Lake County

9 things to know about the Groveland Four

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — The Groveland Four were exonerated more than 70 years after they were falsely accused of raping a woman in 1949.

Following that news, Channel 9 compiled nine things to know about the men involved and circumstances surrounding the case:


1. Norma Padgett was spotted at a café in Okahumpka in 1949, and claimed four Black men had beaten up her husband, forced her into their car at gunpoint and raped her.

2. Samuel Shepherd, Walter Irvin, Charles Greenlee and Ernest Thomas were falsely accused of raping her.

READ: ‘A glory hallelujah day’: Judge grants exoneration of Groveland Four

3. As news spread about the white woman being raped, members of the Ku Klux Klan started a manhunt of their own, tracking down Thomas as he tried to get out of the area. He was shot and killed.

4. Shepherd, Irvin and Greenlee were tried and convicted by an all-white jury. Greenlee was sentenced to life because of his age at the time of the alleged crime, and Shepherd and Irvin were sentenced to death, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned their convictions.

READ: Summary of FDLE investigation into Groveland Four case released: Here’s what we learned

5. Then-Sheriff Willis McCall, unprovoked, shot Irvin and Shepherd on the side of the road while transporting the two from a state prison for their second trial, claiming they tried to escape. Shepherd died.

6.The demands for a full exoneration of the Groveland Four have been loud and clear since at least 2017 when the Florida legislature signed off on a formal apology and recommended they be exonerated.

READ: ‘A very worthwhile journey’: Groveland Four monument unveiled in Lake County

7. In 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis agreed to pardon Shepherd, Irvin, Greenlee and Thomas, all of whom had been dead for years.

8. A granite memorial featuring a bronze plaque imprinted with a written account of the ordeal, which was prepared with help from the families of the Groveland Four, was installed in Lake County in 2020.

WATCH: The Ocoee Massacre: A Documentary Film

9. The Groveland Four were exonerated by a judge the morning of Nov. 22, 2021.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson,

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.