
Southeast Office. The League, we felt, would certainly have tracked down and 
confirmed this rumor. All three were emphatic: the rumor had no basis in truth. 

Publications, films and plays concerning the Mary Phagan-Leo Frank case 
began even before Leo Frank was lynched: 

1914 — The Frank Case: Inside Story of Georgia's Murder, published by Atlanta 
Publishing Company. Argument of Hugh Dorsey, Solicitor for Fulton 
County, published. 


1915 — C. P. Connolly reported the trial in Collier's Weekly and then published a 

book, The Truth About the Frank Case. 
1922 — The French journalist, Van Paassen, claims that the teeth marks on Mary 

Phagan's head and shoulders do not match the X-rays of Leo Frank's 

teeth. He publishes his findings in the book, To Number Our Days, in 

1936 — Death in the Deep South by Ward Greene published. 
1937 — "They Won't Forget," a movie based on Ward Greene's novel and starring 

Lana Turner as little Mary Clay appears. 
1938 — Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel by C. Vann Woodward published. 

1943 — I Can Go Home Again by Arthur Powell published. 

1952 — Guilty or Not Guilty by Francis X. Busch published. 

1956 — Night Fell on Georgiahy Charles and Louise Samuels published. 

1959 — Confessions of a Criminal Lawyer by Allen Lumpkin Henson published. 

1962 — "Profile in Courage" series is aired by NBC. One deals with John M. Slaton. 

1965 — A Little Girl is Dead by Harry Golden published. 

1967 — A five-part series on the trial appears in the Atlanta Constitution, and the 

play, "Night Witch" has a short run. 
1968 — The Leo Frank Case by Leonard Dinnerstein published, reissued in 1987. 

There have been innumerable murders in Georgia since April 26, 1913, when 
little Mary Phagan was murdered. None have continued to fascinate the public as 
my great-aunt's tradgedy has. Students, writers, and the curious continue yearly 
to visit the Georgia Department of Archives, Georgia State University, and Emory 
University to study the case. And many people still pay tribute to little Mary 
Phagan by visiting her grave. It is the history of Georgia. It is my history. 

Chapter 10 


At the end of February 1978, my coworkers at Griffin CESA jokingly told me 
I was on the front page! Silence fell over the room. The look in my face must have 
told them something: it couldn't be. Why was it on the front page now? It seemed I 
could never escape. 

I picked up the newspaper. It was the Atlanta Constitution. The banner 
headline read: "THE MURDER OF MARY PHAGAN" by Celestine Sibley. A preface 
before the story indicated that they were doing a series on famous murders in 

My father and I found several inaccuracies in the articles on Mary Phagan 
and felt we had to voice our opinion to the author. My father called Celestine 
Sibley, but the call was never returned. He was surprised. 

Several other Phagans were quite upset by the articles. John Phagan 
Durham, son of Lizzie Mary Etta Phagan, who made little Mary's dress, and first 
cousin of little Mary Phagan, went to Mr. Sears, the Managing Editor of the 
Atlanta Constitution and asked that the articles be stopped. He said that Mr. 
Sears replied: "We cannot stop the articles, and if we have caused hard feelings 
with the Phagan family we apologize. And if you would correct the factual 
inaccuracies, we would correct them." Phagan 


Alonzo Mann's Testimony 

Durham informed Mr. Sears that he, Phagan Durham, would not make the 
corrections because the series appeared on the front page, and he was certain the 
corrections would not appear on the front page. People would not see them. He 
left, frustrated. 

The series rekindled interest concerning the murder of little Mary Phagan 
and its aftermath. Principals, teachers, students, optometrists, and 
ophthamologists in the eight counties my work covered asked me that question: 
"Are you, by any chance, related to little Mary Phagan?" 

The questions became more intense: people wanted details on the trial and 
the lynching and wanted to know if any of the Phagans were involved with the 

I wanted the truth to be known. I wanted the inaccuracies corrected. I 
became more articulate in discussing the case, and I felt a sense of confidence 
since I knew the story well and could answer most of the questions. 

I had plans to marry in June of that year. Bernard knew nothing of the story 
of little Mary Phagan. I had never told him. He, like most, had read the series in 
the newspapers, and one night he mentioned that a girl was murdered who had 
my name; then he, too, wanted to know: "Are you, by any chance, related to her?" 

"Yes," I said, "I am." 

Why, he wanted to know, had I never told him? "You never asked," I 


Then I told him: I told him the story and why the Phagan family had 
remained silent. But, I told him, we had something to say now, and my father 
agreed and was beginning to let it be known that there were close relatives of little 
Mary Phagan who were still living. 

Daddy hadn't gone so far as to publicly acknowledge our existence, but had 
let certain individuals know in nonchalant ways. 

Bernard asked if I had ever been to the grave. I hadn't. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

I was bothered that my name was on a tombstone. Right then we determined to 


We drove to Marietta. I was extremely quiet, and Bernard responded with 
silence. It was time: I felt the desire to go to the grave. 

It was a beautiful day — sunny, with a light breeze. As we neared the 
cemetery, I began to feel sick to my stomach. Now I wasn't quite sure if I wanted 
to see the grave. 

"We're here," Bernard said suddenly. 

I hesitated. "Are you all right?" he asked. Somehow, I felt inner strength. 
"I'm ready," I told him softly. 

The plot was located in the wealthy section of the cemetery. There, beside 
little Mary, were other Phagan family members, including William Jackson Phagan 
and Angelina O'Shields Phagan. 

Little Mary Phagan's grave was like none other that I had seen before. It had 
a marble tombstone which bore her name and an inscription the length of the 
burial place in marble. It was a beautiful inscription and was written by Tom 
Watson. I immediately memorized it. 

Bernard and I took photos for the scrapbook about Mary I had begun 
assembling. A middle-aged couple approached us and asked if we knew where the 
grave of little Mary Phagan was. The articles in the newspaper had once again 
revived interest in her. 

A sense of sadness for my relatives, especially those who had lived through 
the horrible ordeal, came over me. And I admired them for not seeking publicity 
and wishing to remain anonymous. 

That year, 1978, proved to be full of beginnings and firsts for me. It was the 
first time my father had acknowledged our relationship to Mary by contacting a 
reporter; the beginning of a scrapbook of little Mary Phagan; my first visit to the 
grave of little Mary Phagan; and my first car accident — which turned out to have a 
connection to Mary Phagan. 

Alonzo Mann's Testimony 

A few days after the accident I decided to check on the elderly lady who had 
struck my car and to find out if she had turned in the insurance papers. She was 
a wealthy, prominent member of the community in which she lived. Her house 
was extraordinarily beautiful. When she answered the door, I explained that I was 
the individual involved with her in the accident, and I was checking to see if she 
had turned in the insurance papers. She welcomed me inside her home and told 
me that she was becoming blind and deaf and did not have anyone to help her fill 
out the forms. She asked me if I would help. I filled out the paperwork, and, with 
a magnifying glass, she read it to correct the errors. When she came to my name, 
she abruptly turned to me and asked me that question: 'Are you, by any chance, 
related to little Mary Phagan?" 

When I said "Yes," she hugged and kissed me. Then she related her 
memories of it. 

She and her husband drove their horse and buggy to Atlanta and saw the 
crowd of people waiting to hear the trial. Apparently it had been an overwhelming 
sight. The majority of the people at that time felt that Leo Frank was guilty, she 
said, and she believed it too. She still believed it. She excitedly told me about life 
in that era and how many changes she had seen in her ninety-two years. She 
liked some of the changes, but others she disliked. I had a wonderful time, and 
she invited me to have lunch with her. She had found that I listened to her 
attentively, and nowadays it seemed that no one really listened anymore. 

The next day, I received another invitation for lunch. For the rest of the 
school year, I would lunch with her on Mondays. We became very close. 

In 1980, Bernard and I moved to Cobb County, where my family had begun. 
Since the travel was too far and too much for me, I resigned my position at Griffin 
CESA and began employment for the Cherokee County Board of 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Education in Canton, Georgia as the itinerant teacher for the blind and visually 

When school began in August, my supervisor introduced me to the 
principals for whom I would be working. Several of them asked me that recurrent 
question: "Are you, by any chance, related to little Mary Phagan?" 

At one of the schools the principal was not available to meet me, but as we 
were leaving, he ran out after us and asked me my name and what position I held 
for the county. He took out his pen from his shirt pocket, and as I told him my 

name, he wrote it on the palm of his hand. He stared at it and asked me that 

I told him "yes." 

He erased my name from his hand and told me he would never forget my 
name. From that moment on, Mr. Tippens called me "little Mary Phagan," and 
introduced me as such. I didn't mind. 


On Saturday, March 6, 1982, Sue Youngblood, one of the secretaries where 
I worked, called. She was very upset. She had been watching television and heard 
a promotional late news headline, something to the effect of: "An eyewitness says 
Leo Frank was not guilty of the murder of little Mary Phagan. More details on the 
eleven o'clock news. 

Stunned and bewildered, I waited for the hours to pass. How could there be 
a witness alive? 

The local news provided a report from two reporters, Colin Sedor from 
Georgia, and Jerry Thompson from Tennessee. They discussed the era of the 
crime and the basic facts of the case. Then they showed an interview with Alonzo 
Mann, a man who said he had seen Jim Conley with the body of Mary Phagan. 
Mann, now eighty-three 

Alonzo Mann's Testimony 

years of age and living in Virginia, appeared calm and competent as he spoke of 
these events. 

Alonzo Mann claimed that he had attempted to relate what he had seen for 
years — and that no one seemed interested. After a while, he told reporters, he had 
given up. 

He told reporters of the Tennessean that as a soldier during World War I 
he'd engendered a heated argument with another soldier — who happened to be 
from Georgia — when he said that he knew that Leo Frank did not kill Mary 

Over the years he told his wife, his relatives, and his closest friends his 
story. During the 1950s, he told it to a reporter of an Atlanta newspaper. But, 
Mann stated, the reporter said he didn't want to stir up the anti-Semitism that 
had engulfed Atlanta during the trial and at the time of the commutation. "Mrs. 
Frank is still alive," the reporter had also said, "and we wouldn't want to do 
anything to cause her any more grief." 

At about the time he gave his testimony to the media, Mann agreed to a 
polygraph test and a psychological stress analysis. 

The psychological stress analysis electronically measures and charts, with a 
needle and graph, the stress in the voice in response to questions: the greater 
stress there seems to be, the greater the probability that the subject is not telling 
the truth. 

The polygraph, broadly used by law enforcement personnel across the 
United States, tests whether the subject is telling the truth by measuring the 
respiratory rate, blood pressure, skin reaction, and pulse rate. 

In both procedures, the subject responds to questions and a pattern is 
printed out on graph paper connected to the machines which are connected to the 
subject's body. 

Alonzo Mann, according to both tests, told the truth consistently. 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Alonzo Mann's story was a new twist on the facts presented since 1913. He 
said that Jim Conley had said to him, "If you ever tell anyone, I'll kill you." He 
had gone home and repeated what he had seen and what he'd been told by 
Conley to his mother. She told him to be quiet, and he had been. 

Now, after almost seventy years of silence, he decided to come forward to 
be at peace in his heart. 

I wasn't the only one who was stunned. And I could not believe that Alonzo 
Mann would wait seventy years to reveal his eyewitness testimony. My father and 
I discussed at length the plausibility of Alonzo Mann's statements. We decided to 
remain silent until the sensationalism of the story quieted down. 

It didn't. 

On March 7, 1982 the Nashville Tennessean ran a special supplement 
which bore the headline, "AN INNOCENT MAN WAS LYNCHED." The copy began, 
"Leo Frank, convicted in 1913 and lynched in 1915, in one of the most notorious 
cases in American history, was innocent, according to sworn testimony by a 
witness in the case." The section contained quotations of the letters Leo Frank 
wrote his family from prison, Alonzo Mann's statement — and the print-out of the 
polygraph test he had taken. It contained photos of him at Mary Phagan's grave. 
The supplement was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. 

Between the publication of that special supplement and Alonzo Mann's 
appearance before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, reporters on the 
staff of the Tennessean initiated plans for a book, and had even spoken to the 
producer of the television miniseries, "Winds of War." Pardon Board Chairman 
Mobley Howell was quoted as saying that the entire affair had taken on a 
"showman quality." 

Also, on March 7, 1982 Cassandra Clayton, another local reporter, reported 
an interview with Bernie Dukehart, brother of one of the members of the lynching 


Alonzo Mann's Testimony 

in which Dukehart said that Alonzo Mann's statements changed nothing and that 
his brother always felt that Leo Frank was guilty. On the same newscast there 
was an interview with Jasper Yeomans, the son of Leo Frank's defense attorney. 
The reporter also spoke briefly with Stuart Lewengrub of the Anti-Defamation 
League, who expressed the desire that a posthumous pardon be granted. It was 
also reported that the Phagan family members denied the station's request for an 
interview and were tired of their name being dragged through the mud. The 
Phagan family member who denied the interview was John Phagan Durham. 

Ironically, at this point no one in the media knew that either my father or I 
existed. And several older Phagans who had lived through the murder and its 
aftermath had also kept silent, even though the media contacted them. They did 
not discuss the case with even their closest friends. 

On March 8, 1982 a review of the story appeared, with the conclusion that a 
posthumous pardon for Leo Frank was unlikely. 

Alonzo's testimony read: 


The undersigned, being duly sworn, deposes as follows: 

My name is Alonzo McClendon Mann. I am eighty-three years old. My 
father was Alonzo Mann, who was born in Germany. My mother was Hattie 
McClendon Mann. When I was a small boy my family moved to Atlanta where I 
spent most of my life. 

In 1913 I was the office boy for Leo M. Frank, who ran the National Pencil 
Company. That was the year Leo Frank was convicted of the murder of Mary 
Phagan. I was fourteen years old at the time. I was 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

called as a witness in the murder trial. At that time I was put on the witness 
stand, but I did not tell all that I knew. I was not asked questions about what I 
knew. I did not volunteer. If I had revealed all I knew it would have cleared Leo 
Frank and would have saved his life. 

I now suffer from a heart condition. I have undergone surgery to 
implant a pacemaker in my heart. I am making this statement because, 
finally, I want to have the record clear. I want the public to understand that 
Leo Frank did not kill Mary Phagan. 

Jim Conley, the chief witness against Leo Frank, lied under oath. I 
know that. I am certain that he lied. I am convinced that he, not Leo Frank, 
killed Mary Phagan. I know as a matter of certainty that Jim Conley — and he 
alone — disposed of her body. 

Jim Conley threatened to kill me if I told what I knew. I was young and I 
was frightened. I had no doubt Conley would have tried to kill me if I had told 
that I had seen him with Mary Phagan that day. 

I related to my mother what I had seen there at the pencil factory. She 
insisted that I not get involved. She told me to remain silent. My mother loved 
me. She knew Conley had threatened to kill me. She didn't want our family's 
name to be involved in controversy or for me to have to be subjected to any 
publicity. My father supported her in telling me to remain silent. My mother 
repeated to me over and over not to tell. She never thought Leo Frank would 
be convicted. Of course, she was wrong. Even after he was convicted my 
mother told me to keep secret what I had seen. 

I am sure in my own mind that if the lawyers had asked me specific 
questions about what I had seen the day of Mary Phagan's death I would have 
told the whole truth when I testified at Frank's trial. 

Alonzo Mann's Testimony 

Of course they didn't suspect what I knew. They asked me practically nothing. 
I was nervous and afraid that day. There were crowds in the street who were 
angry and who were saying that Leo Frank should die. Some were yelling 
things like "Kill the Jew!" 

I was very nervous. The courtroom was filled with people. Every seat 
was taken. I was interested mostly in getting out of there. 

I spoke with a speech impediment and had trouble pronouncing the "r" 
in Frank's name in those days. The lawyers put their heads together and said 
that it was obvious I knew nothing and since I was so young they would let 
me off the stand. It was not an easy place for a young boy to be, there in 
court like that. 

I never fully realized until I was older that if I had told what I knew Leo 
Frank would have been acquitted and gone free. Instead he was imprisoned. 

After he was convicted my mother told me there was nothing we could 
do to change the jury's verdict. My father agreed with her. I continued to 
remain silent. Later, Frank was lynched by a mob from Marietta, Georgia. I 
know, of course, that because I kept silent Leo Frank lost his life. 

I have spent many nights thinking about that. I have learned to live 
with it. 

I now swear to the events I witnessed that fatal day, Confederate 
Memorial Day, 1913, when Mary Phagan, who was just about my age, 
fourteen, was killed. 

I came to work on time that morning, at about eight o'clock. I rode the 
streetcar from my home, on South Gordon Street, and when I walked into the 
building Jim Conley, the janitor, who also was called a "sweeper," was sitting 
under the stairwell on the first floor of the building. Although it was early in 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

morning, Conley had obviously already consumed considerable beer. He 
drank a lot, even in the mornings. 

He spoke to me. He asked me for a dime to buy a beer. A dime could 
buy a good-sized beer in those days. 

I told Jim Conley I didn't have a dime. That was not the truth. I had 
some money in my pocket, but I had let Conley have a nickel or a dime for 
beer before. He never paid me back. 

I didn't like to be around Jim Conley. 

After I told Conley I didn't have any money I went up the stairs to the 
second floor where my desk was located in the office of Leo Frank. 

My job required that I open the mail, file papers, keep the office orderly, 
run errands, and the like. 

Leo Frank arrived in the building that morning shortly after I did. He 
came into the office and spoke to me. I always called him "Mister Frank" and 
he referred to me by my given name, "Alonzo." I do not know whether Leo 
Frank had seen Jim Conley on the first floor when he came into the building 
that morning. 

A substitute secretary worked for Leo Frank that morning. As I 
remember, it was a routine Saturday morning for me at the office. Because of 
Memorial Day the factory part of the company was closed. But sometimes on 
Saturday mornings people who had worked at the factory during the week 
would come to the pay window in the office and collect their salaries. Girls 
who worked in the factory made about twelve cents an hour. 

I did not know Mary Phagan by name, but I had seen her at the factory 
and knew her face. We were just about the same age. 

I was supposed to meet my mother that day 

Alonzo Mann's Testimony 

about noon and go to the Confederate Memorial Day parade. When I left the 
premises, just before noon, Mary Phagan had not come to the pencil factory. 
She apparently came to pick up her pay shortly after I left to go meet my 

Sometime after 11:30, and perhaps as late as quarter to twelve, I told 
Mr. Frank that my mother wanted me to meet her so that I could go to the 

parade with her. I didn't care all that much about seeing the parade, but my 
mother wanted me to go. 

Mr. Frank agreed for me to leave at that time. I told him I would return 
to the office and complete my filing work later in the afternoon. He said he 
expected he would still be there. 

When I left the company premises, just before noon, Mary Phagan had 
not come to collect her pay. When I left the building, down the stairs and out 
the first floor front door, Jim Conley, the janitor, was sitting where I had seen 
him when I came to work: in the darkened area of the stairwell. 

I walked to the point where I was supposed to meet my mother. It was a 
short distance — perhaps a block and a half. We had agreed to meet in front of 
a store on Whitehall Street. My memory is that my mother had planned to buy 
a hat that day. I stopped and bought a hotdog on the way to meet her. How- 
ever, when I arrived, she was not there. She had told me that if she was 
unable to come, for me not to worry. I waited for her for a few minutes. Since 
I didn't care that much about seeing the parade, I went back to work. 

I can't be sure as to exactly how long I was gone, but it could not have 
been more than a half hour before I got back to the pencil factory. 

I had no idea that I was about to witness an important moment in a 
famous murder case — a mo- 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

ment that has not been made public until now; that I was about to become a 
witness to tragic history. 

I walked into the building by the front door. 

Inside the door, I walked toward the stairwell. I looked to my right and 
I was confronted by a scene I will remember vividly until the day I die. 

Jim Conley was standing between the trapdoor that led to the 
basement and the elevator shaft. I have an impression that the trapdoor was 
partially open, but my eyes were fixed on Jim Conley. 

He had the body of Mary Phagan in his arms. I didn't know it was Mary 
Phagan. I only knew it was a girl. 

At that moment I couldn't tell if she was alive. She appeared to be 
unconscious, or perhaps dead. I saw no blood. 

He was holding her with both arms gripping her around the waist. I 
can't remember the color of her clothes but I have an impression that she 
had on pretty, clean clothes. She was extremely short and her head was sort 
of on his shoulder, or over it. Her hair was streaming down his back. Her 
hair was not in braids when I saw her. It was hanging loose. I saw no blood 
on the part of her neck that was exposed. I do not know if she was dead, but 
she was at least unconscious. She was limp and did not move. Her skirt had 
come up to about her knees. 

It was as I suddenly barged into the first floor, prepared to go up the 
stairs to the office that I en-countered Conley with the body of Mary Phagan. 

Conley was close to the trapdoor that led down into the basement by 
way of a ladder. I believe that from the direction he was headed and the 
attitude of the body that he was preparing to dump Mary Phagan down the 
trapdoor. I have no clear memory of whether the elevator had stopped on the 
first floor, 

Alonzo Mann's Testimony 

but if it was not on that floor, the shaft would have been open. Conley could 
have dumped her down the empty elevator shaft. I believe for some reason 
Jim Conley turned around toward me. He either heard my footsteps coming 
or he sensed I was behind him. He wheeled on me and in a voice that was 
low but threatening and frightening to me, he said: 

"If you ever mention this I'll kill you." 

I turned and took a step or two — possibly three or four steps — up 
toward the second floor, but I must have worried about whether the office 
upstairs was closed. I did hear some movement upstairs, but I can't be sure 
who was on the floors above. I was fearful that the office might be closed, 
and so I turned back toward Conley. I wanted to get out of there quick. He 
got to within eight feet of me. He reached out as if to put one arm or hand on 
me. I ran out of the front door and raced away from that building. 

I went straight home. I rode the streetcar. 

Once at home I told my mother what I had just seen. I told her what 
Jim Conley had said to me about killing me. I didn't know for sure that the 
girl in his arms was dead. 

My mother was very disturbed by what I told her. 

She told me that I was never, never to tell any-body else what I had 
seen that day at the factory. She said she didn't want me involved, or the 
family involved, in any way. She told me to go on about my business as if 
nothing had happened and that sometime soon I would have to quit working 
there. From then on, whenever I was at work I steered clear of Jim Conley. I 
kept away from him and he did the same. 

When my father came home my mother explained to him what I had 
seen and what Conley had 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

said to me. My father told me to forget it and never mention it. 

My mother was a very strong-willed woman who was thirty years 
younger than my father and he said to me what she wanted him to say. 

Later on he told me that Frank would never be convicted. 

I have wished many times that my mother hadn't taken that attitude 
and that either she had told the authorities or that she had encouraged me to 
tell somebody — perhaps Leo Frank — what I had seen. 

When the detectives later questioned me I told only the part of the story 
up to the time I left that day to go meet my mother. I did not tell that I had 
come back into the building and saw Conley with the body. 

When Frank went on trial and I was called as a witness, my mother told 
me I would have to go and testify. She told me to keep to myself what I had 
seen. She said if I were not asked a specific question I did not have to give a 
specific answer. 

Jim Conley was the chief witness against Leo Frank. 

He testified that Frank had called him to his office a little after noon 
that day and told him that Mary Phagan's body was in the Metal Room on the 
second floor. He testified that Frank told him to get the body and take it on 
the elevator down to the basement. He swore that he tried to carry the body to 
the elevator but dropped Mary Phagan because she was too heavy for him to 
carry. According to Conley's testimony, Frank picked up her legs, while 
Conley lifted the upper part of her body. Conley said that Frank had pulled 
the rope to start the elevator down and that they went with the body directly 

to the basement, past the first floor without stopping there. Conley claimed 
that Frank dragged the body 

Alonzo Mann's Testimony 

from the elevator to a point in the rear of the building. Conley contended 
during the trial that after Frank dragged the body away from the elevator, 
Conley ascended in the elevator and Frank came back up-stairs by way of 
the trapdoor to the first floor, and then came on up the stairway from the 
first to the second floor. 

I know that all of that testimony was false. It was Conley who had the 
body on the first floor. He was alone with the body. Frank was not there on 
the first floor. Conley did not tell the truth when he said the body was taken 
from the second floor to the basement. He had the body on the first floor. 

I know from what I read of the case that Mary Phagan had come into the 
building shortly after I went out to meet my mother. She went upstairs to the 
second floor. Leo Frank had given her her pay envelope. I understand that 
she had worked one day that week and she was entitled to about $1.20. 

I am convinced that she had left the pay window and was coming down 
the stairs or had reached the first floor when she met Conley, who had been 
looking for money when I came in that morning. I am confident that I came 
in just seconds after Conley had taken the girl's money and grabbed her. I do 
not think sex was his motive. I believe it was money. Her pay was never 
found in the building after she died. 

Many times I have thought since all of this occurred almost seventy 
years ago that if I had hollered or yelled for help when I ran into Conley with 
the girl in his arms that day that I might have saved her life. I might have. 
On the other hand, I might have lost my own life. If I had told what I saw 
that day I might have saved Leo Frank's life. I didn't realize it at the time. I 
was too young to understand. 

As the years have gone by I have told this "se- 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

cret" to a number of other people. I told it when I was in the Army in World War 
I. In fact, I had a fight with another soldier who became angry when I said Leo 
Frank did not kill the girl, but that Conley did. I have told other people. I told 
my late wife. She urged me not to make it public because she felt it wouldn't do 
any good. She said it would not bring back Leo Frank and it would not bring 
back Mary Phagan. And I told other relatives and friends. On one occasion, I 
believe in the 1950s, when I was operating a restaurant, I discussed this with a 
reporter in Atlanta. But the reporter said that since Leo Frank's wife was still 
alive it was not a matter the newspaper wanted to open up. 

Leo Frank was convicted by lies heaped on lies. It wasn't just Conley who 
lied. Others said that Leo Frank had women in the office for immoral purposes 
and that he had liquor there. There was a story that he took women down in the 
basement. That cellar was filthy. It was filled with coal dust. I was in the 
basement twice and remember the dirt and filth there. That was all false. 

Leo Frank was a good office manager. He was always proper with people 
who worked for him. There were witnesses who told lies and I remained silent. 

Now I am finally making all this public. I have found reporters, Jerry 
Thompson and Bob Sherborne, who have heard my story and who understand 
that it is a case that is important to history. I am glad to have it all come out. 

At last I am able to get this off my heart. 

I believe it will help people to understand that courts and juries make 
mistakes. They made a mistake in the Leo Frank case. I think it is good for it all 
to come out, even at this late date. 

The two Marys as children 



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Mary Phagan and Alonzo Mann look through the author's scrapbook 

Mary Phagan and Alonzo Mann look through the author's scrapbook. 

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Mary Phagan and Mary Phagan 

Alonzo Mann's Testimony 

There will be some people who will be angry at me because I kept all 
this silent until it was too late to save Leo Frank's life. They will say that 
being young is no excuse. They will blame my mother. The only thing I can 
say is that she did what she thought was best for me and the family. Other 
people may hate me for telling it. I hope not, but I am prepared for that, too. 
I know that I haven't a long time to live. All that I have said is the truth. 
When my time comes I hope that God understands me better for having told 
it. This is what matters. 

On March 19, 1982 my father and I went to the Woodruff Library at Emory 
University to research the case again and learn more about the role of Alonzo 

Mann. This was the first time my father and I had gone together to research the 

When we signed in, the librarian observed us curiously as we checked out 
more information. 

She asked my father, "What did you think of little Mary Phagan?" 

My father replied, "Young lady, I wasn't even a gleam in my father's eye in 
those years!" 

We both laughed, and the librarian relaxed. 

When we told the librarian what we were looking for, she directed us to a 
copy of the Tennessean, since one of the Tennessean's reporters had been 
instrumental in breaking the story of Alonzo Mann's confession. 

From our research, we learned that Alonzo Mann was indeed Leo Frank's 
office boy. Mann had begun working April 1, 1913, and had worked two Saturdays 
before the murder occurred. And he testified that he had left the factory "at half 
past eleven." 

Before we left that day, the librarian gave us the name and address of the 
Tennessean librarian. 

On March 23, 1982, I wrote a letter to Sandra Roberts, the Tennessean 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Your name was given to me by the librarian at the Woodruff Library at 
Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. My father and I were researching the 
Mary Phagan/Leo Frank case. She showed us a copy of the Tennessean. We 
would like two copies if possible. 

My father and I are very interested in this case because we are direct 
descendants of little Mary Phagan. My grandfather, William Joshua Phagan, 
was Mary's brother. My father is a nephew and I am a greatniece. 

We would pay for the cost of the newspaper. 

On March 26 Sandra Roberts called. She told me that the newspaper staff 
would be in Atlanta on March 31. She asked if they might drop by and hand 
deliver the newspapers. 

Before this time, my father was always the one who dealt with anyone 
inquiring about the Phagans. He had always represented our family's opinion. 

I called my father to let him know about the meeting and to see if he could 
be there to meet the staff, too. I had never spoken any of my feelings about the 
murder, and I could sense his concern. He didn't think he'd be able to be there, 
but he wanted to make sure that either a friend, my husband, or another family 
member would be. 

Chapter 11 



Nervousness, curiosity and excitement all plagued me as I awaited the 
arrival of the Tennessean staff. My mind flitted back and forth to questions I wanted 
to ask. I wondered what their response would be to me and whether they would 
push me to come forward with the statement that Mary Phagan's convicted 
murderer was innocent. 

Why, I thought, was that young girl's murder never forgotten? My family 
and I never really fathomed the publicity that continued almost unabated since 
her untimely death. And the media never once considered what the publicity did 
to the Phagan family. But Mary Phagan's legacy is a real part of all our lives — 
especially mine. 

It also occurred to me that my father was right in his assessment of the 
media's handling of the story: he had told me that the story of little Mary Phagan 
would never be forgotten and that every three to five years the story would 
reappear in some form in the media. He had also 



The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

thought that the story would never be put to rest because the Jewish community 
would not be satisfied until Leo Frank's innocence could be established. And, 
with the Alonzo Mann story, that now seemed possible. 

The Tennessean had sent two staff reporters and a photojournalist to the 
house. I introduced myself as Mary Phagan and my confidence returned. 

We discussed the Mary Phagan/Leo Frank case. They asked no probing 
questions. One of my questions was how the Alonzo Mann evidence had come to 
light. One of the reporters, Jerry Thompson, explained that he had been working 
undercover in the KKK for over a year, developing a story depicting the current 
KKK. When they discovered that he was a reporter, there were several threats 
made against his life. The newspaper hired guards to protect him and his house. 

One of these guards was Bob Mann, who is Alonzo Mann's nephew. Bob told 
Jerry that his uncle had witnessed a murder in Atlanta in 1913, but he knew no 
other details. 

Jerry was intrigued. He spoke with his publisher, who agreed to run a series 
of stories on the convictions of innocent people. At that time the series was 
considered to be low profile. 

Jerry had never heard of Mary Phagan or Leo Frank. That began to change 
when, in working on the series, he called Alonzo Mann. A few weeks later, Jerry 
met a rabbi who happened to mention Leo Frank and it "clicked." Armed with 
what Alonzo Mann had told him, Jerry then met again with his publisher. The 
story was given top priority. 

Why did Alonzo Mann wait until 1982? The staff told me that Mann's mother 
didn't want their name involved in the case and feared for their safety. Alonzo 
Mann liked Leo Frank and had been relieved that Frank's sentence was 
commuted. Mann had hoped that the truth would be 

The Phagans Break Their Vow of Silence 

found out during the appeals process. Leo Frank's lynching made that 

The newspaper staff asked me to comment on Mann's testimony. They said 
they'd be happy to send over any other materials I might need. 

As they were leaving, they invited me to a press conference to be held at the 
Atlanta Jewish Community Center on April 1. 

I accepted, but asked to remain anonymous. 

The Atlanta Jewish Community Center is on Peachtree Street, the most well- 
known street in Atlanta. It is a low brick building that resembles those sprawling 
public schools I attended when we moved back to the States. 

But it was months after the night before I saw it that distinctly. My 
surroundings were a blur the night I at-tended the press conference: for the first 
time I was participating — even though as an anonymous observer — in a public 
discussion of my greataunt's murder. 

Bernard and I had decided that the best way to retain anonymity was to 
register as "Mr. and Mrs. Kean" Because of my family's silence, I was not 
emotionally prepared to come forward at a news conference. In fact, the 
Tennessean staff had agreed that anonymity would probably be best since I had 
doubts about making any sort of statement. And I had no idea what they were 
going to present to the Jewish community. 

The room was a typical conference area. Seated around the table were 
reporters who were either asked to be present or who had an interest in the case. 
As we entered the room, the Tennessean staff asked me to sit near them. 
Reporters directed questions concerning all areas of the case to the Tennessean 
staff for approximately thirty to forty-five minutes. Of foremost interest, of course, 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Alonzo Mann's affidavit and whether a posthumous pardon would be sought for 
Leo Frank. 

At the conference, I listened intently and watched the facial expressions of 
those present. What were these people thinking I wondered, and how did they 
come to their conclusions? 

After all questions were discussed, we were ushered into a huge main room 
which was filled to capacity. My husband and I sat in the back row; I felt most 
comfortable there. The Tennessean staff reporters, Jerry Thompson and Robert 
Sherborne, publicly presented to the Jewish community the review of evidence for 
Leo Frank's innocence. 

Then they answered questions. Most of the questions concerned the effect of 
Alonzo Mann's affidavit as the missing link of evidence to finally substantiate Leo 
Frank's innocence. 

One question involved the Phagan family. An individual wanted to know the 
reaction of my family. Jerry Thompson stated that some Phagan family members 
upheld their belief in the convicted Leo Frank's guilt while others "were trying to 
be objective." I knew he was talking about me. I had my own opinion, but I 
wanted to hear what they had to say. I was trying to be objective, but, because of 
my emotional involvement, it was difficult for me. The meeting adjourned on the 
thought that the posthumous pardon for Leo Frank was likely to be an issue for 
the governor's race. 

By the time we got to the car, tears were running down my face, and I didn't 
know quite why. In thinking over the conference the following day, I realized that 
while listening to Jerry Thompson and Robert Sherborne present their evidence to 
the Jewish community, I had thought how strange it was that they had asked me 
to be objective, since they themselves had decided that Alonzo Mann's conclusions 
were true and could not themselves be all that objective. 

The Phagans Break Their Vow of Silence 

At the time, all I could see was my grandfather and my father telling me the 
story of little Mary Phagan, over and over again. They had always told me that Leo 
Frank was convicted of her murder. How could I not believe them and the 
evidence? They had never withheld the truth from me. Truth was valuable to them 
and to me. 

How could I reconcile the two views? 

On April 4, just three days after the news conference, my youngest brother, 
Michael, died. 

I was the oldest and he the youngest. We were very close. He looked up to me, 
and I depended on him more than he ever knew. 

Michael had a lot of difficult times in his life, but he always knew that the 
family supported him. We didn't always agree with what he did, but we never 
stopped loving him. 

His death devastated me. I couldn't believe he wouldn't be around anymore. I 
couldn't believe we'd never talk again. 

Michael was buried next to our grandfather. I placed flowers on each grave. 
For the first time I began to understand the depth of my grandfather's grief over 
his sister's death — and why he couldn't talk about it. I wished that I could tell 
him so; placing the red rose on his grave was my gesture to him that I finally 
understood. Some griefs can never be overcome. Like my father, I learned there 
are two things in life you can't share: grief and pain. 

On April 6, the following article appeared in The East Cobb Neighbor, a 
neighborhood newspaper near Marietta: 



Leaders of the Atlanta Jewish Community say they are seeking ways to obtain 
a posthumous exoneration of Leo Frank, the turn-of-the-century Atlanta 
businessman convicted of and lynched for the murder of 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

a Marietta girl — a murder a witness in the case now says Frank did not 

And one of three Nashville, Tennessee newspaper reporters who broke the 
apparent new development in the sixty-nine-year-old case says he is ready to 
help clear Frank's name "not only historically but legally." 

The statements came last week before two of the reporters, Jerry 
Thompson and Robert Sherborne of the Tennessean, told an audience at the 
Atlanta Jewish Community Center about their discovery of a possible 
turnaround in the Frank case. 

In a package of copyright stories published last month, the Tennessean 
revealed that eighty-two-year-old Alonzo Mann of Bristol, Virginia, says an 
employee of Frank actually killed fourteen-year-old Mary Phagan. 

The April 1913 murder of the girl at the National Pencil Company in 
Atlanta — where she, Mann, Frank, and Jim Conley, the man Mann says was 
the killer, worked — began one of the most sensational legal episodes of the 

Frank, a Jew, was convicted on what even then was considered fuzzy 
evidence at a time of intense anti-Jewish feeling in the city. His death sentence 
was later commuted by Georgia's governor, but a mob pulled Frank from 
prison in 1914 and hanged him from a tree on Roswell Street in Marietta, just 
east of what is now Cobb Parkway. 

Gerald Cohen, Vice President of the Atlanta Jewish Federation, said last 
week the new twist in the Frank case "has really set the Atlanta community 
back on its heels." 

Sherry Frank (no relation to Leo Frank), area director of the American 
Jewish Committee, said Jew- 

The Phagans Break Their Vow of Silence 

ish leaders would like to make a possible exoneration of Frank an issue in the 
gubernatorial race this year. 

That time after Michael's death was the most difficult period of my life so 
far. Nothing mattered. For the first time, I could not get excited over — nor 
even care about — the burgeoning resurgence of interest in Mary Phagan's 
death. Then I received a letter from Sandra Roberts: 

Dear Mary and Bernard: 

I am sending you the latest story that we have had on the Frank case. I 
am also enclosing copies of the letters on which the story was based. The 
original letters are in the Goldfarb Library of Brandeis University in Waltham, 

Seigenthaler [President, Editor and Publisher] told me this morning that 
the reaction to the Frank story continues to pour in from all over the world. 
Reporters and television people are trying their best to get Lonnie (Alonzo) 
Mann to tell his story again, but he seems more comfortable just dealing with 
Bob and Jerry. I believe that he is at peace with himself a last. 

I must admit, Mary, that when I first received your letter, I was purely 
curious about your reaction to the section. However, since our visit I've tried 
to put myself in your place. I've wondered what I would do if I were Mary 

From the beginning this story has been fascinating, but it was merely 
another story to me. It is easy for me to remain objective as a researcher, since 
I have no personal involvement with the people, the races, the religions, or 

even the state concerned. It was simple for me to sit silently in the Jewish 
Community Center in Atlanta, and view the product of two conflicting 

On one hand I witnessed a mass of people, totally 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

convinced that one of their brothers was brutally and unjustly lynched. 
Moreover they have remained angry for seventy years because they believe he 
was lynched because he was Jewish. 

On the other hand I saw one small woman who bears not only the name 
but also the face and figure of an aunt that she will never know. I felt your 
total devotion to a family and a legacy that will always bear the burden of the 
senseless slaughter of a beautiful young girl. 

I honestly don't know what I would do if I were you, Mary, but the options 
seem clear. You could remain silent and let the past stay buried, or you could 
make a statement indicating your reaction to the resurgence of the Phagan- 
Frank case. 

When I spoke with Seigenthaler this morning he revealed his concern (and 
curiosity) about your reaction to the case. He assured me of a few things; if 
you should decide to make a public statement concerning the case, there will 
be immediate, world-wide response to it. The Tennessean would print any 
statement that you or your father would make. You could indicate your belief 
of Frank's guilt or innocence, or you could simply react to the new evidence of 
Alonzo Mann's testimony. Any statement that you make could be preceded by 
a visit with Mr. Mann (I think that might be really interesting). We would also 
let you read the story in full before its publication (I was quite surprised when 
John made the last suggestion. It flies in the face of a basic rule of 

No matter what your decision is, I have another personal promise to you. I 
assure you that you have a new-found friend in Nashville who has tried very 
hard to feel this story through your heart. There are many times in this 
business that sensitivity and objectivity clash. Reporters must remind 

The Phagans Break Their Vow of Silence 

that what is merely a story for the newspaper could be a thunderbolt in the 
existence of a human being. Maybe that is why I prefer the research end of 

Best wishes, 

I read her letter again and again and realized that she was indeed a friend. 
Her letter stayed with me. Sandra felt compassion for me and I knew she would 
not ask anything from me that made me uncomfortable or some how uneasy. It 
made me feel good that she respected me as an individual. She knew that I was 
struggling inside. 

Sandra's letter also made me see something else in myself: I was fighting my 
legacy at the Atlanta Jewish Community Center. I couldn't see it before reading 
and rereading her letter, but that was why I cried so abruptly and bitterly after 
the news conference. Now those feelings were over, gone. I could never deny or 
fight my legacy again. I would now be able to stand up and acknowledge that I am 
Mary Phagan. 

My family's strength during my brother's death also proved to me that I could 
never forget who I was or where I came from. I was proud of my heritage. 

On April 18 I wrote Sandra to tell her of my brother's death. I also reiterated 
that I would not make a public statement concerning Alonzo Mann's affidavit at 
that time. I still felt the past should stay buried. 

Sandra responded on April 22 with yet another warm and sympathetic letter: 

Dear Mary and Bernard: 

Here is the long promised tape of the WRFG program. The producer, 
Chris Kuhn, did most of the research. The narrator, Sherry Conder, is a 
librarian at Georgia State Library and Archives. She did her 
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Master's thesis on Governor Slaton — and she knows a lot about the case. 
You'd really enjoy her if you get to meet her. 

Mary, I'm really sorry about Michael. I don't know the circumstances, if it 
was accidental or an illness, but I'm sure you were a great comfort to your 

Don't worry about the statement. I'll be honest with you — your statement 
would make a great story for this newspaper. Bob and Jerry and Seigenthaler 
really would like to have it — But, as I have reminded them, what is one great 
story for us could alter your life considerably. I'm sure that the chances are 
good that other news people may track you down (if they haven't already). So 
all I'm asking is — if and when you decide to say something, please let the 
Tennessean have a little warning. 

I hope your healing is swift and as painless as possible. Let me know 
when you need anything that I can help you with. 

Best wishes, 

While reading through the newspaper articles I'd collected, I came across the 
name Mike Wing, a member of the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles. 
Another big first step: why not call him, introduce myself, and let him know about 
my family? 

When I told him that my name was "Mary Phagan," and of my relationship to 
little Mary Phagan, he reacted with utter shock. Mike Wing, like countless others, 
never knew that there were surviving Phagan family members. 

I wanted the Board to know, I told him, that there were indeed surviving close 
family members of Mary Phagan and that the family was anxious to be notified of 

The Phagans Break Their Vow of Silence 

information brought before the media. I asked to be informed if an application for 
a posthumous pardon for Leo Frank was received. At the very least, this would 
ensure that if the story broke, I'd know ahead of time. 

He was responsive. During the conversation, he was curious about the fact 
that the Phagan family had never publicly acknowledged themselves. I explained 
that the murder had been a deeply traumatic event whose reverberations we still 
felt and that we had never seen the need to say anything. It had been, we hoped, 
best to keep a "vow of silence" among ourselves. 

He said he felt certain an application would be filed. He took my address and 
phone number and those of my father. 

After that, I wasn't scared anymore. I was glad that I had called Mike Wing 
and felt confident that if he did indeed receive a posthumous pardon application 
for Frank, he would inform me. 

But my brother's death continued to cloud my life. I began to ask myself some 
difficult questions — including why he died and what the true value and purpose of 
my, life was. I and other close family members learned once again the importance 
and significance of family, and how vital it was that we continue being loving and 
caring to one another always. 

Then, in August, a happy event: I was the matron of honor in Amy's wedding. 
Amy and I had remained close friends after I left Florida. Like most good friends, 
we had our good and fun times, and also had some "conflicts." It didn't matter, 
though: we always resolved them. 

Amy was there for me when Michael died, too. She kept in close contact, since 
she knew me well and knew I was having a difficult time adjusting. 

The wedding was a beautiful Jewish ceremony and I learned many new 
things. Her family became my family and I became a part of her family. The love 
and happiness we all shared was a healing force for me. 

Chapter 12 




I had begun to put my life in proper perspective by October of 1982, when 
Mike Wing called from the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. He informed me 
that the Board had received a formal application for a posthumous pardon for Leo 
Frank. The application was filed by the Anti-Defamation League, the American 
Jewish Commit-tee, and the Atlanta Jewish Federation, and directed by a 
Lawyer's Committee chaired by Atlanta immigration lawyer Dale N. Schwartz. He 
also stated that the Board wanted to study the case with a minimum of outside 
pressure and publicity. I felt that this was appropriate and stated my own 
intention of not publicly seeking out-side intervention from such sources as the 

He also suggested that if the Phagan family had any factual information 
concerning the case, we could write a letter to the Board. 

I had assumed that because six months had passed an application for a 
posthumous pardon would not be filed. 

Actually, the petitioners had been working on the 


Application for Pardon: 1 983 

filing of an application for pardon ever since Alonzo Mann had come forward with 
his testimony. They felt it to be the basis of a full pardon for Leo Frank. 

While posthumous pardons had been granted not only in Georgia but across 
the country, the obvious question still was: what was the point of seeking a 
pardon for a dead man? 

"I am not working for Leo Frank or his family," Dale Schwartz stated publicly. 
The core of seeking a pardon for Leo Frank, he said, was an attempt to obtain an 
official repudiation of anti-Semitism and bigotry and to "remove a blot on Georgia 
history." As such, the petitioners based their case for pardon not on the legality of 
the trial and conviction of Leo Frank, but on extra-legal concerns. 

The pardon effort, an Anti-Defamation League staffer later stated, was not 
simply a matter of one person, not just the case of Leo Frank. 

"I respectfully disagree . . . ," an official wrote the League's National Director 
Nathan Perlmutter, "that 'from a broad point of view, the Frank pardon is of no 
consequence.' An innocent Jew was lynched by a mob inflamed by anti-Semitism. 
It has never happened before or since in the United States." Ironically, however, 
exonerating Frank would mean "convicting Jim Conley," and possibly be 
construed as racism. Even before the pardon effort became public, its leaders had 
been concerned with minimizing potential offense to Blacks. 

Another concern of the pardon effort was the repudiation of prejudice 
generally, against Blacks and Jews. "This is a justice issue," Schwartz said in 
reference to some Black critics. "The Klan didn't lynch Jews. They lynched Black 
people. And what we're trying to show is that's not the way to run justice in this 
country." Responding to a recent Klan demonstration, a local reporter took up the 
same theme, reflecting the widespread belief that the Leo Frank case was 
something more than a transac- 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

tion between a bureaucratic body and a dead factory owner: 

The state should answer Klan bigotry with a clear rebuke. It should let the 
world know that Georgia does not condone terroristic rule by robed riff-raff; it 
should let all know that we recognize injustice and are willing to undo it, even 
at so late a date. 

The third extra-legal element concerned Georgia's past as it reflected upon the 
personal identity and regional pride of Georgians. To "do justice" in the Frank 
case, this argument went, is to make Georgia a better place, morally, and to make 
Georgians better people. The League, in a memo, compared the Frank case to the 

I agree entirely that our constituency — the literate world — knows that Frank 
was railroaded. Our constituency also knows that the Holocaust was real, but 
we continue to counteract Holocaust denial. We have also proceeded on the 
assumption that it was important for the German nation to come to terms 
with the past and acknowledge the terrible crime committed in days gone by. 
Likewise some of us here in Atlanta think it is important that the State of 
Georgia acknowledge its sins in the Frank case, and repent. 

"Georgia will not be pardoned by people of good will until Georgia pardons Leo 
Frank," the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition declared. "We must seize this 
opportunity," the petition for pardon concluded, "for we believe, as we know you 
do, in following the Biblical injunction: 'Justice! Justice, ye shall pursue!' " 

This last concern apparently spurred counter-argument about the historical 
stature of Georgia's legal community. To say in the 1980s that Leo Frank was 
innocent, attorney Edgar Neely argued, impugned not just the Georgia system of 
justice in 1913 but the reputation of its 


Application for Pardon: 1 983 

lawyers in general and particularly Frank's counsel. Though apparently otherwise 
unconnected to the case, Neely submitted a formal brief opposing the pardon, 
which stated, in part: 

I am speaking as an individual, steeped in the law, who wants the law to be 
upheld and the judicial system of Georgia not ex post facto impugned. 

The leaders of the pardon effort responded at length, including the outlining of 
the "new evidence" of Alonzo Mann, pointing out that it had been unavailable to 
Frank's lawyers. Mobley Howell, then Chairman of the Board of Pardons and 
Paroles, is said to have considered Neely's arguments carefully. 

There were four legal means of exonerating Leo Frank: a declaration by the 
governor proclaiming Leo Frank innocent; a resolution by either the House or 
Senate of Georgia — or both — proclaiming Leo Frank innocent; a complicated 
procedure of the courts beginning with an extraordinary motion for retrial; a 
pardon by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. And while Governor Joseph 
Harris, District Attorney Louis Slaton, and the Georgia Senate all expressed 
sympathy for the effort to exonerate Leo Frank, all also recommended that they 
obtain a pardon from the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The petitioners began to 
see that a pardon would, in fact, best fulfill the extra-legal goals of Frank's 
exoneration, and that it would be considered by the public as definitive. Dale 
Schwartz commented. 

The public has come to understand the pardon process as an exoneration, 
particularly if it is coupled with a statement as to the innocence of the 

He stated that a gubernatorial proclamation might appear as "one of 
hundreds of such proclamations and would not have the publicity impact that a 
pardon would." 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

The petitioners also came to feel that a court ruling might appear as though 
the Jewish community had manipulated a friendly judge. 

The goal, then, was a pardon from the Board of Pardons and Paroles. As Dale 
Schwartz told the editor of Israel Today in a 1984 interview, "It was determined 
that Georgia would perhaps recognize the type of posthumous pardon which did 
not merely grant 'forgiveness' for a crime committed in the past, but rather would 
ask the defendant to forgive the state for having wrongfully convicted him." 

To the petitioners, such a pardon seemed impossible to deny. 

It didn't take a lot of thought for me to realize that this was just the 
beginning. This time I was personally involved and affected, and this was what I 
wanted: I didn't want to be left in the dark again about "news breaking" stories of 

the case. It seemed my quest had actually just begun. I wondered if I was 
mentally prepared for what was about to happen. 

My father suggested I contact the rest of the Phagan family. He, as well as I, 
knew that some of the Phagans would be quite distraught and angry over the 
seeking of a posthumous pardon. They had objected in March, when the idea was 
first broached, and would continue to object until they died. 

I did as my father wished. And we were right in our assessment of the family's 
opinion: they objected. And, as Mike Wing had stated to me, all, including the 
Phagan family, hoped for minimum publicity. 

In December I contacted Mike Wing about the possibility of my father and I 
appearing before the Board hearings on the Leo Frank case. He referred me to 
Silas Moore, who would be in charge of handling the case, and again suggested 
that we write the Board a letter. 

On January 9, 1983, I wrote the Board requesting that 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

the Phagan family be permitted to appear at any Parole Board hearing regarding 
the Leo Frank case. 

On January 17, 1983, I received the following letter from Silas Moore: 

Dear Ms. Phagan and Mr. Phagan: 

Thank you for your letter of January 9, written in behalf of the Phagan 
family, requesting to be permitted to appear at any Parole Board hearing on 
the Leo Frank case. We certainly understand your family's interest in this 

This past fall the Board received a formal written application for a pardon, 
and in fact, was requested to do so by Resolution of the Georgia Senate on 
March 26, 1982, a copy of which is attached. 

The pardon application may have been inspired by the 1982 statement of 
Alonzo Mann. However, the application is not based solely on that information, 
and certainly the Board will not be limited to considering that alone. 

The applicants have been told that the Parole Board plans no hearing to 
take oral testimony from anyone. We have requested that all information be 
submitted in writing. If any members of the Phagan family wish to s are with 
us information or views about the case, we would be glad to receive their 
written letters or statements. We would be particularly interested in any 
factual details about the case they may have. 

The Board will likely render its decision some time this year. It has 
expressed its determination to base its decision on the facts and evidence. It 
desires to study the case with a minimum of outside pressure and publicity. 

If you have any questions, please give me a call. If you wish, I would be 
glad to talk with you in our offices. We appreciate your interest. 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

The letter from Mr. Moore confirmed that, again, my her's intuition about the 
case — namely, that there would be some sort of political involvement with the 
Board in even deciding whether to consider the applicantion for a posthumous 
pardon — was correct. 

We discussed the letter and the Senate Resolution. We determined that we had to 
present our views concerning the Resolution, since we felt that the political 
involvement would possibly put "outside pressure" on the Board. 

So on February 14, 1983 my father and I responded with a letter to the Board: 

Dear Mr. Moore and Board Members: 

We would like to present our views concerning the Resolution 
adopted in the Senate on March 26, 1982: 

WHEREAS, Leo Frank was tried in the Superior Court of Fulton 
County in 1913 for the murder of Mary Phagan and 

This is a true statement. 

WHEREAS, he was convicted in an atmosphere charged with 
prejudice and hysteria; and 

This issue was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. 
In Georgia Reports, Volume 141, Pages 246 & 247, Numbers 16-18, it 
states: "The alleged disorder in the courtroom during the progress of the 
trial was not of such character as to impugn the fairness of the trial, or 
furnish sufficient ground for reversing the judgment refusing a new trial. 
On conflicting evidence the judge on the hearing of the motion for new 
trial, acting as trior, did not err in holding the jurors whose impartiality 
was attacked were competent." 

WHEREAS, he was sentenced to death but his sentence was 
commuted by Governor John Marshall Slaton; and 

Application for Pardon: 1983 

Governor Slaton stated: "It will thus be observed that if 
commutation is granted, the verdict of the jury is not attacked, but the 
penalty is imposed for murder, which is provided by the State and which 
the Judge, except for his misconception, would have imposed. Without 
attacking the jury, or any of the courts, I would be carrying out the will of 
the Judge himself in making the penalty that which he would have made it 
and which he desires it shall be made." 

WHEREAS, in August of 1915, he was taken by a mob from the state 
institution in Milledgevile and carried to Cobb County where he was 
lynched; and 

This is true. 

WHEREAS, Alonzo Mann, a fourteen-year-old witness at the Frank 
trial, was threatened with death and was not asked specific questions 
which could have cleared Frank; and Frank was ably represented by a 
counsel of conspicuous ability and experience — Luther Rosser, Reuben 
Arnold, and Herbert and Leonard Haas. They knew what they were doing. 

WHEREAS, Mr. Mann has come forward to clear his conscience 
before his death and claims that Leo Frank did not commit the murder of 
Mary Phagan; and Alonzo Mann gave an opinion that was sworn to, he did 
not submit any evidence contrary to the conviction of Leo M. Frank. How 
long did he work at the Pencil Factory? I believe his testimony stated two 
Saturdays. We challenge and doubt his claim. 

WHEREAS, if Leo Frank was not guilty of such crime, it is only 
fitting and proper that his name be cleared, even after his death. 

Leo M. Frank was convicted in a court of law by his peers and was 
duly sentenced to death. 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

SENATE that this body strongly requests that the State Board of Pardons 
and Paroles conduct an investigation into the Leo Frank case; and, if the 

evidence indicates that Leo Frank was not guilty, the Board should give 
serious consideration to granting a pardon to Leo Frank posthumously. 

Over the past seventy years, no real new evidence has been 
submitted. On March 10, 1982, Mr. Mobley Howell stated: "His innocence 
would have to be completely proven with complete evidence." This case will 
never be put to rest. Every three to five years, somebody reintroduces the 
case to the public. 

As Phagan family members, we hereby request a copy of the 
applicant's application and any evidence submitted. We also request any 
information regarding requests for the Leo M. Frank/Mary Phagan case in 
the future. 

At about the same time my father and I wrote the letter, my father registered 
as a lobbyist in the Georgia State Capital representing only himself. He wanted to 
have the privilege of going to the capital and to give a rebuttal to each of the 
three Senators who had proposed the resolution. In this way the family's feelings 
could be known. 

April 26, 1983 was the anniversary of little Mary Phagan's death. I wondered 
as I prepared for work if anyone else realized it. 

As I arrived at work the principal of one of my schools told me there was an 
article in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution about little Mary Phagan. A pardon 
has been asked for Leo Frank, he said. For the first time I wasn't angry. 
Ron Martz, staff writer for the Atlanta Journal and 
Application for Pardon: 1983 

Constitution reported that the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish 
Committee, and the Atlanta Jewish Federation urged the Board of Pardons and 
Paroles to vindicate Frank. "The conviction and lynching of Leo Frank was the 
worst episode of anti-Semitism in the history of the United States, and continues 
to be a blot on Georgia's criminal system," he'd written. "By issuing a full and 
complete pardon, the Board of Pardons and Paroles can repudiate the twin evils of 
prejudice, mob rule, and right an historic wrong." Silas Moore confirmed to the 
press that the petition for a posthumous pardon was being studied and that this 
was the first time a posthumous pardon had been considered in Georgia. 

Dale Schwartz said that the petition contained three hundred pages of 
evidence. The major pieces were "an affidavit from Alonzo Mann, who was Frank's 
office boy at the time of the murder, and a two-and-one-half-hour videotape of 
Mann giving that affidavit in which he asserts Frank's innocence." 

The myth that had grown up around Leo Frank colored popular thinking 
about him long before Alonzo Mann's testimony became public. "My grandmother 
would point out where Leo Frank was lynched," Mike Wing was to recall in 1985. 
"As a child, I grew up thinking an innocent man was lynched. I don't even know if 
I knew there was a trial." 

A recurrent theme of the Leo Frank myth is the alleged confessions of Jim 
Conley. The pardon application claimed that Conley confessed at least three 
times: to an insurance agent, in letters to his woman friend, Annie Maud Carter, 
and to his attorney, William Smith. Schwartz would later say Conley confessed 
"thousands of times," and argue that these reports "should, standing by 
themselves, warrant the granting of the posthumous pardon." 

Then there was the "secret evidence" supposedly 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

made available to John Slaton in 1915. When Conley's attorney publicly claimed 
Frank was innocent in 1914, many thought that he had somehow passed secret 
information on to John Slaton. In his autobiography, I Can Go Home Again Judge 
Arthur Powell hinted that Frank's innocence would one day be conclusively 

I am one of the few people who know that Leo Frank was innocent of the crime 
for which he was convicted and lynched. Subsequent to the trial, and after his 
conviction had been affirmed by the Supreme Court, I learned who killed Mary 
Phagan, but the information came to me in such a way, though I wish I could 
do so, I can never reveal it so long as certain persons are alive. We lawyers, 
when we are admitted to the bar, take an oath never to reveal the 
communications made to us by our clients; and this includes facts revealed in 
an attempt to employ the lawyer, though he refuses the employment. If the 
lawyer were to be so forgetful of his oath as to attempt to tell it in court, the 
judge would be compelled under the law not to receive the evidence. The law 
on this subject may or may not be a wise law — there are some who think that 
it is not — but naturally since it is the law we lawyers and the judges cannot 
honorably disobey it. Without ever having discussed with Governor Slaton the 
facts which were revealed to me. I have reason to believe, from a thing 
contained in the statement he made in connection with the grant of the 
commutation, that, in some way, these facts came to him and influenced his 
action. I expect to write out what I know and seal it up; for the day may yet 
come, after certain deaths occur, when more can be told than I can honorably 
tell now. 

The file to which he refers may have contained a confession obtained by Conley's 
own counsel. There has been an air of mystery about this evidence in other 
accounts, as 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

well, such as a recent letter from the late Governor Slaton's nephew to a relative: 

He [Governor Slaton] never talked at length about the Frank case, but at that 
time he and Judge Powell had long since come to the conclusion but elected 
not to publicize the details. Eventually they decided to destroy the document 
and stir up no further fuss. 

But it was Alonzo Mann's testimony on which the petitioners for the pardon 
were pinning their hopes. If true, Schwartz eventually argued before the Board, 
Mann's testimony proved that Jim Conley, the state's chief witness against Frank, 
had lied on two counts: first, since Mann indicated Mary Phagan was alive as she 
was carried down, it contradicted Conley's statement that she was dead when he 
saw her on the second floor; and second, the testimony corroborated Governor 
Slaton's conclusion in 1915 that Conley could not have used the elevator to carry 
little Mary Phagan's limp body. 

The editorial opinion of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution felt "that the case 
is compelling and that the Board of Pardons and Paroles should move quickly to 
clear Leo Frank's name — and the enduring blot on the con-science of Georgia." 

The Marietta Daily Journal article by Brent Gilroy stated that the Board of 
Pardons and Paroles would probably take a year before all the evidence could be 
digested and a decision be made. 

Sherry Frank, Southeast Area Director of the American Jewish Committee, 
told the Journal that "she had been told the pardon not only would wipe from the 
books the life sentence given Frank, but also would clear him outright of guilt in 

Mary Phagan's killing." Stuart Lewengrub, Southeast Regional Director for the 
Anti- Defamation League, said "We are looking for a complete exoneration." It was 
also reported that Governor Joe 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Frank Harris expressed his intention to approve the pardon if it was 
recommended by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. 

When the posthumous pardon effort became public, it attracted its own anti- 
Semitic response. On September 3, 1983, the New Order of Knights, a fringe Klan 
group, held a march and rally in Marietta, Georgia, featuring signs reading, "No 
pardon for the Jew murderer Leo Frank." It was all part of a conspiracy, a group 
calling itself "Christian Friends of Mary Phagan" wrote to the Pardon Board, "to 
accuse and hopefully prove, Christians (guilty) of prejudice, bigotry, and 'anti- 
Semitism' . . . while instilling Christians with feelings of self hate and self guilt." 

Others felt the way the petitioners did. For the Atlanta Constitution, the 
"power to right a great wrong" was not the narrow legal case, but the extra-legal 
ramifications of the Leo Frank case: the ability to signify "that we no longer 
excuse or forgive prejudice, no matter how old or how recent: 

One could argue that this is not the role of a pardons and paroles board, that 
it is merely expected to rule on narrow issues involving living persons 
convicted of crimes. Technically, this may be so. But if the power to right a 
great wrong and do a great good falls into the hands of any citizen — or of five 
citizens ... [it is their responsibility] to seize the opportunity and act for the 
betterment of the state. 

Among those who exhorted the Board to pardon Leo Frank were a minister in 
Tennessee who felt that pardon would "bring a sense of reassurance to many of 
our citizens who have been hurt and still suffer because of the prejudicial trial to 
which he was subjected many years ago," and a member of the Christian Council 
of Metropol- 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

itan Atlanta, who viewed a pardon as a way to "repudiate the twin evils of 
prejudice and mob rule." 

I think most of the Phagan family felt as I did about this latest episode: we 
had known about the application for the posthumous pardon beforehand, and 
while we weren't pleased with the Board's considering the application, we realized 
there was more here than just interest in clearing the name of Leo Frank. 

What bothered my family most was that little Mary Phagan's horrible murder 
was not considered. What about her and the effect of her murder on the Phagan 
family? Little Mary Phagan was the victim and now her surviving family 
continued having unwarranted publicity. No one seemed to care about that. 

Then I took a step to assure that the next generation of Phagans would not be 
continually victimized by a news-hungry press. And it was a hard decision. I 
contacted Ron Martz, who had written the "anniversary" article and informed him 
of his errors. 

Ron Martz, along with most people with whom I come in contact, acted with 
utmost surprise and shock that I even existed. Chuckling, I told him I did indeed 
exist, and he should research his facts more thoroughly. He asked if I would 
consider an article or a series of articles about myself. I told him I was not 
interested but if I did reconsider, he would be second — as I would let the 
Tennessean have the first consideration. 

Several months later, I contacted the Tennessean staff and informed them I 
would like to meet Alonzo Mann and asked if it could be possibly arranged. 

On July 19 I met Alonzo Mann at my home. He, along with Jerry Thompson 
and Robert Sherborne, arrived about 11:00 a.m. I had had second thoughts 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

whether I was doing the right thing, but I knew when I met Mr. Mann that I was. 

He was dressed quite dapperly in a gray suit with a light pink shirt, straw hat, 
and he gingerly carried a cane. Of course he was quite elderly now, but I could 
picture him as a young boy working in the pencil factory. 

Suddenly I felt a lump of nervousness in my throat. Obviously that same 
nervousness affected him, for we stood awkwardly in my livingroom until finally I 
thrust my hand out and said, "I'm Mary Phagan." 

Taking my hand, he said, "I'm Alonzo Mann." 

I ushered him over to the daybed and we settled back, sitting beside each 
other, leaning on the fluffy blue pillows. 

For about an hour we looked through my huge scrap-book on the murder of 
Mary Phagan. At one point I read him the article from The Tennessean about his 
visit to my greataunt's grave, and although he must have seen the article before, 
he leaned forward, staring at the clipping, listening intently. 

By the time we had finished looking at the scrapbook we had become friends, 
talking animatedly together, sharing confidences about Mary Phagan's murder, 
which knit us together although we had never met before. 

Finally, having made up a list of things which I wanted to ask him, I began to 
question him more formally. "Where were you born?" I asked soberly. 

"In Memphis, Tennessee. I had two brothers and one sister, all of whom are 
dead. My father was a doctor. Instead of paying with money, his patients paid 
with bacon, eggs, and ham because most of the families could not afford medical 
expenses," his soft southern accent washed over his words. 

My questions came more quickly. 

"How long did you stay in Atlanta after giving testimony?" 


Application for Pardon: 1 983 

"About a year; then I joined the United States Army." "Did you ever go to the 
courthouse besides giving testimony?" 

"No. I just passed by." 

"Did you ever meet Mary Phagan?" 

"I didn't know Mary Phagan, but I knew her by sight." 

"Was she as pretty as they say?" 


"How long did you work for Mr. Frank?" 

"I worked at the pencil factory for several months." (This contradicted my 
father's understanding that Mr. Mann had only been at the factory for one week.) 

"Did you ever keep copies of the original newspapers?" 

"Did you ever confront Jim Conley after what he says he saw?" 

"Did you see Jim Conley murder Mary Phagan?" 

"No, but I saw Jim Conley with Mary Phagan in his arms. I believe Jim Conley 
murdered Mary Phagan, not Leo Frank." 

I looked up and suddenly noticed that Mr. Mann appeared tired, his voice had 
grown less strong. 

"Are you all right?" I asked, concerned. 

He nodded, "I've had a heart operation recently," he said softly. "I have a 
pacemaker now." 

Shaking my head, I confided, "I have a heart condition also." 

"But how old are you?"-l asked, anxiously. "Twenty-eight," I replied. 

"To have a heart condition at twenty-eight — how difficult that must be," he 
said sadly. 

I nodded. "But it's something you learn to live with." 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

"Yes," he agreed sympathetically, "accepting life is something we all 
have to learn." 

We began once again to talk of the murder. 

He told me that after he encountered Jim Conley, he went home and 
told his mother what he had witnessed. She told him not to offer any other 
information if he wasn't asked. When the detectives arrived at his home, 
they asked him what time he left. That, he said, was their main concern of 
his account in the matter. He had felt that if he had been asked specific 
questions, the course of history might have changed. 

Then he related a story about little Mary Phagan that to this day I 
picture in my mind. A bunch of young girls were pushing a red wagon. In 
the wagon was little Mary Phagan. Her hair was pulled up with big bows. 
She was beautiful and laughing. 

As Mr. Mann recalled the information, I felt for him as I have felt for 
myself. He, like me, was faced with a struggle. This was his way of resolving 
it — to come forward and tell the world what he believes he had seen. I 
wasn't angry at him. I could never be, for I was brought up to respect 
others' opinions and their values, and with a sense of what one has to do to 
be true to his own beliefs whatever the difficulty. I empathized with him. 
Our talk had lasted four hours; we were both exhausted. 

As Mr. Mann was preparing to leave, he told me that his main purpose 
was to get Leo Frank pardoned, and that he had personally asked the Board 
for a pardon. He asked me to tell the Board again that Leo Frank did 
deserve a pardon, to come with him. 

I felt that I just couldn't. 

But something was stirring in the back of my mind. I had automatically 
accepted the Phagans' assumption of Leo Frank's guilt — as had my Dad. 
Here, in Alonzo Mann, was a nice, presumably honest and gentle human 
being, who strongly believed otherwise. 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

What was the truth? Would it ever be known? 

On July 20, my father received The Thunderbolt, issue No. 290, from the 
current association of the Ku Klux Klan. Many years before they had asked my 
father for a "Remember Mary Day," and he had objected. My father did not object 
then and does not object now to anyone or any organization wishing to pay 
respects to little Mary Phagan. He objects to individuals or organizations who use 
little Mary Phagan's death for their own prejudicial purposes. 

My father wrote the Anti-Defamation League in Atlanta to find out more about 
The Thunderbolt. He received the following letter from Stuart Lewengrub: 

Dear Mr. Phagan: 

Thank you again for letting us know about the approach that was made to 
you by a representative of The Thunderbolt concerning resurrecting the Leo 
Frank case. You can be sure that your aunt's memory would have been used 
solely for a vehicle to promote anti-Semitism. 

I have enclosed for your information a copy of The Thunderbolt in order to 
give you an idea of what this paper and group engages in. For the extreme 
vulgarity see especially page 10. 

The KKK reprinted in its entirety the statements of Judge Randall Evans, Jr., 
from the Augusta Chronicle-Herald dated May 15, 1983. In here, Judge Randall 
Evans, Jr., stated the review of the case and discussed Leo Frank's appeals to the 
Supreme Court of Georgia: 

. . . The Supreme Court consisted of legendary giants — Justice Lumpkin, 
Justice Beverly Evans, Justice Fish, Justice Atkinson, Justice Hill, and 
Justice Beck. That court affirmed the conviction, with Justices Fish and Beck 
dissenting as to the admission of certain 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

evidence; but on motion for rehearing by Frank, the entire court unanimously 
refused to grant the motion for rehearing. 

Frank then filed an extraordinary motion for a new trial before Superior 
Court Judge Hill, which was overruled, and this decision was unanimously 
affirmed by the Supreme Court of Georgia. 

On June 6, 1914, Frank filed a motion to set aside the verdict, again before 
Judge Hill, which motion was denied. And all of the justices concurred in the 
denial, except Justice Fish, who was absent. 

So at this point in time the record shows that two impartial judges of 
Superior Court in Fulton County, twelve impartial jurors in Fulton County, and 
six impartial justices of the Supreme Court of Georgia, all held that Leo Frank 
was legally tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged. 

Bear in mind, this was not in a rural county of Georgia where influential 
politicians are sometimes thought to sway juries, but it was in the most 
populous county in the South where it was not shown or even suggested that 
Jews are the objects of bias. 

Leo Frank's race was not an issue in the case during the trial. 

But the Jewish community of the entire United States sought to shield 
Frank by saying he was convicted because he was a Jew! Nothing is further 
from the truth! Money was raised on the streets of New York and elsewhere in 
the Jewish community for Leo Frank's defense; the best lawyers were 
employed, including the top defense lawyer in Georgia, Reuben Arnold, 
associated with and aided by Rosser and Brandon, Herbert Haas and Leonard 
Haas. But the evidence was overwhelming — and it is still so today. 

It is interesting to note that Gov. John M. Slaton's term as governor expired 
on June 21, 1915. 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

Frank's final date for execution was set for the next day, June 22, 1915. On his 
last day in office, Governor Slaton commuted Frank's sentence to life 
imprisonment, thereby thwarting and overturning the due process of law as set 
forth by the Superior Court of Fulton County and the Supreme Court of 
Georgia. People were so aroused and dumbfounded by this maneuver they went 

to the Slaton Mansion. But the Governor called out the National Guard for his 
protection, and succeeded in escaping. Mobs formed in many other parts of 
Georgia on learning of the rape of the judicial process by Slaton. 

The Jewish community nationwide directed its wrath in large part towards 
Thomas E. Watson of Thomson, charging that Watson had written incendiary 
articles in his Jeffersonian, which contributed to Frank's conviction. They 
urged that Frank was a victim of racial prejudice and bias towards Jews. 

Now comes "newly discovered evidence" which is claimed would have 
proven Frank innocent. Not so! A year ago the new witness, one Alonzo Mann, 
was first located, and said that as a young man he saw a Negro with the body 
of Mary Phagan in the basement of the factory building, and that he had 
remained silent for around seventy years because he was so young at the time, 
and he just didn't know what to do about it. Our State Department of Archives 
even wrote in one of its publications that this "new evidence" seemed to prove 
Frank innocent. I wrote the Department of Archives and pointed out that this 
was not new evidence at all — that during the trial of the case it was plainly 
proven that Jim Conley took the body to the basement — and the Archives 
Department replied with an apology and, in effect, said it had goofed. That 
correspondence is now a part of our Department of Archives. 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

The suggestion that a governor or Board of Pardons and Paroles may 
pardon a deceased person is completely ridiculous. 

The Constitution of Georgia provides that "the legislative, judicial, and 
executive powers shall forever remain separate and distinct." The executive 
department has no power whatever to reverse, change, or wipe out a decision 
by the courts, albeit while the prisoner is in life he may be pardoned. But a 
deceased party can not be a party to legal proceedings (Eubank v. Barber, 115 
Ga. App. 217-18). If Leo Frank were still in life, he could apply for pardon, but 
after death neither he nor any other person may apply for him. As the Supreme 
Court of Georgia held in Grubb v. Bullock, Governor, 44 Ga. 379: "It [pardon] 
must be granted the principal upon his application, or be evidenced by 
ratification of the application by his acceptance of it [the pardon]." Leo Frank's 
case was finally terminated absolutely against him by the Supreme Court of 
Georgia on June 6, 1914. He lived thereafter until August 16, 1915, and never 
did apply for pardon. It is too late now for any consideration to be given a 
pardon for Leo Frank. Pardon can only be granted to a person in life, not to a 
dead person. To illustrate the folly of such proceedings, could someone at this 
late date apply for a divorce on behalf of Leo Frank? 

The blood of a little girl cries out from the ground for justice. I pray the sun 
will never rise to shine upon that day in Georgia when we shall have so blinded 
ourselves to the records, to the evidence, to the judgments of the court, and the 
judgment of the people, as to rub out, change, and reverse the judgment of the 
courts that has stood for seventy years! God forbid! 

Application for Pardon: 1983 

My father and I were interested in the statements made by Judge Randall 
Evans. We had been told that the Phagan family were the only ones who had 
objected to a posthumous pardon for Leo Frank. Evidently there were other 
people, prominent and well known, who had also objected. 

We felt that the judge made some important and relevant points. We felt we 
had to verify the statements concerning the pardon to find out whether the 
consideration of the application by the Board was indeed illegal. 

I contacted Mike Wing of the Board and asked for a copy of the governing 
rules in consideration for a pardon. He was again most supportive, and even 
suggested that we meet. A date was set for August 8, 1983. 

When I received the information that I requested, I learned that the 
application for pardon filed was indeed illegal. Why, then, had it been accepted? 
There were only two instances in which a pardon could be granted. According to 
the rules of the Pardons and Paroles Board: 

1. A pardon may be granted to a person who, to the Board's satisfaction, 
proves his innocence of the crime for which he was convicted under Georgia 
law. Newly available evidence proving the person's complete justification or 
non-guilt may be the basis for granting a pardon. Application may be 
submitted in any written form any time after conviction. 

2. A pardon which does not imply innocence may be granted to an applicant 
convicted under Georgia law who has completed his full sentence obligation, 
including serving any probated sentence and paying any court-ordered 
payment, and who has thereafter completed five years without any criminal 
involvement. The five-year waiting period after sentence completion may be 
waived if the waiting period is shown to be detrimental to the applicant's 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

by delaying his qualifying for employment in his chosen profession. 
Application must be made by the ex-offender on a form available from the 
Board on request. 

On July 22 I went to Nashville to meet the whole Tennessean staff, including 
John Seigenthaler, the president and publisher. Jerry Thompson, Robert 
Sherborne, and I went to lunch, and on our return a special tour was arranged for 
me so that I could understand the operation of a newspaper. For the first time I 
realized the minute details that had to be seen to before an article could be 

At 3:00 I met with John Seigenthaler, also Frank Ritter, who was Deputy 
Managing Editor, and Jerry and Robert, as well as Sandra Roberts. On the wall of 
John Seigenthaler's office was a picture of the jury that convicted Leo Frank. "The 
picture will remain there until a pardon is granted," Mr. Seigenthaler said. 

The staff was very cordial, courteous, and helpful to me. We shared our 
opinions, both pro and con, and we remained strong in them. Mr. Seigenthaler 
asked what my father thought about the possibility of a pardon and I told him 
that he objected unless complete proof of evidence could be submitted. Mr. 
Seigenthaler felt that no complete proof of evidence would ever come forth, only 
so-called controversies. 

I realized something about myself during our discussion: my opinions were as 
strong as my father's, and I, too, felt that a posthumous pardon should not be 
granted unless there was complete proof of evidence. Sherry Frank's statement 
kept playing in my mind: "The pardon not only would wipe from the books the life 
sentence given Frank, but also would clear him outright of guilt in Mary Phagan's 
killing." If the pardon was granted, what would the books say? 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

Our meeting broke up at 5:30. Mr. Seigenthaler told me that I need not 
commit to a decision on publicly coming forward and that my name alone was 
worth something — a special name. He also felt that I was as stubborn in my 
opinions as he was in his. 

He was right: my name was special to me. It would always be. I would never 
forget who or what or where came from. 

Later that evening the staff allowed me to go through Sandra's research files 
and determine what materials I would like to photocopy. They were extremely 
responsive and showed no hesitation whatsoever in giving me any of their work. 

On the way home I thought about what was happening: I knew that the Board 
would be deciding soon. And, I thought, the sooner the better; I just didn't think I 
could go much longer without knowing. 

Alonzo Mann called me on July 26 to let me know he had received a letter 
from a "Phagan" and thought I would be the most appropriate person to have it. 
He also told me that no matter what decision I made, we would be friends and not 
have to talk about it. We both realized and understood our mutual struggle to 
have the truth known. I respected him and he me. 

Frank Ritter of the Tennessean called me on July 28 to ask me to let him 
know when I made a decision about going public. He added that no matter what, 
he supported me! 

The following day Sandra Roberts called to ask if I would agree to a meeting 
with Bill Gralnick, president of the American Jewish Committee and Miles 
Alexander, an attorney, on August 3. 

During the days that followed, I wondered what the real purpose of the 
meeting was. I trusted Sandra and liked her. She had become a friend to me. So I 
knew she would never put me in an uncomfortable position. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

The meeting was held at the Kilpatrick and Cody law firm on Peachtree Street. 
Bill Gralnick and Miles Alexander had concerns about the Phagan family and 
wanted me to share our views. One of the concerns was what the Phagan family — 
especially my father's and my — attitudes were toward their organizations. 

I told them that we didn't condemn or object to them with regard to their 
seeking to pardon Leo Frank, but that we did object to a pardon unless complete 
proof of evidence could be substantiated. We understood their position and hoped 
they understood ours. 

They wanted to know how we would feel if a pardon were granted without 
such evidence. I told them I knew my father would be mad as hell and that he 
would seek legal advice if the pardon were granted without adequate proof. 

My impression was that they felt that Leo Frank did not have a fair trial 
according to today's standards. They wanted to know how I would deal with the 
situation if I were Leo Frank's greatniece but I told them I could only deal with the 
questions and heritage that were mine. 

On August 8, 1983, my father and I met with Mike Wing of the Board of 
Pardons and Paroles. I drove to my parents' home in Decatur, and we agreed the 
easiest way to get downtown would be via MARTA, the rapid transit system in 
Atlanta. While we were riding, my father recollected some stories and spoke of 
childhood memories. As we rode, he described and pointed out where my 
grandfather lived as a young man and the location of the Fulton Bag Mills where 
he worked. He explained to me the hard life my grandfather had, but expressed 
proud feelings for his father. "My father wanted his children to do better than 
himself, and I feel the same way. I am as proud of you as he was of me," my father 
squeezed my hand lightly. 

We arrived at 2:00 p.m. and registered in the waiting 


Application for Pardon: 1 983 

room. Silas Moore greeted us and then introduced us to Mike Wing. 

Mike Wing was cordial. We freely discussed the idea of a posthumous pardon 
for Leo Frank. My father did most of the talking. He informed Mike that the 
Phagan family was opposed to the granting of a posthumous pardon because 
there was no absolute proof of Leo Frank's innocence. He felt that Alonzo Mann's 
affidavit offered no proof, but was merely Mr. Mann's opinion that Leo Frank did 
not commit the murder. The controversies which my father said were "so-called" 
were exactly that. He felt that they could not be proven and what was essential 
was the transcript at the Supreme Court of Georgia. And he wanted evidence. Not 
statements. Not hearsay. Not resolutions. He wanted evidence that would stand 
up in a court of law. The known facts were brought out during the trial, the jury 
heard them, and the jury of Frank's peers convicted him. He would fight for 
Frank's exoneration if new evidence were brought forward, he declared. We would 
be the first ones to stand up and support that exoneration. 

My father's other main point was that those who were seeking the pardon 
chose to impose today's judicial standards for a trial that occurred in 1913. "How 
can one compare yesterday with today," he asked. "Today's laws are built on 
yesterday's court decisions." 

"The lynching is a different matter," my father stated. He said "I neither 
condemn or condone it. Again, we cannot judge yesterday's values based on 
today's standards of morals." 

My father told Mike that he was not in any way associated with the Ku Klux 
Klan but felt that any person or organization could and should have the right to 
pay little Mary Phagan tribute as long as it wasn't for their own prejudicial 
purposes. My father then described the 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

"Remember Mary Phagan" incident in 1974 to which he had totally objected. 

Mike told us that Judge Randall Evans, Jr., who was quoted in The 
Thunderbolt, was not a member' of the Klan or had any association with them. He 
informed us that he was a retired judge and felt that the courts of Georgia should 
be upheld in dealing with the Leo Frank case. Then he told us about Edgar Neely, 
the attorney who also opposed the pardon. 

My father explained his reasons for wanting to be present when the Board 
discussed the case. Again, Mike stated that no oral testimony would be taken but 
that the Board might consider granting us a review. My father felt we had a right 
to it. 

We thanked him for notifying us in advance about the application for a 
posthumous pardon and for the opportunity of discussing in person our views 
with regard to it. 

On August 9 I contacted Edgar Neely. I wanted to know why he opposed the 
pardon. He told me that the April 26 article made his blood boil. He personally 
knew Reuben Arnold and Hugh M. Dorsey and felt it was a disgrace to discredit 
these fine lawyers. He had even argued cases against Reuben Arnold, and felt he 
was brilliant. He stated that the evidence is "flimsy because no one is alive to 
dispute Alonzo Mann," and that he wanted to uphold the courts, "as Leo Frank 
got a fair trial for that time." Therefore, he had written a letter to the Board 
stating his opposition. 

Sandra Roberts called and asked me how the meeting went with the Board. I 
told her the Phagan family — including myself — opposed the pardon. I also told her 
I would make a decision about going public by the end of August. 

I was ready for another big step. On August 29, 1983 I decided to 
acknowledge my name and legacy to the press. I called Sandra and told her. 
Frank Ritter called 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

back within minutes and we set September 5 for my interview. 

On September 1 the Marietta Daily Journal reported: HARRIS: PARDONS, 

The article, by Bill Carbine and Merritt Cowart, was, my family felt, further 
outside pressure on the Board to determine its decision. Governor Harris was 
quoted as saying: "From what I've seen and heard, the case deserves 
reconsideration. From the recent evidence and from what I've heard, I think it is 
something that the Pardons and Paroles Board could consider." The governor did 
not say whether he would recommend a posthumous pardon for Frank, as several 
of the Jewish organizations suggested. 

Dr. Edward Fields of Marietta, head of the New Order of Knights of the Ku 
Klux Klan, maintained the Board could not posthumously pardon anyone in 
Georgia and based his argument on the opinion of retired Judge Randall Evans, 

Fields scheduled a KKK march for Saturday, September 3, from Marietta 
Square to Mary Phagan's grave, located off Powder Springs Road. Expectations 
were that approximately one hundred to one hundred and fifty Klansmen would 
come to the "Remember Mary Phagan" services. They planned for the Reverend 
Thorn Robb of Harrison, Arkansas, to lead the eulogy, and for a wreath to be 
placed on Mary Phagan's tombstone. 

Marietta Mayor Bob Flournoy announced that a service would be conducted at 
the First Baptist Church at 148 Church Street in Marietta for all those people 
opposed to the KKK rally. 

September 3 arrived. I stayed home. I felt afraid. A couple of local stations 
reported the KKK march to Mary's grave. She was eulogized, and a wreath was 
placed on her tombstone. It was stated that everyone might not agree with what 
the Klan stood for, but that the remembrance 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

of Mary Phagan is still alive and that this was part of Georgia history. The 
counter-demonstration at the First Baptist Church in Marietta took place at the 
same time. 

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution and Marietta Daily Journal reported on 
the Klan march and repeated what the news account reported. It was also 
reported that the rally and the counter rally were orderly and without 

On September 5 the Tennessean staff — Frank Ritter, Sandra Roberts, and Pat 
Casey (photographer) — arrived at my home. We grilled hot dogs and hamburgers 
outdoors and ate before we got into the interview. My father did most of the 
talking. The rest of the family listened attentively, even though we had heard the 
same stories before. 

The staff had asked to be taken to little Mary Phagan's grave. It was the first 
time that my father and I had been there together. When he read the inscription 

his emotions got the best of him and he cried. His tears made me cry. Her 
memory bound us together. It was true. Little Mary Phagan was not forgotten. 

We felt strongly that the story in the Tennessean, "Little Mary Phagan Is Not 
Forgotten," would be done honestly, accurately, and with sensitive feelings 
toward us. We were correct. Frank Ritter called us and read the entire story 
before it went into print. He wanted to make sure there were no mistakes. We 
were pleased. 

On September 7 Durwood McAlister of the Atlanta Journal wrote an editorial 
opinion on the Frank case. He felt that the Klan march was a futile attempt on 
the part of the Klan for its very existence, using the posthumous pardon for Leo 
Frank as an excuse. 

His explanation of why the KKK marched to the grave of Mary Phagan was 
that the legacy had begun there. It was well documented that the modern Klan, 
known as the "Knights of Mary Phagan," gathered on top of Stone Mountain a few 
weeks after the lynching of Leo Frank. 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

It was evident that he believed Leo Frank to be innocent of the murder of little 
Mary Phagan and that the lynching was wrong. 

He felt that Leo Frank should be officially pardoned due to the fact that 
remaining doubts were dispelled by the confession of Alonzo Mann. 

He also stated, "Ten years after the murder, a journalist working for the 
Atlanta Constitution uncovered new evidence proving Frank's innocence, but 
prominent Atlanta Jews, fearing the story would only bring on new repercussions, 
persuaded the newspaper to withhold the publication." 

I couldn't believe what he was saying. Why didn't he present the evidence to 
the Board along with Alonzo Mann's eyewitness testimony? I called to try and find 
out, but my call was never returned. I thought it was incredibly one-sided to 
present the story in such a way. 

My father and I contacted Ron Martz of the Journal to tell him we were ready 
to public in Georgia. 

On September 14 the Atlanta Journal printed a letter from Randall Evans, Jr., 
in response to Durwood McAlister's editorial opinion. 

It said that Judge Randall Evans, Jr., was not a member of the Ku Klux Klan, 
but one of the thousands of Georgians who vigorously opposed a pardon for Leo 
Frank. And it reminded readers that the law of Georgia gave no authority for 
pardoning a dead man. 

Judge Evans responded to every one of Durwood McAlister's statements. His 
last paragraph also expressed my sentiments exactly: "It is hoped that the Board 
will permit oral argument on this question and then your hired editorial writers 
will be privileged to speak out in public and justify their statements written from 
the privacy of your editorial offices. And perhaps others of us will be allowed to 

Ron Martz's story, which appeared in the Atlanta 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Journal on September 22, 1983, provided a step forward for my family — and 
closed any way of going back. The story titled, "MARY PHAGAN'S LEGACY: 
Victim's name-sake opposed pardon for convicted Frank," ensured the awareness 
in Georgia of my family's existence and our opposition to a pardon for Leo Frank 
unless new proof of evidence was found. 

Once again, my father and I were pleased with Ron Martz's reporting. 

On September 27, 1983 they permitted my father and me to address the 
Board. Sitting on the Board were Mob-ley Howell, Chairman, Mamie Reese, 
member, James Morris, member, Michael Wing, member, and Wayne Snow, Jr., 
member. They had not realized that the Phagan family existed until Mike Wing 
informed them. They had become concerned about our feelings and felt that we 
could share them with the whole Board. They were responsive and 

My father addressed the Board: 

My name is James Phagan, and this is my daughter, Mary Phagan, named for 
little Mary Phagan. We are direct descendants of little Mary Phagan. My 
father, William Joshua Phagan, Jr., was little Mary's brother. We have come 
here today to express our views and opinions on the request for a 
posthumous pardon for Leo Frank, who was the convicted murderer of little 
Mary Phagan. We prefer to remain within ourselves and not to seek publicity 
concerning our legacy. We have never said anything before because we never 
had anything to say. We granted Ron Martz, staff writer for the Atlanta 
Journal, an interview because of the many articles, editorial opinions, both in 
the news-paper and on TV stations, and "outside pressure" of the Senate. It 
was time for it to be known that we do indeed exist, and we are concerned 
about the granting of a posthumous pardon. 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

I am here today with my daughter, Mary, to inform you that if you find 
evidence — not statements, not hearsay, not resolutions, but evidence — that 
will stand in a court of law to prove the innocence of Leo Frank for the 
murder of little Mary Phagan, then we would like to come forward with you 
and tell the world. A miscarriage of justice is a miscarriage of justice whether 
it happened two years ago or seventy years ago. 

We cannot compare yesterday with today's standards. We were not there 
and it is unfair to say that Leo Frank did not get a fair trial according to 
today's standards. 

The lynching of Leo Frank is an entirely different matter. But I am not 
going to condemn or condone what was done. You had to be there to 
understand the feeling that Governor Slaton's commutation order caused. 
The people felt robbed of justice and became a vigilante committee. 

I am emotional about this, and my daughter is emotional about this. We 
thank you for the opportunity to address you and for letting us express our 
views and opinions. 

I listened to my Dad as he spoke and felt proud to be his daughter and to be 
a Phagan. 

Mobley Howell asked if any of the members had any questions. There were 
none. Mr. Howell told us the nicest part of this tragedy was that the Board had 
the opportunity to meet my father and me. 

"Young lady," he said, "you are beautiful and have a startling resemblance to 
your greataunt." 

I smiled and thanked him. He also told us that the Board would render its 
decision by the end of 1983. 

The rendering of this decision weighed heavily on my mind in the following 
months. During that time, The New 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

York Times, Washington Post and U.S. Magazine sent reporters to interview my 
father and me. One of the reporters told me outright that my grandfather and 
father "have been lying" and that Leo Frank was innocent. 

My nightmares returned. 

In December the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution reported that the 
Board of Pardons and Paroles would announce its decision sometime during the 
last two weeks of 1983. Finally, I thought, it would be over. Or would it? 

On December 22, 1983 my father went to the State Capital Building, where 
the Board was to announce its decision. I had left Atlanta that morning for 
Michigan to spend Christmas with Bernard's family. I wouldn't be there. I would 
be the last to know. It was frustrating. 

When we arrived at Bernard's parents' home, Bernard's mother couldn't wait 
to tell me: Dan Rather had reported on CBS news that the request for a 
posthumous pardon for Leo Frank had been denied! 

I cried. I was relieved, angry, and sorrowful. I wanted to know if it was truly 

The Board had begun work on the pardon in January 1983, pretty much going 
over the same routes of investigation that John Slaton had sixty-eight years 

It organized an investigation staff under the direction of Chairman Silas 
Moore. This staff was presented with "evidence": newspaper accounts, the trial 
brief, books, and letters — along with short summaries. Many of the Board 
members turned to history books to get a perspective on the lynchings, yellow 
journalism, and the general temper of the time when little Mary Phagan had been 

Alonzo Mann's testimony was the first to be evaluated. While many, including 
Mr. Mann, felt that his new recollection "proved" Frank's innocence, the Board felt 
it merely cast doubt on Jim Conley's testimony. It proved in 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

the Board's estimate that Jim Conley lied about carrying Mary Phagan in the 
elevator, and possibly about her dying on the metal room floor, but it did not 
prove that Frank had not killed her upstairs nor even that he might not have later 
killed her downstairs. The Board felt Mann made Conley into a liar, which 
everyone knew, but not necessarily a killer. Also, the seventy-year gap that made 
his testimony so sensational to the media and would-be movie producers cast 
doubt on the validity of his recollections. Moreover, it was perceived that his 
testimony itself had internal contradictions. 

Once the Mann evidence had been weighed and found to be non-conclusive, 
there wasn't much to go on. "We set about to do almost the impossible," one 
Board member was to state publicly, "to reconstruct something that occurred 
seventy years ago — frankly, all the actors were deceased except Alonzo Mann. We 
were totally at the mercy of accounts by others — mostly journalism accounts, 
letters — and mostly opinions." He was correct: no other witnesses appeared; no 
one unearthed heretofore secret material; and, despite rumors, there was no 
concrete evidence of a confession by Jim Conley. Seventy years after it all began, 
the Leo Frank case remained a mystery — and, because of the passage of time, an 
even deeper mystery. Even if Alonzo Mann's account were entirely true, Frank still 
could have killed Mary Phagan, either accidentally or deliberately, either in 
combination with Jim Conley or on his own — or he could have been completely 

And there is a third possibility. Someone, whose identity we may never know, 
could have slipped unnoticed into the pencil factory that day, or have been 
allowed in by a person on duty. What would this person's motive for killing little 

Mary Phagan have been? Robbery? A grudge against the pencil company? Anger at 
Mary because she may have rejected advances this person might have made to 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

I wondered: how many others had thought of this possibility? 

In the announced decision itself, the Board declared cogently: 
The lynching of Leo Frank and the fact that no one was brought to justice for 
that crime is a stain upon the State of Georgia which granting a posthumous 
pardon cannot remove. 

I called my Dad and asked him if it was over. He told me it wasn't. He 
said that when the Board of Pardons and Paroles changed chairmanship 
there would be another request filed. Somehow I knew he was right. 

The Board sent me the decision in response to the application for 
posthumous pardon for Leo M. Frank. It stated: 

On August 25, 1913, Leo M. Frank was found guilty in Fulton County 
Superior Court of the murder of Mary Phagan. Frank was sentenced to 
death by hanging. 

For almost two years the case was appealed unsuccessfully up to the 
highest levels in the state and federal court system. 

On June 21, 1915, Governor John M. Slaton commuted the sentence 
of death to life imprisonment. 

On August 17, 1915, a group of men took Leo M. Frank by force from 
the state prison at Milledgevile, transported him to Cobb County, 
Georgia, and there lynched him. 

On January 4, 1983, this Board received an application from the 
Anti- Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the American Jewish Committee, 
and the Atlanta Jewish Federation, Inc., requesting the granting of a full 
pardon exonerating Leo M. Frank of guilt of the offense of murder. 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

In accepting the application, the Board informed the applicants that the 
only grounds upon which the Board would grant a full pardon exonerating Leo 
M. Frank of the murder for which he was convicted would be conclusive 
evidence proving beyond any doubt that Frank was innocent. The burden of 
furnishing such proof would be upon the applicants. 

The information which has been submitted to the Board in this matter is 
considerable. The pardon application, prompted by the affidavit of Alonzo Mann 
dated March 4, 1982, is accompanied by numerous other documents submitted 
in support of the pardon. 

Alonzo Mann made statements to journalists Jerry Thompson and Robert 
Sherborne, which appeared in a copyright article in the Tennessean on Sunday, 
March 7, 1982, and made similar statements in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 
10, 1983, which were video-taped and recorded by a court reporter in the 
presence of representatives of the Parole Board. Mann's major point was that, 
upon re-entering the front door of the National Pencil Company building on 
April 26, 1913, shortly after noon, he saw the limp form of a young girl in the 
arms of Jim Conley on the first floor. Upon seeing Mann, Conley is alleged to 
have turned and reached out toward him with one hand, stating "If you ever 

mention this, I will kill you." Mann then ran out the front door, caught a 
streetcar, and went straight home. 

Assuming the statements made by Mr. Mann as to what he saw that day 
are true, they only prove conclusively that the elevator was not used to 
transport the body of Mary Phagan to the basement. Governor Slaton 
concluded as a result of his investigation, that the elevator was not used and 
so stated in 

The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

his order of commutation. Therefore, this in and of itself adds no new evidence 
to the case. 

Briefs have been submitted in opposition to the pardon. These briefs cite 
evidence and information to support that view, none of which is new. 

Numbers of other letters have been received reflecting opinions in support 
of and in opposition to the pardon. 

In addition to the information and material submitted to the Board by 
interested parties, the brief of trial evidence was obtained from the Supreme 
Court of Georgia. This extensive document contains all the testimony given at 
the trial. It is the foundation upon which most arguments on both sides of the 
issue are based. 

The lynching of Leo Frank and the fact that no one was brought to justice 
for that crime is a stain upon the State of Georgia which granting a 
posthumous pardon cannot remove. 

Seventy years have passed since the crime was committed, and this alone 
makes it almost impossible to reconstruct the events of the day. Even though 
records of the trial are well preserved, no principals or witnesses, with the 
exception of Alonzo Mann, are still living. This case is tainted due to the 
lynching of Leo Frank. Would he eventually have won a new trial? Would he 
have been paroled? These questions can never be answered. After an 
exhaustive review and many hours of deliberation, it is impossible to decide 
conclusively the guilt or innocence of Leo M. Frank. There are many 
inconsistencies in the accounts of what happened. 

For the Board to grant such a pardon, the innocence of the subject must be 
shown conclusively. In 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

the Board's opinion, this has not been shown. Therefore, the Board hereby 
denies the application for a posthumous pardon for Leo M. Frank. 

For the Board, 

Mobley Howell, Chairman 

Though the testimony they had collected convinced the petitioners of Leo 
Frank's innocence, it must have seemed far less certain to Board members. Dale 
Schwartz had declared Alonzo Mann's testimony "so credible you couldn't get an 
actor to do that," but the Board members apparently doubted its value as 
concrete evidence. To the Board it became clear that Mann's testimony did no 
more than support Slaton's conclusion, based on the argument of the excrement 
in the elevator shaft, that Jim Conley did not tell the truth about using the 
elevator to carry Mary Phagan's body to the basement. But at worst, considering 
that it took seventy years for Alonzo Mann to come forward, as well as a couple of 
unsupported assertions in his testimony, the testimony proved nothing at all. 

Even if Jim Conley had lied, the Board argued, it did not mean that Frank was 
innocent. As Mike Wing is quoted as saying in an Esquire article in 1985: 

The testimony of Mann sounded good. It matched up with the shit in the 
shaft to suggest that Conley was the killer. But does his testimony provide 
sufficient reason to overturn the findings of the court. I wouldn't convict 
someone seventy years after the fact solely on the testimony of an eighty year 
old man, so how can I pardon someone on that testimony. To get that pardon, 
they needed to prove that Frank was innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt, 
and Mann's testimony just didn't do that. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

And, while the pardon effort was motivated by extra-legal goals, it spoke of the 
pardon process as within the structure of the "judicial process" that provided for 
"the privilege of pardon and commutation as a 'safety valve' for use in 
extraordinary cases," and probably worked against it. As if meant for a formal 
court, the application cited federal court cases to justify "standing" to seek a 
pardon. The petitioners, in attempting to repudiate anti-Semitism, represented 
their attempt as a legal effort to repudiate the libel against the Atlanta Jewish 
Community — an "injury in fact." 

The conclusion of the pardon application read: 

The public good will be served; a historic injustice will be corrected; a seventy- 
year libel against the Jewish Community of Georgia will finally be set aside, 
and the soul of Leo Frank will, at last, rest in peace. 

The "proof" in Mann's testimony and the collective weight of the number of people, 
including John Slaton, who believed in Frank's innocence in 1915, provided the 
claim for Frank's innocence. But the leaders of the pardon effort tied the extra- 
legal justifications for the pardon and their procedural mindset very tightly 
together, which led to claims of innocence that were not easily justified. 

Dale Schwartz publicly responded to the passage in the Board's statement 
which said that Frank's innocence was not "proved beyond any doubt," with "The 
'beyond any doubt standard' is one which none of us have [sic] ever seen applied 
in Anglo-American jurisprudence." Yet the pardon application itself stated that: ". 
. . the statement of facts demonstrates, Leo Frank was innocent to a mathematical 

The response to the Board's denial of pardon was immediate and vociferous. 
The Atlanta Constitution ran an editorial cartoon showing three men, labelled as 

Application for Pardon: 1 983 

members, packing away a crate. The cartoon was captioned: "Well, that's done . . . 
Now where can we stash it?" Television and radio broadcasters took up the cry, as 
did the three groups who had filed for the posthumous pardon — the Anti- 
Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the Atlanta Jewish 
Federation. They were, they said, in shock. Board members, convinced of the 
sincerity of their investigation and decision, also pro-claimed themselves in 
shock. Hundreds of letters criticizing the decision came into the Board weekly. 

I felt that the Board made a fair decision. From the start the Board had 
explained to the applicants that complete and new evidence must be shown before 
a posthumous pardon could be granted. Alonzo Mann's testimony was not new 

evidence: in essence it suggested that Jim Conley probably lied about the use of 
the elevator, but it did not prove that Leo Frank did not murder little Mary 
Phagan. I wondered if the editors of the papers sifted through the mounds of 
evidence and whether they had read the 454-page trial transcript or the daily 
accounts in newspapers. I was amazed that the Atlanta Journal stated on 
December 23, 1983: "A network news anchor told his viewers last night that 
Georgia had refused to clear the name of Leo Frank. That's not quite true. Leo 
Frank's name has, in all but the most formal sense, been cleared for decades. His 
innocence is understood and accepted by all but those few whose hearts are 
clouded by connection to Mary Phagan or blackened by remnants of the kind of 
bigotry that killed him." 

I felt they were wrong. There are many people in Georgia, not related to little 
Mary Phagan and not bigoted, who believe Leo Frank to be guilty. In fact, I have 
met some people of the Jewish faith who believe Frank to be guilty. 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

My father requested time on one of our local TV stations to make a rebuttal to 
an editorial opinion on the pardon. He was denied it. My father decided not to 
report the TV station to the Federal Communications Commission. This phase 
was over — for the rest of the world. Not for my family. The story of little Mary 
Phagan would go on. The denial of the posthumous pardon was, I felt, merely a 
breathing space. 

And the nightmares continued. 

PARDON: 1986 

On March 19, 1985 my father told me that Alonzo Mann died. I felt sad. To 
me, he was a fine gentleman; he believed what he had seen to be evidence of the 
truth. He was at peace now. I was still struggling for my peace. 

On March 6, 1986 Silas Moore of the Pardons and Paroles Board had 
contacted me regarding the Board's receipt of another application for a pardon for 
Leo Frank. The Board wanted to meet with my father and me. 

It shouldn't have been a surprise. The reverberations from the Board's denial 
of pardon in 1983 had never really died down. 

"I don't know," Board member James Morris had said in 1985, "I wish we 
could do something to right this wrong. I know we want to do something, but to 
say with one hundred per cent certainty that Leo Frank is an innocent man is a 
very difficult thing to do." 

That year Wayne Snow, Jr., who had been appointed chairman of the Board of 
Pardons and Paroles, said, "The case is so repulsive because of the lynching — 
because it terminated all the rights of an individual." Another Board member had 
been disturbed by "the State's inability to protect one of its citizens" since Frank 
was in state custody during the lynching. 



The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

And while no one on the Board mentioned the goal of repudiating anti- 
Semitism, there was no way anyone could have been unaware of the pain that the 
Frank case seemed to cause the Jewish community — nationally. 

The following day, my father and I met with Wayne Snow, Jr., the new 
chairman of the Board, and Mike Wing. We were told that the Jewish community 
had again filed application for a posthumous pardon. And that if a pardon were 
issued, it would be based not on guilt or innocence but on the contention that 
"the State did not protect Leo Frank and that his rights were violated." The Board 
felt that the lynching of Leo Frank was wrong. And that this pardon would "heal 
old wounds." 

Apparently, renewed efforts for pardon had begun in September 1985. And 
while at first the petitioners had thought they'd failed to obtain the pardon in 
1983 simply because they had not brought enough pressure to bear, they had 
come to see that, beyond the strictly procedural action of the process which 
sought to establish Leo Frank's innocence or Jim Conley's — or someone else's — 
guilt, what was most probably achievable was a pardon that addressed the extra- 
legal case about Leo Frank. 

And this approach by the petitioners allowed Board members' sympathies for 
the extra-legal aspects of the case to come through. The Board had been deeply 
concerned about the problem of setting a precedent for a huge number of 
posthumous pardon applications, were Frank pardoned on strictly legal bases. By 
addressing the extra-legal case, however, the precedent that a pardon would grant 
would only be to exceptional cases like the Frank case. So, six months prior to the 
Board's contacting me, an initial proposed pardon application made its way 
through to some members of the Board. This initial draft repudiated the old 

standard of absolute innocence and made no mention of a pardon based on 
innocence or guilt. By March, members of the Board had agreed in principle 

Afterword: Pardon 

to grant a special type of pardon which would imply neither innocence or guilt, 
but merely address the concerns brought about by the case. They approved such 
a pardon in early March. 

After meeting with representatives of the petitioners, the Board began 
drafting a final pardon order which they approved shortly after ADL officials and 
others found it acceptable. 

But our family had questions. 

Why was there no public announcement of receipt of application? 

Why were other people who opposed granting of the pardon not told of the 
new application? 

My father reminded the Board that if the pardon were granted books, 
miniseries, and movies of the Mary Phagan/Leo Frank case would be made, and, 
he believed, the pardon would not "heal old wounds" as they had hoped: instead, 
little Mary Phagan's story would never die, and the controversy surrounding her 
horrible death would continue. 

"You are damned if you do and you are damned if you don't," he told them. 

Former Chairman Silas Moore announced the issuance of a pardon order on 
March 11, 1986 at 1:00 P.M. at the Georgia State Capitol. 

It seems that Board members had finally agreed on the bases for granting a 
pardon. They reflected concern that Frank's lynching had foreclosed efforts to 
prove him innocent. The Board also addressed three extra-legal concerns — the 
repudiation of lynch law, the need to heal old wounds, and the acknowledgement 
of anti-Semitism. 

The question of whether Leo Frank had really committed the murder — the 
search for his purity or demonhood — was now just dust in the wind. In the 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

of pardon from September through March 1986 the Board had done no detective 
work, except to ensure the accuracy of its final order, discussing the historic 
background to the Frank trial. The Board simply overlooked guilt or innocence, 
something it had never done in pardons of forgiveness or pardons of innocence. 

The final statement read: 

On April 26, 1913, Mary Phagan, a thirteen-year-old employee in an Atlanta 
pencil factory was murdered. Georgians were shocked and outraged. Charged 
with the murder was the factory superintendent, Leo M. Frank. 

The funeral of Mary Phagan, the police investigation, and the trial of Leo 
Frank were reported in the overblown newspaper style of the day. Emotions 
were fanned high. 

During the trial a crowd filled the courthouse and surrounded it. While the 
verdict was read, Frank was kept in jail for protection. He was convicted on 
August 25, 1913, and subsequently sentenced to death. 

After unsuccessful court appeals the case came to Governor John M. 
Slaton for his consideration. The governor was under enormous pressure. 
Many wanted Frank to hang, and the emotions of some were fired by prejudice 
about Frank being Jewish and a factory superintendent from the North. On 
June 21, 1915, the governor, because of doubts about Frank's guilt, 
commuted the sentence from death to life imprisonment. Thus Frank was 
saved from the gallows, and his judicial appeals could continue, or so it 

On the night of August 16, 1915, a group of armed men took Frank by 
force from the state prison at Milledgeville, transported him to Cobb County, 
and early the next morning lynched him. 

Afterword: Pardon 

The lynching aborted the legal process, thus foreclosing further efforts to 
prove Frank's innocence. It resulted from the State of Georgia's failure to 
protect Frank. Compounding the injustice, the State then failed to prosecute 
any of the lynchers. 

In 1983 the State Board of Pardons and Paroles considered a request for a 
pardon implying innocence, but did not find "conclusive evidence proving 
beyond any doubt that Frank was innocent." Such a standard of proof, 
especially for a seventy-year-old case, is almost impossible to satisfy. 

Without attempting to address the question of guilt or innocence, and in 
recognition of the state's failure to protect the person of Leo M. Frank and 
thereby preserve his opportunity for continued legal appeal of his conviction, 
and in recognition of the state's failure to bring his killers to justice, and as 
an effort to heal old wounds, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, in 
compliance with its constitutional and statutory authority, hereby grants to 
Leo M. Frank a pardon. 

Given under the Hand and Seal of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, 
this eleventh day of March, 1986. 


Wayne Snow, Jr., Chairman 
Mrs. Mamie B. Reese, Member 
James T. Morris, Member 
Mobley Howell, Member 
Michael H. Wing, Member 

The reports had indicated that the Board worked in secret with the Jewish 
community for almost a year and Wayne Snow, Chairman of the Board, stated 
this publicly during a TV station interview. This disturbed us. Wayne Snow had 
told us at the beginning of March that the 


The Murder of Little Mary Phagan 

Board was thinking of granting a pardon, but, in fact, had already made the 
decision which they announced immediately after they spoke to us. 

We wondered what the purpose was of keeping it secret? 

The pardon was covered by the media across the country. Everyone who knew 
me sent me the articles. Most of the newspapers reported that the relatives of 
Mary Phagan said that "Frank's official pardon doesn't mean he was innocent." 

My father felt that the pardon which was finally issued was meaningless, for it 
had not settled the real question of Leo Frank's innocence or guilt. 

As the publicity surrounding the announcement of the pardon died down, my 
struggle for inner peace became more difficult. I continued to have nightmares. It 
was as if someone was trying to warn me, to prod me into action. I felt compelled 
to tell my family's side of little Mary's story, to let the next generation of Phagans 
know their heritage, to let everyone know the true legacy of little Mary Phagan. 

In January of 1987, the story of little Mary Phagan appeared in the 
newspapers again. Because of racial tension in nearby all-white Forsyth County, 
the media reminded readers that the murder of little Mary Phagan spurred the 
beginnings of the modern KKK. 

And now my father's prediction of more books being written about the case 
and television miniseries is beginning to come true. I wonder what the next phase 
will be. 

Even more, I wonder: will we ever know with complete certainty who killed 
Mary Phagan? 

Has the answer gone to the graves with all the participants in the tragedy?