Scathing Replies Made to Letters Attacking Them

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

Atlanta Journal

Sunday, June 8th, 1913

Colyar Addresses Felder as “Dictograph Tommy” and “My Dear Co-conspirator in Crime”


J. R. Gray Said: “I Have No Comment to Make—Mr. Felder’s Controversy Is With A. S. Colyar”

Replying to the open letters of Thomas B. Felder, attacking them, A. S. Colyar and Chief of Detectives N. A. Lanford last night gave to The Journal statements, denouncing Mr. Felder in unmeasured terms. Chief of Police James L. Beavers, who was also the subject of attack, was out of the city and, therefore, could not be given the opportunity to reply.

James R. Gray, when shown Mr. Felder’s communication, addressed to him, said:

“I have no comment to make on Mr. Felder’s letter. His controversy is with A. S. Colyar. I suppose Mr. Colyar will wish to reply.”

The statements of A. S. Colyar and Chief Lanford follow below in full:


T. B. Felder Esq., alias Dictograph Tommy.

Sir: As you let last Sunday go by without attempting to prostitute the Sunday press with some more of your hot air and denials, I had thought that perhaps some good friend of yours had given you a hint that even a braying ass can sometimes kill himself and that you had probably decided to withdraw from it newspaper controversy. In my last letter that I wrote to you I offered you what I have been told by many good citizens was a fair proposition, viz: To let fiver honorable gentlemen decide who had lied in the controversy at issue, and you declined to accept the proposition. I will make you a second proposition: I do not know a single member of the honorable supreme court of Georgia, but I am willing to let the chief justice of that honorable court appoint a committee of five honorable citizens, non-residents of the city of Atlanta, and let this committee decide whether you are guilty of unprofessional conduct and a violator of the criminal laws of Georgia, by offering a bribe of $1,000 to G. C. Febuary to steal the papers for you out of the safe, in the Phagan case, and I will only have one request to make of the honorable chief justice when he appoints the committee, and that is that he appoint men in no way connected with the whisky interests and the immoral classes, among whom you have so many clients. I was satisfied when I made you the last proposition that you would not accept it, although I made it in good faith, and I repeat, that you may eliminate me entirely as a witness before the committee, and I have the witnesses of unimpeachable character that will brand you before this committee as a bribe giver, a lobbyist and a grafter. I believe that the people of this fair city are familiar with your record, as it was exposed from the pulpit by the Rev. Len G. Broughton in the Baptist Tabernacle in this city, who publicly denounced you as a lobbyist and a grafter. I have read your letter written this afternoon and addressed to the Hon. James R. Gray, editor and proprietor of The Journal. The clear purpose of that letter is a scurrilous attack upon me, although you have addressed Mr. Gray. I am no saint as I have told you before; I have done wrong in my youth had strayed far away from the teachings and training of a Christian mother and a refined home, and when I first met you I was trying to lead an honorable life, although I was down, and had you had as tenth of the instinct of the gentleman in you that James R. Gray has, you would have tried to help me along life’s pathway in an honorable way and not heed me to go to South Carolina to help you and your co-conspirators frame up against Governor Blease.


I have records in my possession that will show that a certain stool pigeon of yours furnished the money that you sent to me in South Carolina, because you did not have the moral courage to do it yourself. Even though you have stated in me of your first articles that knowing my character that you refused to hire me to go to South Carolina for you—to refresh your memory didn’t you and one of your detectives to Charleston, S. C., with a letter of introduction to me, signed by you, written on the letter head of your then law firm, “Anderson, Felder, Rountree & Wilson?” And furthermore, when I left South Carolina on the 5th day of July, 1911, I drew a draft on your friend for $30, which was endorsed by Rev. B. Lacy Hoge, pastor of the First Baptist church of Charleston, S. C., and after you were through with me, your friend protested this draft and sent it back with the statement that I had no authority to draw the same, although I had drawn, by authority, several hundred dollars’ worth of similar drafts, which Dr. Hoge had cashed, and is it not a matter of fact, that several weeks later the Rev. Dr. Hoge visited Atlanta from South Carolina and threatened to expose you and your friend if you didn’t pay this draft and didn’t you have it paid?

In your first statement of May 23d, the day that the Atlanta Journal published the famous dictograph story, you began to whine like a miserable oar, “I don’t believe they had any dictograph, for the company does not rent their machines to blackmailers, and crooks to be used against gentlemen.” Please tell the people of this city how you succeeded in getting one to dictograph Governor Blease with?

In your letter to Mr. Gray you laid great stress upon the fact that he published the dictograph story, which was “the uncorroborated vaporings of the diseased mind of this mental hunchback and moral pervert, especially when the mass of putrid matter furnished you by him bore all the earmarks of a willful and deliberate forgery. And in view of the further fact that at least one other paper to which it was tendered, rejected it.” This is another one of your frame-ups and willful and deliberate and false statements, for the article in question was tendered no paper except the one that published it.

I defy you to publish any contract, if you ever had one, with the Columns, or any of their neighbors, to prosecute the Phagan case, and I made the assertion here that if you ever had any real desire to prosecute the murderers of this innocent child, your desire was choked with the dollar mark in the interest of you and your friend “Affidavit Tobie.”


You charge that Newport Lanford and I have been friends for three years, and intimate that we have been in the blackmailing business against the citizens of Atlanta during that time. Mr. Lanford is fully capable of answering you and taking care of himself in any controversy that he may have with you, but for myself I denounce your statement a a willful, malicious, infamous lie.

You further charge that Mr. Febuary and myself were the ones that told you that Chief Beavers was corrupt and was visiting a woman on Garnett street and that if the mayor would give us some special officers we would have him arrested. I denounce this statement as a willful, deliberate and infamous lie, and that you knew you were lying at the time you made it. I am sorry that my poverty forbids me from hiring a public hall in this city, where I would take great pleasure in meeting you face to face before the good people of this city and exposing you from the platform as you should be exposed. I could tell some things that I wouldn’t even ask a respectable journal to publish and you know what they are. I am surprised that a man of your alleged intelligence would make an attack that you have made upon a man with the diseased brain you say I have. You laid great stress in your letter this afternoon on the fact that I was arrested for forgery by Chief Beavers, on a telegram from Knoxville. Now why don’t you go on and state that after Beavers held me under bond for six days that you and one of your henchmen that you have publicly claimed that you owned, framed up a second arrest in the court house, to intimidate me from going before the Fulton county grand jury, and wasn’t it done because you believed that the sheriff of this county in order to cater to your malice and spleen, would send me to jail without bond, and didn’t you get made because you got sadly left?

In your letter to Mr. Gray this afternoon you charge that he paid me $500 for an alleged dictograph report, and that after inspecting the same he reached the conclusion that it was faked and that under his direction some one or more of his employees proceeded to edit out of the manuscript the most glaring evidence of forgery, and then published the same.

No one who has sense enough to stay out of the lunatic asylum, will believe your assertion. It is false from beginning to end.


You charge further, that when your dear friend of twenty-five years standing discovered the evidence of this record being faked, that he summoned me to a hurried conference, and that it was decided that Mr. Gentry must be hurried from the scene of action, and that his note book must be obtained and the name destroyed, and you charge him with actually paying young Gentry $100 to become a criminal and a fugitive from justice.

This assertion is too absurd and ridiculous to emanate from any brain except that of the scandal monger that you are.

“Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.”

and it would seem that the gods are determined to destroy you, and you have no one to blame but yourself. You have been given every chance to explain and to be allowed to prove the dictograph charges before five honorable citizens, but you preferred to go to your friend, Hugh M. Dorsey, whom you have publicly proclaimed that you own, and tried to muddy the stream so that no investigation of your conduct could be successfully carried out. Were I the miserable villain and unfortunate outcast, that you have described me and you and your friends have painted me in this city, guilty of the crimes that you have committed in the last thirty days, not only in the dictograph record, but where you have attempted to say while under oath, as I have been informed, that I showed you an affidavit from one James Conley claiming that he had murdered this poor girl, I would have been disbarred as a lawyer and put in the chaingang; and if I had attempted to put my hand in my hip pocket as you did in the court house last Thursday. I wouldn’t have been allowed to go to the lavatory before I was searched. You know why you wept. You say that I called Gentry’s mother up on Monday night after your card was published on Sunday and tried to get her to get possession of the note book. I was informed that the lady was sick in bed, and I am surprised that she would have anything to do with you after you have charged that her son helped frame up a forged and perjured dictograph record on you. Evidently she don’t know you. You charge further in your letter that I went to your office after I was negotiating with Mr. Gray for the sale of the dictograph manuscript, and stated to you that I would call you over the phone and ask you if you would give one thousand dollars if I would deliver the goods, and you were to reply yes, and that I told you that this was a frame up to get $500 out of Mr. Gray, and that he fell like a sucker. You further charge that Mr. Gray and Major Jack Cohen were on the line at the time listening to my conversation with you.

For the benefit of the public, I wish to state that I had not seen Mr. Gray in two years until the day before The Atlanta Journal published the story that T. B. Felder had been dictographed and caught in the act of trying to steal the papers in the Phagan case, and that there was no understanding with Mr. James R. Gray, Major Cohen, or any one connected with or representing The Atlanta Journal, to pay me any sum for this story. If I had expected or wanted any money for this story I think I am too good a student of human nature to insult Mr. James R. Gray by offering to sell him a framed up and forged dictograph record. I note in your letter that you try to be serious and state that you are utterly indifferent to sensational and damaging publications reflecting upon your integrity of character.


“Ye Gods!” Have you got the audacity to claim that you have any character in this community after being caught in the act of trying to bribe a poor young boy, who was struggling to make an honest  livelihood, to commit the crime of larceny for you, in order that you might feast and fatten on the money that you could filch out of the citizens of Atlanta, while the blood of that poor murdered girl lies in a Cobb county tomb crying for vengeance, and you were posing here as an employed prosecuting attorney, when a majority of the people of this city believed that you were working in the interest of the man accused of the crime? Do you remember a conversation that you had with Mr. Febuary and me in your office on Monday night, May 19, in which you laid great stress upon the fact that Chief Lanford had violated his oath of office by holding without warrant of law Jim Conley, a poor innocent negro? Did you not know at that time what Conley knew? And why were you so anxious to have Conley released and cared nothing for the other two negroes who were held without warrant of law? Why has the public heard no more of your “patriotic” intentions to prosecute Leo M. Frank since The Atlanta Journal published the dictograph story and the public got wise and the money stopped coming into your coffers? Now, my co-conspirator in crime, if you really and truly wanted to prosecute the murderer of Mary Phagan, why didn’t you volunteer to do it like any honorable attorney would, and not have one of your pikers try to palm you off on J. W. Coleman, as he swore that you did?

My dear dictograph friend, I love a fight that is an honorable one, but I hate to fight a poor weak miserable thing like you that will hide behind governors, mayors, and solicitors general that you claim to own. No one believes half of your gas about owning governors, but it does look strange that the solicitor general would not allow a full searchlight to be turned upon your acts in this community since the dictograph exposure came out. If I were you before I paraded to the world about graft and corruption in others, I would stop and think how many people you had grafted in state legislatures and federal prisons, as you did your poor dying friend, Chas. W. Morse, recently elected president of a steamship line. You talk about justice. Poor justice! It is asleep. If you had justice you would now be a guest of Warden Tom Lanford in the city stockade. I know that it is sad to think that you and your friend of twenty-five years standing will not be able to celebrate that silver anniversary.

“Alas they have been friends in youth. But whispering tongues can poison truth. And constancy only lives in realms above

And life is thorny and youth is vain

And to be wroth with one we love

Doth work like madness in the brain.”


Now in conclusion permit me to say a few things to you, as this will probably be the last letter that I will ever have the pleasure of writing you, with one exception. I am going to visit my native land, my beloved Tennessee, within whose sacred soil sleeps all that is mortal of a sweet sainted mother, a noble father and brothers and sisters. While in this land of my nativity that such heroes as John Sevier, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Andrew Johnson and last but not least, the great “Apostle of Sunshine,” Robert Love Taylor, made immortal, I intend to visit Knoxville, the city that you claim I am a fugitive of justice from and I shall write you a letter from that city, “but I will not write it from the Knox county jail,” and I would indeed take great pleasure in receiving a reply from you dated “Columbia, S. C.,” though it would give me pain to know that my former co-conspirator in crime against Governor Cole L. Blease was languishing in a South Carolina jail, as I know you would be if you were in the Palmetto State. You only escaped going there through the mercy of an all wise Providence and the misplaced charity of His Excellency Jos. M. Brown, governor of Georgia.


You talk about your great and unblemished character as a lawyer at the Atlanta bar, when, if the truth were known, when God Almighty created you, Tommy. He hadn’t dreamed of a lawyer in six months; He was thinking of a pea in a pod, rusting away in the ante-room of some legislative hall seeking some poor hillbilly senator that you might flatter or bribe into voting on some pet scheme of some corporation that has heretofore hired you as one of their lobbyists to hang around legislative halls. I am indeed sorry that I, the poor moral pervert and degenerate, irresponsible creature that you claim me to be, have to write you thus, because I know that you imagine that every one must bow at your sweet will and that no one must attack your motives or answer any of your villainous inclinations. Poor moral degenerate that I am, I wish to say to you that my forefathers shed blood at King’s mountain and some of them died upon the fields of Shiloh, and I would be unworthy of the blood that courses through my veins if I would let you, the miserable bribe giver, lobbyist and grafter that you are known to be, drive me out of the state of Georgia, that has been made famous by such sons as Alexander Stephens, John B. Gordon, Robert Toombs and Benjamin H. Hill. No doubt you have discovered by now that even with your two frame-ups to land me in jail I am still at Williams House No. 2, city of Atlanta, made famous by the dictograph, which you stated at the Transportation club, after you had dictographed Governor Blease, would not lie. When it caught you in the act of trying to steal the papers in the Mary Phagan murder case, you denounced in unmeasured terms your dictograph friend which had been so faithful to you in days gone by. As I told the grand jury of Fulton county, you were a framer from Framerville, but your frames are too shallow to stand the storms that follow, as you evidently have found out.

Farewell, Dictograph Tommy. If we never meet again on life’s scene of action and I should be so unfortunate as not to reach the city of heavenly rest, please by charitable enough in Hades not to tell his satanic majesty that I was one of your co-conspirators in South Carolina, for, if you do, he will make life in the lower regions very uncomfortable for me.


Atlanta, Ga., June 7, 1913.

“Unprincipled Prevaricator,” Says Chief Lanford

When acquainted with the contents of Felder’s open letter of attack upon him Detective Chief N. A. Lanford gave out the following statement:

“I regret exceedingly the necessity which forces me into a controversy with an irresponsible, unprincipled prevaricator like Felder. He is a stranger to truth and his chief claim to notoriety is based upon the reckless slanders which he periodically vomits forth upon his betters.

“His entire attack on me is woven with a warp of lies and a woof of hypocrisy. It is fortunate for me and the other objects of his venom that he has by his questionable performances of the past made himself sufficiently well known to the general public for it to know with what credence to receive his vicious but silly onslaughts.

“At frequent intervals for many years I have read of Felder’s controversies, in each of them he has always assumed a bombastic attitude and has rushed into print with all the abandon of a fool hurling unsupported charges here and slinging lies yonder. And to save my life I can not recall that he ever made good in a single one of his many wrangles.

“Felder says that I have known Colyar for three years and that I have been conniving with him for that period. This is a lie. The first time I ever saw or heard of Colyar was about a week or ten days after the Phagan murder and I have never met him more than a dozen times since. When he says that I have been conspring with Colyar to frame up on citizens of this community he tells a black and contemptible lie—a lie uttered by a craven coward of the blackest type. There is no spark of manhood left in him or he would not give utterance to such unfounded statements.


“He says I promised Surles that I would not use his name. Here again he lies. All I said to Surles, while negotiating with him to install the dictograph, was that I intended to use it in the interest of justice.

“He says I mislead and duped young Gentry, the stenographer who took down the dictograph conversations. Again he lies. I have never seen Gentry but once in my life and that was in my office on the morning of the day Felder walked into the dictograph trap.

“I was seeking to obtain services of an accurate and reliable stenographer and had my secretary call up Edward Crusselle, an expert court stenographer. Mr. Crusselle stated that he was just about to leave the city and furnished my secretary with the names of one or two other stenographers. They were called up but were out. Then my secretary suggested Gentry, whom, he said, was a clean, reliable young man and rapid shorthand writer.

“I had Gentry called up and requested him to come to my office. In acquainting him with the work which I desired him to do I sought to impress upon him that all I wanted was a true and correct record of what came to him over the wires of the dictograph. I told him that I would expect him to swear to the accuracy of the record he made and inquired his age. He told me that he had passed his twenty-first birthday about a week before.

“Felder says I had Colyar call up Gentry’s home and say that unless the young man furnished me his note book I would be in a hell of a fix. This, too, is a lie. I never had Colyar call up Gentry or anybody else.

“He says I sent Gentry out of town and furnished him the money to go on. Another lie. On the Saturday morning after the dictograph incident Gentry talked to me over the telephone. He said that he had been advised that there was a warrant out for him charging him with conspiracy. I told him that was all bosh and suggested to him that if he was annoyed by any one to let me know and I would attend to them. He thanked me and that was the last I’ve heard of him.


“I not only did not furnish Gentry with money to leave town, but the young man has never yet called upon me for pay for his services, which I contracted for in good faith and for which I expect to pay.

“Felder lies again when he says I stood over Gentry and compelled him to doctor the dictograph records. As I said above I never saw Gentry but once, and that was for but a few minutes in my office before the dictograph was even installed. When the dictograph records were brought to me they had been typewritten and duly sworn to by Gentry.

“Felder lies when he says that I have stated that I know Gentry’s whereabouts. At the request of his relatives I did make efforts to locate him. Later these relatives got into communication with him and notified my secretary that he would be on hadn’t when he was wanted.

“I sincerely hope he does return to the city. I will welcome a statement from him giving all the facts about the dictograph matter.

“Fedler says that I conspired with Colyar to frame up affidavits to the effect that he (Felder) had run Gentry out of town to keep him away from the grand jury. This is another of his multitude of lies. He is so accustomed to lying that he just cannot tell the truth. I have never heard of any such affidavit.

“The most amusing of all Felder’s lies is that I am in a conspiracy with Governor Blease of South Carolina to get him into that state, and that I plan to kidnap him, put him into an automobile and rush him over the border.

“Now, of all the absurd propositions that is the limit. Felder evidently suffers many and varied hallucinations. I cannot conceive how it is possible for a man of sound mentality to conjure up such a ridiculous idea. And to think he actually offers it to the public as a fact.

“I have known for a long time that whenever Felder heard the name of Blease mentioned cold chills chased up and down his quavering spine, and he invariably looked about him for assassins, kidnappers and spooks.


“I don’t know of an automobile sorry enough to use in transporting Felder, but it would be a God-send to the community if one of the garbage carts would get him and carry him to the crematory. I would dislike very much indeed to impose such a carcass on the good old state of South Carolina.

“I have never had any direct or indirect communication with Governor Blease, and the only time that I remember mentioning him was when I suggested that I would take A. S. Colyar to Knoxville, Tenn., without extradition papers if he (Felder) would waive legal formalities and go with one of my men to Columbia where Governor Blease could press his charges against him.

“Having disposed of Felder’s lies I wish to ask him the following questions.

Where is the money you grafted from the public through the plea that you wished to bring detectives here to find evidence to convict the murderer of Mary Phagan?

“Failing to get the Colemans to employ you why did you go to New York, and then come back here with the statement that you were employed by friends of the slain girl to assist the prosecution?

“If you were acting in good faith why did you attack Chief Beavers and myself for keeping Jim Conley, the only witness who knows anything about the murder of the Phagan girl, in jail?

“If you were acting in good faith why did you not also criticise us for holding Newt Lee, the negro night watchman, and Gordon Bailey, the negro elevator boy, who have both been held just as long as Jim Conley?


“I have been forced to doubt your good faith in this case. I didn’t drag you into it. You butted in. You are sure because I exposed you by allowing the publication of the Coleman affidavit, showing that the dead girl’s parents had refused to employ you. This publication also exposed your scheme to graft on the public through a subscription.

“As I have said before you butted in to the Phagan case where you were not wanted and as a public official it became my duty to allow the publication of the Coleman affidavit, made without my knowledge, in order that the good people of this and other cities may not be imposed upon any further by such a grafter.

“Having exposed some of your numerous lies and your thorough unreliability I now leave you to your hallucinations.”


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Atlanta Journal, June 8th 1913, “Scathing Replies to Letters Attacking Them,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)