Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.
Wednesday, April 30th, 1913
Gantt’s Mother, for Whom Mary Phagan Was Named, Weeps for Son.
In an easy chair in front of an open fireplace in a little Cobb County farm house, sat an aged mother, with lines of suffering marking her face and her white head bowed in sorrow, praying that her son may be found innocent of the terrible crime for which he is held by the Atlanta police.
For two days she sat in the same chair, staring constantly with dry eyes into the embers of the dying fire, seeing in the clouds of smoke as they swirl upward into the chimney, visions of her son caged in a felon’s cell—her mind filled with terrible pictures of her boy struggling with the horrors of the “third degree.”
The mother is Mrs. Mary Lou Gantt. Her son is James Milton Gantt, the young bookkeeper who is held by the police as a suspect in the terrible murder of little Mary Phagan. Mrs. Gantt was prostrated when the news of her son’s arrest was brought to her Monday morning. Her boy had been away from home for three long weeks, and during that time had narrowly escaped death in an accident at Copper Hill, Tenn., where he had been working.
Late Saturday evening she received a letter from her son, saying that he was coming home Monday. The letter was filled with messages of love that only a mother can appreciate, and the heart of Mrs. Gantt was filled with an unutterable joy. Eagerly she awaited the dawning of Monday morning, counting the hours which must elapse ere she could clasp her son in her arms. At the break of day she was up and preparing food that he had always liked. She baked a cake with which to tempt the appetite of the boy, and she donned the soft silk dress that he loved to see “mother” wear.
At the sound of every footstep, and every time the wheels of a wagon crunched upon the hard country road, the mother hastened to the door. But the hours passed and he failed to come. The warm food she had prepared got cold, and the cake, made as only a mother can make them, stood uncut upon the table. At length, as the hour of noon approached, a buggy came down the road. A man alighted and hurried into the hours, where he told the mother that her son was under arrest, charged with the most terrible crime in the history of the State—the murder of little Mary Phagan.
The mother, stabbed to the heart by the message, swooned in the arms of her daughter, Mrs. George Blackwell, and was carried into the house. For hours she lay on her bed, moaning and sobbing with the pain that clutched her heart and scared her brain.
Mary Named for Gantt’s Mother.
The grief of the mother that her son should be charged with such a monstrous crime is all the more bitter because she has been the life-long friend of the Phagan family. She was present when little Mary Phagan came into the world, and the little girl was named in honor of her—Mary Lou Phagan. She has rocked the dead child to sleep, soothed her in lighter moments.. She was inexpressibly grieved when she learned of the death of the child, and the arrest of her son has increased her sorrow a hundred fold.
When a Georgian reporter called at her home yesterday the mother, with all the power of a mother’s love, protested the innocence of her son and declared that his arrest was a terrible injustice.
“I know my boy could not do such a terrible thing,” she cried, her tried old body shaking with grief. “He was a good boy. I raised him right and nothing on earth could ever make me believe that he has ever done anything wrong. I know my boy as I know no one else on earth, and I swear that he knows no more about the terrible crime than I know myself.”
Feeling High in Marietta.
Feeling against the man who strangled little Mary Phagan runs high in Marietta, while Gantt has the sympathy of many. The family stands high in the business and social circles of the little city, and not a man could be found by a Georgian reporter yesterday afternoon who would utter other than good about the young man. Prominent citizens declared that he was a young man of honor and could not possibly be connected with the crime. When the boy is released and fully exonerated of the crime, or of any connection with it, the citizens of Marietta are planning such a reception as will leave no room for doubt in the minds of the mother and of himself that the unfortunate circumstances that led to his arrest have not lessened their high regard for him or for his family.
Young Gantt has lived most of his life on a farm six miles from Marietta. He was raised to manhood there, and was and is considered one of the finest young men the County of Cobb has produced. For several years he taught school at the old Camp Grounds school house, and then came to Atlanta to learn bookkeeping. Three weeks ago he received an offer from California, and started for the West. He was held up by high water at Memphis and went to work at Copper Hill, Tenn., where he worked for a week. Then he was one of the victims of an elevator accident, and came home to recuperate. He had been staying at his sister’s home on Linden Avenue, and was on his way to visit his mother when he was arrested.
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