Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Deathday: Leo Frank 1884-1915 Innocent Lynching Victim

Leo Max Frank (April 17, 1884 – August 17, 1915) was an American man, the superintendent of a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia. Frank was convicted of the murder of one of his factory workers, 13-year-old Mary Phagan. The case is widely regarded as having been a miscarriage of justice.[1]

It was the focus of many conflicting cultural pressures, and the jury's conclusion represented, in part, class and regional resentment of educated Northern industrialists who were perceived to be wielding too much power in the South, threatening Southern culture and morality.[2][3] The trial was sensationalized by the media. The publisher and former U.S. Representative Thomas E. Watson used the case to build personal political power and support for a revival of the Ku Klux Klan.[4]

Shortly after Frank's conviction, new evidence emerged that cast doubt on his guilt.[5] After the governor commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment, Frank was kidnapped from prison and lynched by a group of citizens who called themselves the Knights of Mary Phagan.[6] The ringleaders included a former governor, a senator's son, a Methodist minister, a state legislator, and a former state Superior Court judge.[7]

In 1913, in response to Frank's conviction, the B'nai B'rith founded the Anti-Defamation League. Ultimately, in 1986, "[w]ithout attempting to address the question of guilt or innocence," Georgia granted Frank a pardon.[8]

Early life

Leo Frank was born in Cuero, Texas on April 17, 1884, to Rudolf and Rae (Rachel) Frank.[9] His family moved to Brooklyn, New York, shortly after his birth. He was a student at Brooklyn public schools and Pratt Institute.[10][11] He earned a mechanical engineering degree from Cornell in 1906.[12]

An uncle of Frank's, a Confederate veteran,[9] owned a large share of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, and in 1908 hired Leo to be its superintendent. Frank traveled to Massachusetts, New York, and Germany for further apprenticeships in pencil manufacturing. He married Lucille Selig (with Leo, above) in 1910. Lucille came from a wealthy family of industrialists who two generations earlier had founded the first synagogue in Atlanta.[13] In 1912 Leo Frank was elected president of the Atlanta chapter of the B'nai B'rith.[14] The Jewish community in Atlanta was the largest in the South, and the Franks moved in a cultured and philanthropic milieu whose leisure pursuits included opera,[15] bridge,[16] and tennis.

Relation to Mary Phagan

Mary Phagan (above) was born June 1, 1899, four months after her father died, into a family that had farmed in Georgia for generations.[17] Mrs. Phagan moved with her five children to live near her parents and her husband's family near the country town of Marietta,[18] then to East Point, nearer Atlanta, where she ran a boardinghouse and where her children, as they attained working age, took jobs in the local cotton mills.[19] Mrs. Phagan remarried in 1912 and she and her four younger children moved into Atlanta, to a neighborhood called Bellwood. Mary was hired at the National Pencil Company, where she ran a machine that inserted rubber erasers into pencils' metal bands.[20] Mary had worked at the pencil factory for about a year.

On Saturday, April 26, 1913, celebrated locally as Confederate Memorial Day, she came to the factory to claim her pay. George Epps, 14, a fellow factory worker and a "newsie," testified that he had ridden the streetcar with Mary that morning, Mary had told Epps that Leo Frank had often scared her and they had agreed to meet in mid-afternoon to watch the parade together.[21][22] After the trial Epps recanted his testimony, stating that his false statements were encouraged by Detective John Black.[23] Epps would later also repudiate his recantation when interviewed by police in the state reformatory where he was serving a sentence for theft.[24]

Concerning Mary Phagan, the week before, a shortage of metal for her machine had led to a reduction in her hours.[25] Her wages, usually about $6.00 per week, however, this week came to $1.20.[26] Mary worked typically 55 hours a week and was paid about 12 cents an hour. [27] Leo Frank earned $150 per month [28] and shared in the factory's profits. [29] Her pay was issued to her by Frank. According to Frank, Mary asked him if the metal had come in yet; he said no,[30] and she left the office. [31] Leo Frank was the last person to admit seeing Mary Phagan alive.

Murder investigation

At 3:00 a.m. on April 27, the police received a call from the factory's night watchman, Newt Lee, reporting the discovery of a dead girl.

When the police arrived at the factory, they found Phagan's mangled body in a dark, dirty basement next to a furnace. Phagan had been strangled with a 2-cm (3/4-inch) cord. Doctors agreed that this strangulation caused her death. Examining doctors' observations conflicted as to whether evidence indicated sexual assault.[32]

Some evidence at the crime scene was improperly handled by the police investigators. There were bloody fingerprints on the back door of the basement. The boards were removed and subsequently lost before any analysis could be done. No report was ever issued on other bloody fingerprints on the victim's jacket.[33] A trail in the dirt along which police believed Phagan had been dragged was trampled and no footprints were ever identified.[34]

At first, Frank said that Newt Lee's time card was complete. It was supposed to be punched every half hour during the watchman's rounds. However, Frank later said Newt Lee had not punched the card at three intervals.

The police investigated a variety of suspects, and arrested both Newt Lee and two friends of Phagan's for the crime. Gradually they became convinced that they were not the culprits. A detective sneaked into Newt Lee's apartment and found a blood-soaked shirt at the bottom of a clothes barrel. The prosecution later claimed that the shirt had been planted by a Frank crony in order to incriminate Lee.

Suspicion did not fall on Frank immediately in the beginning of the investigation. Newt Lee spent eight minutes trying to call Leo Frank just before 4 A.M. after he had called the police around 3:25 AM. The police arrived at the factory just after 4 A.M. The police called Franks house between 5 and 6 A.M. and Frank answered, the police asked him to accompany them to the factory.[35] When the police arrived after 7 A.M. without telling the specifics of what happened at the factory, Frank seemed extremely nervous, trembling, pale and was rubbing his hands. When the police asked Leo Frank if he knew Mary Phagan, Frank replied, "Does she work at the factory? I can not tell whether she works there or not, until I look at my payroll book". [36] Frank's reference to not knowing Mary Phagan were to take on greater significance during the trial. Frank pointed out at the trial that the police had refused to tell him the nature of their investigation when they arrived at his house in the morning and made him accompany them to the factory, which was a legitimate reason why he was so extremely nervous.

The Atlanta Constitution broke the story. Soon after there was a frenzied competition for readers between the Constitution and the Georgian, a formerly sedate local paper that had recently been bought by the Hearst syndicate and revamped to compete using the standard Hearst formula of yellow journalism. As many as 40 extra editions came out the day Phagan's murder was reported. The Georgian published a doctored morgue photo of Phagan, in which her head was shown spliced onto the body of another girl.[37]

Some evidence went missing when it was 'borrowed' from the police by certain reporters. The two papers offered a total of $1,800 in reward money for information leading to the apprehension of the murderer. The high reward offer elicited excessive leads that the police found to be false or irrelevant.

Two notes were found in the basement next to Mary Phagan's body, supposedly written by Phagan as she was being raped and dying, accusing a tall dark skinned Negro, like the "night witch,"[38] of killing her. These came to be known as the "murder notes" and resulted in the night watchman becoming the prime suspect immediately in the beginning of the investigation. Jim Conley, the pencil factory's black janitor, was also a major suspect in the case. Jim Conley changed his conflicting story several times to the police, finally claiming in a signed affidavit that he had written the notes and they were dictated to him by Leo Frank. Conley claimed that Frank wasn't content with the first murder letter and made him write a second one. An expert in writing analysis would testify at the trial that the two letters were indeed written by Jim Conley.[39]

Suspicion falls on Frank

Phagan's friend, 13-year-old fellow pencil factory worker George Epps, came forward to say that Frank had often flirted inappropriately with Phagan and frightened her with intense staring.

Minola McKnight, age 20, the African-American cook for Lucille Frank's parents who shared their home with their daughter and son-in-law, was brought in for questioning. At first she corroborated Frank's story concerning the times he arrived home for lunch and then returned to the factory the day of the murder. She was agitated, believing her estranged husband had been telling lies to the police to get her in trouble. She said both she and Frank were innocent.

After spending the night in jail and after intense questioning, McKnight signed a statement saying Leo Frank was very nervous and drinking heavily the night after the murder of Mary Phagan. She said she overheard Frank's wife say he made her sleep on the rug and Frank kept asking for his pistol so he could shoot himself. She said that Frank had told her, "It is mighty bad, Minola. I might have to go to jail about this girl, and I don't know anything about it." Finally she implied that she had been bribed by her employer, Mrs. Selig, "as a tip for me to keep quiet."[40] On the stand, however, McKnight declared that the entire statement had been false: "I signed it to get out of jail, because they said they would not let me out." On cross-examination she said, "The statement that I signed is not the truth."[41] Mrs. Selig denied under oath ever having raised McKnight's wages.[42][43]

The police and investigators appeared to intimidate and threaten witnesses such as Nina Formby, the madam of a bordello who knew Frank. Frank called her on the day of the murder looking to reserve a private room at the bordello. Both Nina Formby and Minola McKnight recanted statements made to the police well after the trial and conviction when they were far away from police. Formby indicated the police had "plied her with whiskey."[44]

Frank hired the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, considered the best in the industry, before he was arrested, to protect the National Pencil Company and to "work with and assist the city detectives in ferreting out the crime."[45] Some observers interpreted this negatively, as the Pinkerton agency had a reputation as the violent enforcers for American industrialists. Frank later produced alibis for the entire time during which the crime could have been committed; however, suspicion was aroused by the fact that he waited over a week — saying that he had forgotten — to bring forward one crucial witness, Lemmie Quinn.

Gradually the Georgian began to take Frank's side, responding to outrage from Atlanta's Jewish community.[46] The Constitution continued to criticize the police for their slow progress.

Jim Conley

On May 1, Jim Conley (above), the pencil factory's janitor, was caught by the plant's day watchman, E.F. Holloway, washing a dirty shirt. Conley tried to hide the shirt, then claimed the stains were rust from the overhead pipe on which he had hung the shirt. Detectives examined it for blood, found none and returned it.[47] Conley denied under oath that he was literate, had a grade-school education and could read and write. This would later become crucial with regard to the murder notes.

The factory foreman, Holloway, told the Georgian that he believed Conley "strangled Mary Phagan while about half drunk," resulting in a May 28 headline reading, "SUSPICION TURNED TO CONLEY; ACCUSED BY FACTORY FOREMAN." In a new statement, his third, Conley said that an agitated Frank ordered him to hide in a wardrobe to avoid being seen by two women, then later dictated the murder notes to him, gave him cigarettes and told him to leave the factory. Afterward, Conley said, he went out drinking and saw a movie.[48] Phagan's $1.20 in pay had also disappeared, leading the police to wonder whether Conley might have killed her for the money. The police brought Conley to confront Frank in jail. Frank refused because his lawyer was out of town,[49] but even when Rosser returned, no meeting took place.[50] Frank in his statement to the jury said that this was because he "didn't want to have [his words and actions] twisted."[51]

Under further pressure from the police regarding the discrepancies in his story, Conley gave another version. In this account he gave his final statement. Conley stated that the reason he had lied in the beginning of the investigation and did not immediately tell the truth was that he had been trying to cover for Leo Frank. He said that Frank originally offered him $200 on the day of the murder to destroy the body and evidence; that Frank had asked him to move Phagan's body and dispose of it by burning it in the basement furnace. When the police asked Conley where the $200 was that Frank had given him, Conley responded that when he wouldn't immediately burn Phagan's body for Frank in the basement furnace, Frank had asked to see the money, had taken it back, folded it and put it in his pocket, then told Conley that if he came back later and disposed of the body in the furnace he would get the $200 back. Conley also said that Frank, in foreshadowing words, told him on the day of the murder, "Why should I hang? I have wealthy people in Brooklyn."

The Georgian hired William Smith to be Conley's lawyer and offered to pay his fees. Smith was known for specializing in representing black clients. Although this put Smith at the bottom of the professional totem pole, he had successfully defended a black man against an accusation of rape by a white woman. He had also taken an elderly black woman's civil case as far as the state Supreme Court. Although Smith believed Conley had told the truth in his final affidavit, he became concerned that Conley was giving long jailhouse interviews with crowds of reporters. Smith was concerned about reporters from the Hearst papers, who had taken Frank's side. Smith arranged for Conley to be moved to a different jail. He also severed his own relationship with the Georgian.[53]

Two unsworn witnesses came forward to incriminate Conley. Will Green, a carnival worker, said that he had been playing craps at the factory with Conley and had run away from him when Conley had declared his intention to rob a girl who walked by. William Mincey, an insurance salesman, had met an intoxicated Conley on the street. He said that Conley, trying to brush Mincey off, said, "I have killed one today and do not wish to kill another." Mincey had thought it was a joke. Neither man signed an affidavit or testified in court.[54]

National media coverage

When the national media discovered the Mary Phagan cold case they released sensational headlines and news stories, instantly capturing the public's attention with much fanfare and creating a national spectacle. The various national news networks during the murder investigation published every new detail of back and forth hearsay, gossip, conflicting rumors and shifting conspiracy theories. The media, by garnering such great interest in the murder so early on, would transform the sum total of the investigation, trial and outcome of the trial into a huge financial windfall for the collective national media covering the case. Ravenous sales and sold-out publications resulted because a nailbiting public became insatiably hungry for morning, afternoon and daily updates of every minute emerging detail of the investigation, the trial and the final outcome of the case. The three major Atlanta newspapers published meticulous accounts of the trial's daily testimony. These accounts are the most detailed and thorough record that remains of the proceedings; in the 1960s the official Leo Frank trial transcripts disappeared from the courthouse archive room.[55] However, an abridged, annotated version of the transcripts was published in 1918.[56]

Grand jury indictment

The grand jury convened on May 23, 1913. The prosecutor, Hugh Dorsey, had decided to present only enough information to obtain an indictment. He provided witnesses that suggested that the murder occurred on the second floor of the building, that Frank was anxious on both the day of the murder and the day of his arrest, and that Mary Phagan had been raped. The rape determination was not made by the medical examiner, J. W. Hurt (who would testify at the later trial that he could not determine if a rape had occurred), but by two non-experts, a police officer and the undertaker.[57]

No physical evidence was presented or discussed. The murder notes were not mentioned. Dorsey assured the jury that additional information would be provided during the trial and the next day, after less than 10 minutes of deliberation, the jury voted for an indictment. The grand jury consisted of twenty three jurors which included at least four Jews[58] (one of whom was out of town the day of the vote). Only a majority of twelve was required for indictment and it is not known whether any of the Jews voted for indictment.[59] Author Lindemann suggests, "[T]hey were persuaded by the concrete evidence that [prosecutor] Dorsey presented."[60] Lindemann notes that none of Conley's testimony was presented to the grand jury and that at criminal trial, Dorsey "explicitly denounced racial anti-Semitism" and "indulged in ... philo-Semitic rhetoric."[60] However author Steve Oney, after Dorsey referred to a number of historical figures, most of them Jews, who had committed crimes, noted, "That Dorsey ... was attempting to stir anti-Semitic sentiments there can be no doubt."[61]


Frank's trial began on July 28, 1913.[62] Because of the heat, the windows were left open. In addition to the hundreds of spectators inside, numerous people gathered outside the city hall to watch the trial through the windows, a circumstance that became important as a factor in witness and jury intimidation.[63]

The judge was Leonard S. Roan, who had been a judge in Georgia since 1900.[64] The prosecutor was Hugh M. Dorsey. Frank was represented by a team of eight lawyers, some of them jury selection specialists, led by Luther Rosser. The defense used peremptory challenges to eliminate the only two black jurors. After peremptory challenges both the defense and prosecution agreed to a jury of twelve white men.

The prosecution's theory was that Conley's affidavit explaining the immediate aftermath of the murder was true, that Frank was the murderer, and that the murder notes had been dictated by Frank in an effort to pin the crime on Newt Lee, the night watchman.

The defense's theory was that Conley was the murderer, and that Newt Lee, the night watchman, helped Conley write the two murder notes. The defense brought numerous witnesses who attested to Frank's alibi, which did not leave him enough time to have committed the crime.

Reporters from the Georgia media closely watched and hand-recorded the courtroom proceedings, then followed up by publishing newspaper articles repeating the testimony delivered during the trial.

A number of employees, including female factory workers, testified that they had never seen him flirting or touching the girls and that they considered him to be of good character.[65] In their rebuttal case, the prosecution produced witnesses who testified that Frank had a "bad" reputation for lasciviousness.[66] Defense witnesses testified that on that particular day, a Confederate holiday and a Saturday, there were too many people in the factory for Frank to have had trysts there. They also pointed out that the windows of Frank's second floor office lacked curtains.

Conley reiterated his testimony from his affidavit. He added to it by describing Frank as regularly having sex with women in his upstairs second floor office on Saturdays while Conley kept a lookout on the first floor. Although Conley admitted that he had changed his story and lied repeatedly to initially cover for Frank, this did not damage the prosecution's case as much as might have been expected. Conley admitted to being an accessory, so it wasn't surprising that he had lied at first. Many white observers did not believe that a black man could have been intelligent enough to make up such an elaborate and complicated story. The Georgian wrote, "Many people are arguing to themselves that the negro (Jim Conley), no matter how hard he tried or how generously he was coached, still never could have framed up a story like the one he told unless there was some foundation in fact."

Frank spoke on his own behalf by making an unsworn statement as allowed by Georgia Code, Section 1036; it did not permit any cross-examination without the consent of Leo Frank and thus no cross-examination occurred. Most of Frank's four-hour speech was a loquacious, articulate and detailed analysis of the accounting work he had done the day of Phagan's murder, meant to show that the accounting done that particular day was all too time-consuming for him to have committed the murder. He ended with a description of how he viewed the crime, including an effective, and by some accounts moving, explanation of his nervousness:

"Gentlemen, I was nervous. I was completely unstrung. Imagine yourself called from sound slumber in the early hours of the morning ... To see that little girl on the dawn of womanhood so cruelly murdered — it was a scene that would have melted stone."

In closing statements, the defense attempted to divert suspicion from Frank to Conley. Lead defense attorney Luther Rosser said to the jury: "Who is Conley? He is a dirty, filthy, black, drunken, lying, nigger."[67] Leo Frank himself had issued a widely publicized statement questioning how the "perjured vaporizings of a black brute" could be accepted in testimony against him.[67]

The prosecutor compared Frank to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He said that Frank had killed Phagan to keep her from talking.

With the sensational national coverage, public sentiment in Atlanta turned strongly against Frank. The defense requested a mistrial because it felt the jurors had been intimidated, but the motion was denied. In case of an acquittal, the judge feared for the safety of Frank and his lawyers, so he and the defense agreed that neither Frank nor any the defense attorneys would be present when the verdict was read.[68] On August 25, 1913, after less than four hours of deliberation, a unanimous decision was delivered:[69] Frank was convicted of murder.[70]

In the street, "pandemonium reigned."[71] The Constitution described the scene as Dorsey emerged from the steps of City Hall:

"The solicitor reached no farther than the sidewalk. While mounted men rode like Cossacks through the human swarm, three muscular men slung Mr. Dorsey on their shoulders and passed him over the heads of the crowd across the street."[72]

The following day Frank was sentenced to hang. His execution date was set for October 10. His attorneys issued a protest, published in the Atlanta newspapers on August 26: "The temper of the public mind was such that it invaded the court room and invaded the streets and made itself manifest at every turn the jury made; [it was as] impossible for this jury to escape the effects of this public feeling as if they had... been permitted to mingle with the people." They filed a motion for a new trial, denied by Judge Roan on October 31, which was upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court in February 1914, and Frank was re-sentenced to hang April 17, 1914.[73]


There followed four more appeals between April 1914 and May 1915.[74][75] Frank's appeals to the Georgia Supreme Court failed in November. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Lamar denied a writ of habeas corpus sought by Frank's lawyers. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes also denied habeas corpus, although he wrote a short opinion stating that "I very seriously doubt if the petitioner ... has had due process of law ... because of the trial taking place in the presence of a hostile demonstration and seemingly dangerous crowd, thought by the presiding Judge to be ready for violence unless a verdict of guilty was rendered."

On December 28, Justice Lamar granted a writ of error allowing Frank to appeal to the full U.S. Supreme Court, which heard Frank's appeal in April 1915. On April 19, in the case of Frank v. Mangum, Frank's appeal was denied on a 7-2 vote. Holmes and Justice Charles Evans Hughes dissented, with Holmes writing that "Mob law does not become due process of law by securing the assent of a terrorized jury."[76]


On May 31, 1915, Frank pleaded to the Georgia State Prison Commission that his sentence be commuted to life imprisonment. On June 9 the Commission submitted a divided report to the departing Governor of Georgia, John M. Slaton (above).[77]

Slaton heard arguments on both sides of the clemency issue from attorneys who had tried the case. He introduced a letter from Judge Roan, who had died in March, which became an object of contention at the hearing.[78] He reviewed more than 10,000 pages of documents, visited the pencil factory (which the jury did not do), and examined new evidence that tended to incriminate Conley, including studies comparing Conley's speech patterns to the language of the murder notes.[79][80] He noted later to reporters that "some of the most powerful evidence in [Frank's] behalf was not presented the jury which found him guilty."[81] During the hearing former Governor Brown had warned Slaton, "In all frankness, if Your Excellency wishes to invoke lynch law in Georgia and destroy trial by jury, the way to do it is by retrying this case and reversing all the courts."[82]

On June 21, 1915, Slaton commuted Frank's sentence to life in prison, "assuming that Frank's innocence would eventually be fully established and he would be set free."[79] "I can endure misconstruction, abuse and condemnation," Slaton said, "but I cannot stand the constant companionship of an accusing conscience which would remind me that I, as governor of Georgia, failed to do what I thought to be right.... [F]eeling as I do about this case I would be a murderer if I allowed this man to hang. It may mean that I must live in obscurity the rest of my days, but I would rather be plowing in a field for the rest of my life than to feel that I had that blood on my hands."[83]

However, in his written decision, Slaton said of the U.S. Supreme Court opinion that there was "no error of law" in Frank's trial and that "there was sufficient evidence to sustain the [guilty] verdict."[84] On this latter point, he said the Court had ruled "correctly in my judgement."[84] Furthermore, Slaton explicitly stated he was "sustaining the jury, the judge, and the appellate tribunals."[84] His reason for commuting Frank's sentence to life imprisonment was that the Frank verdict fell in that "territory 'beyond a REASONABLE DOUBT and absolute certainty,' for which the law provides in allowing life imprisonment instead of execution."[84] On the matter of bias against Frank as a Jew, Slaton wrote, "The charge against the State of Georgia of racial prejudice is unfair."[84]

The commutation was issued June 21, six days before the new governor was to take office and one day before Leo Frank was scheduled to hang. According to Steve Oney, "I think Slaton made a decision of conscience... That said, there was a clear and troubling appearance of a conflict of interest." During the Frank trial Slaton was made a partner in the law firm headed by Rosser, Frank's lead defense counsel.[85][86] Tom Watson railed against the decision and urged the lynchings of both Frank and Slaton.[87] Slaton had been a popular governor throughout his term, but he and his wife left Georgia immediately.[81]

Frank had been taken to the Milledgeville State Penitentiary the day before.[88] A mob threatened to attack the governor at home. A detachment of the Georgia National Guard under the command of Major Asa Warren Candler, along with county policemen and a group of Slaton's friends who were sworn in as deputies, dispersed the mob.[89] [90]

At the Milledgeville prison a fellow inmate attempted to kill Frank, slashing his throat and nearly severing his jugular vein.[88] The attacker told the authorities he wanted to keep the other inmates safe from mob violence, that Frank's presence was a disgrace to the prison, and that he was sure he would be pardoned if he killed Frank.[91] On August 4 Frank wrote his wife, “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.”[92] But the summer heat was keeping his wound from healing well.[93][94]


The commutation drove Tom Watson to new heights of ferocity. "Hundreds of pages were devoted to it, whole issues of his magazine, page after page of the weekly."[95] In the pages of The Jeffersonian and Watson's Magazine he reminded his readers that in a democracy, lynching parties were a tool of justice. "Hereafter, let no man reproach the South with lynch law: let him remember the unendurable provocation; and let him say whether lynch law is not better than no law at all.... "[W]hen mobs are no longer possible liberty will be dead."[96] "This country has nothing to fear from its rural communities. Lynch law is a good sign; it shows that a sense of justice lives among the people."[97]

On June 25, a marble slab six feet long was laid over Mary Phagan's grave in Marietta. On it is carved an inscription, written by Tom Watson, which begins, "In this day of fading ideals and disappearing land marks, little Mary Phagan's heroism is an heirloom than which there is nothing more precious among the old red hills of Georgia."[98]

The Knights of Mary Phagan began openly[99] organizing a plan to kidnap Frank from the state prison farm at Milledgeville and take him to Marietta to lynch him. The organizers recruited between 25 and 28 men with the necessary skills. "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." [100] The ringleaders, who were not available to participate in the raid or the lynching,[101] were:[102]

Joseph Mackey Brown, (d. 1932) the former governor who had threatened lynching during the clemency hearings

Judge Newton (Newt) Morris, twice a Superior Court judge of the Blue Ridge Circuit

Eugene Herbert Clay, (d. 1923) son of Senator Alexander S. Clay and former mayor of Marietta, who argued to Governor Slaton against clemency in June 1915

John Tucker Dorsey, a member of the lower house of the Georgia General Assembly, who later served as the Circuit's district attorney

Fred Morris, a prominent local lawyer who later organized Mariettas's first Boy Scout troop

Bolan Glover Brumby, owner of the Marietta Chair Company[103]

Others involved included "Moultrie McKinney Sessions, a lawyer and banker, and.... Gordon Baxter Gann, later mayor of Marietta and a state legislator."[104] Moultrie Sessions, with Herbert Clay, had been part of "the Marietta delegation" at Governor Slaton's June clemency hearing; his statement was to remind the Governor of the "bloodthirsty" maligning and misrepresentation of Georgia by news reports from other states.[81]In addition to these leaders the group included a doctor, another lawyer, and the former sheriff of Cobb County. "Each was a husband and father, a wage-earner, and a church-goer. They all bore well-known Cobb County names. There were no heavy drinkers, no hotheads, no braggarts, and they were mostly older men."[100][103] "It was by all accounts, coldly calculated, planned well in advance with military attention to detail, with help from people in high places, and carried out over prolonged time and distance by at least two dozen and perhaps as many as 40 men, absolutely confident of their cause and their fellow conspirators. And, unlike most lynchings, this one was not fueled by liquor.”[104]

On the afternoon of August 16 the eight cars of the lynching party left Marietta one by one, inconspicuously, heading for Milledgeville. "The mission was prepared like a military operation....The route the abductors would take had been traveled, measured, and timed." They arrived at the prison shortly before midnight and cut the telephone wires, emptied the gas from the prison's automobiles, handcuffed the warden, seized Leo Frank and drove away. "No effort was made to resist the group that whisked Frank away. Actually, many guards were sympathetic to the abductors."[105]

The 150-mile trip took seven hours, through small towns on back roads. It was of utmost importance that the motorcade follow the reverse of the path that 49 years earlier Sherman had taken on his march to the sea.[105] Lookouts posted in the towns telephoned ahead to the next town as soon as they saw the line of open cars pass by.

The lynching party originally planned to hang Frank either from a tree in the Marietta city cemetery, where Mary Phagan was buried, or in the Marietta Square. But although they had informed the Milledgeville warden, "We have come for Leo Frank.You will find him tomorrow on Mary Phagan's grave," by the time they reached the outskirts of Marietta, the sun was rising.[105]

People began to gather. A lynching site at Frey's Gin, two miles (3 km) east of Marietta, had already been prepared, complete with a rope and table supplied by former sheriff William Frey.[106] The rope was placed around his neck and slung over a branch of a large Georgia oak. Frank's only requests were that they allow him to write a note to his wife, that they return his wedding ring to her, and that they cover his lower body before hanging him, since he was wearing nothing but a nightshirt. Frank's last words were, "I think more of my wife and my mother than I do of my own life." Standing on a table he was turned to face in the direction of W.J. Phagan's farm, and at about 7 a.m. the table was kicked away.[107] His neck was not broken, but the hangman's noose tore open the unhealed knife-wound in his throat, and he suffocated to death.[108]

A doctor examined Frank's body while it still hung from the limb.[107] When it was cut down and fell onto the ground Robert E. Lee Howell, a "frenzied onlooker," ground his shoe into the face of the corpse.[109][110] Judge Newt Morris restored order, placing his hand on Howell's shoulder and saying, "Citizens of Cobb County...[w]hoever did this did a thorough job, and there's nothing more to be done. Leo Frank has paid the penalty of the law, Little Mary Phagan has been avenged, and the law has been vindicated."[111] The body was put into a basket and driven out of Marietta at dramatic speeds by Newt Morris and his driver John Stephens Wood, "followed by a trail of automobilists." In Atlanta thousands besieged the undertaker's parlor, demanding to see the body; after they began throwing bricks they were allowed in to file past the unembalmed corpse.[109]

Pieces of Frank's nightshirt had been torn off his body to keep as memorabilia. Low-hanging branches of the tree were cut down and carried away as souvenirs. Postcards featuring pictures of the Knights of Mary Phagan and other citizens posing in front of Frank's hanging body were sold for years in Georgia stores. The Marietta hardware stores sold out of rope.[112]

Leo Frank's body was buried in the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Glendale, Queens, New York.


After Frank's lynching, approximately half of Georgia's 3,000 Jews left the state.[113] Many American Jews saw Frank as an American Alfred Dreyfus. The intensity of the national and international attention focused on the case was comparable to that in the Lindbergh kidnapping. Frank's arrest and trial led to the founding of the Anti-Defamation League in 1913.[114]

Two weeks after Leo Frank's lynching, in the September 2, 1915 issue of The Jeffersonian, Tom Watson looked to the future by looking back. He reminisced that he had been only a young boy in the days of the old Ku Klux Klan, and to the warning "we will meet the Leo Frank League with a Gentile League, if they provoke us much further;" he added, "another Ku Klux Klan may be organized to restore HOME RULE.'" Of the murder of Frank, he observed that "the voice of the people is the voice of God."[115] In 1914, when Watson began hammering home his anti-Frank message, The Jeffersonian's circulation had been 25,000; by September 2, 1915 its circulation was 87,000.[116]

On October 16, 1915, two months to the night after Frank was taken from the Milledgeville prison, members of the Knights of Mary Phagan burned a gigantic cross atop Stone Mountain.[117] Southerners who believed Frank was guilty saw similarities between the Frank trial and The Birth of a Nation.[118] There was class and sectional resentment against educated northern industrialists, for whom many southerners worked in factories. The Georgia politician and publisher Tom Watson used the case as a stepping stone to build personal political power and support for a rebirth and revival of a declining Ku Klux Klan and members of the lynching mob decided to create a new Ku Klux Klan. The new Klan was inaugurated on Thanksgiving night, 1915, again before a burning cross at the top of Stone Mountain, led by William J. Simmons and attended by fifteen charter members and a few aging survivors of the original Klan. [119]

In keeping with fears of rapid social change in America, including the waves of new Catholic and Jewish immigrants from southern and eastern Europe who poured into the late 19th and early 20th century United States, the new Klan had an antisemitic, anti-Catholic, and nativist slant. The Klan was able to tap into fears aroused by staggering rates of population growth and industrialization in major cities of the Midwest such as Detroit, Chicago, and Indianapolis, where the Klan grew rapidly. The Klan also grew in Southern industrializing cities that grew rapidly from 1910-1930, such as Dallas and Houston. In all these cities, neighborhoods changed quickly, people moved from farms into cities for the first time, competition for jobs and housing was fierce, the housing market could not keep up with demand, and competition led to violence among groups struggling for place. After World War I, the Klan continued to grow as a result of postwar social strains, and the effort to assimilate thousands of veterans in the job market.

Founding of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith

Leo Frank was B'nai B'rith president for Atlanta, Georgia. The anti-semitism surrounding his case, trial and lynching was the catalyst forming the impetus and inspiration for creating the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith in 1913, an organization dedicated to stopping the defamation of Jewish people, bigotry, racism and discrimination.

Alonzo Mann's 1982 affidavit

In 1982, nearly 70 years after the murder of Mary Phagan, Alonzo Mann, who had been Leo Frank's office boy, volunteered that he had seen Jim Conley alone at the factory, carrying Mary Phagan's body, which contradicted Conley's testimony that Leo Frank had paid him to move the dead body of Mary Phagan.[120] Mann swore in an affidavit that Conley had threatened to kill him if he reported what he had seen. Mann said that when he told his family that he had seen Conley dragging the body of Mary Phagan, his parents made him swear and promise not to tell anyone. Mann never told police and investigators what he saw that day at the pencil factory out of fear for his life and to keep his promise to his family. He almost went to the grave with this secret. Alonzo Mann died in 1985 at the age of 85.

Posthumous pardon

After a 1983 denial of a pardon,[121] with Mann's testimony the Anti-Defamation League convinced the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant Frank a posthumous pardon. On March 11, 1986, a pardon was issued by the board:

"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." [122]


Leaders in the Jewish community worked to have the site of Frank's lynching officially recognized. On March 7, 2008, a historical marker was placed in front of the building at 1200 Roswell Road in Marietta, near the location at which Frank was lynched. "Rabbis, news crews, local politicians and onlookers attended the unveiling of the marker Friday afternoon. Keynote speakers included Bill Nigut, Southeast Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League; Cobb [County] Chairman Sam Olens; former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes; state Senator Steve Thompson; Rabbi Steven Lebow; Georgia Historical Society President Todd Groce; and attorney Dale Schwartz."[123]

The marker's text reads,

Near this location on August 17, 1915, Leo M. Frank, the Jewish superintendent of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, was lynched for the murder of thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan, a factory employee. A highly controversial trial fueled by societal tensions and anti-Semitism resulted in a guilty verdict in 1913. After Governor John M. Slaton commuted his sentence from death to life in prison, Frank was kidnapped from the state prison in Milledgeville and taken to Phagan's hometown of Marietta where he was hanged before a local crowd. Without addressing guilt or innocence, and in recognition of the state's failure to either protect Frank or bring his killers to justice, he was granted a posthumous pardon in 1986.

Erected by the Georgia Historical Society, the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, and Temple Kol Emeth[124]

Dramatizations, musicals, and plays

The Leo Frank story has been explored in various art forms.

During the Frank trial an Atlanta musician and millworker, Fiddlin' John Carson,[125] wrote a song that has not been forgotten: the murder ballad "Little Mary Phagan," also known as "Leo Frank and Mary Phagan" and "Little Mary Fagan."[126] During the mill strikes of 1914 Carson would play and sing "Little Mary Phagan" on his fiddle on the Fulton County Courthouse steps to appreciative crowds. Even during the trial, the lyrics assumed Frank was guilty, and as the story developed Carson added new lyrics. He wrote another popular hit, "Dear Old Oak in Georgia," sentimentalizing the tree from which Leo Frank was hanged.[127][128]

Murder in Harlem (1935), by director Oscar Micheaux, was one of three films Micheaux made based on events in the Leo Frank trial. He portrayed the character analogous to Frank as guilty and set the film in New York, removing sectional conflict as one of the cultural forces in the trial. In this version the Frank character was instead a Boston Brahmin. Micheaux's first version was a silent film, The Gunsaulus Mystery (1921). Lem Hawkins' Confession (1935) was also related to the Leo Frank trial.[129]

The film They Won't Forget (1937) was inspired by the Frank case, with the Leo Frank character portrayed as a Christian.

The 1964 television series "Profiles in Courage" dramatized Governor John M. Slaton's decision to commute Frank's sentence, and the responses of angry Georgians. The series was based on John F. Kennedy's 1956 collection of biographical sketches; Governor Slaton's story was added by the filmmakers. The episode starred Walter Matthau as Governor Slaton and Michael Constantine as Tom Watson.[130]

After the publication of Alonzo Mann's 1982 testimony, the case was revisited in the 1988 made-for-TV movie The Murder of Mary Phagan, starring Jack Lemmon, Peter Gallagher, and Kevin Spacey.[131]

David Mamet explored the case in his novel The Old Religion (1997), using it to look at Jewish-American experience and history.

Playwright Alfred Uhry and composer Jason Robert Brown dramatized the Frank story in the musical Parade, produced on Broadway in 1998. It won the 1999 Tony Award for Best Score and Best Book of a Musical. Uhry's great-uncle owned the pencil factory run by Leo Frank.[132]

In 2009 the story was told in The People v. Leo Frank, a film by Ben Loeterman, which premiered on PBS. Steve Oney, author of And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank, contributed his files for research. "Off the Shelf: Letting go of a life's work." January 10, 2010. The Los Angeles Times: Articles Collections

Radical Jewish musician Jamie Saft created an eerily toned song, named The Ballad of Leo Frank. The story of Frank's trial and eventual lynching is included in the liner notes of Saft's album entitled "Black Shabbis."



Bernstein, Matthew (2009). Screening a Lynching: The Leo Frank Case on Film and Television. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press. Google Books
Brundage, William Fitzhugh (1997). Under Sentence of Death: Lynching in the South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Google Books
Dillard, Phillip D., and Randall Hall (eds.) (1999). The Southern Albatross: Race and Ethnicity in the American South. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Google Books
Dinnerstein, Leonard (1987). The Leo Frank Case. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press. Google Books
Frank v. Mangum, 237 U.S. 309 (1915) Justia
Harris, Nathaniel E. (1925). The Story of an Old Man's Life. Macon, GA: The J.W. Burke Company. Text. SmarTech
Golden, Harry (1966). The Lynching of Leo Frank. London: Cassell and Co.
Horn, Stanley F. (1939). Invisible Empire: The Story of the Ku Klux Klan, 1866-1871. Montclair, NJ: Patterson Smith Publishing Corporation.
Knight, Alfred H. (1996).The Life of the Law. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lawson, John Davison (ed.) (1918). American State Trials. Volume X. St. Louis: F.H. Thomas Law Book Co. Google Books
Levy, Eugene (2000), "Is the Jew a White Man?", in Adams, Maurianne; Bracey, John H., Strangers and Neighbors: Relations Between Blacks & Jews in the United States, Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, ISBN 1-55849-236-4
Lindemann, Albert S. (1991). The Jew Accused: Three Anti-Semitic Affairs (Dreyfus, Beilis, Frank), 1894-1915. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-44761-5. Google Books
Linder, Douglas O. "Famous Trials: The Leo Frank Trial, 1913." University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law
MacLean, Nancy (1994). Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan.. Athens, GA: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195098366. Google Books
Melnick, Jeffrey Paul (2000). Black-Jewish Relations on Trial: Leo Frank and Jim Conley in the New South. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. Google Books
Oney, Steve (2003). And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank. New York: Random House.
Phagan, Mary (1987). The Murder of Little Mary Phagan. Far Hills, NJ: Horizon Press.
Scott, Thomas Allan (1995). Cornerstones of Georgia History: Documents that Formed the State. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press. Google Books
Stokes, Melvyn (2007). D. W. Griffith's the Birth of a Nation. Oxford University Press, USA.
Wade, Wyn Craig (1987). The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America. New York: Simon and Schuster. Google Books
Woodward, Comer Vann (1963). Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Books


1.^ Commentators include
Rousmaniere, John (1991). A Bridge to Dialogue: Story of Jewish-Christian Relations. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, p. 98. The authors call the evidence "trumped up."
Coleman, Kenneth (ed.) (1977). A History of Georgia. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, p. 292.
Dinnerstein p. 162. Dinnerstein quotes John Roche, who, he writes, chronicled the development of civil rights in the 20th century: "As one who has read the trial record half a century later, I might add... that Leo Frank was the victim of circumstantial evidence which would not hold up ten minutes in a normal courtroom then or now." Dinnerstein writes that Harry Golden echoed Roche's opinion that no one would be convicted today on the same evidence.
Eakin, Frank (1998). What Price Prejudice?: Antisemitism in the Light of the American Christian Experience, Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, p. 97. Eakin describes the case as a "travesty of justice."
Oney, Steve. "Off the Shelf: Letting go of a life's work." January 10, 2010. The Los Angeles Times: Articles Collections The author who "spent decades researching the 1913 murder of Mary Phagan and the subsequent lynching of Leo Frank" called it "arguably America's worst anti-Semitic incident."
Woodward p. 436. C. Vann Woodward wrote, "Outside the state the conviction was general that Frank was the victim of a gross injustice, if not completely innocent. He presented his own case so eloquently and so ingenuously, and the circumstance of the trial were such a glaring indication of a miscarriage of justice, that thousands of people enlisted in his cause."
2.^ Dinnerstein, Preface to the First Edition, p. xiii.
3.^ "Considered one of the most sensational trials of the early 20th century, the Frank case seemed to press every hot-button issue of the time: North vs. South, black vs. white, Jew vs. Christian, industrial vs. agrarian." Ravitz, Jessica (November 2, 2009). "Murder case, Leo Frank lynching live on." CNN
4.^ Wade p. 144; Horn p.
5.^ Dinnerstein p. 84.
6.^ MacLean p. 336.
7.^ Sawyer, Kathy. "A Lynching, a List and Reopened Wounds." The Washington Post. June 20, 2000; Wade p. 144; Features: Steve Oney's List of the Leo Frank Lynchers. May 5, 2004. Flagpole
8.^ Simpson, David. "After 70 years, businessman lynched in Ga. given pardon." March 19, 1986. The Gainesville Sun
9.^ a b Oney p. 10.
10.^ The Leo Frank Case. GeorgiaInfo, Digital Library of Georgia
11.^ The Leo M. Frank Collection, 1913-1965. American Jewish Archives
12.^ Frank's statement to the jury. Lawson p. 224.
13.^ The Selig Company Building - Pioneer Neon Company. Marietta Street ARTery Association
14.^ Though Jews were not allowed membership in many of Atlanta's prestigious clubs, Frank belonged to at least four progressive Jewish clubs and benevolent societies. Dillard p. 170.
15.^ Lawson pp. 211, 250.
16.^ Phagan p. 111.
17.^ Mary's family background: Phagan pp. 10-16, Oney pp. 4-7.
18.^ The late William Joshua Phagan's father, Mary's grandfather, W.J. Phagan, was a respected citizen of Marietta. He helped Mary's mother and all his children financially as needed; he "kept an eye on all his children and grandchildren, and by 1910 [he] had all of them nearby him, as well as financially secure, in Marietta," but that year Mary's mother moved her family closer to Atlanta. The cousins would get together often in Marietta to play at their grandparents' house. Phagan p. 12.
19.^ Mary was working part time in a cotton mill with her brothers and sisters at age ten. Oney p. 5. Though reform groups of the Progressive Era were making inroads against business interests in the battle over child labor, "at the time of Mary Phagan's death, Georgia alone among the states allowed factory owners to hire ten-year-old children and work them for eleven-hour days." Brundage p. 165. "[Mary] Phagan ... personified the bitter dilemma of the [South's] emerging industrial proletariat, forced to rely on children's wages to make ends meet." Brundage p. 163.
20.^ Oney p. 6.
21.^ George Epps testified that Mary got off the streetcar at about 12:07. Lawson p. 190; The Leo Frank Trial: Testimony of George Epps
22.^ The defense fixed Mary's arrival at the factory door at approximately 12:12 p.m; the prosecution maintained she arrived at approximately 12:05. Lawson pp. 207, 241, 300. Leo Frank stated that he handed Mary her pay envelope at 12:10. Lawson p. 195. Governor Slaton, examining the trial transcripts in 1915, determined that Mary reached the pencil factory door "at some time between 12.05 and 12.10." The Leo Frank Trial: Clemency Decision
23.^ Oney p. 373. In a 3,500 word affidavit, Epps wrote, "I now state that at both the coroner's inquest and the trial of Leo Frank I swore falsely. I now state that I was persuaded to give the false testimony ... by Detective John Black."
24.^ Dinnerstein p. 86
25.^ Lawson pp. 209-10.
26.^ Lawson p. 182.
27.^ Oney p. 9.
28.^ Lawson p. 207
29.^ Golden pp. 5-6.
30.^ Frank may have said "I don't know." In his statement to the jury he said that he told her "No."
31.^ Lawson p. 226.
32.^ Lawson pp. 200-01, 221-2, 242.
33.^ Dinnerstein p. 4
34.^ Oney pp. 30-31.
35.^ Phagan-Kean p. 76
36.^ Phagan-Kean p.77
37.^ Oney p. 35
38.^ During the trial "night witch" was interpreted to mean "night watch[man]"; when read the note night watchman Newt Lee said, "Boss, that's me." During the first appeal, however, Southern attorney Henry Alexander wrote that a night witch was a creature of superstitious terror, well-known to children in the South but which would have been unknown to Leo Frank. Oney p. 379.
39.^ Conley's four statements: Lawson pp. 244-50.
40.^ Lawson p. 244, Oney p. 165.
41.^ Lawson p. 210.
42.^ Lawson p. 216.
43.^ The police and investigators appeared to intimidate and threaten other potential witnesses such as Nina Formby, the madam of a bordello who may or may not have known Frank. Shortly after Frank was arrested, Formby signed an affidavit which claimed that among other things, Frank had called her on the day of the murder looking to reserve a private room at the bordello. In 1914, well after the trial and conviction when she was far away from police, Formby told The New York Times that detectives had "plied her with whiskey." "Woman Admits She Lied About Frank." The New York Times, February 26, 1914. Back in Atlanta, Chief of Detectives Langford insisted that Mrs. Formby "never gave out the confession attributed to her in New York," and added that in any case, Mrs. Formby's statement was not introduced at trial. "Atlanta Stirred by Mrs. Formby's Story." The New York Times, February 27, 1914.
44.^ The New York Times, February 26, 1914
45.^ Lawton p. 233. "[A]t no time was there even an intimation that the agency or any of its employees were to be in Frank's employ and to work only in his interest." "About the Frank Case; Harry Scott, Pinkerton Detective Who Worked On It, Answers Critics." The New York Times, April 18, 1915.
46.^ The Georgian, a Hearst newspaper, published an editorial in the relative quiet of April 1914 expressed its conviction that "four-fifths, if not nine-tenths, of the thinking people of Atlanta" wanted Frank to have "another chance...if the law and the evidence will permit it." "Atlantans Favor New Frank Trial." The New York Times, April 19, 1914.
47.^ Lawson p. 187.
48.^ Conley's May 28 statement, Lawson p. 246-48.
49.^ Lawson pp. 206, 219.
50.^ Lawson pp. 366-7.
51.^ Lawson p. 235.
52.^ Dinnerstein, pp. 114-15
53.^ Oney pp. 147-148
54.^ "Indicted for Girl's Murder; Leo A. [sic Frank Accused In Case That Has Taken Political Turn."] The New York Times, May 25, 1913.
55.^ Oney p.
56.^ Lawson's American Trials, Volume X, pp. vi-xii and 182-414.
57.^ Oney (2003) pp.115-116, 236
58.^ Lindemann at p. 251 states there were five; Oney at p. 116 names four.
59.^ Oney p. 116.
60.^ a b Lindemann p. 251.
61.^ Oney pp. 328-329
62.^ Linder, Douglas (2008). "The Trial of Leo Frank: An Account." Social Science Research Network
63.^ Knight p. 189.
64.^ Leonard S. Roan, 1913-1914. Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia
65.^ Lawton p. 223.
66.^ Oney (2003) p. 309. During the appeals process Oney writes that "For openers came affidavits from Dewey Hewell, Nellie Pettis, Nelie Wood, Ruth Robinson, Marie Karst, Mamie Kitchens and Carrie Smth -- all state's witnesses -- announcig that they had either been coached into making false accusations of sexual impropriety against their former boss or had done so unwittingly." p. 389
67.^ a b Levy pp. 261-70.
68.^ This agreement was challenged as a violation of Frank's due process rights in Frank's appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court in November 1914, Lawson p. 410 fn.2, and in his U.S. Supreme Court appeal, Frank v. Mangum (1915). Appellate Decisions in the Leo Frank Case University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
69.^ Lawson, footnote p. 407. The Atlanta Journal reported the next day that deliberation actually took less than two hours; at the first ballot one juror was undecided, then within two hours the second vote was unanimous.
70.^ Linder, Douglas O. "The Leo Frank Trial: A Chronology." University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
71.^ Descriptions by the Constitution and the Journal of the crowds outside the courthouse and their reaction to the news: Lawson p. 407, footnote.
72.^ The New York Times, December 14, 1914.
73.^ Lawton pp. 409-10.
74.^ Appellate Decisions in the Leo Frank Case University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law; Lawson pp. 410-12 and footnotes. After the defense's extraordinary motion for a new trial, filed April 16, 1914, was denied, the judge ordered a sanity test, although Frank had been scheduled to die the next day. Throughout the appeals Frank was twice re-sentenced to die.
75.^ The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Frank v. Mangum (1915) summarizes all previous petitions and decisions.
76.^ Woodward p. 436
77.^ Lawson p. 412.
78.^ After the commutation Slaton told reporters that Judge Roan "could have set the verdict aside, and that he did not do so was a regret that followed him to the grave.... Had Judge Roan expressed his doubts to me in writing instead of orally at the time of the trial there can be no question but that the Supreme Court of Georgia would have granted a new trial to Frank.... There are things appellate courts cannot do in sweeping aside technicalities, and there is where the Governor, as the safety valve in the administration of justice, comes in, and it was my duty to correct the errors the courts themselves could not correct." "Slaton Here; Glad He Saved Frank." The New York Times, June 30, 1915. However, at the clemency hearing former Governor Brown had echoed essentially what the appeals courts had said in their denials, that justice is not mercy, and "I do not find anywhere in the printed record where Judge Roan said he believed the jury made a mistake.... Judge Roan knew that in a case of circumstantial evidence it was within his discretion to pass a sentence of life imprisonment." "Begin Last Frank Appeal to Governor." The New York Times, June 13, 1915.
79.^ a b The New Georgia Encyclopedia: The Leo Frank Case.
80.^ "Begin Last Frank Appeal to Governor." The New York Times, June 13, 1915.
81.^ a b c "Slaton Here; Glad He Saved Frank." The New York Times, June 30, 1915.
82.^ "Begin Last Frank Appeal to Governor." The New York Times, June 13, 1915.
83.^ "A Political Suicide". Time Magazine. January 24, 1955. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,861129,00.html. ; "Life Term Is Given Frank." Florence Times, June 25, 1915.
84.^ The Leo Frank Trial: Clemency Decision of Governor John M. Slaton (June 21, 1915)
85.^ Dinnerstein pp. 123-24. "Slaton could have avoided the case by claiming 'personal involvement.' He had this option because he was the law partner of Leo Frank's attorney, Luther Rosser."
86.^ The Associated Press. "Rabbi Seeks NFL Censure for Remarks About 1915 Lynching." Macon Telegraph, September 9, 2000. "Steve Oney, a writer who has spent 13 years researching and writing a book on the case, said there is no evidence the governor was bribed into the action that ruined his political career. 'I think Slaton made a decision of conscience,' he said. 'That said, there was a clear and troubling appearance of a conflict of interest.'"
87.^ "Are the old lessons lifeless? Are the old glories gone? Are there no feet that tread the old paths? Once, there were men in Georgia — men who were afraid of nothing, save to do wrong; men who sprang to arms, and went to death, on a bare question of principle.... [O]ur grand old Empire State HAS BEEN RAPED! .... We have been violated, AND WE ARE ASHAMED!" Scott 160-1.
88.^ "Leo Frank's Throat Cut by Convict." The New York Times, July 17, 1915; "Frank Survives Assassin's Knife." The New York Times, July 19, 1915.
89.^ The New Georgia Encyclopedia: John M. Slaton (1866-1955)
90.^ Gov Harris's memoir
91.^ "Frank's Assailant Before Governor." The New York Times, July 25, 1915.
92.^ Brandeis Special Collections Spotlight; Phagan p.
93.^ "Frank's Head in Braces; Excessive Heat Delaying Recovery from Wound in Throat." The New York Times, August 2, 1915.
94.^ Governor Harris, Governor Slaton's successor, visited Frank's attacker, and then Frank, at the Milledgeville prison. He was shocked by the horrific wound and asked the doctor "immediately, with a good deal of sympathy in my voice, 'Won't that wound attack his lungs before it heals?' Frank laughed, a queer sort of laugh, a laugh that showed, at least to me, a hard, careless heart, and the doubt, which I had about his guilt, was lessened greatly, as I heard the laugh...I felt then that the man was undoubtedly a hardened criminal or a reckless prisoner." Harris memoir
95.^ Woodward p. 439.
96.^ Features: Cast of Characters in the Leo Frank Case. May 5, 2004. Flagpole
97.^ Woodward p. 432. "Lynchings were taking place almost daily in the South." Phagan p. 30. About two dozen people were lynched each year in Georgia; in 1915 the number was 22. Oney p. 122.
98.^ Text of the inscription over Mary Phagan's grave.
99.^ Recalling her father's memories, Mary Phagan Kean wrote that "everyone knew the identity of the lynchers." Phagan p. 27. Oney at p. 526 quotes a resident, Carl Abernathy, as saying, "They'd go to a man's office and talk to him or ... see a man on the job and talk to him," and quotes an unidentified lyncher: "The organization of the body was more open than mysterious."
100.^ Phagan p. 223.
101.^ Newt Morris, who "had experience in mob-quelling," appeared at the hanging tree, and was commended for controlling the second mob. "Grim Tragedy in Woods." The New York Times, August 19, 1915; Lawton p. 413.
102.^ The list of ringleaders is from Oney, 2003. Oney's source for Governor Brown's involvement is given as a June 12, 1990 interview with Marietta newspaperman Bill Kinney. A document kept at Emory University lists 27 names of lynchers, and confirms all five of those listed by Oney.
103.^ Features: Steve Oney's List of the Leo Frank Lynchers. May 5, 2004. Flagpole This article breaks down Oney's list, which he acknowledges is probably not complete -- forty people may have been part of the conspiracy -- into the leaders and planners, the field commanders, and the footsoldiers.
104.^ Kathy Sawyer, A Lynching, a List and Reopened Wounds. Washington Post, June 20, 2000.
105.^ Phagan p. 224.
106.^ Frey testified to the coroner's jury that his brother had called him at 5 a.m. and told him of the prison raid. He testified that in the morning he went to "the cemetery where Mary Phagan is buried, but there was nothing there." "Parties Unknown." Boston Evening Transcript, August 24, 1915.
107.^ "Grim Tragedy in Woods." The New York Times, August 18, 1915.
108.^ Oney p. 556.
109.^ "Full Inquiry Is Ordered; Body Saved from Burning at Hands of an Angry Throng." The New York Times, August 18, 1915.
110.^ After the lynching Tom Watson sent Howell a jubilant telegram: "There's life in the old land yet." Phagan p. 227.
111.^ Morris led the citizens in a vote as to whether Frank's body should be cut into little pieces and burned, or sent back to his parents. "Grim Tragedy in Woods."; Lawson pp. 413-14, quoting The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 18, 1915.
112.^ "The Best of Times, The Worst of Times." The Jewish Americans (2008), dir. David Grubin; Phagan p. 225.
113.^ Theoharis, Athan, and John Stuart Cox (1988). The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, p. 45.
114.^ 1913-1920 ADL - In Retrospect The Anti-Defamation League
115.^ Woodward p. 446.
116.^ Woodward p. 442.
117.^ Wade p. 144.
118.^ Stokes p. 358.
119.^ Wade pp. 144-5. Though Wade states that members of the Knights of Mary Phagan attended Simmons's swearing-in ceremony, MacLean in Behind the Mask of Chivalry points out that "no one has ever documented a direct connection between the two [groups]. The 'truth' of the link lay less in personnel than in a common vigilante spirit." MacLean p. 12.
120.^ "Wrongly Accused, Falsely Convicted, Wantonly Murdered.". 2004-05-04. http://www.law.uga.edu/academics/profiles/dwilkes_more/his38_wrongly.html.
121.^ "American Notes". Time Magazine. March 24, 1986. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1075053-2,00.html.
122.^ Dinnerstein, Leonard (2009-03-31). "Leo Frank Case". Leo Frank Case. New Georgia Encyclopedia; University of Georgia. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-906.
123.^ Cobb Neighbor Newspaper, March 13, 2008.
124.^ Historical Marker Dedication: Leo Frank Lynching The Georgia Historical Society
125.^ Kenney, William Howland (1999). Recorded Music in American Life: the Phonograph and Popular Memory, 1890-1945. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 143-8. Google Books
126.^ Carson's daughter Rosa Lee recorded the song in 1925. Transcribed lyrics of "Little Mary Phagan" as performed by Rosa Lee Carson. The New Georgia Encyclopedia
127.^ Melnick pp.3-30.
128.^ Boas, Franz (ed.) (1918). Journal of American Folk-lore, Volume 31. Lancaster, PA and New York: The American Folklore Society, p. 264.
129.^ Bernstein, Matthew. "Oscar Micheaux and Leo Frank: Cinematic Justice Across the Color Line." Film Quarterly vol. 57, no. 4 (2004): 8.
130.^ Bernstein, "John M. Slaton as a Profile in Courage."
131.^ Bernstein, "The Full Treatment: The Murder of Mary Phagan."
132.^ Pogrebin, Robin. "Songwriting Challenge of Historic Proportions." The New York Times, December 22, 1998.

Further reading

Glover, James Bolan, V, and Joe McTyre and Rebecca Nash Paden (1999). Marietta, 1833-2000. Charleston, Chicago, Portsmouth NH and San Francisco: Arcadia Publishing. Google Books
Hertzberg, Steven (1978). Strangers Within the Gate City: The Jews of Atlanta, 1845-1915. Philadelphia: the Jewish Publication Society of America.


  1. Thanks for an informative website. However, the B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation League was not founded because of the Leo Frank case. This is a matter of record and confirmed by them.

    Lucille's father was a salesman for the West Disinfecting Co., a maker of soaps and supplies. Before that, he was a liquor salesman.

    There are some new documents which should be considered, and they are shown at www.leofrankcase.com.


  2. Cheers Allen for recommending that site and clearing up some misconceptions about the case that I had.