Brittany Rhodes, a University of North Georgia student, found a set of keys 17 years ago that unlock a piece of Georgia’s history.
She didn’t learn the significance of her find until a year or two ago while doing research in a Georgia history class for her post-baccalaureate teacher certification in middle grades.
In December, she shared her findings with an assistant professor at UNG, and the keys are now on display at an Atlanta museum.
Rhodes, now 30, first found the keys as she was disposing of leftovers from an estate sale. A tag on the keys read, “If found return to Warden J.E. Smith, Milledgeville, GA. State Prison Farm.”
Since no one wanted the keys, she decided to keep them because she had family in Milledgeville.
It wasn’t until she returned to UNG, that she discovered the connection to the case of Leo Frank, a man convicted in 1913 of murdering 13-year-old Mary Phagan.
According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Georgia Gov. John M. Slaton commuted Frank’s death sentence to life in prison with the assumption the man’s innocence would eventually be established.
But Frank was abducted from the prison farm in Milledgeville and lynched Aug. 17, 1915, in Marietta. He was pardoned in 1986 by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles for the state’s failure to protect him and allow continued legal appeals of his conviction.