College of Central Florida
“Devil in the Grove” by author Gilbert King is the story about Thurgood Marshall, the American lawyer of the twentieth century, and Sheriff Willis McCall, sheriff of Lake County Florida. In 1949, Norma Padgett, a 17 year old girl and her husband, to whom she was separated, were broken down on the side of the road when four African American boys pulled over to assist them. Later Sheriff McCall was called to the scene where he found, the husband, Willy Padgett, murdered in a ditch. Norma Padgett claimed to have been raped by four African American boys. Sheriff McCall and his men tracked down three of the four boys. One of the Groveland Four was tracked down and killed. The other three boys were apprehended and questioned.
There is much debate surrounding the confessions that was allegedly “beaten out” of the three possible offenders. One of the three offenders that confessed was sent to a camp “chain gang” because he was a minor. The two remaining suspects, Shepherd and Greenlee were sentenced to death. This is the point when Thurgood Marshall gets involved along with the NAACP special counsel. In 1951, Marshall had the verdict overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. After the verdict was overturned, Sheriff McCall was transporting Shepherd and Irvin from Raiford State Prison to the Lake County jail when McCall claimed to have a flat tire. During the stop, McCall claimed that