Leo Frank commemorative events start in Marietta

A standing-room-only crowd packed the Earl Smith Strand Theatre on the Marietta Square Thursday night to hear author Steve Oney and historian Stan Deaton discuss one of the darkest moments in Georgia history: the lynching of Leo Frank.

"One hundred years ago, a stone's throw from where we are gathered, the best men of Marietta were putting the final touches on a bold and damnable plot," said Oney, author of “And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank.”

"These men came from Marietta's finest families," Oney continued. "Their ghosts are here tonight. Also here is Mary Phagan, the 13-year-old child laborer whose murder Marietta sought to avenge."

MORE COVERAGE: Events explore resonance of Leo Frank case

These newspaper pages and photos of Leo Frank and Mary Phagan are on display at the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History in Kennesaw. A new exhibit, "Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited," starts Monday, the 100th anniversary of Frank's death. AJC photo: BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

"Marietta, not surprisingly, has had a difficult relationship with Leo Frank but Leo Frank will forever be a resident of Marietta," Oney said. "His ghost is here, too."

Frank, who was Jewish, was the superintendent of the factory where Mary worked and where her body was discovered. Convicted on circumstantial evidence following a shoddy investigation, amid a sea of anti-Semitic rhetoric, Frank was sentenced to die. Gov. John Slaton commuted his sentence after thoroughly reviewing the case, so enraging some Georgians that the governor was hanged in effigy and had to declare martial law for a time.

A cabal of prominent Marietta residents broke into the prison and lynched Frank near the site of where the "Big Chicken" stands today. No one was ever charged.

Mary Phagan is buried in the Marietta City Cemetery, not far from the Marietta Square. Photo: Jennifer Brett
Leo Frank was lynched at Frey's Gin, about two miles east of the Marietta Square. The site is not far from the "Big Chicken." A historical plaque marking the site has been taken down temporarily due to DOT work but will be returned to the site afterward. Photo: Jennifer Brett, jbrett@ajc.com

Thursday's discussion, hosted by the Georgia Historical Society in partnership with the Cobb Landmarks and Historical Society and the Marietta Museum of History, kicked of a series of commemorative events to mark the grim centennial.

“Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited,” an exhibition of original artifacts and photography on display Aug. 17-Nov. 29 at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, in partnership with the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum and the Museum of History and Holocaust Education. The Southern Museum’s hours are 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $7.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors 60 and older, $5.50 for children 4-12 and free for children 3 and younger. 2829 Cherokee St. N.W., Kennesaw. 770-427-2117, southernmuseum.org.

Centennial Remembrance. The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, in partnership with the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, the Museum of History and Holocaust Education, the Radow Lecture Series in the KSU College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Congregation Ner Tamid, hosts a commemorative event at 2 p.m. Aug. 17 at Congregation Ner Tamid, 1349 Old 41 Highway N.W., Suite 220, Marietta. Scheduled speakers include Rabbi Tom Liebschutz, former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, Kristine Goldstein and Dr. Catherine Lewis. The event is free but space is limited; please RSVP to the Museum of History and Holocaust Education at mhhe@kennesaw.edu or 470-578-4699.

Remembering Leo Frank. Oakland Cemetery will host two tours on Aug. 16: “Fear & Accusation: The Leo Frank Story” at 5 p.m. followed by “The Jewish Grounds of Oakland” at 6:30 p.m. Admission: adults, $20 for both tours, $12 for individual tour; students and seniors 65 and up (with valid ID), $10 for both tours, $6 for individual tour. Free for Historic Oakland Foundation Members. 248 Oakland Ave. S.E., Atlanta. oaklandcemetery.com.

Leo Frank Memorial Service. 2 p.m. Sunday at Temple Kol Emeth, 1415 Old Canton Road, Marietta.

Commemorative program and tree planting. 2 p.m. Sunday at Congregation Etz Chaim, 1190 Indian Hills Parkway Marietta.

“An Evening With History: From the Dark Side — The Leo Frank Case.” Historian and former Marietta City Councilman Van Pearlberg presents a lecture about the Frank case on Aug. 18 at the Marietta Museum of History. Reception at 6:15 p.m., lecture at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 for members and $20 for nonmembers. Memberships will be available for purchase the night of the event. 1 Depot St., No. 200, Marietta (on the Marietta Square). 770-794-5710, mariettahistory.org.

“Leo Frank: 100 Years in the Media.” 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Museum of History and Holocaust Education in the Kennesaw State University Center, 3333 Busbee Drive N.W., Kennesaw. Free. 470-578-2083, historymuseum.kennesaw.edu.


In Sunday’s AJC, reporter Christian Boone takes a comprehensive look at the Leo Frank case. Check myajc.com this weekend for a multimedia presentation.

Read AJC editor Kevin Riley’s July column about the parallels between the Leo Frank case and more contemporary political events at myajc.com. 

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About the Author

Jennifer Brett
Jennifer Brett
Jennifer Brett is a multiplatform journalist and digital coach. She writes The Buzz blog for accessAtlanta.com.