Truth really is stranger than fiction. That’s the main reason I enjoy reading non-fiction books. In this post and the next, I will explore the strange stories of the two Marys.
I’m fascinated with true crime mysteries right here in our own metropolis, but none intrigue me more than the cases of the two Marys: Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old pencil factory worker who was found murdered in 1913, and Mary Shotwell Little, a 25-year-old C & S secretary who disappeared seemingly into thin air from Lenox Mall in 1965. Mary Shotwell Little vanished after eating dinner with a friend at the S & S Cafeteria at Lenox Mall.
And the Dead Shall Rise: the Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank, by Steve Oney, is definitely the most thorough account of the Phagan/Frank crimes I’ve read. If you don’t know about Mary Phagan: The 13-year-old was found murdered in the pencil factory where she worked. Factory superintendent and part-owner Leo Frank was tried and convicted of the crime. His death sentence was later commuted by the governor to life in prison. Upon hearing this, an angry mob took Frank at gunpoint from the state prison at Milledgeville and brought him to Marietta where they hanged him. Frank was ultimately pardoned posthumously. The story became nationally famous because of the anti-Semitism involved, the founding of B’nai B’rith’s Anti-Defamation League, the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and the local newspaper sensationalism pitting the working class and child labor vs. Atlanta’s moneyed elite.
Murder in the Peach State – Infamous Murders from Georgia’s Past, by Bruce L. Jordan, starts with a chapter on Mary Phagan and Leo Frank. The book itself is dedicated to columnist Celestine Sibley, who was a court reporter for years covering the trials of Georgia’s most infamous murders.
The Murder of Little Mary Phagan, by Mary Phagan (great-niece and namesake of the Mary Phagan), tells the family’s side of the story and the grim nature of the crime. Another book about the story is The Leo Frank Case, by Leonard Dinnerstein.