Grand Jury Told of Vice Conditions


Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal

Tuesday, June 3rd, 1913

Carl Hutcheson Names 30 Places In His Testimony

He Declares He Obtained Information First-Hand by Visiting Places Mentioned and Registering


He Declined to Make Public His Information—Grand Jury Begins Probe of Charges About Disorderly Houses

Decidedly the most sensational evidence submitted to the grand jury Tuesday in its investigation of vice conditions in Atlanta, which investigation is said to have grown out of the recent charges published by Colonel Thomas B. Felder and Attorney Carl Hutcheson, was the testimony of the latter.

After emerging from the grand jury room, where he remained for more than an hour, Mr. Hutcheson was charged by a battery of newspaper photographers to whom he waved his hands and gleefully exclaimed: “I gave ‘em the dope, boys!”

Later he stated that he had given the grand jury, “all told,” a list of thirty places—hotels and houses where vice is permitted to flourish. He declared that he had secured his information about the places first hand; that his evidence was not based on hearsy information.

Mr. Hutcheson said he had registered at a number of the hotels where he had arranged to have women sent to his rooms. He declared he had furnished the grand jury the names under which he had registered and that his own personal evidence was sufficient to justify many indictments.

To the grand jury Mr. Hutcheson exhibited a hotel kye [sic] which he stated he had forgotten to return. He declared that he had detailed his night visits to various places which are openly violating the law.


“I was allowed to tell my story in my own way,” said Mr. Hutcheson, “and was interrupted by but few questions from the grand jurymen, who manifested much satisfaction over the facts which I furnished them. Frequently the jurymen gave vent to satisfied exclamations.

“I have not charged graft in the police department and was, of course, not questioned along this line. I did charge that disorderly houses were being protected if their presence was known to the police and I insisted that if the police did not have such knowledge they were incompetent.

“I cited to the grand jury instances where the police had been notified that women of bad character had moved into respectable neighborhoods and not withstanding such notification the police had not ejected them.

“I delivered the goods, and it is now up to the grand jury.”

Colonel Thomas B. Felder, who was called earlier in the day, and spent about fifteen minutes in the grand jury room, was afterwards closeted for an hour with Solicitor Dorsey. Just before leaving the court house he exhibited a typewritten list of about twelve or fourteen pages which he said contained the names and addresses of persons who conducted disorderly places. Opposite each name was said to be a note of evidence.


Colonel Felder declared the grand jury was in possession of his list and that he did not think it would be proper for him to make it public. He was excused with the understanding that he would be at his office and would return to the grand jury room upon a telephone call. Colonel Felder said he would probably have some additional names for the grand jury by Wednesday.

Mayor Woodward and Charlie C. Jones, proprietor of the Rex saloon, were also before the grand jury during the morning. The mayor is understood to have submitted considerable hearsay evidence. Jones states that he was asked what he knew about vice conditions and replied that he did not know anything, after which he was excused.

The grand jury remained in session for some time after Mr. Hutcheson, the last witness of the day, was dismissed. It is presumed the members discussed the testimony of Mr. Hutcheson and mapped out a plan for its further investigation, which it is understood will be resumed Wednesday morning.


Shortly after 1 o’clock the grand jury adjourned, following which Foreman Lewis H. Beck was closeted for some time with Solicitor Dorsey. He explained to the newspaper men that the grand jury was working as a committee of the whole to investigate vice conditions in the city, and intimated that no indictments would be brought against persons alleged to be operating disorderly houses.

It was inferred from Mr. Beck’s remarks that the grand jury proposes to gather all the information it can and submit same in a report to the court, leaving the state and city authorities to take such action as they may deem proper upon the facts revealed.


Every witness who appeared before the grand jury declared positively that no mention of the alleged dictograph conversations was made before the grand jury or by the jurors.

Foreman Beck at the close of the session declared that the dictograph incident and the charges of alleged graft in the police department had not come up for consideration, the jury dealing solely with a broad investigation of vice conditions in the city.

While the foreman says he does not know what the investigation of the grand jury will develop, he gives no intimation that it will take up anything except the vice condition.


An interesting, and at times amusing, three-cornered conversation occurred Tuesday morning between Colonel Thomas B. Felder, Mayor James G. Woodward and Police Chief James L. Beavers, while they were in the anteroom of the solicitor general’s office at the court house awaiting to be called before the grand jury to testify concerning the charges of Colonel Felder and Attorney Hutcheson to the effect that disorderly houses were being operated in Atlanta without police interference.

This conversation related in the main to the alleged dictographed records of conversations which are said to have occurred something over a week ago between Colonel Felder, Mayor Woodward, C. C. Jones, E. O. Miles, G. C. Febuary and A. S. Colyar.

Jones was present in the ante-room, as were several newspaper men and a number of court house attaches. The three principals were talking over the “situation” in a courteous but constrained manner. They appeared to be indulging in a bit of serious pleasantry, and frequently the audience, which was at times convulsed with merriment, applauded vigorously.


Mayor Woodward started the show when addressing Chief Beavers, he said: “I didn’t mention either yours or Lanford’s name in that alleged dictographed conversation. If I had done so I would do it now, and I want to say to you that if I could catch you grafting, I would do so just as quick as I would catch any other official.”

“And I would catch you, too, if I could,” replied the chief.

Turning to Colonel Felder, Chief Beavers inquired: “Did you say that I visit some woman on Garnett street?”

“No, I didn’t,” answered Colonel Felder, “but I will tell some time who did. And I want to say to you right now, in the presence of the mayor and Jones, that I am not the attorney for any vice gang or any ring which is trying put vice back in Atlanta. Furthermore, I will stand upon a dry goods box at Five Points and repeat anything I have said.”

Beavers: “Didn’t you say you would drive me naked through the streets of Atlanta?”

Such a loud volley of laughter followed this question that Colonel Felder’s reply was lost.

Mayor Woodward, addressing Chief Beavers: “Don’t you think you used some pretty sorry men in that alleged dictograph, oh?”

Beavers: “I don’t know anything about the others, but I do know Febuary to be a straightforward young man.”

Mayor Woodward: “Whenever he says he has a paper that will show graft in your department—He said it to me and can’t deny it—it looks like he’s a pretty sorrow fellow and that you wouldn’t want him in your department.”

Colonel Felder interjected a question at this point. He said: “Does your department know where Gentry is?”

Chief Beavers indicated that it did not.


Felder: “Well, I do. I located him yesterday and I know who ran him out of town.”

Beavers: “We ought to get that man. By the way, Mr. Felder, what kind of an instrument is a dictograph?”

Felder: “In the hands of honest people it is an accurate and effective instrument.”

Beavers: “It told the truth in South Carolina, did it not?”

Felder: “Yes; nobody stood over the man there and directed him what to write into the record. I don’t mean to say you did it here, but it was done.”

Beavers: “Well, I didn’t see the record when it was being transcribed.”

Felder: “I know you didn’t. You will be horrified, chief, when you know the facts.”

Beavers: “Well, whatever the facts are I want to know them.”

Felder: “It didn’t appear to the people who employed Colyar that he would sell out to one side as quick as he other.”

Beavers: “I didn’t know Colyar before he came here.”

Felder: “You didn’t know him, but others who have nursed him along since he has been here did know him.”

Beavers: “Well, if he is a crook, as you say, I suppose he will sell out to one side as quick as to another.”

Attorney Hutcheson, at this juncture of the conversation, remarked to Chief Beavers that he wished he would go with him to some of the places he knew about and which he had incorporated in a list which he was preparing.

Chief Beavers was called out of the room and after he left Mayor Woodward spoke to Colonel Felder, saying: “I don’t know what I am wanted here for.”

To which Colonel Felder replied: “The fact that you were dictographed was crime enough to bring you before any grand jury.”


The conversation then lagged until Colonel Felder was summoned before the grand jury. At his request he was the rat witness called. Just as he was leaving the ante-room he declared to the newspaper men present that he would make some astounding revelations, but refused to indicate what his disclosures would be. He pointed to an armful of papers which he carried and remarked that these were a part of his proof.

Colonel Felder remained in the grand jury room less than 15 minutes. It is understood that after outlining his testimony he was excused temporarily, with the understanding that he would again be called. He remained in the ante-room.


Although Colonel Felder declined to discuss what he said to the grand jury during his preliminary examination or what was said to him then by the members of the grand jury, it is understood that he specifically requested that probe be made of the alleged dictograph conversations in which he is said to have figured and which with certain affidavits resulted in the city detectives preferring charges against him.

It is understood that Colonel Felder was advised by the grand jury that at present it had nothing whatever to do with the dictograph episode, but that it was just now chiefly concerned in ascertaining the facts concerning the alleged existence of vice in the city of Atlanta.

The grand jury, it is said, reminded Colonel Felder that in his charge to it on Monday, May 5, Judge W. D. Ellis referred indirectly to the recent vice crusade and the possible effect it would have in stimulating the opening of disorderly houses in dark and secret places after they had been removed from a certain known location.


Mayor Woodward followed Colonel Felder before the grand jury and was questioned for about three-quarters of an hour. After he was excused he stated that the investigation appeared to be in the nature of a “John Doe” proceeding. He said he was questioned concerning the alleged existence in Atlanta of disorderly houses, and that all he told the grand jury was based upon hearsay information.

The mayor would not admit, nor would he deny that he had been interrogated concerning the allegation that graft existed in the police department. He said positively that nothing was said to him about the alleged dictographed conversations, and he could not recall that Colonel Felder’s name had been mentioned in the interview.

Mayor Woodward said it was evident from the questions they asked him that the jury is going very thoroughly into the vice situation in Atlanta.

“They asked me if it is true that the town is full of women of bad character,” said he. “I told them I couldn’t say from my own personal knowledge, but that from information and belief. I could tell them that the town certainly is full of them. I remarked that I reckoned they knew as much as I did, whereupon they smiled, and gave me the impression that their information and belief coincided pretty nearly with mine. They asked me particularly what I knew about the hotels, and I gave them my opinion. Also, I told them I thought one thing that ought to be done—and done first—is to clean up the streets, so that ladies can walk downtown without being insulted. And I am pretty certain they agreed with me on that point.”


The witnesses subpenaed by the grand jury were: Colonel Thomas B. Felder, Attorney Carl Hutcheson, Mayor Woodward, C. C. Jones, Police Chief Beavers, Detective Chief N. A. Lanford and Detective John Black.

A subpena was also issued for Mrs. Nina Formby, the woman who made an affidavit to the detectives in which she admitted having conducted a rooming house, and in which she also swore that on the night of the murder of Mary Phagan Leo M. Frank, the pencil factory superintendent, repeatedly telephoned her in an effort to obtain a room to which she alleges he declared he wished to bring a girl.

Anticipating that the grand jury would take up the dictograph charges against Colonel Felder, Mayor Woodward and others. Detective Chief Lanford appeared at the solicitor’s office Tuesday morning with a list of witnesses which he requested to be subpenaed. Among them were G. C. Febuary, A. S. Colyar, George M. Gentry, J. M. Hewitt and Detective R. S. Ozburn.


Solicitor Dorsey made it plain Tuesday morning that the investigation was being put in motion by Foreman Beck. He said he had no knowledge of its objects and all that he knew was that Mr. Beck brought a list of witnesses to the assistant solicitor and requested that they be subpenaed.

Shortly before the grand jury convened at 10 o’clock Colonel Felder appeared at the solicitor’s office with an armful of papers. To a Journal reporter he intimated that he might summon a number of witnesses. He declared that he would be able to substantiate every charge he had made. Colonel Felder, when asked for a list of his probable witnesses, replied that he did not think it would be advisable at this time to give them out.

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Atlanta Journal, June 3rd 1913, “Grand Jury Told of Vice Conditions,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)