Many Testify to Frank’s Good Character

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

Atlanta Georgian
August 16th, 1913

Nearly half a hundred witnesses testified in behalf of Leo M. Frank Friday. As a climax to the day’s proceedings in Judge Roan’s court the defendant’s mother, Mrs. Rae Frank, went on the stand to add her testimony to that which she hoped would save her son from the gallows.

Virtually all who were called were character witnesses. Near the close of the day Reuben Arnold announced that he proposed to call every woman and girl employed on the fourth floor of the pencil factory, as well as many from the other floors, to testify to Frank’s conduct about the factory and his attitude toward the girls in his employ.

He called three before the close of the day and explained to them in advance that he was going to ask them questions which he planned to direct at every girl employee called. He then asked them if they ever had had any part in the gay parties that the State has said took place in Frank’s office either during or after factory hours. He asked them if they ever had drunk beer in Frank’s office or ever were there for a questionable purpose. All of the witnesses denied knowing of or participating in any such parties.

Frank’s lawyer said that he would continue this line of questioning with all of the women he called from the factory. The testimony was obtained to discredit the stories of some of the State’s witnesses charging that Frank was in the habit of entertaining women in his office.

Employees Show Loyalty.

The factory employees called Friday displayed the utmost loyalty to their superintendent. They testified as though they could believe nothing wrong of Frank and appeared indignant at the suggestions of immorality made by Solicitor Dorsey.

When the day closed there were still many witnesses to be heard. It was problematical if the defense would finish during the day. The statement of Frank was being reserved until the last moment before the defense rested its case. His attorneys announced that they did not know themselves whether it would be formal written statement or whether Frank would make it informally from notes he had taken before and during the trial.

The first move by the State in rebuttal is awaited with keenest interest. It generally is conceded that Solicitor Dorsey will occupy the major part of his time in attacking the character of the young factory superintendent. He is said to be willing to let the main theory of the crime, as suggested by the defense, go practically unassailed except by the testimony already given by his witnesses, Jim Conley principal among them.

Girl to Assail Frank.

Dewey Hewell, a 16-year-old girl, recently sent from Atlanta to the Home of the Good Shepherd in Cincinnati, was returned to this city Friday for the express purpose of testifying against Frank. She was brought back under the Solicitor’s directions, and is reported by persons connected with the prosecution to have testimony extremely damaging to Frank’s moral character.

Many of Friday’s witnesses who testified to the excellence of Frank’s character, testified at the same time to the worthlessness of Conley’s.

Miss Dora Small, a machine operator on the fourth floor, swore that she always had known Frank as a gentleman, and never had heard any stories of immorality in regard to him.

She said that Conley’s character was bad, and that he had a reputation for being shiftless and dishonest.

Mrs. E. H. Carson, mother of Miss Rebecca Carson, another of the witnesses, declared that Conley acted suspiciously after the crime.

Says Conley Cringed.

Miss Mary Pirk said that she had accused Conley of the murder and that the negro slunk out of her sight and had not appeared around her again during the day. She was asked by the Solicitor if she ever had seen Frank struggling with Mary Phagan or ever had noticed Frank taking her to one side to talk with her during the weeks immediately preceding the tragedy.

She replied she had not. The Solicitor pressed this question, demanding if it was not true that Frank, about two weeks before the Phagan girl was murdered, had taken her to one side of the room and caught hold of her when she tried to get back to her work.

Miss Julia Fuss testified that Conley had said Frank was “as innocent as the angels in heaven.”

Harry Gottheimer, a traveling salesman for Montag Bros. and the National Pencil Company, testified that he had an engagement with Frank for Saturday afternoon. Miss Hattie Hall, stenographer, swore two days previously that Frank tried to persuade her to work at the pencil factory during the afternoon.

Combats Premeditation Theory.

These two witnesses were produced by the defense to combat the State’s announced theory that Frank deliberately planned on Friday, the day before the crime, the attack which the State says he made on Saturday.

Gottheimer testified that Frank asked him to come over to the factory during the day.

“I’m not sure that I can get over this forenoon,” Gottheimer said he told Frank.

“Well, if you can’t come this forenoon, be sure and come this afternoon,” Frank replied, according to Gottheimer.

Interest was at fever heat throughout the day because of the report that Frank was about to make his statement.

It increased when Mrs. Rae Frank, mother of the defendant, was called to the stand late in the afternoon.

She was asked by Attorney Rosser to identify a letter said to have been written by Frank the afternoon of April 26 to his uncle, M. Frank, who was in New York at the time. Mrs. Frank read the letter and identified it as the one which had been read in her presence April 28 in the Hotel McAlpin, New York.

Letter to Show Frank Calm.

The letter was another of the pieces of evidence submitted by the defense in an effort to show Frank’s mental and nervous condition Saturday afternoon after the time the State claims Mary Phagan was attacked and killed.

The message was quite like any letter that might be written in ordinary circumstance. The writing was regular and without any indications that the writer was laboring under mental excitement. In the course of the letter the word “Yontif” occurred, which Mrs. Frank described as a pure Hebrew word meaning holiday.

The letter follows:

“Atlanta, Ga., April 26, 1913.—Dear Uncle: I trust that this finds you and dear auntie well after arriving safely in New York. I hope that you found all the dear ones well in Brooklyn, and I await a letter from you telling me how you found things there. Lucille and I are well.

“It is too short a time since you left for anything startling to have developed down here. The opera has Atlanta in its grip, but that ends today. I’ve heard a rumor that opera will not be given again in a hurry here. To-day was Yontif (holiday) here, and the thin gray line of veterans, smaller each year, braved the rather chilly weather to do honor to their fallen camrades.

“Inclosed you will find last week’s report. The shipments still keep up well, though the result is not what one would wish. There is nothing new in the factory, etc., to report. Inclosed please find the price list you desired.

“The next letter from me you should get on board ship. After that I will write to the address you gave me in Frankfurt.

“With much love to you both, in which Lucile joins me. I am, your affectionate nephew,


Negro Drayman Denies Seeing Conley.

Four negro witnesses were called during the day. One of them, Truman McCreary, a drayman, testified he never saw Conley watching at the factory door as Conley testified it was his frequent custom to do.

Walter Pride, a negro helper, declared he would not believe Conley on oath. He said he often was at the factory on Saturday afternoons and that he never saw women in Frank’s office.

Ray Bauer, a white youth, told of visits to the factory on Saturday afternoons. He declared he always had found Frank there alone working on the books. He never saw any women.

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Atlanta Georgian, August 16th 1913, “Many Testify to Frank’s Good Character,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)