Felder Denies Phagan Bribery; Dictograph Record Used Against Felder

by Archivist on July 5, 2016

Felder Denies Phagan Bribery

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Friday, May 23rd, 1913

Affidavits and an alleged dictograph record made public Friday afternoon, accuse Colonel Thomas B. Felder of offering to G. C. February [sic], a bribe of $1,000 for possession of police records of the Phagan case.

These affidavits and the dictograph record are sworn to by A. S. Colyar, Jr., of Nashville, and February, who is stenographer to Newport Lanford, Chief of the Atlanta Detective Department.

The Georgian on Wednesday published the fact that there were rumors on the streets that connected the name of Colonel Felder with the Phagan case in a sinister way.

Colonel Felder made a statement to a Georgian reporter to the effect that these rumors were false.

At that time, however, the police department was engaged in the effort to entrap Colonel Felder and bring against him a charge of bribery.

From developments Friday, it would seem that Colonel Felder was engaged in an effort to entrap Lanford and Beavers.

Colonel Felder has issued a statement to that effect. A statement from Mayor Woodward tends to corroborate it.

Chief of Detectives Lanford stated Friday afternoon that the premature publication of the affidavits had thwarted his plans and had defeated justice, and that he did not know what his future course would be as regards Colonel Felder.

No Mention of Case Except About Graft

Mayor Woodward Friday afternoon admitted that he had had conversation with Colonel Felder on Monday. No mention of the Phagan case was made by the attorney, however, except in reference to police graft.

“Colonel Felder said that he had run across a great many evidences of police graft in near beer saloons and resorts during the Phagan investigation,” declared the Mayor. “He suggested that this evidence be gathered up in an effort to unearth crookedness in the police system. I asked him how the matter could be gone about and Mr. Felder replied that it would take a good deal of money; that he would have to get the evidence in shape first.”

The Mayor denied that Felder was accompanied by C. C. Jones as has been stated. He said that Felder was alone. The Mayor’s assertion was borne out by Frank Hammond, the official’s secretary.

The sensational charges against Colonel Felder grow out of a plan entered into by Chief of Police Beavers, Chief of Detectives Newport Lanford, his secretary, G. C. February, and A. S. Colyar, Jr., of Nashville.

For nearly a week Lanford and Colyar have been working on the theory that they could develop the situation which would enable them to make a charge of bribery against Colonel Felder.

Colyar had worked in South Carolina with Colonel Felder at various times in the past, he claimed, and enjoyed Colonel Felder’s confidence. He informed Chief Lanford that Mr. Felder had failed to pay him money due for his work in South Carolina and that he intended to get revenge.

Colyar Reported Long Talk With Felder

On Monday Colyar reported that he had had long and confidential talks with Felder and C. W. Tobie, the Burns investigator who was working here on the Phagan case under the direction of Felder. He reported that Colonel Felder expressed extreme hostility to Chief Beavers and Lanford, cursed them and intimated that he would like to get possession of an affidavit the police were said to have secured from Mary Phagan’s parents denying that they had asked Colonel Felder to enter the case and setting forth that they had refused proffers made by Felder.

He also reported that he had informed Felder he knew G. C. February, Lanford’s secretary, quite well and [t]hat he was sure he could frame up with February to secure a transcript of the police records and the Coleman affidavit. He said Felder said he would give February $1,000 for them.

On Monday night, it is stated, Colyar and February went to Colonel Felder’s office and were in a conference there with Felder for something more than half an hour.

Colyar reported Tuesday that at this conference an arrangement was made for another meeting between February and Felder, the latter promising to give February $1,000 for the Coleman affidavit and the transcript of the police records of evidence in the case.

According to an affidavit made public Friday afternoon, a meeting as held Wednesday afternoon in the Williams House in North Forsyth Street between Colonel Felder, February and Colyar. It is stated a dictograph was placed in the room and that the city detective department now has in its possession alleged dictograph conversation in which Colonel Felder was quoted as offering February money to secure the Coleman affidavit.

It is charged by Colyar that Felder offered $1,000 for the affidavit and other police records of the Phagan case.

Colyar Submits Report to Chief Lanford

Monday morning Colyar made a written report to Chief Lanford, the substance of which was as follows:

“I met T. B. Felder at 8:15 o’clock Sunday night at the Marion Hotel and went with him to his law offices in the Equitable building, and held consultation with him until 9:15 p. m. In the meantime, C. W. Tobie, manager of the criminal department of the Burns Agency, dropped in in response to a telephone call. I was introduced to him and made an appointment with him for Monday morning at 10 o’clock in room 300 at the Piedmont Hotel.

“I find that Mr. Tobie is a former Pinkerton detective, and that he was discharged from that agency, as they allege, for corrupt practices. He is now posing as the confidential man of W. J. Burns.

“In my conversation with Mr. Tobie this morning, he said he would have the murderer of Mary Phagan within ten days, and that he had been on the scene long enough to know that the reason he had not been discovered before was on account of jealousy, politics and money.

“In my conversation with T. B. Felder, he stated that he had some thirty or forty clients, among whom were C. C. Jones, the Henderson Hotel and other liquor clients who were willing to raise a fund of $25,000 to impeach James L. Beavers and Newport A. Lanford, as both of them were corrupt, and that Beavers was at the present time living in open adultery with a prostitute, and was drunk half the time, and that Lanford missed his calling when he quit the farm, and threatened to go before the Board of Aldermen and file articles of impeachment against both them, and that he would have the backing of J. G. Woodward, Mayor of Atlanta; that Carlos Mason and two others of the police board had already gone back on Beavers because he was a fanatic.

“He said that he was employed to prosecute the Phagan murderer by J. A. McCall and other citizens of Atlanta, and that his employment had been ratified by Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Coleman, and that he intended to have them arrested for perjury and could prove the same.”

(This reference to perjury is based on the affidavit made by Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Coleman that Felder’s employment in the case was without their consent.

“In my conversation with him on Monday morning in the club rooms on the eighth floor of the Walton Building, he told me that he was very anxious for me to meet C. C. Jones, and that could get me big money if I would help him secure the evidence that would throw Beavers and his flunky, Lanford, out of a job, and that he already had the assistance and cooperation of Henry Jennings, former Chief of Police.

“Said Affidavit Would Raise a Mob”

“Further in his conversation this morning he said that the police department was at loggerheads, and that Pat Campbell was giving Chief Beavers and Lanford the double-cross, and that before the week was out Beavers and Lanford would find that the good people of this city were indignant at their course in the Phagan case, and that the moment they published the affidavit signed by J. W. Coleman and wife reflecting on his moral character they would go to jail, and that he could speak one word at this time and raise a mob that would hang Beavers and Lanford to a telegraph pole.

“He further said that if I would go to work for him and C. C. Jones in an effort to overthrow those — — —, he would not only guarantee me good money, but would pay me a large sum in advance, and I said to him: ‘Suppose I get arrested,’ and he said: ‘To — with arrest. Jim Woodward will turn you loose so quick it will make your head swim; and no matter who you are or what crime you commit, such as getting hold of private papers and documents they might have in their possession to overthrow them, you will never be indicted, for Hugh M. Dorsey, Solicitor General, and I understand each other thoroughly.

“This was the sum and substance of the conversations I have had up to the present time with T. B. Felder and C. W. Tobie. I am to have another meeting with both of them today, and Felder is to arrange a meeting between C. C. Jones and myself in regard to paying me $500 corruption fund, in his desperate effort to overthrow the police department.

“I left the Piedmont Hotel at 10:55 a. m. and Tobie went from thence to Felder’s office, as he informed me, to meet a committee of citizens, among whom were Mr. Hirsch, Mr. Myers, Mr. Greenstein and several other prominent Jews in this city.”

“P. S.—T. B. Felder told me last night that Solicitor Dorsey had no confidence whatever in Lanford, and believed absolutely that he was trying to give him the double-cross in the Phagan case, and that Lanford had been trying to get the solicitor to get him a dictograph for several days, and that Dorsey had been putting him off, and that he would play — getting a dictograph, and he went from this conference to Dorsey’s house, where he remained until 11:25 Sunday night, and reached home about midnight as I was talking to him over the phone at five minutes past 12.”

Following this written statement, according to Chief Lanford, Colyar arranged a meeting in Felder’s office between Felder and G. C. February, clerk and stenographer to Lanford. Lanford says he had two other men to shadow Colyar and February; that the meeting took place in Felder’s office shortly after 8 o’clock Monday night and lasted for somewhat more than half an hour.

Lanford says Colyar and February reported to him that Felder said he would pay well for the affidavit made by the Colemans denying that they authorized Felder to enter the Phagan case and for transcripts of the police records of the case.

Lanford says that Colyar and February reported to him that Felder asked February if he had access to Lanford’s safe and his records; that February replied that none but he and Lanford knew the combination to the safe, and that all the records of evidence in the Phagan case were kept in that safe.

Lanford says that February and Colyar reported that Felder then said he would give February $1,000 for a copy of the Phagan evidence and for the affidavit which the Colemans had made.

Colemans Swear That They Refused to Hire Felder

Here follows the affidavit made by Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Coleman that they refused to employ Mr. Felder as a lawyer in the case:

State of Georgia, Fulton County.

The affiant, J. W. Coleman and wife, citizens of Atlanta, Ga., who reside at 146 Lindsay Street.

The affiant is the step-father of Mary Phagan, deceased, the child who was foully murdered by a hellish brute on April 26, 1913.

The affiant is in the employ of the City of Atlanta in the Sanitary Department.

The affiant, while at the police station during the Coroner’s inquest, the exact day he does not remember, was approached by a man somewhat under the influence of liquor, and said to the affiant:

“I am working for the law firm of T. B. Felder, and I would like to have you go to his office, as he wants to see you, and I advise you to employ him.”

Affiant said: “No, I won’t go to his office.”

The piker then said: “Will you talk to Colonel Felder if I bring him here?” Whereupon the affiant agreed to see him. He went off and came back in a few minutes with Felder. Colonel Felder then said: “I want you to employ me to prosecute this case; it will not cost you a cent, as certain people have promised to pay me my fee, but I have got to have your consent to the employment before I can get into the Coroner’s jury.”

The affiant told him he did not want to employ him, and did not want to have anything to do with him, as the affiant did not employ him, nor did the affiant’s wife employ him, and the only information the affiant ever had that he was employed was what he read in the newspapers.

Affiant has many good neighbors and he appreciates their sympathy for him and his broken-hearted wife, but he can not see how they would come to employ Colonel Felder without his knowledge and consent.

A man met the affiant on the street and offered him one dollar to go upon the fee of this astute counsel, but he declined to accept it, and told the party he had not employed Felder.

Affiant is thoroughly satisfied with the great work done by Chief of Police Beavers and Chief of Detectives Lanford and the able men working under them, as he believes, as thousands of others do in Atlanta, that they have the real murderer in jail, and the affiant can not reconcile himself to the conduct of Colonel Felder, who is posing as a prosecuting attorney and wanting $5,000 from the people of the city, as set out in the afternoon papers, to bring a noted detective here, and according to the press of the city, large amounts have been subscribed by people the affiant does not believe are anxious to prosecute the man under arrest.

The affiant means no reflection on the press of the city and the citizens of Atlanta who are in favor of justice and fair play. Affiant will ever appreciate the sympathy that has been shown him and his family by these good people, and he asks them if they have any money to spend to punish the murderer of his sweet, innocent child to stand behind the Atlanta police department and let no one mislead them.

J. W. COLEMAN,

MRS. J. W. COLEMAN.

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 17th day of May, 1913.

HAROLD HILTON, Notary Public, Fulton Co.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, May 23rd 1913, “Felder Denies Phagan Bribery; Dictograph Record Used Against Felder,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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