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, 1913-1987.

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 I 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   364.1'523'09758231   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


"ARE YOU, BY ANY CHANCE ... ?"                                     1


Chapter 2


THE LEGACY                                                           9


Chapter 3


MY SEARCH BEGINS                                                44


Chapter 4


THE CASE FOR THE PROSECUTION                           65


Chapter 5


THE CASE FOR THE DEFENSE                                  104






Chapter 6


SENTENCING AND AFTERMATH                                 148


Chapter 7


THE COMMUTATION                                                166


Chapter 8


THE LYNCHING                                                       212


Chapter 9


REVERBERATIONS                                                   234


Chapter 10


ALONZO MANN'S TESTIMONY                                   240


Chapter 11



OF SILENCE                                                            259


Chapter 12


APPLICATION FOR PARDON: 1983                             270


AFTERWORD: PARDON                                             311





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 greataunt."

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 themselves.

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 you.

"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 cemetery.

"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 family.

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 011ie 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, Alabama.

"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. 011ie 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 money."

"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 drudgery.

"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 survive.

"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


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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 shaft.

"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, 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, 011ie.' "

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, 011ie, 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 questions:

"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 mean?"

"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 sorrow."

"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. Frank


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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 asked.

"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 mother.


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 imprisonment.

"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 favors.

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


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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 restore


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 information.

"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 creed.

"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 conclusions.

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 accident.

"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

tems 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.



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.





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 1913.

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 mills.

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 read: "IS THE GUILTY MAN AMONG THOSE HELD?"

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 pay."

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 office."

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 anybody."

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 frame.


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 Frank?


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 on


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 Frank.

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 necessary.

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 Streets.

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 announced.

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 body.

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 chairs.

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, 011ie 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


The Case for the Prosecution

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

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 up


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 trail.

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 testified,

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 splattered.

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

"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 significance.

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 there.

"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 again.

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 statement


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 swore:

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 strangulation."

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 trouble.

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 steps


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 re-member, keep your mouth shut," and I said, "All



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-examination.

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 for.

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 man."


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 Phagan."

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 said:

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 sweeping."

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 differently."





Luther Z. Rosser, Jr.
Solicitor General Hugh Dorsey


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 parade.

Then I walked on down Whitehall on the side of Mr. M. Rich & Bros. Store towards Brown and Allens; 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


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 forehead;


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 possess.

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 conspiracy.

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 said:

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 better.

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 requested


Impatient Crowd Waiting for Doors to Open for Frank

Crowds outside the Atlanta court building during the trial.

Lucille and Leo Frank during the trial.



Left to right: Chief of Detectives Newport Lanford, Jim Conley and Chief of Police James L. Beavers.




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 sentence.

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 ago."

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 of ten 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 convic-


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 evidence.

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


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 murder.

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 death."


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.


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 yours,

: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 respect.

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, Massachusetts.

(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-opened.

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


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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 crime."

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


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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 state.

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


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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


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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 necessity.

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 than


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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


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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 absence.

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 great.

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 basement."

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.


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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