On July 16, 1949, Norma Padgett, a 17-year old Groveland, Florida woman, accused four black men of rape, testifying that she and her husband were attacked when their car stalled on a rural road near Groveland, Florida. The next day, Charles Greenlee, Sam Shepherd, and Walter Irvin were in jail.
Ernest Thomas fled the county and avoided arrest for several days until a Sheriff’s posse shot and killed him about 200 miles northwest of Lake County in Madison county. Sam Shepherd and Walter Irvin were sentenced to death in a trial. 16-year-old Charles Greenlee, because of his age, was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1951, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Lee Irvin were shot by Sheriff Willis Virgil McCall while being transported from Raiford to Lake County. McCall said they had attacked him. Walter Irvin survived and accused McCall of forcing Shepherd and him from the vehicle in which they were being transported and shooting them down. It became known as the “Groveland Shooting”.
70 years later the four men were pardoned for what was a racially motivated conviction.