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Tavares in Lake County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

In Memory of the Groveland Four

 
 
In Memory of the Groveland Four Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, February 24, 2020
1. In Memory of the Groveland Four Marker
Inscription.  In July 1949, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, Charles Greenlee and Ernest Thomas — known collectively as the "Groveland Four" — were accused of crimes in Lake County. Eyewitness accounts, records, and subsequent investigations revealed that these men were subjected to racially motivated oppression and were never given the opportunity to legitimately defend themselves in a court of law. Evidence demonstrates that Mr. Greenlee could not have been present when the alleged crime was committed. Mr. Thomas was slain before he could receive due process. Mr. Irvin never confessed despite being tortured. Mr. Shepherd was killed by a law enforcement officer before he could be re-tried.

The brutality and injustice that these men endured resulted in the wrongful deaths of Mr. Thomas and Mr. Shepherd, and the unfair incarcerations of Mr. Irvin and Mr. Greenlee. Prominent civil rights lawyers worked on the case, including Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first African American justice to serve on the United States Supreme Court. After the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered evidence that had been suppressed during trial and
Marker photo: The "Groveland Four"<br>Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, Charles Greenlee, Ernest Thomas image. Click for full size.
2. Marker photo: The "Groveland Four"
Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, Charles Greenlee, Ernest Thomas
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other legal irregularities, Florida Governor LeRoy Collins commuted Walter Irvin's death sentence in 1955.

The Groveland Four families never gave up hope for justice. Nearly 70 years later, on January 11, 2019, the Governor of Florida and Cabinet, sitting as the State Clemency Board, issued full pardons to Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, Charles Greenlee and Ernest Thomas.

The pardon was vigorously supported by Lake County residents, Groveland Four family members, the Lake County Board of County Commissioners, Lake County's Constitutional Officers, the Groveland City Council, the Florida Legislature, citizen advocates from Florida and around the nation, and two pivotal authors, Gary Corsair and Gilbert King, who conducted extensive research into the cases. Their books detailed the lack of evidence against the men, manufactured evidence, witness perjury, and systemic racism by then-Sheriff Willis V. McCall.

The Lake County community came together in 2019 to support the pardons of Ernest Thomas, Samuel Shepherd, Charles Greenlee and Walter Irvin, and to make clear that Lake County and its residents condemn racism and injustice, value fairness and compassion, and believe that all people are entitled to equal protection under the law.
 
Erected 2020 by Lake County Community.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed
In Memory of the Groveland Four Marker<br>(<i>tall view</i>) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, February 24, 2020
3. In Memory of the Groveland Four Marker
(tall view)
in these topic lists: African AmericansCivil RightsLaw Enforcement. A significant historical month for this entry is July 1949.
 
Location. 28° 48.127′ N, 81° 43.839′ W. Marker is in Tavares, Florida, in Lake County. Marker is on West Main Street just east of South Sinclair Avenue, on the right when traveling east. Marker is located beside the sidewalk, directly in front of the Lake County Historic Courthouse. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 317 West Main Street, Tavares FL 32778, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Lake County Courthouse (within shouting distance of this marker); Battle of the Bulge Memorial (approx. 4½ miles away); S.T.E. Pinkney (approx. 4½ miles away); Ferran Park (approx. 4½ miles away); Dr. Edgar J. Banks (approx. 4½ miles away); Lake County Service Memorial (approx. 4½ miles away); Flagpole Dedicated March 3, 2001 (approx. 4½ miles away); Alice B. McClelland Bandshell (approx. 4½ miles away).
 
Also see . . .  The Groveland Four. The Groveland Four case was a 1940s example of injustice toward young African American men falsely accused of raping white women. The Groveland Four were four
In Memory of the Groveland Four Marker<br>(<i>wide view • Lake County Courthouse in background</i>) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, February 24, 2020
4. In Memory of the Groveland Four Marker
(wide view • Lake County Courthouse in background)
young black men, Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin, who were accused of raping Norma Padgets, a 17-year-old white woman on July 16, 1949 in Lake County, Florida. Thomas was killed by County Sheriff Willis McCall on July 26, 1949 during the search for the four while Irvin, Shepherd, and Greenlee were arrested. (Submitted on February 24, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 28, 2020. It was originally submitted on February 24, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 246 times since then and 67 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on February 24, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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Aug. 8, 2022