Monday, April 28, 2008

Today in History

Marietta - In 1983, at the request of local Jewish leaders, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles was considering a post-humous pardon for Leo Frank, based on recently revealed evidence that it was not Frank who killed 13-year- old Mary Phagan on April 26, 1913.

Seventy years ago, the murder of the former Marietta girl touched off a 2½-year chain of events which left an indelible mark on the Atlanta area's Jewish community, of which Frank was a member. Convicted of the crime - improperly, many now believed - Frank was subsequently lynched. Sherry Frank, area director for the American Jewish Committee, said the pardon would do more than clear a turn-of-the-century Atlanta businessman of guilt in the brutal murder of a little girl. "It sets the record straight as far as Georgia history, as far as lynching and mob rule," said Mrs. Frank, who was not related to Leo Frank. "This is a real blot on Georgia's history that needs to be corrected." If the pardon - which Jewish leaders wanted to be a complete exoneration of Frank - was granted, state officials said it would be the first posthumous pardon ever granted in Georgia. Leo Frank was convicted of the Mary Phagan slaying in a trial which even contemporary accounts showed was marked by flimsy evidence and a strong current of anti-Semitism. Frank was a New York Jewish man who managed the National Pencil Co. factory on Forsyth Street, where part of Rich's downtown Atlanta store stands. Mary Phagan had left her home in then-rural Marietta to work in the factory. The youngster was found dead in the factory basement. During a time of intense prejudice against members of the Jewish faith, Frank was convicted of murder, largely on the testimony of Jim Conley, the pencil factory janitor.

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