Accused of Florida rape 70 years Ago, 4 Black men get posthumous pardons


Oct 25, 2017

Seventy years ago in Groveland, Fla., a white teenager named Norma Padgett accused four black men of kidnapping and raping her in a car on a dark road.

Two of the men would eventually be shot dead by the segregationist sheriff of Lake County and his angry mob, and the other two wrongfully convicted on little evidence.
The case of the Groveland Four, as they became known, inspired a Pulitzer-winning book and has been considered for decades one of Florida’s most grave injustices and a symbol of racism in the Jim Crow south.

In 2017, the state of Florida formally apologized for what happened in the summer of 1949. And on Friday, the state’s clemency board voted to posthumously pardon all four men: Ernest Thomas, Samuel Shepherd, Charles Greenlee and Walter Irvin.

The deciding factor, the board said, was not whether Padgett lied — as the relatives of the accused insisted she’d done — but whether the men ever had a chance at a fair trial. Padgett, now 86, watched from her wheelchair as newly-inaugurated Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) declared that they had not. He called the case a “miscarriage of justice" and said that the “only appropriate thing to do is to grant pardons.”
The case began on a summer night in 1949. Padgett testified that she and her husband, Willie Padgett, had been driving back from a dance when their car broke down. Shepherd and Irvin, friends from the Army, reportedly stopped to help. But the Padgetts would later tell law enforcement in Lake County that the men, plus Thomas and Greenlee, attacked Willie and took turns raping Norma.

Within days of Padgett’s accusations, authorities had jailed Shepherd, Greenlee and Irvin. An angry mob led by the white supremacist Sheriff Willis V. McCall chased Thomas 200 miles into the Florida Panhandle, where they shot him dead. In Groveland, rioters torched black-owned homes, sparking an unrest so intense that the governor eventually sent in the National Guard.

At the time, neighbors quietly doubted the Padgett’s version of events amid speculation that her account was merely a coverup for her husband’s suspected beatings. Despite a lack of evidence, a jury quickly convicted the three men who were still alive.

Greenlee, just 16 at the time, was sent to prison for life. Shepherd and Irvin were initially sentenced to death.
King found evidence that Padgett had perjured herself and documents that proved the doctor who examined her that night found no physical evidence of rape. He also wrote that the sheriff’s office fabricated footprint evidence that supposedly linked the men to the crime scene.
Shepherd and Irvin appealed their death sentence, and although the Florida Supreme Court initially upheld their convictions, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned them and ordered a retrial. But on their return trip from prison to Lake County for their new trial, Sheriff McCall shot them both. He claimed the men tried to escape.

Shepherd died at the scene. Irvin played dead and survived. He later said the sheriff fired on them in cold blood and bragged on the police radio that he’d “got rid of them.”


The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
I don't get why they'd lie about such a thing, especially if the guys had stopped to help them due to car trouble.

Did get a kick out of the fact that the corrupt Sheriff's son is currently serving time for molestation & possessing child porn though, bet the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
Oct 31, 2017
Most black men in prison likely never had a chance at a fair trial.

These men lost their lives because they stopped to help some people on the side of the rode. Fucking crazy.

Black people have always been America's fall guy.


Oct 27, 2017
Up until last year I lived in the town right next to Groveland, and it's awfully barren, same as my town was.

The only businesses are on the highway that bisects it -- and this highway leads all the way through to Orlando -- near the neighboring town Clermont, and the five or six businesses that congregate around city hall, a barren, mostly lifeless place.

There are more churches than businesses there, and over time, businesses have died, and churches filled in the places left behind little by little.

The schools are broke, my town was heavily in debt, Groveland was only slightly better but because t hey never spent money on anything but cameras for the 3 intersections it has.

Basically Orlando proper is the only good place to be. You leave that and you're heaeidng toward Titusville, where you'll die, Pine Hills, where you'll die, and Groveland, where you'll die, the police will lie, and get away with it.

The only saving g race is that the tide will come and wash it all away.

Wash all of it away.


The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
Miami, FL
Neither the WaPo article or Wikipedia mentions it, but there are a few sources like which claim Thomas was hunted down by a huge mob and shot 400 times, and that Irvin, after being shot by the sheriff, was refused to be transported by an ambulance because he was black.
Sounds about right. No doubt they were congratulating themselves during and after. Local paper probably ran a positive story about it all. Par for the course, if so. That's how they treated our people.


Feb 8, 2018
This is good but I wonder if this is just a political move to get in peoples good graces for Ron DeSantis.


Oct 27, 2017
I don't get why they'd lie about such a thing, especially if the guys had stopped to help them due to car trouble.

Did get a kick out of the fact that the corrupt Sheriff's son is currently serving time for molestation & possessing child porn though, bet the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
From the article people close to the couple suggested that they lied about the rape to cover up domestic violence by the husband, which somehow makes the ordeal even more fucked.


Oct 27, 2017
Mexicali, Mexico
Jesus fuck. Whatever happened to the Sheriff?? I hope something awful
He died of old age, wrote a book and was proud of what he did:

"Late in life, McCall published a memoir about his experiences, The Wisdom of Willis McCall. He defended his long career as sheriff and responded to public criticism. "McCall never doubted himself, the usefulness of segregation or the morality of the methods he used to enforce law and order." McCall died on April 28, 1994 at the age of 84."