Three Open Letters Given Out Saturday by Thos. B. Felder

by Archivist on March 2, 2017

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

Atlanta Journal

Sunday, June 8th, 1913

In One of These Letters He Reopens His Controversy With A. S. Colyar About the Dictograph Episode

SAYS LANFORD CONSPIRED TO TAKE HIM TO S. C.

He Also Makes Another Personal Attack Upon Detective Chief—Declares Beavers Is Unfitted for His Office

Thomas B. Felder, the attorney who was dictographed by the city detectives, Saturday afternoon gave out open letters addressed to James R. Gray, editor of The Journal, Chief of Police James L. Beavers, and Chief of Detectives Newport A. Lanford. These letters purported to be an exposure of what Mr. Felder has characterized as the dictograph frame up. The letter addressed to James R. Gray is largely an attack upon A. S. Colyar, the man who assisted the city detectives in dictographing Mr. Felder. In the letter to Chief Beavers, Mr. Felder declares that he has never charged the chief with being corrupt, but states that he regards him as unfitted for the office of chief of police. In the letter to Chief of Detectives Lanford, Mr. Felder again attacks that official’s character and charges that he is in a conspiracy with Governor Cole Blease, of South Carolina, to kidnap Felder and carry him across the state line.

The communications as given out by Mr. Felder follow in full:

LETTER TO MR. GRAY.

Atlanta, Ga., June 7, 1913.

Mr. James R. Gray,

Editor and Proprietor of The Atlanta Journal, Atlanta, Ga.

My Dear Dick:

Recent occurrences have rudely shocked my confidence in your professions of personal friendship for me. That you have in times past been my friend, I do not doubt; but for reasons best known to yourself, you have chosen to stifle every generous impulse of a lifetime and to exhibit towards me a spirit which I could not expect to find in my worst foe. Why your professed ardor should have cooled so suddenly and your pretended friendship should have passed so mysteriously into eclipse is a riddle which I cannot quite solve, remembering your former fulsome protestations as I do. But for the rude jolts you have recently given an old acquaintance of nearly a quarter of a century, we might be preparing to celebrate the silver anniversary of our friendship; but instead of celebrating this event in our lives, I must bemoan the faults of one “Whose heart is treacherous, though his tongue drops manna”; but I am thankful to say that I have a host of friends, whose friendship I treasure above rubies. They are as steadfast and as true as the north star, “Let the wind blow where it listeth.” In the present, as in every crisis through which I have been called to pass, they have given me without stint and most unselfishly their loyal support and co-operation and I wear them where Hamlet wore Horatio, “In my heart’s core.” I also have my enemies—in the main, among the criminal classes—whose venality and corruption a profound sense of professional duty and obligation has forced me to expose.

I might add that I prize my enemies scarcely less than my friends, for the possession of their enmity constitutes the very highest tribute to my character, both personal and professional. There are not a few of my friends who are bound to me, thank God, by “hooks of steel,” because of the very enemies I have made.

CAN’T UNDERSTAND.

I will never understand, Dick, why you reproduced in the columns of your paper, with the impramata of your sanction, the uncorroborated vaporings of the diseased mind of this mental hunchback and moral pervert, A. S. Colyar, Jr., especially when the mass of putrid matter furnished you by him bore all of the earmarks of a wil[l]ful and deliberate forgery; and in view of the further fact that at least one other paper to which it was tendered, upon the owner of which I had no claim except that of fair treatment, rejected it, upon the grounds—first that the article carried upon its face the indubituble and unmistakable proof of an outrageous “frame-up,” and second, that the tenderer was not a man, but a human monstrosity, without mental, moral or financial responsibility for his action. It is also a curious fact that the manager of the paper rejecting the proffered manuscript had no knowledge of Colyar’s character, while you—so you informed me—knew him to be a “professional crook,” who would sell out to one side as quickly as to the other. To cite evidence of this—his activities to sell in the “market overt” to the highest bidder for cash the fruits of his perjuries and forgeries have abated not one “jot or tittle” since he palmed off on you the mass of putrefaction labeled by him,”Felder and Woodward Dictographed.” As proof of this statement, Dick, let me call your attention to some of the things which he has offered, in this market, since the publication of the alleged dictograph matter he claims to have sold to you. His offer has been declined, because it was not believed this his charges against you were true. I would not be a party to blacken the character of an enemy, much less a friend, by giving publicity to villainous charges embodied in an affidavit I had reason to believe false. I have never in my career winked at or sanctioned fraud, and I never will. If I had been disposed, Dick, to injure your character and reputation by the use of this villainous Caliban, A. S. Colyar, Jr., I could have done so about 2 1/2 years ago, when he offered in this market a batch of forged affidavits which he claimed you employed him to secure, and for which he claimed further you declined to pay him in full. These affidavits contained damnable charges against a distinguished citizen of this city, who was and is known to be an enemy of yours. He tendered along with these affidavits his personal affidavit, in which he made the specific charge that you employed him to secure these affidavits, even though resort to forgery be necessary in their procurement. I may claim some credit for the fact that these affidavits were not given to the public at that time through the columns of your contemporaries; of course you were my friend, Dick, and I was on guard, as I usually am, to protect my friends, when either their lives, liberty or property are put in peril.

SAYS COLYAR GOT $500.

Now, as to the Felder and Woodward dictograph episode—Colyar is offering for sale affidavits which contain the following specific charges against you: First. That you paid him $500.00 for this alleged dictograph report; That upon a close inspection of the record you reached the conclusion that it was faked, that under your direction some one or more of your employees proceeded to edit out of the manuscript the most glaring evidences of forgery; that when portions thereof could not be revised so as to make it appear genuine, they were stricken bodlly [sic] from the manuscript and the following insereted in lieu thereof: “Confusion, care passing, shuffling of feet, conversation lost, disturbance,” and the like; that after my card appeared calling attention to the evidence of the stuff being faked, you summoned him, Colyar, to a hurried conference, when and where it was decided that young Gentry must be hurried from the scene of action; that the custody of the original note book must be obtained and the same destroyed, and that you actually furnished $100 to defray the expenses of young Gentry’s flight.

A few days ago Colyar was arrested on a charge of forgery, alleged to have been committed in Knoxville, Tenn., and placed in jail. Since his liberation, he is authority for the statement that you employed and paid counsel for him, with the distinct understanding that as soon as liberated he should flee from this jurisdiction; that it was upon this distinct understanding that you extended to him succor and aid; but that he is determined to stand by his guns and at the opportune time will cheerfully furnish all necessary evidence of this miserable “frame-up,” including your personal connection therewith.

DOESN’T BELIEVE CHARGES.

I repeat, I do not believe his charges against you to be true any more than you believe his charges against me to be so, for from our intimate association, covering as I have above stated, the period of a quarter of a century, I do not think that either would be justified in believing that the other could be guilty of criminal conduct.

Dick, in this age of commercialism my understanding is that the supreme test of friendship is the willingness and readiness of a friend to render succor and aid in the hour of adversity. When you were put in bankruptcy, I told you I had in cash $12,000 or $15,000, all of which was at your service; that I would raise as much more by pledging my property, and this I would cheerfully do. Again I ask, Dick, which of us has acted a friend’s part, you or I?

SAYS COLYAR IS CRAFTY.

This villain Colyar is usually crafty enough to bolster up his perjuries and forgeries by plausible circumstantial corroborating evidence. To illustrate—on Monday night, after my card was published on Sunday, he called up the widowed mother of young Gentry over the phone, and urged her to get possession of the note book and have it delivered to him at once. To quote him “We will all get in a hell of a fix if we don’t get possession of this note book, for this fellow, Felder, will jail the whole bunch.”

Dick, a delicious episode occurred during my negotiations with Colyar for the alleged purchase of the documents showing that the city detectives were destroying evidence in the Phagan case. Its pertinency will become apparent as it is unfolded. I know you will enjoy it as I did, even though it be at your expense. While Colyar was negotiating with you for the sale of his “dictograph manuscript” he called at my office one day and said to me that within an hour he would meet the custodian of the records—that he would call me over the phone, placing the custodian at an extension phone; he would ask me if I were “ready to come across with that $1,000 if he were ready to deliver the goods.” I was to reply, “Yes.” He now tells me, Dick, that this was a frame-up on you to get that $500, and the way you “fell for it was a caution;” that he put you at one extension phone and my good old friend, Jack Cohen, at another, and that after the conversation you three boys held a love feast, and literally did a song and dance to that melodious, soulful old tune, “Comrades, Comrades, Ever Since We Were Boys,” and that from that moment forward you were as gullible as the yellow-mouth baby mocking bird. His description of his experience with you and Jack afterwards I know would excite your risibles. He says from that moment to the time of his unfortunate arrest and incarceration on the charge of forgery and “a dilemma from which you furnished the money to extricate him” that you would “fall for almost anything.” in his dramatic description of your attitude, he likens you and Jack to the little yellow mouth, unfledged baby birds in the nest, and himself to the old mother bird: that he flew away, “grabbed” the “worm” of my conversation; flew back to the nest; up went your credulous little yellow mouths, and down wend the worm, entrails, hair and all; that after that, every time his “fledgelings” heard the flappings of the wings of the mother bird, whether she brought to the nest worm or twig, up would go the yellow mouths of her darling “fledgelings” and down would go either worm or twig. Dick, I really want you and Jack to get him on one of his numerous visits to your office to rehearse this for you, for I know you boys will enjoy it, as I know you well enough to know that you enjoy a “good one,” even though the joke is at your expense.

IS UTTERLY INDIFFERENT.

Dick, in a vein of seriousness, I am utterly indifferent to sensational and damaging publications reflecting upon my integrity of character, for I rest serene in the conscious security which honor and rectitude always afford to one whose heart is in the right place, and I am content to bide my time in patience for the fulfillment of that sweetest of all maxims, “Truth is omnipotent, and will prevail.” But Dick, baseless libels against the professional character and integrity of a citizen, whether done to get a “scoop” on some competitor, or through malice or malevolence, is not only an extension of the doctrine of the “Liberty of the Press,” but an invasion of the rights of the citizen; and take my word for it, an outrage of this character will some day be perpetrated upon some long suffering citizen, who, goaded to desperation by these attacks, will take the law in his own hands to protect his reputation and character. These wilful [sic], reckless and too frequent onslaughts upon the character of the private citizen by the riotous license of the press have their pathetic, aye, tragice angle, involving as they do not only the personal humiliation and embarrassment of the individual slandered, but the happiness and peace of his family.

The premises considered, I think it due me that you withdraw and repudiate the groundless charges made against me. I am,

Very truly yours,

THOS. B. FELDER

LETTER TO CHIEF LANFORD.

Atlanta, Ga., June 7, 1913.

Newport Lanford,

Chief of the Vice Department of the City of Atlanta, Atlanta, Ga.

With apologies to the reading public for parading before them a “barrow of butcher’s offal,” so harmoniously blended in your personality, I shall now proceed to redeem the pledge heretofore, made to lay bear, through the columns of the papers your infamous career in the map-administration of the affairs of the official position which you disgrace and dishonor. When I have finished, I promise, that as to you, the incident, so far as newspaper publication is concerned, shall be forever closed.

In dealing with the situation in my several cards, I am acting strictly within the admonition of the late lamented Rev. Sam P. Jones: “When you shave a gentleman, use a razor; when you shave a hog, use a brick.” It must strike even one of your mental calibre that in treating you tonsorially the latter instrument recommended by the illustrious divine must be employed. It is not within the purview of this card to deal with the vice conditions which flourish in this city under your fostering care and protection. This matter is under investigation by the grand jury of this county, and I am quite certain it will be thorough and exhaustive. If so, I entertain no doubt that this phase of the situation, which will be embodied in their findings, will show, abundantly, your criminal connection therewith in all of its hideous deformity.

“BOARD MEMBER PROTECTED.”

I can not, however, leave this branch of the subject without making some comment upon the action of the police board in “resoluting” confidence in their distinguished (?) soon to be extinguished, chief of the vice department of this city by decorating his manly bosom with a bouquet. “Oh, mother, mother, mother, won’t you pin a rose on me?” I know nothing as to the personal or official conduct of any of the gentlemen constituting this honorable body, nor have I lodged any charge against them before the grand jury, or elsewhere, but if the courtesy which is said to have been extended to one of their board who “resoluted,” namely, protecting him from arrest and exposure when caught in the act of beating his paramour, has been extended to any considerable number of the others, even your obtuse mind can discern the reason why these “mothers, mothers, mothers, pinned a rose on you.” Yes, my dear El Capitan, with your military air, you are P. B. and I., pure, beautiful and innocent. It is unnecessary to prove it, for you admit it. And yet, within the past few weeks the hideous crimes committed by you, when exposed, would create a panic about the habitués of a rot pit and bring the blush of shame to the cheeks of the inmates of a brothel. They mark you a hireling scavenger of filth and falsehood, lost to every sense of propriety and recreant to every principle of honor. You are like the dead fish of the sea, you “rise as you rot.”

And you say you met Colyar about three weeks ago? As a matter of fact, you met him about three years ago; and from that good hour to this you have, at intervals, conspired with him to frame upon citizens of this community; but your conspiracies with him have ended, unless they are resumed when you “par fratrum nobile” later, as you surely will, within the gates of the lunatic asylum or the state convict farm in the city of Milledgeville. For be it known you are both “worthy and well qualified,” not to say eligible, for either station, and this is the destiny that awaits you. Together, this “pair of noble brothers,” during the past three weeks, have committed, in the city of Atlanta, the crimes of forgery, perjury and subornation of perjury, in furthering and effectuating the filthiest, foulest and most diabolical conspiracy ever conceived and hatched by a pair of debased, low, slimy criminals. Let me give the details.

You lied to Surles, of the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph company, in inducing him to install the so-called dictograph, i. e., as to its installation; you lied to him in promising not to disclose his name. You disclosed it in an effort to give some respectability in the conspiracy by publishing “the instrument used in dictographing Felder was installed by Surles, the electrician of the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph company.” You lied to and duped young Gentry, one of the unfortunate victims to this conspiracy. Indeed, in connection with your machination, “you lied sitting, you lied lying, and, if you had had wings you would have lied flying.” You lie in speech, you lie in song, you lie in thought, and in the lying you are a veritable human megaphone. When you and your man “Friday” Colyar approached young Gentry, not yet out of his ‘teens and with little experience as a stenographer, to do your filthy work—you do no other kind—he told you he had not had sufficient experience to report a dictograph conversation. You assured him that for your purposes this made no difference; you were not looking for a “stenographer,” you were looking for a “name.” You were again laying the foundation to give respectability to this conspiracy by dragging into your filthy scheme the honorable name of “Gentry,” thereby pre-arranging for the publication of your “official organ” for the startling announcement, in box car letters, “Dictograph notes were reported, by George Gentry, a nephew of Hon. W. T. Gentry, president of the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph company.”

“FORCED HIM TO SWEAR.”

When the criminal farce at the Williams house ended, you stood over this boy and forced him to forge the story and then forced him to forge the story and then forced him to swear to it, and when you realized that your criminal conspiracy had come to grief, you sent him “helter, skelter” from the city, and this is how he went. On Monday night you directed Colyar to call up the home of young Gentry and to say to him that unless he immediately delivered to you his note book, you would be in a hell of a fix. The grief-stricken mother, who had been made aware of your foul conspiracy by her victimized son, answered the phone, and this statement was made to her. I am very thankful that the note book was not delivered to you and that it stands as mute witness to establish the crimes that I am now laying at your door. If it had been, it was your express intention to destroy it as you have destroyed all of the evidence in the Phagan case. You and your co-conspirators furnished the money for the flight of this young boy. You have stated to the people, day by day, through the columns of the press, that you know his whereabouts and that at the proper time you would produce him. This statement was a deliberate lie. You have been moving heaven and earth to locate him, not for the purpose of bringing him back but for the purpose of having him “move on.” I know where he is; I succeeded in locating him, at great personal expense, and as soon as he was located I sent a detective to urge him to return. It may be of interest to you conspirators to know that I am in receipt of a telegram today stating that Gentry would reach a conclusion this afternoon was to whether he will return to Atlanta, and if he concludes to return I will give you the pleasure of seeing him Monday morning, as it will require that much time for him to reach the city from the parts where you sent him.

SAYS HE KNOWS THE FACTS.

In the meantime, I want you conspirators to know that I am familiar with all the facts. Let me pause long enough to say you and your man “Friday” that you carefully prepared affidavits, had them signed by your willing tools, to the effect that I had “run Gentry out of town to keep him away from the grand jury.” These were not given to the public as an enterprising newspaper “scoop” because of your co-conspirators who had more intelligence if not less character than you, admonished you that this was a dangerous expedient and would be inevitably shown up later, so this part of your infamous scheme was abandoned. You say you had no connection with Gentry; you were not present when those notes were written out. Oh, what a sweet scented liar! You stood over him while this bungling forgery was being perpetrated, and aided in it by telling him what to write. In this wicked transaction you were literally the last at the cross and the first at the sepulchre.

I desire to direct public attention to your activities along another line. Your “brother in the criminal bond,” Cole L. Blease, of South Carolina, sued out a warrant in his home county, charging me with an attempted bribery. This seems to be a favorite charge among you criminals. The warrant was issued in 1911; the crime alleged to have been committed was in 1905. In the interim, I spent the greater part of three and a half years in the state of South Carolina, recovering for that graft-ridden state many hundreds of thousands of dollars, out of which the state had been defrauded by Blease and his associates. When this warrant was sued out, your criminal friend Blease sent one of his hirelings to a man in the state of Georgia who had some dealings with the state of South Carolina and urged him to clandestinely visit out [sic] governor, with whom he was supposed to have influence, and urge him to honor the requisition, stating that it was important to get me into the state of South Carolina and have me put out of the way; that he had already arranged this part of the program. Since this time your South Carolina criminal associate presented to the grand jury of his home county all of his forged evidence, and, by the way, forged evidence seems to be the fort of you criminals, whose crimes I have exposed, and the grand jury, by a decisive vote, returned a no-bill.

Now to the point. You have, during the interim between the refusal of the requisition and up to this good hour, been in constant communication with the agents of this vagabond governor (since this controversy you have been somewhat more active) and, not withstanding you are a peace officer in Georgia, sworn to preserve the peace, you have entered into a conspiracy with the agents of your criminal associate in South Carolina to kidnap me some night between the city and my home, put me in an automobile, and send me into the state of South Carolina.

There are several other matters that I wish later to bring to the attention of the people of this community for their consideration, but my purpose is to do it through the medium of the grand jury. I found it a difficult task to uncover the South Carolina criminals, but finally succeeded, but because they were intelligent criminals; I am finding it quite easy to uncover you for the reason that for the lack of intelligence you a common, ordinary, filthy criminal.

I hope to be able, at an early meeting of the grand jury of this county, to lay before them all of the facts and have indictments handed out against you and your fellows in crime.

T. B. FELDER.

LETTER TO CHIEF BEAVERS.

Atlanta, Ga., June 7, 1913.

Mr. J. L. Beavers.

Chief of Police, Atlanta, Ga.

Sir:

Two days after the publication of the alleged pictograph record I called upon Marion Jackson, chairman of the executive committee of the Men and Religion Forward Movement. I called upon him for two reasons; namely, first, I believed him to be my ‘friend,’ and second, I knew him to be yours. In my conference with him I think I convinced him that in the authentic records could be found the charge made by me of official corruption against you. In the conference I offered to submit all matters of issue to the arbitrament of the executive committee of the Men and Religion Forward Movement. He gave it as his opinion that this was not the proper tribunal to settle these charges. The only charges imputed to me as having been made against you were charges contained in the dictograph record. If you do not know that this record is a “forgery,” you stand alone in your ignorance on the subject among the citizens of Atlanta. Up to the time that “this stunt was pulled off” you have always had my best wishes in connection with the discharge of your official duties. I had always considered you sincere, not overly bright and not especially fitted for the office you hold, still not being a citizen of Atlanta—I live in the county—your fitness or want of fitness was not a matter of particular concern to me; but being a tax paper of the city and intensely interested in its progress and prosperity, I felt that you should be given a fair chance to make good for the position you occupied.

“NOT FITTED FOR OFFICE.”

I am now convinced that you are not intellectually and temperamentally fitted for the office you occupy, and I shall proceed to give you the reasons for the conclusion I have reached:

When this pictograph “stuff” was published, instead of inquiring as to its genuineness, as any cit official capable of discharging the duties of his office should and would have done, you permitted yourself to rush into public print, hurling abusive epithets and libelous matter viciously at me. You should have known that this conduct might have resulted in a breach of the peace, which you, as an officer, are sworn to conserve, and if the charges made against me were untrue, you violated a penal statute of the state.

You charged me with being the paid attorney of the vice gangsters, and with co-operating with them as paid counsel to reinstate former conditions in this city. Surely you could not be induced to lodge a charge of this character against a citizen, however humble, without some evidence to support it. I am not now, have not in the past, and do not expect in the future to represent individuals, firms or associations of individuals whose purpose it is to foster or promote vice and crime in the city of Atlanta. I have lived in Atlanta twenty-three and one-half years, and during this period I have never represented the keeper of a brothel in any court in the county of Fulton. I usually decline such employment. During this period I have appeared in four cases of violation of the prohibition laws, and in three of these I was employed by outside breweries to test the constitutionality of laws and ordinances.

I think it very undignified for you to have branded me as a professional crook and to have declared that “it takes one crook to catch another.” In thus characterizing me, you are guilty of libel, and you know it, and in making this and similar libelous charges, you but strengthened the opinion of many, that you are not intellectually and temperamentally fitted for the office of chief of police. Moreover, your maxim is faulty, that “it takes a crook to catch a crook.” Your chief of detectives is a living refutation of this doctrine.

WHO CHARGED CORRUPTION.

In a conversation recently had with you, I promised to tell you who charged you with official corruption. I now beg to comply with this promise—Colyar and February, sitting in my law office about two weeks ago, imparted this information. It was they, and not I, who said that you and Lanford had a graft list; it was they, and not I, who said that you met a woman at 119 Garnett street twice a week, as I now remember, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and that this fact was pretty generally known. I expressed my doubt as to the truth of both of these statements, whereupon Colyar stated that he would notify any citizen interested in one of your visits to this number, and that if the mayor would appoint special officers to arrest you he would have you caught and ridden nude through the streets of the city, to quote him literally, “so that the people would know what a damned hypocrite” you are. This conversation with these men in my office furnished the foundation for the dictograph “stuff” in which I am made the author of this remark. It was they who told me that certain detectives and police visited Fombys and got on drunken brawls there almost nightly. It was they also who told me of the existence of dens of vice in the city; it was they also who told me that from some you received money; others received protection from you because conducted by relatives of yours; and still others because frequented or owned by your political friends. If you extend protection, which I have not and do not charge, to any of these, whether in pelf or political influences, you are culpable.

FURNISHED NO LIST.

Permit me to say that while before the grand jury I frankly stated my inability to testify to vice conditions said to exist in Atlanta, for my evidence would be hearsay. I furnished that body no list or roster of disreputable places, but am informed that a list was furnished by others.

In conclusion, permit me to say that my understanding is that you now have in conducting the police department of the city of Atlanta plenary power to appoint, remove and discipline your subordinates. If you are really a capable official, it is your duty to investigate the recent pictograph episode directed by the so-called chief of the detectives department, and if you find him to be guilty of being responsible for the miserable frame-up. It seems to me to be your duty to promptly remove him from office.

I beg to remain,

Very truly yours,

T. B. FELDER.

* * *

Atlanta Journal, June 8th 1913, “Three Open Letters Given Out Saturday by Thos. B. Felder,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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