Newt Lee’s Testimony as He Gave It at the Inquest

by Archivist on April 30, 2016

Newt Lee's Testimony as He Gave it at the Inquest

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

Atlanta Georgian

Wednesday, April 30th, 1913

Newt Lee, the negro night watchman, was questioned as follows:

Q. What is your name? A. Newt Lee.

Q. Where do you live? A.  Rear of 40 Henry Street.

Q. What do you do? A. Night watchman at the National Pencil Company.

Q. What kind of work do you do? A. Watch and sweep up the first floor.

Q. What time do you go to work? At what time? A. Six o’clock. If it is not quite 6 o’clock I go around and see if the windows are down. If it is at 6 I punch the clock and then go around.

Q. What else do you do? A. I go around all over the upstairs floors. If I have time I go in the basement, but if not, I go in the basement afterward. It takes me 25 minutes to make my rounds upstairs when I hurry. I punch every half hour.

Frank Sent Him Away.

Q. How many keys have you to the building? A. I had but one key which unlocks the building.

Q. What time did you get to the building Saturday? A. Four o’clock.

Q. Why did you get there at that time? A. Friday was pay day, and Mr. Frank told me to come at 4 o’clock Saturday, as it was Memorial Day. When I came in he sent me away again. When I went in he came out of the outer office, rubbing his hands, and told me he was sorry he had brought me down so early, as I could have been sleeping. He told me to go back out in town and not to get back later than the usual time of 6 o’clock.

Q. What’s on the first floor? A. Just boxes; they don’t use it.

Doesn’t Use Elevator.

Q. Where was the elevator when you went in at 4 o’clock? A. I don’t know, cap, because the elevator doors were shut and you can’t tell where the elevator is. But the elevator is supposed to stay on the first floor, they told me.

Q. Is there a door in the basement at the elevator? A. Yes. There’s one that slides up, too.

Q. Do you ever use the elevator? A. No, sir.

Q. Does the machinery have to be used for the elevator to be running? A. I think so.

Q. When you went upstairs and opened the doors on the stairway you made some noise, didn’t you? A. Yes.

Q. Where was Mr. Frank when you went in? Did you hear him come out of his office? A. I just saw him come out. I said, “All right, Mr. Frank,” like I always do and he came out of the outer office.

Q. Could anyone be in the office and you not see them? A. Yes, sir.

Heard No One in Office.

Q. Did you hear any one talking in his office? A. No, sir.

Q. Where did you go when he told you that you could go? A. I went right down and out the door. I went up to Alabama Street to Broad, and over to near Decatur Street and Central Avenue and looked at a medicine show a fat man was giving for negroes.

Q. What time did you go back? A. Just a few minutes before 6.

Q. Did you punch at 6 o’clock? A. Just at 6. Mr. Frank came on out and put cards in the clock. He then went back in the office and I went downstairs.

“While I was there Mr. Gantt came from across the street and said he wanted to get a pair of shoes. I told him I couldn’t let him in, and he asked if Mr. Frank was there. I told him yes, and that I would go get him.

Frank Looked Frightened.

“At this time Mr. Frank came down and looked a bit frightened. I think he looked that way because Mr. Frank had discharged Mr. Gantt and thought Mr. Gantt might start some trouble.

“Mr. Gantt told him he wanted his shoes and Mr. Frank, after talking a few minutes, told me to go up there with them. I did, and we found the shoes where he had said they were. He asked me for some paper and twine and wrapped the shoes up. He asked me if he could use the telephone. He called up some lady and said he wouldn’t be out until 9 o’clock. He then went downstairs and out of the building. I locked the door behind him and saw him go up the street.

Watched Gantt Go Out.

Q. What did you do then? A. I watched Gantt as he went out and then I punched the clock for 6:30.

Q. Did you see Gantt at 4 o’clock? A. No.

Q. When Mr. Frank came and met Gantt, did you go right upstairs? A. Yes, sir.

Q. Where was Mr. Frank? A. I don’t know.

Q. Did you lock the door? A. I unlocked the door and let Gantt out.

Q. Where were you when Mr. Frank came? A. We were all on the outside when Mr. Frank gave Gantt permission and I went in with Mr. Gantt.

Q. Did you go to the toilet and machinery room at 4 o’clock? A. No, sir.

Q. Is there a carpet or a rug on the floor in Mr. Frank’s office? A. No, sir.

Frank Was Rubbing His Hands.

Q. When you went upstairs at 4 o’clock and said, “All right, Mr. Frank,” and Mr. Frank came out, was he excited? A. Yes, sir; he was rubbing his hands.

Q. Was that unusual? A. Yes, sir.

Q. Have you ever seen him do that before? A. No, sir.

Q. When did Mr. Frank tell you to watch Mr. Gantt? A. When they turned him off.

Q. Did you know why Gantt was discharged? A. No, sir.

Q. How long have you worked in the pencil factory? A. Three pay days.

Q. How often do they pay you? A. Every Saturday.

Q.—Have you told me everything that was said by you and Mr. Frank before he left the factory? A.—Yes, sir; only I offered him some bananas and he wouldn’t take them.

Saw Frank Leave Also.

Q.—How long did it take Mr. Gantt to find his shoes? A.—Very little time. He found his shoes and went out of the building after he talked over the telephone.

Q.—Do you know whether Mr. Frank left the building during that time? A.—He went outside. I don’t know whether he came back in or not.

Q.—Did you see Mr. Frank walk away? A.—Yes.

Q.—Where did he go? A.—He went up Forsyth Street toward Alabama.

Q.—How long have you worked for Mr. Frank? A.—Just three paydays.

Q.—How long have you known him? A.—Just since I have been there.

Q.—When did you see that all of the windows of the plan were drawn? A.—When I made the rounds just before making my 7 o’clock punch.

Gas Light Changed.

Q. What did you do then? A. I went into the basement a few minutes after 7 o’clock.

Q. What is on the top floor? A. A whole world of machinery.

Q. Where were Gantt’s shoes? A. In the shipping department, near the front.

Q. How do you get to the basement? A. Through a scuttle hold.

Q. What part of the basement did you go to? A. To a light near the ladder only a few feet from the ladder.

Q. Did you light the gas in the basement? A. No, sir. It was lighted, but it wasn’t like I left it that morning. It was turned down like a lightning bug.

Q. What time Saturday night did you get a telephone call? A. I don’t remember the exact time.

Q. Who called? A. Frank.

Q. Was that the only call? A. Yes, sir.

Frank Telephoned Him.

Q. What did you do when the phone rang? A. I took down the receiver and said, ‘Hello!’ He said, ‘Hello,’ and said it was Mr. Frank. I said, ‘Is this you, Mr. Frank?’ Then he said, ‘How is everything, Newt?’ I told him everything was all right and he hung up.

Q. Had Frank ever called you before over the phone? A. No, sir, he never had.

Q. Did he say where he was? A. No, sir.

Q. Did you punch your clock every half-hour Saturday night? A. Yes, sir; every half-hour from 6 o’clock until I found the body.

Q. What did Mr. Frank say to you Sunday morning? A. He said the clock had been punched all right.

Q. Did he say the clock had been punched regularly? A. Yes, sir.

Q. You say you pushed the clock every half-hour? Did you go to the toilet that night? A. Yes, sir.

Q. Where did you go? A. Upstairs.

Q. When did you go to the toilet again? A. Almost 3 o’clock. I waited because I wanted to go into the basement on my rounds, so I waited and went into the toilet in the basement.

Q. How did you get down into the basement? A. I went down the ladder and went back to the toilet. I set the ladder on the floor against the side of the toilet. I came out of the toilet and stepped up a few feet. I don’t know just how far. I looked to see if the back door was all right, and to see if there was any fire in the basement. Then I saw the body.

At this juncture Lee’s testimony began to differ materially with that of the officers, who said that the body was lying face downward.

Thought It Was Trick.

Lee continues: “I thought it was something some devilish boys had put there to scare me. I went over and saw it was a body and I got scared. Then I called the police. I tried to get Mr. Frank.”

Q. Whom did you call first? A. The police.

Q. What did you say? A. I was scared and I don’t know what I said. I tried to tell them that I had found a dead body.

Q. How did you know the number of the police station? A. Mr. Frank gave it to me and told me to call it if anything ever happened around the plant.

Q. How was the girl lying when you found her? A. On her back. (Officers had testified that they found her on her face.)

Q.—How did you happen to see her? A.—I saw her when I walked out to look for a fire.

Didn’t See Whole Body.

Q.—Did you walk beyond that partition in the basement? A.—No, sir. I just saw parts of her. I saw her legs.

Q.—Did you put your hands on her? A.—No, sir.

Q.—What kind of an examination of the body did you make? A.—None; I just looked and saw that it was a dead body.

Q.—Was her head toward you? A.—No, sir. I couldn’t see her head until I had walked around.

Q.—Did you see any bruises on her? A.—No, sir, I just saw blood and lots of dirt.

Q.—How did you find her? A.—On the flat of her back.

Waited for the Police.

Q. How was the head? A. On one side.

Q. You didn’t touch her or make any examination? A. No, sir; I didn’t touch her.

Q.  After you called the police, did you go down into the basement before they came? A. No, sir.

Q. How did you come to turn her over? A. I didn’t turn her over.

Q. How did you know she was dead? A. I knew she was dead because she was there. There ain’t no white woman going to be there if she ain’t dead. She was all dirt and bloody. I knew she was dead, boss.

Q. Was Mr. Frank at the plant Sunday morning when the police took you back there? A. No, sir.

Didn’t Come in at Once.

Q. Did he come after you got there? A. Yes, sir, they sent an automobile for him.

Q. Was he excited when he came in? A. He didn’t come in right away.

Q. Who have keys to the plant? A. Me and Mr. Frank and Mr. Darley. I don’t know who else.

Q. Did you ever let anyone in after 6 o’clock? A. No, sir.

Q. Did you lock the door at 6 o’clock? A. Yes, sir.

Q. When do the fireman and the elevator man leave? A. I don’t know. They’re all gone when I get there.

Q. Who stays in the plant from half past 5 to 6 o’clock when you’re not there? A. Mr. Frank and the bookkeeper, and sometimes the lady who stays in the office.

No One There After 6 o’Clock.

Q. Was anyone working there after 6 o’clock Saturday night? A. Not that I know of. There were no lights and all the windows were like I left them.

Q. Did you see blood in the machinery room on Saturday night? A. No, sir; I had to go through the room where they say the lady was killed, but I never saw no blood.

Q. Where are the dressing rooms? A. Why, there’s dressing rooms all over the building, boss.

Q. Did Mr. Frank say the clock was punched all right? A. Yes, sir; on Sunday morning he said I had never lost a punch.

Q. When did you first tell any one that Frank sent you away from the factory Saturday afternoon? A. I don’t know when I told it, boss.

Went to Basement Every Hour.

Q. Did Mr. Frank ever tell you that the clock was not punched regularly last Saturday night? A. Yes, sir; he told me on Monday morning that the clock was not punched right.

Q. How often did you go to the basement Saturday night? A. Every hour, but only a few feet from the ladder.

Q. Could anyone have used the elevator and you not know it? A. No, sir.

Q. How was the body lying when you went back with the officers? A. Like I found it.

Q. On its face or on its back? A. The same way, boss.

Q. When did you turn out the gas? A. I didn’t turn it out.

Q. Was it burning when the officers came? A. Yes, sir.

Q. What kind of a lantern did you have? A. Just an ordinary lantern, boss.

Q. Was the lantern dirty? A. Yes, sir.

Knew It Was White Girl.

Q. Could you tell by the light of the lantern whether the woman was white or black? A. Yes, sir; I could tell by the skin and by the hair.

Q. Was the head the only skin of the girl you saw? You didn’t see her legs or her body? A. No, sir.

Q. Do you know any of the operatives? A. No, sir; they’re always gone when I get there.

Q. What is the back door for—the one in the basement? A. I don’t know.

Q. Did you ever see it open? A. Yes, sir; last Friday morning.

Had No Back Door Key.

Q. Did you have a key to the back door? A. No, sir; the fireman had one.

Q. Was the fireman supposed to be there at night? A. No; he leaves when I get there.

Q. What’s his name? A. Knox.

Q. Is he a negro? A. Yes.

Lee was excused and J.M. Gantt, who was in the factory Saturday afternoon to get a pair of shoes he had left there, was called to be questioned by Coroner Donehoo and others.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, April 30th 1913, “Newt Lee’s Testimony as He Gave It at the Inquest,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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