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Unidentified individuals at a dinner given by J. D. Robinson for Governor Hugh Dorsey (standing) and his staff in Atlanta, Georgia. Courtesy of the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center via Digital Library of Georgia.

The Leo Frank case impacted the careers of people involved with it.

Two whose careers advanced:

  • Hugh Dorsey was relatively unknown before the trial. Before the Frank case, Dorsey had lost two highly publicized cases. But his victory in the Frank case propelled him upward. Dorsey was elected governor in 1916, and re-elected in 1918. Perhaps surprisingly, he was a progressive who openly campaigned against mob violence.
  • Tom Watson: With his editorials on the Leo Frank case, circulation of Watson's Jeffersonian Magazine and The Jeffersonian increased dramatically. From this, Watson gained some wealth. Elected to the United States Senate in 1920, he died in office.

Two whose careers were damaged:

  • John Slaton, a popular governor and one-time favorite for a US Senate seat, saw his political career end with his commutation of Frank’s sentence. Threatened by mob violence, Slaton and his wife fled Georgia. He eventually returned, but never sought political office again.
  • William Smith, Jim Conley’s attorney, had misgivings about the sentencing of Frank. He had carefully studied the evidence, and concluded that his client, in fact, was guilty of Phagan’s murder. His letter to Governor Slaton was instrumental in the decision to commute Frank’s sentence. Unpopular because of this stance, he lost his legal clients, and later spent time working at shipyards in Virginia and New York.