TAVARES, Fla. — Four black men wrongly accused of raping a white woman more than 70 years ago were memorialized in Lake County Friday, marking a moment their surviving relatives have been waiting for for decades.
The monument honors the four men known as the Groveland Four: Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas.
“This has been a hard journey, but a good journey. A very worthwhile journey,” said Carol Grennlee, daughter of Charles Greenlee.
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The granite memorial features a bronze plaque imprinted with a written account of the ordeal, which was prepared with help from the families.
“While we cannot change the past, we can learn from it, and we can assure that our institutions today provide equal and fair justice to all,” said Lake County Commission Chairman Leslie Campione.
The Florida Board of Executive Clemency voted to pardon the Groveland Four in January 2019.
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Gov. Ron DeSantis attended Friday’s event, offering his support to their surviving families.
“I hope that it will bring peace to their families and to their communities,” DeSantis said.
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More than 100 people from the community attended the dedication, including family members of the Groveland Four.
Charles Greenlee’s son, Thomas Greenlee, said this monument is just the beginning.
“I won’t rest until my father is exonerated,” he said. “... An exoneration means that the crime never should have been there in the first place, which is what we’ve been pushing for, for over 70 years.”
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The #GrovelandFour monument dedication just started. @GovRonDeSantis is in attendance. Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Ernest Thomas and Samuel Shepherd were wrongly accused of raping a white woman in Lake County back in 1949. Today they receive a monument in their honor. pic.twitter.com/x7Gsmt0AFk— Q McCray (@QMcCrayWFTV) February 21, 2020
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