The Saga of Leo Frank III

Lead: In 1915, Georgia Governor John M. Slaton commuted the sentence of Leo Frank, a man wrongfully convicted in the brutal murder of one of his employees, young Mary Phagan. That summer a mob broke into the prison farm where Frank was being held, took him out and lynched him.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Slaton said later he would have pardoned Frank had he been asked to, but the failure to request complete exoneration was the latest in a long series of blunders by Frank's defense teams and the ultimate triumph of a prosecution which conspired in what was little more than an official frame-up. Frank was convicted by the testimony of a black janitor who was almost certainly guilty of the murder himself. An ironic twist of American justice: anti-Semitic prejudice prevailed over anti-black bias. In 1942 Rev. L.O. Bricker, the Baptist pastor of Mary Phagan's parents, revealed the popular sentiment at the time, "My own feelings, upon the arrest of the old Negro night-watchman, were .... [that he] would be poor atonement for the life of this little girl. But, when .... the police arrested a Jew, and a Yankee Jew at that, all of the inborn prejudice against Jews rose up in a feeling of satisfaction, that here would be a victim worthy to pay for the crime."

The Saga of Leo Frank II

Lead: In 1913 Leo Frank, a leader in Atlanta's Jewish business community, was accused of brutally murdering one of his female employees, Mary Phagan. It has been called "one of the most shocking frame-ups ever perpetrated by American law and order officials."

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In order to obtain an indictment against Frank, Solicitor Hugh Dorsey withheld from the grand jury the key fact that he had another suspect, Jim Conley, a janitor from the factory. Conley had been seen washing blood from a shirt after the murder, he admitted writing two notes found near the body which, in nearly unintelligible language, attempted to shift the blame away from himself, and under strong pressure from police investigators, changed his story over and over. In retrospect, it is clear that the police were determined to get Frank's conviction and used Conley to do it.

The Saga of Leo Frank I

Lead: On August 17, 1915 in the small Georgia town of Marietta, a mob lynched Leo Frank. The story behind the murder of this clearly innocent young man may serve as a snapshot of social tensions in early 20th century America.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Leo Frank represented much that irritated Southerners or for that matter, most rural Americans. He was an outsider, a Yankee transplanted to a South still struggling to rise above the destruction and humiliation of the Civil War. Raised in Brooklyn, he came to Atlanta at the turn of the century to help establish a family business, the National Pencil Company. He was an urban industrialist come to bring change to the agricultural South, but most of all he was a Jew. For many white Christian Southerners, he represented a race that had rejected the True faith and killed the Savior. Jews were considered too bright, too aggressive, and much too rich. The life of Cornell graduate Leo Frank lay in the path of such envy and prejudice and for that he suffered and died.

Homer Plessy and Separate but Equal

Lead: On June 8, 1892 a New Orleans shoemaker tried to roll back the onrushing tide of resurgent white supremacy and he lost.

Intro.: This is "A Moment in Time."

Content: Homer A. Plessy was born a month before the Union Navy took New Orleans out of the Civil War in 1862. His parents were free, French-speaking, Roman Catholic blacks part of a racial and social mix that lent that port city such a rich cosmopolitan flavor. In few places in the pre-war deep South were people of color offered the chances for advancement they had in New Orleans and in the two decades after the South's defeat these opportunities continued to grow. In the years following the end of reconstruction, the white majority began to take back the rank and privilege denied them by a victorious north. Gone were the Federal troops which protected and registered black voters. Vanished were the Black Republican majorities in the state legislatures. Disappearing also at this time was the consensus in the North that had help forge the Union victory. Weary of war and the expense of Reconstruction, northerners were losing interest in the civil rights of blacks. One Illinois paper put it, "The Negro is now a voter and a citizen. Let him hereafter take his chances in the battle of life."

Loving vs. Virginia III

Lead: In one of the most important decisions of his term as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Earl Warren struck down racially based anti-miscegenation laws.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: After being convicted of the violation of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act (1924) Mildred and Richard Loving were banished from the Commonwealth. They contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to help them seek redress. ACLU lawyers Bernard S. Cohen and later Philip Hirschkop enthusiastically accepted the case to further the ACLU’s crusade against anti-miscegenation laws nationwide. Loving v. Virginia would be the signature case in that crusade.

Loving vs. Virginia II

Lead: In 1924, because of deep-seated white racism and growing out of the now-discredited concept of eugenics, Virginia passed the Racial Integrity Act. It lasted 43 years.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: During the Civil War, in an effort to pin the label of race mixing on Republicans, Democrats published in New York a fake pamphlet advocating miscegenation, the sexual intermixing of white and black races. Unfortunately, before the pamphlet was demonstrated to be a hoax in 1864, the vile word miscegenation entered American social and political discourse. Beginning in the 1880s, particularly in the former Confederate states, laws were passed to attempt to blunt the effects of Constitutional amendments thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen, and maintain African American second-class citizenship. One such law was Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act (1924). It was for violation of this prohibition against interracial marriage or interracial sexual intercourse that Mildred Jeter Loving and Richard Loving were arrested, convicted and banished from the Commonwealth in 1959.

Loving vs. Virginia I

Lead: In summer 1958 the long arm of Virginia law propelled by generations of racial animus reached out to ensnare Richard and Mildred Loving.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: On a warm night in mid-July, Caroline County Sheriff R. Garnet Brooks and two deputies invaded the bedroom of the sleeping Lovings. The cops asked why the two were in bed together. Mildred said, “I am his wife.” When Richard Loving pointed to their District of Columbia marriage license hanging on the wall, Brooks said, “That’s no good here.” They were arrested and hauled off to jail.

Electric Chair

Lead: Caught up in the frenzy of competition in the early days of electric power, Thomas Edison gave impetus to development of the twentieth century’s most fearsome form of judicial execution, the electric chair.

Intro. : A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In the 1880s, inventor Thomas Edison and industrialist George Westinghouse were locked in a fierce competition over the future of electric power. The issue was transmission. Edison championed direct current, Westinghouse, in alliance with the brilliant and erratic Nikola Tesla, was an advocate of alternating current. Westinghouse eventually prevailed because AC, with its more efficient distribution over longer distances, was clearly the superior choice.