Lynching Anniversary and Other History

Here's what you should know to start Aug. 17 in Marietta.

1. There are likely to be a few more clouds but no rain today as the temperature tops out around 89 degrees and the breeze fades away, the National Weather Service says. The overnight low will be about 67.

2. Marietta Patch will have an article later today on Tuesday night’s meeting of the , during which the proposed auditorium at was on the discussion agenda. The deadline for firms to respond to a request for proposals for the architectural and engineering design work for the project is 2 p.m. Aug. 25. Eleven firms attended a pre-proposal meeting this month for those interested in bidding: Cunningham, Forehand, Matthews & Moore; CDH Partners; Menefee & Winer; JEA Architects; Southern A & E; BRPH; Perkings + Will; Lyman, Davidson, Dooley; James W. Buckley & Assoc.; Gardner, Spencer, Smith; and CGLS Architects.

3. In government action today, the Citizen Oversight Committee meets at 100 Cherokee St. at 9 a.m., and the meets at 10 a.m. at 736 Whitlock Ave. Want to do business with the county? There’s a free workshop on how to be a county vendor at 5:30 p.m. at the , 1220 Al Bishop Dr.; let Inger Eberhart know you plan to attend at 770-528-3317 or inger.eberhart@cobbcounty.org.

4. The last week reappointed five members of the Marietta Museum of History board to three-year terms running through Aug. 10, 2014. They are Thomas McBrayer, Alice Summerour, Guy H. Northcutt Jr. Harry Lembeck and Danna Kaye. And if you’re interested in Marietta history, be sure to read about the living history around Marietta Square and about new century-old home.

5. Speaking of history, today is the 96th anniversary of one of Marietta’s most shameful moments: the lynching of Leo Frank after he was abducted from the state prison in Milledgeville and driven overnight to a site at Frey’s Gin. A hard-to-spot historical marker stands on the spot along Roswell Road just west of the Interstate 75 overpass. It’s the only known instance in American history of a Jew being lynched, and it was carried out with the involvement of some of Marietta’s leading citizens in revenge for the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan in 1913. Frank was convicted of the murder at the National Pencil factory in a prosecution rife with anti-Semitism. While no one knows for sure who killed Phagan, the evidence points toward the main witness against Frank, Jim Conley, rather than Frank himself.

Todd Hudson August 17, 2011 at 11:16 AM
Correction: Leo Frank's prosecution was not "rife with antisemitism." It was never a part of the investigation or prosecution.. Antisemitic speech against Frank did not start until after the conviction, when Frank's supporters began a media campaign to turn public opinion against the decision, and ultimately against the State of Georgia. The hate speech began as a reaction against the pro Frank movement, which was seen as an attempt by Northern Jews to undermine Georgia justice. The worst of the antisemitism came from the pages of "The Jeffersonian" under the pen of Tom Watson. He and others used antisemitic speech to fan the flames of anger that were already burning.
Michael Jacobs August 17, 2011 at 09:00 PM
Hi, Todd. I respect you tremendously, but we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. How many Christian whites would have been convicted of murder and sentenced to death solely on the word of an uneducated black man in Atlanta in 1913?
Todd Hudson August 17, 2011 at 11:15 PM
Hi Michael. That question is far from proof that this is what happened in the Frank Case. He was not solely convicted on Conley's testimony, although Conley's testimony was the most damaging. There was plenty of reason to suspect Frank, and plenty of reason to indict him. There was a great deal of testimony against him from other parties as well. I do not believe Frank was guilty, however. Bear in mind that his conviction was upheld on appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The most complete and thorough treatment of the Frank case that I know of is Steve Oney's book "And the Dead Shall Rise." Since the court transcripts have been lost (how convenient) Oney reconstructed the investigation and trial from newspaper accounts. Oney's book is a ponderous tome, and is very thorough and unbiased. In his research, he found no evidence of antisemitism during the investigation or the trial. The first to mention antisemitism was the defense counsel during closing statements. The antisemitic remarks didn't start flying until the appeals process and the media campaign. I highly recommend Oney's book to anyone who is interested in the Frank case.
Todd Hudson August 17, 2011 at 11:21 PM
Incidentally, if anyone has ever wondered why I have not written about the Frank case in the "Marietta History Files" column (I have written about Mary Phagan, but not about the trial of Leo Frank) it is because the subject is a hornets' nest, and it is a complicated one. It is nowhere near as cut-and-dried as people like to think. Also, there is a lot of powerful sentiment here in Cobb still. The Phagan family still has representatives living here. Many of the men who carried out the lynching have descendants living here, some of whom have denounced their ancestors' actions and some of whom hold that they were correct in principle if not in deed. There is also a substantial Jewish population here with understandably sensitive feelings about the case. It would have to be treated with a great deal of tact, and it would require much more space than my typical 600-1,000 word column. I may undertake it one day in consultation with others. In the mean time, I steer the reader toward Steve Oney's book.
Michael Jacobs August 17, 2011 at 11:39 PM
Hi, Todd: I have Oney's book and have attended a couple of lectures he delivered about the case, including one at the opening of the Leo Frank exhibit at the Breman Museum also attended by a descendant of the Phagan family. The two overriding thoughts I've taken away from his lectures: (1) Given two possible prime suspects in Conley and Frank, investigators and prosecutors went after Frank because he was Jewish and seen as a Yankee (he came to Atlanta from New York but was born in Texas); and (2) it was an unjust verdict and a horribly wrong ending with the lynching, but that doesn't mean he wasn't guilty. We just don't know. Certainly, racism played a big part in the belief that Frank and not Conley did it: Police didn't think an uneducated black guy was clever enough to pull this off and pin it on someone else. But I think you are mistaken about the absence of anti-Semitism until the defense played that card. I acknowledge seeing the case through the perspective of a lifetime of being told it was all about anti-Semitism, but I think there is ample evidence supporting that view. And I do have some training as a historian to try to separate the propaganda from the facts. But I'll give Oney's book another read. Thanks for the comments--and your wisdom in skipping this column topic. :-)
Cathy Logan August 19, 2011 at 08:20 AM
Well lynching as a crime was almost commonplace and accepted in Georgia. For this case, there seems to be lots of analysis of a white man being lynched but a black man could even be lynched for "wild talk"!!! My details attached Date Victim County Charge 2/13/1922 Will Jones Schley Wild Talk 2/17/1922 John Glover Lowndes Murder 3/12/1922 Alfred Williams Columbia Attempted Murder 5/18/1922 Charlie Atkins Washington Murder 5/29/1922 Will Bryd Wayne Murder 6/30/1922 Joe Jordan James Harvey Liberty Debt Dispute 7/14/1922 Shake Davis Colquitt Miscegenation 7/24/1922 Will Anderson Colquitt Attempted Rape 8/2/1922 Cocky Glover Monroe Murder 9/28/1922 M.B. Burnett Wilkes Wild Talk 2/3/1923 George Butts Clinton Chamber Hancock Murder/Robbery 8/17/1923 Aaron Harris Bleckley Attempted Rape 3/19/1924 John Haynes Crisp Attempted Rape 4/3/1924 Beach Thrash Merriwether Murder 6/23/1924 Marcus Westmoreland Penny Westmoreland Spalding Argument 3/2/1925 Robert Smith Screven Attempted Rape 9/21/1925 Willie Dixon Balwin Murder 7/6/1926 Willie Wilson Toombs Unknown Offense 2/1/1930 James Irwin Irwin Murder 7/29/1930 S.S. Mincey Montgomery Political Dispute 9/8/1930 George Grant McIntosh Murder 9/9/1930 William Bryan McIntosh Unknown Offense 9/24/1930 Willie Kirkland Thomas Attempted Rape 9/28/1930 Lacy Mitchell Thomas Testifying Against Whites 10/1/1930 Willie Clark Bartow Murder
Joe Bozeman August 21, 2011 at 03:18 PM
Kathy, You commented on Todd's article on desegregating Cobbs schools that "Some of these people are still alive, running governments, making loan decisions, and screaming hatred". You certainly seem to be able to quote dates and names of people being lynched. I would really like to know who these people are you refereed to in the article about desegregating the Cobb schools. If you will give me their names, I will work to see they are put out of office. Joe Bozeman
Joe Bozeman August 21, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Cathy, Sorry I spelled your name wrong.
Mark Cohen October 08, 2011 at 08:48 AM
Michael, With all due respect, I think you need to read the Leo M. Frank trial brief of evidence online (Georgia's Virtual Vault) and perhaps the entire 1,800 page Georgia Supreme Court case file on Leo M. Frank (If you have the time). The trial did not come down to the word of an uneducated black man in 1913 Atlanta. That's an extreme over simplification of the trial and evidence.
Mark Cohen October 09, 2011 at 05:02 AM
Michael, With all due respect, I think you need to read the Leo M. Frank trial brief of evidence online (Georgia's Virtual Vault) and perhaps the entire 1,800 page Georgia Supreme Court case file on Leo M. Frank (If you have the time). The trial did not come down to the word of an uneducated black man in 1913 Atlanta. That's an extreme over simplification of the trial and evidence.


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