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Honoring Leo Frank; Story of Jew's lynching gets new attention

Ninety years ago, some of Marietta's leading citizens gathered to hang a man at what is now Roswell Road and Frey's Gin Court. In 1915, Leo Frank, a Jewish superintendent of an Atlanta pencil factory, was murdered on a farm belonging to former Cobb County sheriff William Frey. Today, the spot is part of a busy strip in the shadow of I-75, crammed with fast food restaurants --- and not far from the Big Chicken.

The lynching of Frank, one of the saddest chapters in Marietta's history, will be commemorated Wednesday with prayers and the unveiling of a second plaque where the crime was committed.

"I believe remembering something even though it is evil assures that it is never perpetuated again," said Rabbi Steve Lebow, spiritual leader of Temple Kol Emeth in east Cobb, who identified the site a decade ago.

In 1995, he placed a plaque on a corner of a brick office building on the property. It reads: "Wrongly accused. Falsely convicted. Wantonly murdered."

This fall, Lebow is planning to file an application with the Georgia Historical Society to have a historic marker placed on the site.

Frank was accused of the 1913 murder of Mary Phagan, a former Mariettan who worked at the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta. Historians believe that the state's main witness, Jim Conley, a janitor at the factory, murdered the 13-year-old girl.

Frank's sensational trial --- arguably that era's trial of the century --- united supporters nationwide and brought out virulent anti-Semitism. In its wake came the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.