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Leo Frank Lynchers, Leo Frank case, Lynching of Leo Frank, Leo Frank case in Atlanta, Marietta lynching of Leo Frank, Leo M. Frank Collection, identifying the lynchers of Leo Frank, the musical Parade based on the Leo Frank saga

L A T E S T     I N F O R M A T I O N

Website Names Alleged
Lynchers Of Leo Frank
A website has allegedly named some of the Mariettans involved in the lynching of Leo Frank, and what an interesting list it is. Famous names like Clay, Morris, Sessions, Dobbs, Frey, Manning and more are accused of being the culprits.

The site says the alleged lynchers include a former speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives and president of the Georgia State Senate, and other members of the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate, mayors of Marietta, as well as judges, prosecutors, and other members of the local judiciary. Link to the website

Marietta's Shame:
The Lynching of Leo Frank

In 1913 Leo Frank, a northern Jew who had moved to Atlanta to manage a pencil factory, was accused of murdering a 14-year old girl named Mary Phagan of Marietta who was employed at the factory.

The story of Leo Frank and Mary Phagan, on one level the story of a murder, trial, and execution, can be seen on another level as a frightening example of the conflicts that developed out of the merging of the agrarian and urban cultures.

At the turn of the century, poor and uneducated farmers facing destitute conditions in the Georgia countryside began moving in large numbers to the cities. Urban entrepreneurs, seeing the need for jobs, looked to the North for capital and management to build factories.

By the year 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.

Mary Phagan was born on June 1, 1900 to John and Frances Phagan in Marietta, Ga. Her father died when she was young; her mother eventually re-married to J.W. Coleman.

They resided briefly in Alabama before moving back to Marietta. Mary Phagan was employed by the National Pencil Factory to operate a machine which placed metal tips on pencils. Mary had been temporarily laid off in April of 1913, because a shipment of metal to make the tips was late in arriving. She was due $1.20 in wages, which she went to collect on Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, 1913.

There, young Phagan was murdered. People accused Frank, not from the evidence, but because of the resentment against the "Yankee Devil," so-called because he was from up north and because Frank wasn’t a Christian.

After a sensationalized trial, Leo Frank was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. He was convicted primarily on the testimony of Jim Conley, a janitor who was initially suspected of the crime and who changed his story several times.

Governor John Slaton commuted Frank's sentence to life imprisonment, but on August 16, 1915, 25 armed men took Frank out of jail and hanged him.

Tom Watson Fanned The Hate

During that time, Georgia Populist politician and publisher Tom Watson, in his magazines Watson's Magazine and The Jeffersonian, published scathing editorials against Leo Frank and the commutation of his sentence.

While charges of anti-Semitism had certainly surrounded the trial of Leo Frank, Watson was blatant in his sentiments. His inflammatory writings are generally credited with pushing the already strong feelings regarding this case past the boiling point. In what is now ominous phraseology, Watson called on the citizens of Georgia to take justice into their own hands and inflict the death sentence upon Leo Frank.

Watson was now a virulent racist, a far cry from the Populist leader of the 1890s who had openly called for black political equality and racial unity along class lines. As his own wealth grew, he denounced socialism, which had drawn many converts from the ashes of Populism.

He was a vigorous anti-Catholic crusader who called for the reorganization of the Ku Klux Klan. He played an inflammatory role in the 1913 case of Leo Frank.

Watson and the Southern press sensationalized the case, hurling racist and anti-Jewish epithets at Frank while making wild, unsubstantiated charges.

Remarkably and shamefully, the people of Georgia elected Watson to the U.S. Senate in 1920.

Lynching Was Organized
By Marietta Leaders

In 1915, a caravan of eight vehicles bearing 25 armed men from the Marietta arrived at the Georgia StatePrison at Milledgeville around 10 p.m. Calling themselves the Knights of Mary Phagan, they cut the telephone lines, surprised the guards and entered the barrack of Leo Frank, who two years earlier had been convicted of the murder of 14-year-old Mary Phagan in one of the most infamous trials of the century.

The intruders seized Frank and departed into the night. Seven of the cars then took back roads headed for Marietta, while one car acted as a decoy in case of pursuit.

The kidnapping was actually organized by members of the Marietta community, including civic, business and preachers. According to reports, among the leaders of the effort were members of two prominent families in Marietta, the Clay and Brumby families.

Sometime early on the morning of the 17th, they reached the outskirts of Marietta. At Frey's Grove near Mary Phagan's girlhood home, the mendecided 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 Square, while others did not want to do this in broad daylight. A second story says that there was disagreement among the men on whether to hang Frank at all; the story being that those who had ridden in the car with Frank on the three plus hour ride had become convinced of his innocence.

Whatever the truth may be, Frank was hanged there in Frey’s Grove. Asserting his innocence to the very end, 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 of Mariettans, their descendants today are called OMs (for Old Marietta residents) gathered to see the body hanging from a tree.

Photographs were taken, one of which later became a souvenir postcard. A few in the crowd threatened, and even began to inflict, violence to Frank's body, before former judge Newt Morris convinced them 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 ofcurious Atlanta-area residents filed by single file to view Frank's body -- including the city detective whohad arrested Frank.

That night Frank's body was quickly embalmed and placed on a train for New York,where the burial services were held in Brooklyn's Mount Carmel Cemetery. As a footnote to the lynching, no one was ever prosecuted for the murder of Leo Frank. Mariettans stayed closed mouth, refusing to reveal the names of the lynchers. Not a single resident would ever step forward. Even today the OMs, the descendants are reluctant to talk.

Knights of Mary Phagan Formed
The New Knights Of Ku Klux Klan

On 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.

To many, Frank was a symbol of the "foreign" exploiter making money from the labors of children. To others, he was a scapegoat for people's economic woes. The Frank case can be seen as an illustration of what happens when the world is changing too fast for some people who, since they cannot alter their circumstances, vent their frustration and anger on people or things that symbolize the change they cannot control.

W E B   S E A R C H

Read about
Ugly Secret'

by clicking here


Sources for this story:

Day by day account: from arrest to lynching

newspaper stories about Leo Frank

Marietta Journal said
lynching was justified

Marietta citizens approved of the lynching

Lynchers identified: Marietta's leading civil and civic leaders

Leo Frank:
Book about the case

The play 'Parade' rekindles interest in the Leo Frank case

Leo M. Frank Collection from the American Jewish Archives

Tom Watson Source

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