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Lake County unveils monument remembering the Groveland Four

Patrice McClendon, of Jacksonville, a grand niece of Charles Greenlee, poses for a photo after the unveiling of a monument honoring the Groveland Four in Tavares Friday. Photo: Joe Byrnes

Lake County unveiled a memorial Friday to remember the Groveland Four.

Some 200 people gathered in front of the old courthouse in Tavares for a ceremony and to see the monument. It tells the story of four black men killed or wrongfully prosecuted for rape decades ago.

Relatives of the men welcomed the memorial with gratitude. But more must be done, they said, to get justice for Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas.

The men were pardoned last year. That is not enough, Gerald Threat said, speaking on behalf of the Irvin family.

"The only thing that can rectify this injustice is a full exoneration by the state," he said. "We cannot pick and choose from God’s words what we will honor. It’s all or nothing."

Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at the event. He said the monument is a fitting recognition of a miscarriage of justice and shows the county’s commitment to equal justice going forward.

Joe Byrnes came to Central Florida Public Media from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.