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The Groveland Four: City Asks Governor For Exoneration

From left, Walter Irvin, Charles Greenlee, and Samuel Shepherd were wrongfully prosecuted for rape in 1949. A fourth man, Ernest Thomas, was killed during a manhunt before he could be arrested. Photo: Gary Corsair

Groveland city officials passed a proclamation calling for the exoneration of the so-called “Groveland Four”.

The proclamation asks Governor Rick Scott and his cabinet to pardon the four – Samuel Shepherd, Walter Irvin, Charles Greenlee and Ernest Thomas.

The four African-American men were accused of raping a white woman in Groveland in 1949. Their arrest and trial is considered one of the great miscarriages of justice in the years prior to the civil rights movement.

All four men have since died. Thomas was killed by a posse after fleeing the area. The remaining three were found guilty by an all-white jury, but their attorney claimed their confessions were beaten out of them.

In 1951, while transporting Shepherd and Irvin, Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall claimed the two tried to escape and shot them, killing Shepherd.

NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall helped defend Irvin during a retrial after the original conviction was overturned.


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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »