MOUNT DORA, Fla. — The Mount Dora journalist who uncovered how the Groveland Four were falsely accused of raping a white woman 70 years ago now has a statue on display in her honor.
The statue of Mabel Reese was unveiled Sunday. Community activists said they hope the statue will honor Reese’s work and make sure she is never forgotten.
In the 1940s, Reese was the owner and editor of the Mount Dora Topic. Reese, who once supported Sheriff Willis McCall, turned against him after he shot two of the Groveland Four – the four black men falsely accused of rape whose families continue to work to exonerate them.
“Mabel, she brought awareness to what was going on in Lake County,” Groveland Four family member Eddie Irvin Jr. said.
But, she paid a price for questioning such a powerful man: Her business was defaced, a cross was burned on her lawn, her dog was poisoned and her home was firebombed by the KKK.
“She kept the spotlight on this area and regardless of what they threatened her with,” Irvin said.
The terra-cotta bust features Reese’s signature cat eye glasses and the margin release key from the typewriter she used to file reports about McCall.
“It's a statement for women everywhere,” Jackie Hughes said.
People came from counties away Monday to celebrate Reese's work.
Family members of the Groveland Four said they hope the statue also helps spread awareness of what happened to their loved ones and who's responsible.
They said until it is bronzed and placed in a permanent location in Mount Dora, the terra-cotta sculpture will in rotating exhibit around Lake County.
Once it's bronzed, the Mount Dora Public Arts Commission will determine a permanent location.
As for the Groveland Four, a memorial to the men is scheduled to be unveiled on Feb. 21 in front of the old courthouse in Tavares.