After nearly 70 years, Florida Clemency Board pardons Groveland Four
After nearly 70 years, all members of the Groveland Four — four young black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in Lake County — were par doned by a unanimous vote Friday.
The Florida Cabinet met for the first time as the state Clemency Board Friday, where it heard from family members of the men who were either imprisoned, tortured or murdered by mobs and a racist sheriff. The Groveland Four matter was only supposed to be up for discussion and families were not expecting to hear a vote Friday. But at the very end of the meeting, Gov. Ron DeSantis called for a vote.
“I believe in the principles of the Constitution. I believe in getting a fair shake,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any way that you can look at this case and see justice was carried out.”
Some call the treatment of the four men one of the worst episodes of racism in American history. In 1949, a 17-year-old white woman and her estranged husband told police that she’d
Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone called the omission short-sighted. “If you’re building the sea walls and doing nothing about the cause [of sea rise], then you have to come back 10 years later to build a sea wall again.”
But Curbelo says DeSantis’ creation of a resiliency office and a chief science officer position are part of conservative America’s slow move toward addressing the issues posed by climate change. Noting that the federal government bears the true responsibility of curbing the carbon emissions that are increasing global temperatures, Curbelo said the creation of a state resiliency office gives the many South Florida communities trying to adapt to rising seas a partner in state government and represents an important step for Republicans across the country.
Administrators at the city of Miami, for example, were pleased to hear DeSantis’ announcement. The city has several areas that are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, and multiple neighborhoods require expensive projects to drain and adapt existing roads and properties. Jane Gilbert, Miami’s own chief resilience officer, said the city has already started conversations with the state on investing in coastal green infrastructure. Having a sympathetic voice in the governor’s ear could certainly help.
“Florida is a leading indicator in terms of how the Republican Party is evolving on this issue,” Curbelo said. “And today, Gov. DeSantis courageously became a part of that evolution and he should be recognized for it. Florida will be better off thanks to his actions.”
DeSantis, who is 40 and has two children, told reporters Thursday that he’s trying to do what he can now in the time he has as governor to address the slew of environmental problems currently ailing the state. DeSantis’ press office did not respond to a question about the governor’s thoughts on whether climate change poses an urgent problem. But he did reflect a little Thursday in Bradenton on the pressing nature of the state’s challenges, and how important it is for his administration to leave the state better than how they inherited it.
“We only have a limited amount of time on this earth,” he said. “We’ve got to make the most of it.”
Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall, left, and an unidentified man stand next to Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Charles Greenlee.