Frank was the superintendent of the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta in 1913 when Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old white employee, was murdered. Frank, 29, was an interloper in Georgia: a northerner and a Jew. The police quickly seized on him as a suspect. His trial, conducted in an atmosphere of rampant anti-Semitism and anti-Northern sentiment, led to his conviction and sentencing to death in the summer of 1913....
During his confinement, Frank’s advocates cast enough doubt on his conviction that Georgia’s governor commuted his sentence to life in prison, in June 1915.
It was a wildly unpopular decision in Georgia and not enough to save Frank’s life. He was moved to a rural prison 100 miles away in Milledgeville where, within a matter of weeks, an inmate slit Frank’s throat.
Frank survived the attack. But on the night of August 16, a lynch mob. organized by the leaders of Cobb County where Phagan’s family lived, stormed the prison. They bundled Frank into a car and drove him 150 miles to their county seat of Marietta, where they lynched him at dawn.For anyone interested in an excellent and exhaustive history of the case, I recommend Steve Oney, And the Dead Shall Rise, (Vintage Books, 2003).