Hugh Manson Dorsey (1871 - 1948)

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Birthplace: Fayetteville, Fayette, GA, USA
Death: Died
Managed by: James Hutchison
Last Updated:

About Hugh Manson Dorsey

Hugh Manson Dorsey (July 10, 1871 – June 11, 1948) was an American lawyer who was notable as the prosecuting attorney in the Leo Frank trial of 1913.

He was also a politician, a member of the Democratic Party who was twice elected as the Governor of Georgia (1917–1921), and jurist, who served for years as a superior court judge (1935–1948).

Early life and education

Hugh M. Dorsey was born in Fayetteville, Georgia in 1871. At the age of 8, he moved with his family in 1879 to Atlanta, which was growing rapidly and had more economic opportunity. His father was an attorney there.

Dorsey graduated from the University of Georgia in 1893. After studying law at the University of Virginia, Dorsey joined his father's law firm in Atlanta in 1895.

Marriage and family

Dorsey married Adair Wilkinson.


After working for several years with his father, in 1910 Dorsey was appointed the solicitor-general of Fulton County Superior Court. He was a member of the Democratic Party, as were most of the established European Americans in the South after Reconstruction. It was a one-party region for decades. In 1913 Dorsey was prosecuting attorney (serving as the solicitor-general of the Fulton County Superior Court) in the trial of Leo Frank for the murder of the young factory worker Mary Phagan. Frank, a Jewish northerner, was eventually lynched by a mob. Achieving conviction amid sensational media coverage, Dorsey became famous.

His victory in this case contributed to his being elected for two consecutive two-year terms as the Governor of Georgia from 1917 to 1921.

Later he ran for the U.S. Senate but was defeated. Later Dorsey served as a superior court judge in Atlanta, from 1935 until his death in 1948.

He is buried in Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.

In popular culture

Over the decades, the dramatic story of the trial and Frank's lynching (after his death sentence was commuted) was adapted into many forms. In the 1988 TV-movie The Murder of Mary Phagan, Dorsey was portrayed by the actor Richard Jordan.

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Judge Hugh Dorsey's Timeline

July 10, 1871
Fayetteville, Fayette, GA, USA
June 11, 1948
Age 76