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Benton family Leo Frank papers

Identifier: ahc.MSS1167

Scope and Content

This collection contains documents pertaining to the 1913 murder of Mary Phagan and the murder trial of Leo Frank. Newspaper articles and a dissertation describe the details of the trial and Frank's lynching as well as new witness for the case and the push for a pardon for Frank in the 1980s. Also included are genealogy papers on the Phagan family.


  • 1891-2015


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. All requests to publish, quote, or reproduce must be submitted through the Kenan Research Center.

Administrative/Biographical History

Mary Anne Phagan (1899-1913) was born in Florence, Alabama, to William Joshua Phagan (1873-1899) and Frances Benton (1874-1947). She was the youngest of five children: Benjamin Franklin (1893-1971), Ollie Mae (1894-1963), Charlie Bryan (1896-1963), and William Joshua (1898-1973). In 1912, Frances Benton married John William Coleman (1858-1936) and the family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where Mary Phagan worked at the National Pencil Company factory. On April 26, 1913, Mary Phagan was found murdered in the factory. Leo Frank, the factory manager, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. Georgia governor John Slaton commuted Frank's sentence to life imprisonment, which prompted a well-organized group to kidnap, beat, and lynch Frank. Frank's guilt remains highly contested.

Administrative/Biographical History

Mary's brother William Joshua married Mary Delilah Richards (1901-1992) and had four children, James (1926-2004), Anne (1918-1996), Jack (1923-), and Betty (1931-2018). James Phagan named his daughter Mary Phagan (Kean) (1958-) after "Little Mary Phagan" and they worked to have her story remembered as well as against Leo Frank's post-mortem pardon. Frances Benton's brother, Durell Benton (1880-1941), also lived in Atlanta with his wife Lula (1881-1951) and his three children, Lex (1905-1973), Bertie (1906-1977), and Frank (1908-1964). Lex Benton married Anna Lee (1913-1997) and they had one daughter, Patricia (1930-2013).


0.209 linear ft. (one half document case and three oversize folders)



Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, 2016

Related Archival Materials

Objects and visual material from the collection have been separated from this collection. Please contact an archivist for access to this material.

Description Control

This collection was processed in 2019.


Benton family Leo Frank papers
Allison Maier
June 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center Repository

130 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta GA 30305