MOUNT DORA, Fla. — A new sculpture honoring the journalist who uncovered the injustices in the Groveland Four case was just revealed in Mount Dora on Friday.
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Journalist Mabel Norris Reese exposed corruption and faced terrible threats during her quest for the truth.
Reese’s coverage of the Groveland Four case was groundbreaking and still has an impact today.
The horrifying story of the Groveland Four started in 1949, when a white woman falsely accused four black men of raping her.
68 year later, in 1917, the Florida State Legislature signed of on a formal apology.
And two years after that, in 1919, Gov. Ron DeSantis agreed to pardon them.
That pardon was issued years after the men died.
Read: Summary of FDLE investigation into Groveland Four case released: Here’s what we learned
Reese endured numerous death threats for the stand she took in her quest for the truth.
She did not live the see the pardon.
On Friday, a small crowd gathered in Mount Dora’s Sunset Park to celebrate Reese’s courage and permanently memorialize her legacy.
Read: ‘A very worthwhile journey’: Groveland Four monument unveiled in Lake County
“It really made me feel good that everybody would come out for this,” said Reese’s granddaughter Cindy Chesley Erickson. “I think it’s probably one of the most critical things a journalist can do is report the truth and to report it without prejudice.”
In 1949, 35-year-old Mabel Norris Reese set out to cover the arrest of four young black men charged with the rape of a white teenager.
During her investigation, she began to see holes in the Lake County Sheriff’s story, and was set on exposing the truth.
Read: ‘It’s a statement for women everywhere’: Journalist honored with statue for reporting on Groveland Four
“She had to publicly say that this was wrong and then she had to publicly go against the man that was the king of Lake County and start exposing his corruption,” Erickson said.
Reese was targeted for her reports. Bombs were denoted at her house, her dog was poisoned and a cross was burned in her yard.
Reese passed away in 1995 at the age of 81, never seeing the developments in the case she worked to expose.
Read: Exoneration could be coming for Groveland Four 70 years later
“I’m so sorry she couldn’t see this,” said Erickson. “She would be thrilled to be welcomed back to Mount Dora with open arms, and she would also want people to pay attention to the fact that journalists can and do make a very big difference.”
Family members of the Groveland Four sent flowers to be placed at the pedestal on Friday as gift for Reese’s family.
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