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This Day in Georgia History

June 11, 1948

Hugh Dorsey Died

To view an image of Hugh Dorsey, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Lawyer and politician Hugh M. Dorsey died. Born July 10, 1871 in Fayetteville, Georgia, Dorsey graduated from the University of Georgia in 1893. He studied law at the University of Virginia before joining his father’s law firm in 1895. In 1910, he was appointed solicitor-general [chief prosecuting attorney] of the Fulton Superior Court. After losing two notable murder cases, Dorsey achieved state-wide fame when he successfully prosecuted Leo Frank for the 1913 murder of Mary Phagan, a fourteen year old girl who worked at Frank’s pencil factory. The Leo Frank case received national attention for the lurid nature of the murder, the conflicting evidence and testimonies, the accusations of anti-Semitism (Frank was Jewish) and the fact that a white man was convicted largely on the testimony of a black man. Dorsey successfully fought off all appeals to the case before resigning his office in 1916. His prosecution of the Frank case made him extremely popular and, with the support of journalist Tom Watson, Dorsey was elected governor in 1916 and again in 1918. Dorsey devoted most of his administration to leading Georgia’s efforts in World War I. Dorsey ran for the U.S. Senate in 1920, but was defeated by his previous ally Tom Watson. Dorsey returned to practicing law and finally served as superior court judge in Atlanta from 1935 until his death in 1948.