One of the darkest episodes in Georgia history, the lynching of Leo Frank in Marietta, occurred on this day in 1915. Frank was convicted in 1913 of murdering Mary Phagan, a 15 year old employed by Frank at the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta.
Police immediately suspected Frank, a New York Jew, despite strong evidence against a Black employee, Jim Conley. Conley testified that he helped Frank dispose of Phagan’s body. Female employees further testified that Frank had made unwanted sexual advances.
Frank was convicted and sentenced to die, but two years later Governor John Slaton commuted Frank’s sentence to life in prison. An influential publisher and lawyer, Tom Watson urged outraged Georgians to take justice into their own hands.
Prominent citizens from Marietta, Phagan’s hometown, kidnapped Frank from the state prison and lynched him. No one was ever charged in Frank’s death. Without addressing his guilt or innocence, but recognizing its failure to protect him, the state of Georgia Pardoned Frank in 1986, 70 years after the tragedy of August 17, 1915, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.