John M. Slaton, Governor

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John Marshall "Jack" Slaton

Birthdate: (89)
Death: 1955 (89)
Immediate Family:

Son of William Franklin Slaton and Nancy Jane Martin

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Immediate Family

About John M. Slaton, Governor

John Marshall Slaton, or Jack Slaton, (December 25, 1866 – January 11, 1955) served two non-consecutive terms as the 60th Governor of Georgia.


Slaton was born in Meriwether County, Georgia.

Slaton received a master of arts degree with highest honors from the University of Georgia in 1886 where he joined Chi Phi Fraternity and the Phi Kappa Literary Society. Slaton married Sally Frances Grant in 1898.

Slaton's additional political service includes:

Georgia House of Representatives, representing Fulton County (1896–1909)
Speaker of the Georgia House (1905–1909)
Georgia Senate, representing the 35th District (1909–1913)
President of State Senate (1909–1911)

After Governor Hoke Smith was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1911, Slaton was appointed acting governor and served in that capacity from 1911 to 1912. Slaton was later elected to the governorship for a non-consecutive second term (1913 to 1915).

Leo Frank trial and the end of Slaton's political career

In 1915, Slaton commuted the sentence for Leo Frank from death to life imprisonment. "I can endure misconstruction, abuse and condemnation," Slaton said, "but I cannot stand the constant companionship of an accusing conscience which would remind me that I, as governor of Georgia, failed to do what I thought to be right.... It means that I must live in obscurity the rest of my days, but I would rather be plowing in a field than to feel that I had that blood on my hands."

Because of the almost universal hostility towards Leo Frank by the general public in Georgia, Governor Slaton's decision to commute his death sentence was widely viewed as perverse interference. Public disapproval of Slaton persisted for a long time afterwards. Sparing Frank's life had the effect of permanently ending Slaton's political career, just as Slaton himself had predicted.

Controversy and conflict of interest in commutation of Leo Frank

Some viewed the commutation by Slaton as a conflict of interest, as Slaton was a law partner of Frank's lead defense counsel. Slaton's actions led to threats of mob violence against the governor, and the Georgia National Guard and local police were enlisted for protection.

Fear of retaliation prompted Slaton and his wife to move out of Georgia after his term as governor ended. They did not return to the state for a decade.

After his public service, Slaton served as the President of the Georgia State Bar Association (1928–1929) and as a member of the General Council of the American Bar Association.

The former governor died in Atlanta on January 11, 1955 and is interred with his wife Sarah Frances Grant (1870-1945) in the Grant family mausoleum at Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery.

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John M. Slaton, Governor's Timeline

Age 89