The Leo Frank Case Chronology, based on the compilation originally created by Charles Pou, with modifications.
View Larger Map
Leo Frank was born April 17, 1884, in Cuero, Texas, to Rudolph and Rachael Jacobs Frank. Within a few months, the family moved to Brooklyn, where Leo grew up. He graduated from Cornell University in 1906, earning a degree in mechanical engineering. In December of 1907, Frank went to Europe for a nine-month apprenticeship in pencil manufacturing in Germany. In August of 1908, he moved to Atlanta to help with the supervision, management, and running of the National Pencil Company (NPCo). Two years later, November 30, 1910, Frank married Lucille Cohen Selig of Atlanta. The couple lived with Lucille’s parents. By 1913, the Jewish community in Atlanta was the largest in the South. Leo Frank was serving as president of the Atlanta chapter of B’nai B’rith, while maintaining his position as supervisor of the National Pencil Factory. At the time of Mary Phagan’s murder, he was twenty-nine years old and had supervised the factory for almost five years.
View Larger Map
Frankites (Oney and other Leo Frank partisans) incorrectly put Leo Frank’s height at 5’6″ (Lindemann, 1991) and weight at 120 lbs. (Oney, 2003, p. 10). Leo Frank’s approved passport application says he is 5’8″ (Ancestry.com, 2013), https://www.leofrank.org/images/passport-leo-frank/leo-max-frank-passport-application.jpg, and based on his lean athletic build, his weight was around 145 lbs. +/-(Leo Frank’s Approved Passport Application, November 7, December 20, 1907, January 13, 1908).
Compared to Mary Anne Phagan, who was 4’11”, weighing 115 to 120 lbs., Leo Frank was nine inches taller in 1913 and likely 25 to 35 lbs. heavier.
Murder, Investigation, Arrest, Indictment – April 26 to May 25, 1913
Pre-Trial Reports – May 26-July 27, 1913
Trial, July 28-August 26, 1913:
See: Internet Archive version of Leo M. Frank, Plaintiff in Error, vs. State of Georgia, Defendant in Error. In Error from Fulton Superior Court at the July Term 1913. Brief of Evidence 1913
Appeals 1913 to 1915, Commutation June 21 1915, Lynching of August 16, 17, 1915
Pardon, 1983 to 1986
Links to other Leo Frank sites and Printed Sources
Murder, Investigation, Arrest, Indictment
View Larger Map
April 27, 1913, Sunday: Arthur Mullinax, an ex-street car driver, and Newt Lee, the night watchman at the National Pencil Company, were both arrested on suspicion of being implicated in the murder of Mary Phagan. Lee, an African American, was the individual who first discovered the body of Phagan at 3 a.m. twisted in the rear of the basement with blood-soaked underwear and a cord taut around her throat. Police found two scrawled notes lying nearby. Mullinax had frequently driven Phagan to and from work; he was arrested because a witness claimed to have seen the two together Saturday, with Phagan appearing to be dazed or drugged. Both men declared their innocence.
April 28, 1913, Monday: Two more men were arrested on suspicion of being involved with the murder of Mary Phagan. One was John Gantt, a former bookkeeper at the National Pencil Factory, who was intimate, had known, and been friendly with Phagan. He was arrested in Marietta with a packed suitcase, waiting to board a train.
The second man arrested was an unnamed African American. The Atlanta Constitution published an appeal, along with a reward of $1000, for anyone who had seen Mary Phagan after noon on April 26 to come forward. Meanwhile, police had to disperse a white mob threatening to lynch Newt Lee, the night watchman who had discovered Phagan’s body and was under suspicion. In a side note to the investigation, the superintendent of the National Pencil Factory was questioned perfunctorily in the case. He expressed his unhappiness with the investigation’s progress, so he personally accepted Pinkerton’s detective to aid in the investigation at the behest of his superiors Sig Montag and Moses Frank. This was the first mention of the superintendent, Leo Frank, in the information released to the public.
April 29, 1913, Tuesday: Mary Phagan was buried; her mother was overcome with grief several times during the ceremonies. Most of the suspicion continued to fall on Newt Lee, though Leo Frank was brought in again for more detailed questioning, arrested, and incarcerated for further investigation. It was the last day of Frank’s freedom.
After his interrogation, Frank halfheartedly questioned Lee himself. A bloody shirt had been found planted at the bottom of a barrel in Lee’s home. The reward for information leading to the conviction of the murderer was raised to $2200 – $1000 from the Atlanta Constitution, $1000 from the city of Atlanta, and $200 from the state. One of the detectives released the following statement: “We have sufficient evidence to convict the murderers of Mary Phagan. More arrests will be made before daybreak. The mystery is cleared.” No names were mentioned.
April 30, 1913: At an inquest into the death of Mary Phagan, more suspicion began to fall on Leo Frank. George Epps, a fifteen-year-old friend of Mary Phagan, testified that Phagan was afraid of Frank because he had winked, flirted, and made inappropriate sexual advances toward her. Newt Lee testified that Frank was nervous the day of the murder and had telephoned to see if everything was okay at the factory – not his usual practice. But two mechanics who had worked on the top floor of the factory that morning disputed Lee’s story, saying Frank had acted normally.
May 1, 1913: Arthur Mullinax and John Gantt were released, no longer suspects in the murder of Mary Phagan. Newt Lee and Leo Frank were still being held as material witnesses. Although the local media did not know (or at least did not report) it, another employee of the National Pencil Factory was arrested around 2:00 p.m. on May 1st. Jim Conley, a sweeper at the factory, was discovered trying to rinse out a soiled shirt that appeared to have something similar to dark blood stains on it on it. On further examination, the stains were identified as rust from the pipe above that Conley would put his shirt on to dry.
May 2, 1913: In talks with an Atlanta Constitution reporter, both Newt Lee and Leo Frank insisted they were innocent of Mary Phagan’s murder; Frank was confident his name would be cleared in the process of the investigation.
May 3, 1913: Detectives investigating Mary Phagan’s murder had a new problem; two impostors posing as Pinkerton detectives had interviewed George Epps (Phagan’s friend who had reported she was afraid of Leo Frank) and Phagan’s mother.
May 5, 1913: Frank had waited a week to bring forward newfangled evidence — a crucial witness, Lemmie Quinn — saying he had forgotten. Lemmie Quinn, foreman of Mary Phagan’s work area on the second floor of the National Pencil Factory, testified he saw Leo Frank the Saturday of the murder for a couple of minutes after 12:20. Furthermore, he knew Frank well and was certain that he was not guilty of the murder. But detectives accused him of accepting a bribe from Frank cronies to make those statements, an accusation Quinn firmly denied. Meanwhile, several witnesses had come forward to say they had seen a girl resembling Phagan at the Confederate Memorial Day parade that Saturday afternoon; she appeared to be drugged. So the decision was made to exhume Phagan’s body and search her stomach for signs of drugs.
May 6, 1913: A second exhumation of Mary Phagan’s body took place, this time to look for fingerprints; a fingerprint expert had been called in to help with the case.
May 7, 1913: The blood on Newt Lee’s shirt was smeared on both sides and didn’t smell like a used shirt. It was determined to be not more than a month old. The wife of one of the laborers who had testified on April 30 said she visited her husband at the factory that day and saw a “strange Negro” boarding the elevator as she left around 1:00 p.m. Detectives on the case said someone was planting false evidence and trying to block the investigation.
May 8, 1913: A coroner’s inquest jury ordered Leo Frank to be held under the charge of murder of Mary Phagan and Newt Lee as a material witness. Several women and girls had come forward to say Frank had made improper advances to them in the past. While detectives still expressed confidence in solving the case, they also admitted all the evidence they had up to that point was mostly circumstantial.
May 9, 1913: Fourteen-year-old Monteen Stover said she had arrived at the National Pencil Factory around 12:05 p.m. (roughly the same time as Mary Phagan had arrived) and that Leo Frank was not in his office. This contradicted Frank’s testimony that he had been in his office the entire time in which it was thought Phagan had been murdered. Another woman reported that she was walking outside the factory around 4:30 p.m. when she heard three piercing screams come from the basement of the building, but this turned out to be false.
May 10, 1913: The Atlanta Constitution reported that Robert House, an ex-policeman, had said he once caught Leo Frank and a young girl in the woods at Druid Hills Park engaging in immoral acts. According to House, Frank had pleaded with him not to report the incident. The veracity of the statement was uncertain.
May 11, 1913: Officials of the National Pencil Factory told Pinkerton detectives to find the murderer of Mary Phagan, no matter who it might be. A mysterious “girl in red” was rumored to have said, in a Marietta grocery store, that she was with Phagan on the day of the murder. After scouring the neighborhood and not finding the girl, detectives concluded the story was a hoax.
May 12, 1913: An Atlanta Constitution reporter in Brooklyn interviewed Mrs. Rudolph Frank (Rachel “Rae” Jacobs Frank), Leo Frank’s mother. She said, “My son is entirely innocent, but it is a terrible thing that even a shadow of suspicion should fall upon him. I am sure of his innocence and am confident that he will be proven not guilty of this terrible crime.”
May 13, 1913: Detectives investigating the murder of Mary Phagan were reported to be on the verge of making a new arrest “which would throw an entirely new light upon the case.” Meanwhile, rumors were swirling about the notes found near the body of Mary Phagan; samples of her handwriting had been collected and handwriting experts brought in.
May 14, 1913: An identification slip had been found in Mary Phagan’s pocketbook. It read: “My name is Mary Phagan, I live at 146 Lindsey Street, near Bellwood and Asby Streets.” Hugh Dorsey, the solicitor working the case, theorized that Phagan did this because either she had been threatened with violence previously or she had a premonition of her death.
May 15, 1913: The Atlanta Constitution began a fund raising drive to bring William J. Burns, America’s most famous and successful detective, into the Mary Phagan investigation. Burns was in Europe but was rumored to have been interested in the case.
May 16, 1913: Investigators in the Mary Phagan murder case searched the National Pencil Factory looking for scraps of rope or twine. Hugh Dorsey, solicitor in the case, said the knot tied around Mary Phagan’s neck was intricate and inexplicable — it must have been tied by a professional. Over $1500 had already been raised to bring William J. Burns into the case. Thomas Felder, the attorney responsible for bringing in the Burns Agency, said: “We will catch the guilty man and we won’t be long about it. I am confident of success. Mary Phagan’s murder will be cleared in less than a month.”
May 17, 1913: Rumors continued to abound that more arrests were imminent in the Mary Phagan murder case. Also, there were public breaches and conflicts forming between the detectives on the case and the solicitor’s staff. Atlanta’s police chief said he had documentary evidence that would convict Mary Phagan’s murderer, but refused to release it to the public.
May 18, 1913: Thomas Felder claimed to have turned a new piece of evidence in the Mary Phagan case, but it was not revealed to the public. The Atlanta Constitution also reported that Atlanta police were questioning a new suspect in the case and had asked him for handwriting samples. The new suspect was James Connolly (sic), a sweeper at the factory, who had been arrested “several days earlier” (actually on May 1) when he was discovered rinsing a soiled shirt at the pencil factory.
Jim Conley would turn out to be one of the prosecution’s lead witnesses in its case against Leo Frank.
May 19, 1913: An investigator from the William J. Burns Detective Agency arrived in Atlanta to assist in the investigation of Mary Phagan’s murder. New rumors started up (as they did almost daily), this one that a telephone operator had heard two men discussing their involvement in the murder. Like most rumors surrounding this case, this one turned out to be false.
May 20, 1913: P. A. Flak, a fingerprint expert from New York, visited the Mary Phagan crime scene with Solicitor Hugh Dorsey. Later, Flak took fingerprints from both Newt Lee and Leo Frank. C. W. Toble, the investigator from the Burns Detective Agency, said he was convinced Newt Lee was innocent of the crime.
May 21, 1913: Solicitor Hugh Dorsey announced that he would go before the grand jury on May 23rd and ask for indictments against both Newt Lee and Leo Frank but that the evidence presented would concentrate solely on Frank.
May 22, 1913: A new controversy arose in the Mary Phagan murder investigation. Phagan’s stepfather signed an affidavit accusing Thomas Felder, the attorney responsible for bringing the Burns Detective Agency into the case, of approaching him about allowing Felder to prosecute the case. Detectives presented transcripts of dictograph recordings in which Felder had offered them $1,000 for access to the case evidence.
May 23, 1913: A grand jury took only ten minutes to hand down a murder indictment against Leo Frank; no action was taken or requested against Newt Lee. No evidence was presented to the grand jury by or about Jim Conley.
The Frankites, like Steve Oney and Leonard Dinnerstein, would make the outlandish claim the entire Leo Frank case can be reduced to the word of Jim Conley vs. Leo Frank. Though they admit the indictment of Leo Frank had absolutely nothing to do with Jim Conley, and after powerful and compelling evidence without Jim Conley testifying was presented to the grand jury, the following twenty-one grand jurymen (of which four were Jews) unanimously signed the bill of indict against Leo Frank (Leo M. Frank Bill of Indictment, May 24, 1913, Atlanta Publishing Company, The Frank Case, 1913; and Mary Phagan Kean, 1987).
1. J. H. Beck, Foreman,
2. A. D. Adair, Sr.,
3. F. P. H. Akers,
4. B. F. Bell,
5. J. G. Bell,
6. Col. Benjamin,
7. Wm. E. Besser,
8. C. M. Brown,
9. C. A. Cowles,
10. Walker Danson,
11. G. A. Gershon,
12. S. C. Glass,
13. A. L. Guthman,
14. Chas. Heinz,
15. H. G. Hubbard,
16. R. R. Nash,
17. W. L. Percy,
18. R. A. Redding,
19. R. F. Sams,
20. John D. Wing,
21. Albert Boylston
Though only twelve votes were required for an indictment, the full twenty-one members signed the bill, and because four of the twenty-one members were Jews, it casts serious doubt about the Frankite slanders coming from every Leo Frank revisionist asserting Frank was indicted and convicted because he was Jewish.
May 25, 1913: Details of Hugh Dorsey’s presentation to the grand jury in the Leo Frank case were beginning to emerge. No bill of indictment had been handed down against Newt Lee; all the evidence presented was aimed at Frank. Neither of the statements given by Frank or Lee were mentioned. Jim Conley had not been called to testify, nor had the notes found near Phagan’s body been presented. The undertaker who embalmed Phagan’s body said there was evidence of sexual assault, but the county physician said there was inconclusive evidence to make such a claim. Meanwhile, Newt Lee’s attorney requested that he be kept in custody, for fear the murderer of Mary Phagan would try to influence his testimony.
May 26, 1913: Despite intense questioning by detectives, Jim Conley stuck to his story that he wrote the dictated notes found near the body of Mary Phagan at the order of Leo Frank. There was little doubt that he wrote the notes, but police continued to investigate the circumstances under which they were written.
May 27, 1913: The detective from the Burns Agency, called in to help the investigation into Mary Phagan’s murder, withdrew from the case, citing continued fighting among the police, mayor’s office, solicitor’s office, and the attorney who had brought him into the case. There was also evidence of criminal activity by Burns, and it is said that there were threats to lynch him.
On another note, Mrs. Arthur White, who had testified on May 7 that she saw a “strange Negro” lurking near the elevator of the National Pencil Factory around 1:00 p.m. after visiting her husband, identified the man she saw as Jim Conley on the first attempt of a line up, thus not requiring further line-up segments to be shown to her.
May 28, 1913: Samples of the handwriting of Leo Frank, Newt Lee, and Jim Conley were released, along with a portion of one of the notes found near Mary Phagan’s body. Jim Conley had admittedly written the notes, but on this day, he changed his story. Previously, he had claimed Frank asked him to write the notes on Friday, the day preceding the murder. Now he broke down and claimed he wrote them on Frank’s order after the murder. He added Frank had asked him to watch at the bottom of the stairs leading to Frank’s office, but he (Conley) had fallen asleep after a scream and seeing another girl go upstairs until he heard Frank whistle. When he went to Frank’s office, Frank was standing at the top of the stairs and was shaking badly. Then, according to Conley, Frank admitted murdering Phagan, asked for his help to move the body, and asked him to write the notes and that Frank muttered the ominous phrase “Why should I hang? I have wealthy people in Brooklyn.”
May 29, 1913: Officials of the National Pencil Factory claimed they believed Jim Conley was the true murderer of Mary Phagan. Atlanta detectives said they believed Conley’s story, though admitting it had changed several times and still had some inconsistencies.
May 30, 1913: Police took Jim Conley to the National Pencil Factory, where he went over every detail of his story of the day of the murder, including how he and Leo Frank had together loaded Mary Phagan’s body onto the elevator and brought it to the basement. Though no one realized it at the time, Conley’s story had a major flaw. He had told detectives he had defecated into the elevator shaft earlier that Saturday morning. But when police first investigating the murder took the elevator down, the pile of feces left by Conley had been “fresh,” that is, unmashed. If Conley and Frank had indeed taken the elevator down with Phagan’s body, the feces would already have been flattened if there was no space at the bottom of the elevator shaft. The police and Frank’s attorneys failed to notice this inconsistency in Conley’s testimony.
May 31, 1913: Solicitor Hugh Dorsey, preparing to prosecute Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan, interviewed Jim Conley for two hours. Conley was then returned to police headquarters where he would be readily available for further questioning. Despite the police believing Frank was guilty of the murder, they were still concerned over the “flaws and rough places” in Conley’s story.
June 2, 1913: The Atlanta Journal reported that Leo Frank’s defense would insist the elevator in the National Pencil Factory was not moved on the day of the murder (April 26) and that the murder happened on the first floor, not the second as surmised by detectives; the blood found on the second floor likely came from workers who frequently cut themselves on the machinery there. Furthermore, the defense would argue that Jim Conley alone committed the murder. This was what actually happened, according to Alonzo Mann’s story told in 1982. There was evidence that the elevator had not been moved (see May 30 entry), though the police and defense attorneys apparently overlooked it. Meanwhile, Minola McKnight, the African-American cook for Leo Frank’s family, was brought in for questioning. At first, she corroborated Frank’s story concerning the times he arrived home for lunch and then returned to the factory the day of the murder. She was agitated, believing her estranged husband had been telling lies to the police to get her in trouble. She said both she and Frank were innocent.
June 3, 1913: Minola McKnight, after spending the night in jail and after intense questioning, signed a statement saying Leo frank was nervous and drinking heavily the night after the murder of Mary Phagan. She said she overheard Frank’s wife say he made her sleep on the rug and kept asking for his pistol so he could shoot himself and that he didn’t know why he would murder. Frank had told her, “It is mighty bad, Minola. I might have to go to jail about this girl, and I don’t know anything about it.” Finally, she said her wages had been raised as a “tip to keep quiet.”
June 4, 1913: Leo Frank’s wife released a statement insisting her husband was innocent of the murder of Mary Phagan and accused Solicitor Hugh Dorsey of “torturing” witnesses to give false incriminating evidence against Frank. She said, in part, “the action of the solicitor general in arresting and imprisoning our family cook because she would not voluntarily make a false statement against my innocent husband, brings a limit to patience.”
June 5, 1913: Responding to the statement of Lucille Frank the previous day, Solicitor Hugh Dorsey released his own statement denying any wrongdoing in arresting and questioning witnesses in the Mary Phagan murder case.
June 7, 1913: Lucille Frank renewed her charges that Solicitor Hugh Dorsey was using third-degree questioning tactics to gain false evidence against her husband in the murder of Mary Phagan. Frank said their cook, Minola McKnight, had been arrested illegally because she was not a suspect in any crime. The Atlanta Journal also reported that no indictment would be sought against Jim Conley until Frank’s trial was completed. If Frank was found guilty, then Conley might escape prosecution (he eventually received a one-year sentence). If Frank was acquitted, then Conley would face first-degree murder charges. Investigators on the case had discovered several cases of violence in Conley’s background, including shooting at his wife and threatening a former employer with a gun.
June 9, 1913: The Atlanta Journal reported that the prosecution’s case against Leo Frank in the murder of Mary Phagan was complete and that no further questioning of Jim Conley was anticipated before the trial. But R. P. Barrett, a foreman at the National Pencil Factory, was quoted as saying he and “practically all” the factory’s employees believed Conley was the guilty party.
June 10, 1913: Luther Z. Rosser, Leo Frank’s defense attorney in the Mary Phagan murder case, publicly accused the police chief of having “banked his sense and reputation as both a man and politician on Frank’s guilt.” He added that if the police had approached the investigation with an open mind, Jim Conley would have already told the whole truth.
June 11, 1913: Solicitor Hugh Dorsey requested that Jim Conley be released from custody, but Judge L. S. Roan refused his petition. Dorsey submitted the request because Roan had indicated that Conley should be moved to the Fulton County Jail (popularly known as The Tower) instead of being held at Atlanta police headquarters. At headquarters, both Dorsey and detectives on the case had ready access to Conley, who had changed his story several times. At The Tower, access to Conley would be much more difficult.
June 13, 1913: After a brief hearing, Judge L. S. Roan released Jim Conley from custody. He was immediately rearrested as a material witness to the Mary Phagan murder case and would be kept at Atlanta police headquarters, where detectives and Solicitor Hugh Dorsey wanted him — so they could easily interview him whenever needed.
June 21, 1913: Prominent Atlanta attorney Reuben Arnold announced that he had joined Leo Frank’s defense team. In his statement, Arnold said he had reviewed all the evidence and was convinced of Frank’s innocence, adding that he would not agree to represent him otherwise. While Arnold did not directly accuse Jim Conley of the murder of Mary Phagan, he did say Conley’s story had no credence in regards to Frank and then added: “I do not believe that any white man committed this crime.”
June 22, 1913: Solicitor Hugh Dorsey announced that Leo Frank’s trial would begin June 30. The trial was later delayed until July 28.
June 24, 1913: Georgia Senator Hoke Smith denied rumors he had been approached about and was considering aiding in Leo Frank’s defense. The rumors spread after defense attorney Luther Rosser and National Pencil Company president Ike Haas stopped in Washington, D.C., en route to New York.
June 28, 1913: John M. Slaton was inaugurated as governor of Georgia.
July 18, 1913: Amidst persistent rumors that the Pinkerton detectives involved in the Mary Phagan murder case had changed their minds and now believed Jim Conley was the guilty party, a grand jury meeting was called to consider indicting Conley. Harry Scott, the Pinkerton detective heading the investigation for his private detective firm, was denied access to interview Conley. Hugh Dorsey, the solicitor general prosecuting the case against Leo Frank, spoke out strongly against indicting Conley.
July 19, 1913: Leo Frank’s attorneys publicly condemned Hugh Dorsey for his stand against indicting Jim Conley for the murder of Mary Phagan.
July 21, 1913: A grand jury postponed indicting Jim Conley for the murder of Mary Phagan — at least until Leo Frank’s trial was completed. This decision was reached after a one and one-half hour presentation before the grand jury by prosecutor Hugh Dorsey. Judge L. S. Roan, set to hear the case, said he would consider postponing the trial if the weather remained so hot; the temperature had reached 99 degrees the previous day.
July 23, 1913: Hugh Dorsey and his staff brought Jim Conley and Newt Lee together to go over their testimonies for the Leo Frank trial, set to begin July 28.
July 24, 1913: A group of 144 men were selected, from which the jury in the Leo Frank trial would be drawn.
July 26, 1913: Both groups of attorneys were making their final preparations for the trial of Leo Frank. Other attorneys questioned agreed this would be the “greatest legal battle of Southern history.”
July 27, 1913: Judge L. S. Roan, who had been ill the previous week, announced he was fine and would call the Leo Frank trial beginning at 9:00 a.m. the following morning.
July 28, 1913: Trial of Leo Frank began. A jury was quickly selected and seated. The first witness called was Mrs. J. W. Coleman, mother of Mary Phagan. She managed to stay collected during most of her testimony, but finally broke down in tears when asked to identify the clothes her daughter had worn on the day she was murdered. Next on the stand was George Epps, a thirteen-year-old boy who also worked at the National Pencil Factory. He had ridden the streetcar with Phagan the morning of April 26th, and the two had agreed to meet for an ice cream and to watch the Confederate Memorial Day Parade at 1:00 p.m. When Mary didn’t show, Epps went to a baseball game. The final witness on this day was Newt Lee, the night watchman who discovered Mary Phagan’s body and telephoned police. He testified for over two hours, telling the same story he had told police, that he noticed the body when he went into the basement to the restroom. He also told of Leo Frank being nervous because of the presence of John Gantt, who had been recently dismissed from the factory. That night, Frank called Lee to ask if everything was all right, an unusual practice for him.
July 29, 1913: This was the second day of the trial of Leo Frank. Newt Lee, the night watchman who discovered Mary Phagan’s body, concluded his testimony by repeating his story for the defense. Altogether, Lee spent four hours and forty-five minutes on the stand. The next witness was police Sgt. L. S. Dobbs, who took Lee’s phone call and rushed to the factory. He said he found the body in the basement, face down, with a cord tied tightly around the neck and a pair of women’s underpants tied loosely around the neck. The back of the head was covered in blood. He also discovered two notes, her shoes, and a trail where the body was dragged to its location. Detective John Starnes then took the stand. He had called Leo Frank to inform him of the murder and said Frank appeared extremely nervous when he arrived at the factory. The highlight of the day was strong verbal clashes between Solicitor Hugh Dorsey (prosecuting the case) and defense attorney Luther Rosser over Rosser’s attempts to discredit the testimony of Starnes.
July 30, 1913: This was the third day of the Leo Frank trial and a good day for the defense. Detective John Black, who had obtained most of the evidence against Leo Frank, seemed confused and openly admitted being “mixed-up” over portions of his testimony. He contradicted himself numerous times and said he could not remember significant details of the case. Finally, he even admitted that he couldn’t be sure of what he had testified to previously. The defense was jubilant after his testimony. Others testified on this day as well: W. W. (Boots) Rogers testified that Leo Frank never saw Mary Phagan’s body at the undertaker’s; Frank had said he did. Grace Hicks, another factory employee, recalled how she was called to identify the body. She also said she had worked at the factory for five years and had only spoken to Leo Frank three times. Finally, John Gantt, whom Frank had discharged from the factory for a shortage in a pay envelope, testified that he returned to the factory April 26th to retrieve a pair of shoes he had left there. The first three days of the trial were noted for standing room only crowds, with many gathered outside to hear news, as well as sweltering heat, with temperatures in the upper 90s. The temperature remained extremely hot throughout the trial.
July 31, 1913: On the fourth day in the trial of Leo Frank, R. B. Barrett, a machinist at the factory, provided new information when he said he had found Mary Phagan’s empty pay envelope and bloodstains near a machine on the factory’s second floor. Heretofore, no mention had been made of the missing pay envelope. The main witness of the day was Harry Scott, Pinkerton detective in charge of their investigation of the case. He angered both sides during his testimony. He said Frank did not appear nervous on the Monday following the murder (it was Frank who brought Scott into the case), but was uneasy after his arrest. This upset Solicitor Hugh Dorsey, who argued that Scott had told him previously Frank was nervous at the factory on Monday. Scott then angered defense attorneys when he asserted one of them had asked him to forward all police evidence to the defense. Also testifying was former factory employee Monteen Stover, who said she had arrived at the factory at 12:05 p.m. to receive her pay, had waited in Frank’s office for him for five minutes, and then left. This contradicted Frank’s statement that he had been in his office the entire time in which the murder took place.
August 1, 1913: This was the fifth day of the trial of Leo Frank. Dr. Roy Harris, secretary of the State Board of Health who had examined Mary Phagan’s body, testified that she had died within an hour of eating her last meal of cabbage and bread, meaning she died sometime in the hour between twelve and one o’clock. He also said the head wounds were caused by a human fist. After suffering a fainting spell, Dr. Harris had to leave the stand before completing his testimony. Assistant factory superintendent N. V. Darley said Frank was nervous the day of the murder, but that this wasn’t unusual for him (Frank). Darley mentioned that he had seen Frank talking to Gantt and assumed this accounted for his nervousness. Darley’s testimony was marked by more bitter clashes between prosecutor Dorsey and defense attorney Rosser. Maggie White, wife of one of the machinists working at the factory April 26th, testified she went to the factory twice that day to visit her husband. She had seen Leo Frank both times, the second time around 12:30 in his office. He had his back turned to her and was startled when she walked in, but then told her it was fine to go see her husband. She left shortly before 1:00 and saw a Negro hiding behind some boxes on the first floor.
August 2, 1913: The sixth day of the trial of Leo Frank almost ended in a mistrial. Judge L. S. Roan inadvertently held up a newspaper with a lurid headline printed in red where the jury could see it. Defense attorneys objected immediately and discussed calling for a mistrial, but agreed to continue after Judge Roan instructed the jury to disregard anything they may had seen in the newspaper. A few minor witnesses were then called. Dr. J. W. Hurt, county physician who had also examined Mary Phagan’s body, said there was some evidence suggesting she may have been “outraged” (sexually assaulted), but there was not enough evidence to conclude this. Another factory employee and friend of Mary Phagan, Helen Ferguson, testified she had gone to the factory Friday night to get Mary’s pay envelope, but Leo Frank had told her Mary would pick it up herself on Saturday.
August 3, 913: This was a Sunday and a break in the trial of Leo Frank. Numerous friends and relatives visited Frank in prison. Prison officials said Frank was showing little evidence of stress from the trial.
August 4, 1913: This was the seventh, and pivotal, day in the trial of Leo Frank. Jim Conley, a sweeper at the factory, was called to testify and presented a gruesome, graphic, and sometimes revolting tale. In fact, his testimony was so lurid that Judge Roan ordered all women and children cleared from the courtroom. Conley testified he had “watched out” for Frank on several occasions while he entertained young women in his office. Some of his descriptions of what he saw intimated that Frank was a sexual deviant. On the morning of April 26th, Conley said Frank had asked him to “watch out” for him while he “chatted” with Mary Phagan. Later, Frank had whistled for Conley to come to his office. Frank was so nervous he had to lean on Conley for support. He then supposedly told Conley that Phagan had refused him and he had struck her and left her in the machine room. When Conley was sent to get her, he said he found her lying on the floor, dead, with arms outstretched. Conley explained that Frank told him to wrap up the body and put it in the basement. Conley tried to do so, but said he could not lift the body. So Frank had helped him get it on the elevator, which they then took to the basement, where Conley dragged the body into a corner. They then returned to Frank’s office, where Frank indicated there would be money waiting for Conley if he “kept his mouth shut.” Here Conley said Frank uttered the ominous phrase “Why should I hang?” Frank then had Conley write the notes found near the body, apparently in an attempt to incriminate Newt Lee. Upon severe cross-examination, Conley admitted he had lied to the police about this case previously; he had given several different stories after his May 1 arrest when he was seen washing out a bloody shirt in the factory. Conley also admitted he had been arrested numerous times. The defense was able to confuse Conley on some details of his story, but he held to the main points.
August 5, 1913: On the eighth day of the trial, Frank’s defense attorneys cross-examined Jim Conley mercilessly for seven hours. While Conley was confused on some minor details, and admitted lying to police originally and to having been arrested numerous times, he still held to his story of the previous day. Defense attorney Luther Rosser was unable to break any of the main points of Conley’s story. When the day ended, Conley was still on the stand, while defense attorneys argued that his testimony of having been a lookout for Frank on earlier occasions should be stricken from the record as irrelevant to the case.
August 6, 1913: This was the ninth day of the trial of Leo Frank. Judge L. S. Roan ruled that testimony that Jim Conley had acted as a lookout for Leo Frank was admissible. Applause broke out in the courtroom. Frank’s attorneys immediately contended that any further such actions would be cause for a mistrial; Judge Roan threatened to clear the courtroom if order was not maintained. Luther Rosser again questioned Jim Conley, again failing to break his story. Conley spent sixteen hours total on the witness stand. Dr. Roy Harris, secretary of the State Board of Health who had had his testimony interrupted by illness, resumed his testimony. He insisted Mary Phagan was killed shortly after eating her last meal of cabbage and bread, and that she had died from strangulation, not from the blows to her head.
August 7, 1913: On the tenth day of the Leo Frank trial, C. B. Dalton, a railroad carpenter, testified he had met with several women in the basement of the National Pencil Factory while Jim Conley watched out for him and that he had seen numerous women come to the factory to visit Frank. After stating that the financial records of the National Pencil Factory showed there were two hundred dollars (the amount Jim Conley said Frank had showed him) on the premises the day of the murder, Solicitor Hugh Dorsey rested the state’s case. The defense called Dr. Roy Childs, who disputed the testimony of Dr. Roy Harris — saying cabbage was a very slow food to digest, implying that the murder could have been committed hours after Phagan had eaten. Pinkerton detective Harry Scott was recalled to the stand to testify on how Jim Conley had lied several times to investigators during the course of the murder investigation.
August 8, 1913: This was the eleventh day in the Leo Frank trial. The defense had civil engineer T. H. Willett draw a diagram of the National Pencil Factory, showing how the murder could have been committed on the first floor without the knowledge of anyone (including Leo Frank) working on the second floor. Daisy Hopkins, one of the women C. B. Dalton had claimed he met for immoral purposes at the factory, denied having ever met Dalton or Leo Frank. Two streetcar conductors testified Mary Phagan had ridden alone the morning of her murder, contradicting the testimony of George Epps. Assistant factory manager N. V. Darley said he believed Conley and Dalton were lying about trysts in the basement; he worked most Saturdays and would have known of such actions. Factory timekeeper E. F. Holloway said he worked every Saturday and had never seen Conley and Frank interact and that he had never seen a woman other than Frank’s wife in his office.
August 9, 1913: On the twelfth day in the Leo Frank trial, Herbert Schiff, personal assistant to Leo Frank, said he worked most Saturdays and had never seen any women in Frank’s office except his wife. He added that he had never seen C. B. Dalton either. He firmly believed he would have seen more if the story Jim Conley told were true. Schiff then identified a financial expenditure sheet on which Frank had been working the day of the murder, asserting it would take two to three hours to complete, leaving no time for the murder and movement of the body as described by Conley. He then testified Conley had been extremely nervous the Monday following the murder and had said he would “give a million dollars if he had a white man’s skin.”
August 11, 1913: During the thirteenth day in the trial, the defense called several medical experts to contradict the testimony of Dr. Roy Harris, secretary of the State Board of Health who had examined Mary Phagan’s corpse. The defense witnesses said Harris was merely guessing at the time of death and that Phagan had been sexually violated; there was insufficient evidence to substantiate either claim. Herbert Schiff, an assistant to Frank, again asserted that the financial work done by Frank on the day of the murder was time consuming; it could have easily taken 3 1/2 hours to complete. Schiff also testified that Jim Conley was a very unreliable worker and other employees had complained about him numerous times.
August 12, 1913: On the fourteenth day in the trial of Leo Frank, the defense called twenty-two character witnesses to the stand, including Frank’s in-laws. They all testified that he was a man of good character and was busy the day of the murder, showing no nervousness. When Solicitor Hugh Dorsey asked one of the witnesses, a boy who worked for Frank, if Frank had ever made improper advances to him, a bitter argument ensued between the opposing attorneys. Another female employee of the factory, Magnolia Kennedy, contradicted the earlier testimony of Helen Ferguson — who had claimed she tried to pick up Mary Phagan’s pay on Friday (the day before the murder), but that Frank had told her Mary would pick it up herself the next day. Kennedy claimed she was behind Ferguson in the line to receive her pay and that Ferguson had neither asked about Phagan’s pay nor talked to Frank. Other witnesses testified to the shady character of C. B. Dalton, who had claimed to have used the basement of the factory as a meeting place with women and of using Jim Conley as a lookout.
Lost among all this controversy was the brief testimony of one of the office boys who worked for Leo Frank. He was obviously nervous and timid the few minutes he was on the stand, saying only that he worked most Saturdays, including the day of the murder, and had never seen strange women in Frank’s office and had never seen Dalton at all. But this inconspicuous boy, Alonzo Mann, carried a terrible secret, one he would hold for the next sixty-nine years. It was not until 1982, when he was on the verge of death, that he unburdened his soul and told what he had seen that fateful day. He had seen Jim Conley carrying the body of Mary Phagan over his shoulder, near the elevator shaft on the first floor of the factory (Conley had testified that he could not lift the body). Conley had threatened Mann with death if he ever repeated what he had seen. Mann had gone home and told his mother, who advised him to keep quiet. So the trial went on, with no one realizing this shy, timid, scared boy had carried the truth of the case both to and away from the witness chair.
August 13, 1913: During the fifteenth day in the trial of Leo Frank, the defense called another medical witness. Dr. William Kendrick, head of the Atlanta Medical School, said that Dr. Roy Harris’s conclusions on the time of Phagan’s death were mere guesswork. Another witness testified to having worked the previous Thanksgiving with Frank and that nothing unusual had happened. Jim Conley had claimed he watched while Frank entertained a woman in his office that day. More character witnesses were called during the afternoon. In cross-examining one of these witnesses, Hugh Dorsey asked if he had ever heard complaints about Frank fondling young girls. At this point Mrs. Rae Frank, Leo Frank’s mother, leaped to her feet and shouted at Dorsey, “No, nor you either, you dog.” One of the defense attorneys escorted Mrs. Frank out of the courtroom.
August 14, 1913: This was the sixteenth day in the trial of Leo Frank. After an angry outburst by Frank’s mother the previous day, Solicitor Hugh Dorsey requested that she and Frank’s wife be removed from the courtroom for the duration of the trial. Judge L. S. Roan turned down this request, but did warn the women not to interrupt the proceedings again. Many more character witnesses testified, some having traveled all the way from New York for that purpose. Frank’s mother-in-law (with whom the Franks lived) testified Frank acted normally the night after murder, even engaging in a friendly game of cards. This contradicted earlier testimony that Frank had been nervous, drunk, and suicidal the night following the murder. Finally, Rachel Carson, a female employee of the factory, said she had talked to Jim Conley the Monday following the murder. Conley told her he was so drunk on Saturday that he didn’t remember anything he did, but that he was sure Leo Frank was innocent. When Carson told Conley someone had reported seeing a black man lurking behind some boxes on the first floor soon after the time of the murder, Conley was so startled he dropped his broom.
August 15, 1913: During the seventeenth day in the trial, many more character witnesses were called by the defense, culminating in the testimony of Leo Frank’s mother. Having already expressed her complete confidence in Frank’s innocence, she identified a letter written by Frank to an uncle in New York the afternoon of April 26th, soon after the murder was committed. The letter was written in a precise, neat hand, dealing with various family matters. It did not, the defense claimed, show any signs of a nervous, guilt-ridden man. After the day’s proceedings, the defense said they were prepared to call every female employee of Frank, if necessary, to prove he did nothing improper with them at the factory.
August 16, 1913: On the eighteenth day in the Leo Frank, many more female employees of the National Pencil Factory were called, all testifying to Frank’s good character and that he had never done anything improper to them. One did say he opened the door to the girls’ dressing room once, but the defense claimed this was because some girls were flirting out the window and he wanted to stop it. Residents of the area where the Franks lived testified that he had walked around the neighborhood the evening after the murder and seemed calm and normal. Finally, the defense announced what most of the crowd had been waiting to hear; Leo Frank himself would take the stand on Monday (this was a Saturday).
August 18, 1913: This was the nineteenth day in the trial of Leo Frank. After another group of character witnesses in the morning, Leo Frank took the witness stand. He spoke for four hours, calmly but firmly laying out his story. Frank insisted that Jim Conley’s tale was all lies and the detectives tried to distort everything he (Frank) said in order to incriminate him. He freely admitted to being nervous after hearing of the murder, claiming any man in his position would be nervous, and justifiably so, especially after seeing the body of Mary Phagan. He said Mary came in for her pay soon after 12:00 p.m. on April 26th, returned a few minutes later to ask if the shipment of metal had arrived (Phagan’s job was putting metal tips on pencils), and then left his office, and he never saw her alive again. He worked on a financial report that afternoon and then went home. He never saw Jim Conley that day. Frank concluded his statement thus: “Some newspaper man has called me ‘the silent man in the Tower.’ (for his unwillingness to talk to police or the press) Gentlemen, this is the time and here is the place! I have told you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
August 19, 1913: The twentieth day of the trial was rather anti-climactic after Leo Frank’s statement the previous day. The defense continued its parade of character witnesses; Solicitor Hugh Dorsey did get one of them to admit he had once seen Mary Phagan talking with Leo Frank and that Phagan seemed to be backing away. Another bitter disagreement arose between the opposing attorneys over the defense team’s attempts to discredit the statement of Minola McKnight. McKnight was the housekeeper for the Selig family (Frank’s in-laws with whom he and his wife lived) who had signed a statement saying Leo Frank was intoxicated and talked of suicide the night after Phagan’s murder. Though McKnight later repudiated the statement, which had been signed after she spent a night in jail and undergoing hours of intensive questioning, Dorsey still introduced it as evidence, leading to yet another vehement argument between the opposing sides.
August 20, 1913: The evidence phase ended on the twenty-first day of the trial, as the defense rested its case. Solicitor Hugh Dorsey then called several female ex-employees of the National Pencil Factory to the stand. They all testified that they had a bad opinion of Leo Frank’s character, but could not give concrete examples of immoral behavior on his part. After their testimony, the defense called Leo Frank again, to repudiate their statements. Shortly after 4:00 p.m., the evidence phase of the case was closed, with final arguments set to begin the next day.
August 21, 1913: Final arguments began on the twenty-second day of the trial, with aides to the two main attorneys (Hugh Dorsey for the prosecution and Luther Rosser for the defense) beginning. Leo Frank was portrayed as a Jekyll and Hyde character who could mask his deviant tendencies from his family and friends. The defense contended that Jim Conley was the murderer and concocted his story to save his own neck.
August 22, 1913: Solicitor Hugh Dorsey took up the argument on the twenty-third day of the trial, blistering the character of Leo Frank and portraying Mary Phagan as a symbol of lost innocence and virtue. He tried to deflect charges of anti-Semitism by recalling the great names in Jewish history, arguing that Frank with his deviant behavior dishonored them as well as the Southern girl he had so brutally murdered. Although Judge L. S. Roan kept strict control of the courtroom, Dorsey’s words were quickly relayed to the large crowd waiting outside. When Dorsey emerged, he was greeted with thunderous applause.
August 23, 1913: On the twenty-fourth day in the trial of Leo Frank, Solicitor Hugh Dorsey continued his eloquent, yet ferocious, final argument, scoring Leo Frank for his abhorrent behavior and contending that he could not care less what opposing attorneys or Frank’s family thought of him; his duty was to Mary Phagan and the people of Georgia.
August 25, 1913: On the twenty-fifth, and final, day of the Leo Frank trial, Solicitor Hugh Dorsey ended his final argument, which took parts of three days. The defense then argued that Frank was the latest in a long line of Jews who were persecuted for their religious beliefs and again asserted that Jim Conley was the true murderer. Conley and many other prosecution witnesses had shady characters, while Leo Frank had been a pillar of the community who had many well-respected people, plus many of his employees, testifying on his behalf. If the case came down to Leo Frank’s word against Jim Conley’s, then it was obvious who to believe. After hearing their instructions from Judge L. S. Roan, the jury retired to ponder the verdict. At 4:55, they returned with their decision; Leo Frank was declared guilty. Neither Frank nor his family or lead attorneys were present in the courtroom when the verdict was announced. Reportedly, Judge Roan feared mob violence should Frank have been acquitted. When told of the verdict, Frank reasserted his complete innocence, saying the jury had been influenced by mob law.
August 26, 1913: Judge L. S. Roan sentenced Leo Frank to hang for the murder of Mary Phagan. The execution date was set for October 10, but Frank’s attorneys immediately motioned for a new trial. The hearing on this motion was set for October 4, thus assuring that there would be a delay in carrying out Frank’s sentence.
Appeals, Commutation, Lynching
October 31, 1913: Judge L. S. Roan denied a motion for a new trial for Leo Frank. Leonard Strickland Roan rescheduled Leo Frank’s execution date for his thirtieth birthday, April 17, 1914. The birthday execution date set by Judge Roan put doubt in the defense’s claims that the presiding judge had doubted the verdict.
November / December 1913
Gathering of Leo Frank Case files for the Georgia Supreme Court begins, Adobe PDF format: https://www.leofrank.org/library/georgia-archives/
February 17, 1914: The Georgia Supreme Court denied a motion for a new trial.
February 24, 1914: Jim Conley was sentenced to a year on a chain gang for his role in Mary Phagan’s murder.
April 6, 1914: Just eleven days before Leo Frank was scheduled to hang, his attorneys filed a motion to set aside the guilty verdict in the Fulton County Superior Court. The execution was rescheduled for January 22, 1915.
June 6, 1914: The Fulton County Superior Court denied the motion to set aside the verdict, so Leo Frank’s attorneys immediately appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.
December 7, 1914: The Georgia Supreme Court denied the motion to set aside the guilty verdict. Frank’s attorneys then appealed to the United States District Court of North Georgia.
December 21, 1914: The United States District Court denied the motion to set aside the guilty verdict. Leo Frank’s attorneys appeal to the United States Supreme Court, meaning Frank’s execution — set for January 22, 1915 — was again delayed.
“In the Magazine Section of THE NEW YORK TIMES for Sunday, Jan. 17, 1915, is published a letter signed ‘William J. Burns,'” in which, referring to the writer, Mr. Burns’s evident purpose is to convey the impression that, while in the employ of Leo M. Frank “to ferret out the murder” of Mary Phagan, I, “Mr. Scott, the man whom Mr. Frank employed,” conspired with the police “to frame up” Frank.” New York Times, April 18, 1915, about Pinkerton Detective Harry Scott: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F0091FFE385C13738DDDA10994DC405B858DF1D3
April 9, 1915: The United States Supreme Court rejected Leo Frank’s last appeal. His execution, already postponed three times, was reset for June 22, 1915.
May 31, 1915: Leo Frank’s attorneys filed an appeal for clemency with the Georgia Prison Commission, hoping to have his death sentence commuted, but the appeal was denied.
June 20, 1915: During his last days in office, Georgia Governor John Slaton commuted the sentence of Leo Frank, from death to life in prison. Slaton spent many hours poring over the files of the case and was convinced that there was room between the zone of guilt by reasonable doubt and absolute guilt to commute Frank’s death sentence to life in prison, while still preserving the verdict of guilt and a providing a proper sentence for the crime.
He had a notable document to back this decision; a forged letter from Judge L. S. Roan (who had presided over the case and originally sentenced Frank to the gallows) urged commutation, saying he had serious doubts about Frank’s guilt.
Jim Conley’s girlfriend Maud Carter had words put in her mouth that Conley had confessed privately to her that he indeed killed Mary Phagan. Finally, Conley’s own attorney, William Manning Smith, ostracized by the Jewish community allegedly wrote to Slaton urging commutation.
Slaton, knowing that his decision would not be popular, made plans to leave the state immediately upon his successor being sworn in; he and his wife spent several months traveling. He also ordered that Frank be transferred from the Fulton County Prison, for fear that a lynch mob would overpower the guards.
What Really Happened
Georgia Governor John M. Slaton, the senior law partner and part owner of the law firm representing Leo M. Frank as his legal defense team (Rosser, Brandon, Slaton, and Phillips), chose to commute the death sentence of his client Leo M. Frank to life in prison on June 21, 1915. Leo M. Frank Clemency Decision by John M. Slaton June 21st 1915.
June 21, 1915: Leo Frank was whisked away from the Fulton County Prison to the Georgia State Penitentiary in Milledgeville.
Watson’s Magazine — January, March, August, September, and October of 1915: Georgia Populist politician and publisher Tom Watson, in his magazines Watson’s Magazine and The Jeffersonian newspaper (1914 to 1917), published scathing editorials against Leo Frank and the commutation of his sentence. While charges of “anti-Semitism” had come out at the end of the Leo Frank trial, Watson was blatant in his sentiments when he first wrote about the case in 1914. The Jewish community blamed his inflammatory writings for pushing the already strong feelings regarding this case past the boiling point. In what is now ominous phraseology, Watson suggested the citizens of Georgia should take justice into their own hands.
July 17, 1915: Prisoner J. William Creen slashed Leo Frank’s throat at the Georgia State Prison Farm in Milledgeville. Only the quick actions of two other prisoners, both doctors, who stopped the flow of blood and stitched the wound, saved Frank’s life. The wounds were slow to heal in the height of the hot humid Georgian summer of 1915.
August 16, 1915: A caravan of seven to nine vehicles bearing twenty-five to thirty-five armed men from the Atlanta area arrived at the Georgia State Prison at Milledgeville around 10:00 p.m., calling themselves the Knights of Mary Phagan. They cut the telephone lines and walked into the prison, wearing motorcycle goggles, hats pulled down, and bandit handkerchiefs in triangle formation covering the lower part of their faces, surprising the guards. The men entered the barracks of Leo Frank. The intruders seized Frank and departed into the night. Many of the cars then took back roads headed for Marietta, while one car acted as a decoy in case of pursuit.
August 17, 1915: Through the early morning hours, the lynch mob who had seized Leo Frank from Georgia State Prison in Milledgeville drove by back roads toward Marietta. Sometime early on the morning of the 17th, they reached the outskirts of Marietta. Here, at Frey’s grove near Mary Phagan’s girlhood home, the men decided to hang Frank, though there are conflicting reports on this. One story is that some wanted to continue with the original plan — to hang Frank in the Marietta town square, while others did not want to do this in broad daylight.
Frank was hanged there in Frey’s grove. Frank’s only request was that his wedding ring be returned to his wife (which it was several days later). When word of the lynching spread, crowds gathered to see the body hanging from a tree. Photographs were taken, and several were turned into popular souvenir postcards. One person in the crowd threatened, and even began to inflict, violence to Frank’s body by stomping on Leo Frank’s chest and face, before former judge Newt Morris convinced the individual to stop.
Frank’s body was rushed to an undertaker in Atlanta with a line of vehicles trailing behind. Although the undertaker tried to keep the body concealed, a large crowd soon gathered demanding to see it. After a rock was thrown through a window, officials agreed to let the public view Frank’s body. Under police supervision, thousands of curious Atlanta-area residents filed by single file to view Frank’s body — including the city detective who had arrested Frank. That night Frank’s body was quickly embalmed and placed on a train for New York City, where the burial services were held in Mount Carmel Cemetery. As a footnote to the lynching, no one was ever prosecuted for the murder of Leo Frank. A new website by Steve Goldfarb, using a list created by Mary Phagan Kean, now claims to identify the lynchers of Leo Frank, June 12, 2000.
View Larger Map
August 20, 1915: Leo Frank was buried at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Glendale, Queens, NY, the cemetery is also in Ridgewood, Queens, NY.
November 25, 1915: The Knights of Mary Phagan met atop Stone Mountain, burned a cross, and initiated the new invisible order of the Ku Klux Klan. Soon thereafter, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith was founded in New York; its founding was based largely on the Leo Frank case and its aftermath. Ironically, Leo Frank had been president of the Atlanta chapter of B’nai B’rith. It must be noted here that the Phagan family has not condoned Klan activity, especially in regards to Mary. In fact, the family expressly forbade a Klan request to hold a ceremony at Mary Phagan’s grave site.
1916: Hugh Dorsey was elected governor of Georgia.
1918: Hugh Dorsey was reelected governor of Georgia.
1920: Tom Watson elected senator from Georgia.
1938: The Biography of Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel, http://www.archive.org/details/AgrarianRebel1938BiographyOfTomWatson, available for download on Archive.org.
1947: Rascoe, Burton, The Case of Leo Frank: A Factual Review of One of the Most Sensational Murder Cases in Court Annals, Girard, KS, Haldemann-Julius, 1947: http://www.archive.org/details/TheCaseOfLeoFrank
1952: Guilty or Not Guilty? by Francis Xavier Busch http://www.archive.org/details/NotableAmericanTrials.LeoFrankGuiltyOrNotGuilty1952
1954: Lucille Frank notarizes her will and has it registered with local Georgian government. It specifically asks that she be cremated (instead of buried next to her husband in Grave site #1 in the Frank-Stern Family plot). The grave spot to the immediate left of Leo Frank was reserved for Lucille, but she softly rejected it with her will. It was vindication for State’s Exhibit J, that Leo Frank made his second of three murder confessions to Lucille on the evening of Saturday, April 26, 1913.
April 23, 1957: Lucille Frank, Leo’s widow, died in Atlanta of heart disease. She requested cremation in her 1954 will. Some interpret the cremation request by Lucille Selig as vindication for the Leo Frank trial jury and State’s Exhibit J, because Lucille was not buried in the empty grave reserved for her — Frank family grave plot #1 (official real estate location ID#: 1-E-41-1035-01) to the immediate left of Leo Frank in grave plot #2 (official real estate location ID#: 1-E-41-1035-02) at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in New York.
1961: Dr. Edward R. Fields’ Analysis of the Leo Frank Case. Dr. Edward R. Fields wrote his take on the case in The Thunderbolt Magazine in February 1961. He took the side against Frank as you will clearly see.
1962 (exact date unknown): Jim Conley died. Rumors spread soon after his death that he had made a deathbed confession to the murder of Mary Phagan, but no evidence has been found to substantiate this rumor.
Memories of 1922, published forty-two years later.
The Origin of the Leo M. Frank Teeth X-Ray Photos and Mary Phagan Bite Mark Hoax:
To Number Our Days, Published in 1964, by Dutch Jew and Self-Proclaimed Zionist Pierre Van Paasen. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 64-13633. 404 pages.
To Number Our Days, “Short Stand in Dixieland,” pages 237-238
Line 27: “The Jewish community of Atlanta at that time seemed to live under a cloud. Several years previously one of its members, Leo Frank, had been lynched as he was being transferred from the Fulton Tower Prison in Atlanta to Milledgeville for trial on a charge of having raped and murdered a little girl in his warehouse which stood right opposite the Constitution building. Many Jewish citizens who recalled the lynching were unanimous in assuring me that Frank was innocent of the crime.
“I took reading all the evidence pro and con in the record department at the courthouse. Before long I came upon an envelope containing a sheaf of papers and a number of X-ray photographs showing teeth indentures. The murdered girl had been bitten on the left shoulder and neck before being strangled. But the X-ray photos of the teeth marks on her body did not correspond with Leo Frank’s set of teeth of which several photos were included. If those photos had been published at the time of the murder, as they should have been, the lynching would probably not have taken place.
“Though, as I said, the man died several years before, it was too late, I thought, to rehabilitate his memory and perhaps restore the good name of his family. I showed Clark Howell the evidence establishing Frank’s innocence and asked permission to run a series of articles dealing with the case and especially with the evidence just uncovered. Mr. Howell immediately concurred, but the most prominent Jewish lawyer in the city, Mr. Harry Alexander, whom I consulted with a view to have him present the evidence to the grand jury, demurred. He said Frank had not even been tried. Hence no new trial could be requested. Moreover, the Jewish community in its entirety still felt nervous about the incident. If I wrote the articles old resentments might be stirred up and, who knows some of the unknown lynchers might recognize themselves as participants in my description of the lynching. It was better, Mr. Alexander thought, to leave sleeping lions alone. Some local rabbis were drawn into the discussion and they actually pleaded with Clark Howell to stop me from reviving interest in the Frank case as this was bound to have evil repercussions on the Jewish community.
“That someone had blabbed out of school became quite evident when I received a printed warning saying: ‘Lay off the Frank case if you want to keep healthy.’ The unsigned warning was reinforced one night, or rather, early one morning when I was driving home. A large automobile drove up alongside of me and forced me into the track of a fast-moving streetcar coming from the opposite direction. My car was demolished, but I escaped without a scratch…. ”
Quote Source: To Number Our Days, Published in 1964 by Dutch Jew and self-proclaimed Zionist Pierre Van Paasen. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 64-13633. 404 pages.
1966: Digital Copy of the Leonard Dinnerstein 1966 Ph.D. Dissertation at Columbia University (political science) on the Leo Frank Case in PDF: https://www.leofrank.org/library/dissertation-thesis/leonard-dinnerstein-dissertation-leo-frank-case-1966.pdf.
1968: The book version of his Ph.D. Dissertation: The Leo Frank Case by Leonard Dinnerstein, written by University of Arizona professor, Dr. Leonard Dinnerstein, who did his dissertation on the subject. A review of the Leo Frank Case by Dr. Dinnerstein is available on the Internet Archive.
Notes on the Case of Leo Max Frank and Its Aftermath, by Tom Watson Brown, 1982 (Grandson of Tom Watson, wrote this at Harvard). Attempts to have the few surviving examples of this work purged have been quite successful, as it is nearly impossible to find.
March 4, 1982: Alonzo Mann, in failing health, signed an affidavit asserting Leo Frank’s innocence and Jim Conley’s guilt. He admitted he had seen Conley carrying the limp body of Mary Phagan on his shoulder near the trapdoor leading to the basement on April 26, 1913. Conley had threatened to kill him if he ever told anyone what he had seen. He did go home and tell his mother, who advised him to keep quiet. After Frank’s conviction, his parents still kept him quiet, saying it would do no good to come forth after the verdict. He was telling the story now to unburden his soul. He had actually tried to tell the story several times before, but no one had paid attention. He had even gotten into a fight with a fellow soldier in World War I when he tried to asset Frank’s innocence. He took several lie detector tests while telling his story to a group of reporters for The Tennessean, a newspaper in Nashville, TN. The tests indicated Mann was telling the truth.
March 7, 1982: The Tennessean ran the story of Alonzo Mann’s confession.
November 10, 1982: Alonzo Mann repeated his story in a videotape statement in Atlanta.
January 4, 1983: Based largely on Alonzo Mann’s testimony, the Anti-Defamation League submitted an application for a posthumous pardon for Leo Frank to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.
December 22, 1983: The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied the motion for a pardon, the reason being that while Alonzo Mann’s testimony might incriminate Jim Conley, it did not conclusively prove the innocence of Leo Frank.
Pardon without Exoneration
March 11, 1986: The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles finally issued a posthumous pardon to Leo Frank, based on the state’s failure to protect him while in custody; it did not officially absolve him of the crime.
June 1986: Instauration: http://www.instaurationonline.com/pdf-files/Instauration-1986-06-June-pt1.pdf
1987: The Murder of Little Mary Phagan, by Mary Phagan-Kean, the grandniece of Mary Phagan.
Steve Oney on C-Span (October 11, 2003) speaking about his research and book on Leo Frank: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/178832-1. Not a word about State’s Exhibit B, Monteen Stover and Leo Frank’s August 18, 1913, murder confession about his “unconscious” bathroom visit to the metal room — the scene of the crime — at the time he said Mary Phagan was in his office.
Steve Oney, And The Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank (2003): https://www.leofrank.org/steve-oney/
Thomas Watson Brown, 73; philanthropist from Georgia
OBITUARIES | PASSINGS
January 18, 2007 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
Thomas Watson Brown, 73, a prominent Georgian who combined Old South roots with a wide-ranging philanthropic streak, died Saturday of complications from diabetes at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. His death was confirmed by former Gov. Roy Barnes.
The Harvard-educated Brown lived in an antebellum home in Marietta, Ga., that flew the Confederate flag, but he was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center’s community service award for peace and justice. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, presented the award to Brown in 1987 for his contributions to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.
Brown was a staunch defender of his great-grandfather, Thomas E. Watson, a publisher and U.S. senator. Many still blame Watson for whipping up anti-Semitism that led to the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank, who had been convicted of killing 13-year-old Mary Phagan two years earlier. Watson’s great-grandson was convinced by extensive research that Frank was not lynched because he was Jewish but because the populace was outraged that his sentence was commuted by the governor, who had been bribed.
The Watson-Brown Foundation that Brown established awards millions of dollars in scholarships and is committed to historic preservation.
Mr. Thomas Watson Brown
MARIETTA, Ga. – Mr. Thomas Watson Brown, of Marietta, died Saturday, January 13. He was 73.
Born in Washington, D.C., Mr. Brown attended Saint Alban’s School. He received his A.B. in history from Princeton University, where he graduated magna cum laude. After serving briefly in the United States Army, Mr. Brown attended Harvard Law School, graduating with his L.L.B. in 1959. He moved to Atlanta where he practiced law until his death. Mr. Brown led numerous business, civic, philanthropic and scholarly organizations. He was the former Chairman of Spartan Communications, Inc., a television broadcasting company. He served on the boards of the Atlanta Historical Society, the Georgia Historical Society, the Georgia Civil War Commission, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the Georgia Legal History Foundation. He was a life trustee of Mercer University. Mr. Brown was a past president of the Atlanta Civil War Round Table, the Lawyer’s Club of Atlanta and the Advocates, Ltd., the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the Atlanta Lawyers Club. He chaired the Atlanta Symposium, the Mercer University Press and the Watson-Brown Foundation. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Atlanta Press Club. Mr. Brown was an intellectual and a respected historian, but he is perhaps remembered best as a Civil War scholar and a raconteur of the first order. The great-grandson of former Georgia U.S. Senator Thomas E. Watson, Mr. Brown was a lifelong Jeffersonian Democrat and a staunch defender of the South.
He is preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Ellen McLaughlin Brown, his second wife, Ann Henderson West Brown, and two sons, John Judson Brown, II and John Durham West Brown.
He is survived by his remaining four children, Melissa Ellen Brown Cummings of Massillon, Ohio, Thomas Watson Brown, Jr. of Evans, Anne Georgia Lawrence Brown McCarroll of Memphis, Tenn., and Elizabeth Courtney Brown of Marietta; and eight grandchildren. Mr. Brown is also survived by a cadre of loyal friends whose support and companionship, especially in his failing years, provided him immortal humor, succor, and strength.
Funeral services were held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, January 17, on the west lawn of Hickory Hill, historic home of Thomas E. Watson, in Thomson.
In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to the Watson-Brown Foundation, 310 Tom Watson Way, Thomson, Georgia 30824.
References and Further Reading
(Chronology taken primarily from reports in The Atlanta Constitution and The Atlanta Journal)
March 7, 2008
Historical Marker Dedication: Leo Frank Lynching
Leo Frank Lynching
Friday, March 7, 2008 2:00 p.m.
The marker text will read as follows:
Near this location on August 17, 1915, Leo M. Frank, the Jewish superintendent of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, was lynched for the murder of thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan, a factory employee. A highly controversial trial fueled by societal tensions and anti-Semitism resulted in a guilty verdict in 1913. After Governor John M. Slaton commuted his sentence from death to life in prison, Frank was kidnapped from the state prison in Milledgeville and taken to Phagan’s hometown of Marietta where he was hanged before a local crowd. Without addressing guilt or innocence, and in recognition of the state’s failure to either protect Frank or bring his killers to justice, he was granted a posthumous pardon in 1986.
Erected by the Georgia Historical Society, the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, and Temple Kol Emeth
Links to Other Leo Frank Sites
Photo Postcard of Leo Frank Lynching
Leo Frank Lynchers (http://leofranklynchers.com/ offline) – site claiming to have identifications of most involved in lynching – resurrected documents on https://www.leofrank.org/lynchers/
Printed Sources on the Leo Frank Case
The Atlanta Constitution and The Atlanta Journal: Back issue available on microfilm at the University of Georgia Libraries: http://www.libs.uga.edu/
Prosecution Side References
Phagan Kean, Mary, The Murder of Little Mary Phagan, Far Hills, NJ, New Horizon Press, 1987. Note: This book was written by Mary Phagan’s great niece and gives a unique family perspective on the case. Click here for an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution summarizing her view of the case.
Frey, Robert Seitz and Frey, Nancy, The Silent and the Damned: the Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank, 2002.
Garrett, Franklin M., Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events. Volume II, Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1954, pp. 619-628.
Golden, Harry, A Little Girl is Dead, Cleveland, World Publishing Co., 1965.
Rascoe, Burton, The Case of Leo Frank: A Factual Review of One of the Most Sensational Murder Cases in Court Annals, Girard, KS, Haldemann-Julius, 1947: http://www.archive.org/details/TheCaseOfLeoFrank.
Samuels, Charles, Night Fell on Georgia, New York, Dell Publishing Co., 1965.
Woodward, C. Vann, Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1938.
Dinnerstein, Leonard, The Leo Frank Case, New York, Columbia University Press, 1968. Available for download: The Leo Frank Case by Leonard Dinnerstein written by University of Arizona professor, Dr. Leonard Dinnerstein, who did his dissertation on the subject. A review of the Leo Frank Case by Dr. Dinnerstein is available on the Internet Archive.
Leo Frank Case Files from the Georgia Supreme Court, Adobe PDF Format
Available for review and download (Mandatory Reading), please visit: Georgia Supreme Court Case File (Volumes 1 and 2) and Leo M. Frank, Plaintiff in Error, vs. State of Georgia, Defendant in Error. In Error from Fulton Superior Court at the July Term 1913. Brief of Evidence 1913. Be sure to read this 1,800 page case file.