Spectators at Frank Trial Make an Absorbing Study

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

Atlanta Journal
July 29th, 1913

They Come From Every Station in Life—From the Ragged Newsboy to the Business Man With the Diamond Scarf Pin and the Georgia Lawmaker

The personnel of the spectators at the average murder trial is one of the most interesting phases of it, and the trial of Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan is no exception to the general rule.

One glance about the court room as the case proceeded Monday afternoon showed an ever-changing kaleidoscope of ever changing faces, holding a single characteristic common to all, a look of intense interest that kept every face turned continually in the direction of the prisoner and the opposing attorneys.


And the class of spectators. They were of every walk and station of life, from a ragged newsboy who huddled against the window to members of the state legislature and leading business men of Atlanta.

There are the leading officials of the city and county—Sheriff Wheeler Mangum, Chief of Police James L. Beavers in citizens’ clothes, Chief of Detectives Newport Lanford, next to him a city alderman, two seats away a member of the senate, here a prominent Atlanta attorney who has no direct interest in the case, and the groups of lawyers gathered inside the railed inclosure.


Glance over the upturned faces. You see a man straining forward with both hands to his ears, so as not to miss a single word that falls from the lips of attorney or witnesses. He is an old man perhaps, his saffron face lined and wrinkled, his hair snow-white. And next to him is a young fellow that cannot be over twenty years of age. Thin cheeks splashed with the hectic flush, nervous hands resting on the cane, proclaim his cross. Perhaps he has one more month to live, yet he comes here to this court room to spend his last days in greedily lapping up the sordid details of a sensational murder trial.


Who are those distinguished looking men on the back row? One is a representative and the other a senator in the state legislature. Talk to them, ask them why they are here. They smile and tell you that they just dropped by on the way from a committee meeting at the capitol.

But why?

They will laugh in an embarrassed manner and say that they wanted to have one look at the accused, to see that little brown-cheeked man almost hidden down there, in front of the attorney and his wife and mother.

That is the reason nearly every one of those people will give you for coming to the trial. “They just wanted to see Frank.” Some of them enjoy a murder trial, they like to see the battle of attorneys, the twisting of testimony. It is a detective story of absorbing interest to them.


But the majority are there out of mere idle curiosity. They are anxious to hear every word of the proceedings. They will climb up on the back of the seats and hover there until ordered by the deputies to sit down. They laugh when the others laugh—that the lawyer for the prosecution made a point, they do not know, but they softly tap the backs of the benches in glee because someone is getting ahead.

If you look long at the crowd you are puzzled over one thing, the lack of women. They say that ther were but seven women who came all day Monday to the trial as mere spectators. True Frank’s wife and Frank’s mother are sitting beside him, there is the sister of Mary Phagan standing with a friend over by the window, but the spectacle of fluttering gowns and beautiful excited faces that characterized the Grace trial is conspicuously absent.

Outside are as many people as inside. The sheds that border the lot where the new court house is in process of construction are swarming with men and boys. They cannot see much, only the backs of those spectators nearest the windows, but hour after hour they will cling to the top of the low roof and stare at the red bricks opposite.