T. B. Felder Repudiates Report of Activity for Frank

TB Felder

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

Atlanta Georgian

Wednesday, May 21st, 1913

Stories That He Was Retained by Prisoner’s Friends Silly, He Declares.

Mystery piles up upon mystery in the Phagan case.

Colonel Thomas B. Felder was asked Wednesday afternoon by The Georgian to reply to rumors circulating on the street, all making the general charge that he had been retained by friends of Leo Frank, prisoner in the Phagan case, and that his object in bringing the great detective, William J. Burns, here, was not to aid the prosecution.

Colonel Felder said:

“Any stories to that effect are silly and ridiculous—if nothing worse. Anybody who knows me or Mr. Burns knows that we would not lend ourselves to any scheme to block justice. Mr. Burns in hunting down a criminal can not be stopped. He could have made a million dollars by listening to the importunities of friends of the McNamaras in the dynamiting cases, but he is above price.”

Loath to Discuss Rumors.

Mr. Felder said that he was loath to discuss the rumors on the street because he wanted to avoid injecting into the case any issues that might impede a speedy solution of the mystery.

He stated also that he had never said he was retained by the family of the dead girl, but that a committee of citizens had been the moving spirits in getting him to take hold and using his influence to bring Burns’ talents to bear on the case.

Mrs. J. W. Coleman, mother of Mary Phagan, stated to a Georgian reporter Wednesday that the statement that Colonel Felder had been retained by her and her husband to prosecute the search for the slayer of Mary Phagan was without foundation.

Mrs. Coleman said that the first she heard of Colonel Felder taking up the case was when she read of it in a newspaper.

Saw Burns Man Once.

Neither any of the murdered girl’s relatives nor the citizens of Bellwood got up the fund to aid in the employment of William J. Burns or his agent, or in retaining Felder. She stated further that she had seen the Burns agent only once and then only for about three minutes. Mrs. Coleman said she was returning from market about 8 o’clock Tuesday evening and the Burns detective stopped her long enough to ask two or three questions. This is the only time she has seen him.

Mrs. Coleman and her step-daughters believe that the guilty man is known, and while more evidence may be necessary to convict him, they believe this evidence will be brought to light and Mary’s death avenged.

Mrs. Coleman thinks that Lee has not told all he knows, but that he slow in taking action against the will if the police department gets behind him strong enough. She does not think that Lee had a hand in the crime, but thinks that he was hired to dispose of the body afterward and lost his nerve.

Elevator Boy Grilled.

Severe grilling of Gordon Bailey, the elevator boy at the National Pencil Factory, and a city-wide search for the possessor of the “voice in the street,” heard by Mrs. A. A. Smith, 198 West Peachtree Street, to declare Mary Phagan was seen at about 4 o’clock on the afternoon of her murder, inaugurated Wednesday morning’s investigation of the Phagan case.

Bailey, who at the time of the strangling was employed as janitor and sweeper in the factory, was cross-examined by city detectives. Bailey was in the building the greater part of the afternoon on the day of the tragedy. Despite the testimony that he has given many times previously, he has always been considered as what might be an important

Voice in Street Now Sought in Phagan Case

Gordon Bailey, Negro Elevator Boy, Also Subjected Again to Close Examination.

Continued From Page 1.

link in the solution of the crime. That a final effort is being made to break down his former alibi before the cases of Frank and Lee are placed before the Grand Jury is evident.

Case Ready for Grand Jury.

Solicitor Dorsey declared Wednesday morning that everything has been prepared to present the case Friday to that tribunal in a clear and concise form.

City Detective John Black, who has superintended the city’s investigation of the case, announced that evidence had been secured to fix the guilt and merit the conviction of the girl’s slayer.

Despite these preparations, however, C. W. Tobie, the Burns operative, is making an exhaustive research into the case and blazing the trail to be followed by William J. Burns when the famous detective arrives in Atlanta. Mr. Tobie is also making daily reports to Solicitor Dorsey and Colonel Thomas B. Felder. The material which Detective Tobie is unearthing is said to be of great importance.

Spends Day at Girl’s Home.

Characteristic of the Burns method in handling such cases. Tobie spent the entire day Tuesday at the home of the Phagan girl, familiarizing himself with her life.

Mrs. Smith’s letter, mailed to The Georgian, stated that on Monday, May 5, she overheard a conversation on the street downtown in which a female voice declared that its possessor had seen Mary Phagan at 4 o’clock on the afternoon of the murder:

Mrs. Smith’s letter follows:

Editor Atlanta Georgian,

Atlanta, Ga.:

Dear Sir—On Monday, May 5, 1913, between 4 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon, on Whitehall Street, in front of J. M. High & Co.’s store, I heard three ladies in conversation. One was a rather stout lday, about 25 years old; the other two ladies were older. I did not note the appearance of the two older ladies as closely as I did the younger one, for the reason that the younger lady did most of the talking.

Tells of Seeing Girl.

These ladies were talking about the Phagan case. The younger one said that she believed justice ought to be given to everybody. She said she knew Mary Phagan well and that she saw her on Whitehall Street, near Trinity Avenue, about 4 o’clock on Memorial Day, after the parade had ended. One of the other ladies said if she knew that she ought to tell it to the authorities.

I was deeply impressed with the sincerity of this young woman, and have deeply regretted that in the interest of justice I did not ask her name.

So strongly have I felt upon this subject that I have dared to write this. Begging that the ladies referred to in some way communicate with the editor of this paper. I suggest the editor because I believe that the editor would fairly treat the informant, and would see that the information given will be fairly used.

I have no possible interest in the Phagan case, except to see justice done. Will you not give this matter such publicity as will bring a reply from the ladies mentioned?

Very truly yours,


J. W. Tedder, a business man of Kennesaw, Ga., a small town near Marietta, called on Chief Lanford Tuesday to tell him he was acquainted with the mysterious girl in red, who was reported to have accompanied Mary Phagan to the factory when she went there to draw her pay. It is rumored that the girl in Kennesaw has made a public statement to the effect that she knows the girl. Detectives are working on this feature of the case to-day.

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Atlanta Georgian, May 21 1913, “T. B. Felder Repudiates Report of Activity for Frank,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)