Archive for the ‘Florida’ Category

An Evening with Gilbert King Pulitzer Prize Winning Author of Devil In the Grove

In Florida, Inspiration, News, Writing on November 21, 2013 at 8:15 am

Last night I went to a book signing in Mount Dora, Fl. The author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book “Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America“, Gilbert King spoke about his book, the case and then answered questions from the audience. The Groveland Boy case happened in Lake County where I live and involved four young black men who were accused of raping a young white girl. All four were innocent. The story is quite complicated and very interesting. Thurgood Marshall came to Lake County to represent the young men. As the story progresses two of the young men were being transported from the prison back to a Lake County courtroom for their second trial when the sheriff, Willis V. McCall, shot them on the side of the road. He thought they were both dead but one survived.

Groveland four article

There is so much more to the story than I am going to tell you here so I am going to ask you to read the book. It’s an important story that needs to be told again and again. It was amazing to listen to Mr.King and also some of the audience told their personal stories. There were surviving family members of the Groveland Fou present and  as I waited in line to have my book signed I talked to the man in front of me about the book, race and life, it turns out that he is a descendant of one of the Rosewood families. Rosewood. Fl. was a black settlement in Levy County Florida that was burnt to the ground and the families run off in response to a lynching. In 1997, the movie Rosewood was released.

These stories are important and many times our history is swept under the rug if it is unpleasant and that was done in the case of the Groveland Boys. Most residents of Lake County have never ehard of the case and are not aware that it was not just local news but national and international news. They are not aware that the monies that helped win the case of Brown vs, Brown came from cash the NAACP raised in response to the injustice of the Groveland Boys case. Even many of the surviving family of the Groveland Boys were unaware of details of the case. It was the earlier generations way of protecting them from the sadness and fear.

Please visit Gilbert King’s website for more information and PLEASE READ THE BOOK.

The Devil in the Grove





White Washing History: The Groveland Four

In Florida, Writing on May 8, 2013 at 8:18 am

Groveland four article

I live in a rural county of Florida. Lake County used to be a big deal in the Florida orange industry until several freezes wiped out much of the groves. It has changed quite a bit in the last 27 years since I first visited family here which led me to move here in 1987. It is a beautiful area and before I go any further let me say that I love living here but just as many other counties across our country it has a dark past.

See, Lake County at /one time had a national reputation for violence towards African-Americans. The Ku Klux Klan was very powerful throughout Central Florida and Lake County was no exception, which leads me to the point of this blog post, last night I read in one of the local magazines. This is the kind of magazine that is written for the sole purpose of flattering advertisers. There was an article where a notorious case of racial hatred was mentioned and the slant of the articles sent me into an absolute foaming at the mouth fit. Here’s why.

In 1949 there was a case where four young African- American men were accused of raping a young woman. Two of the suspects had recently returned for military service and had caught the eye of local Klansman and their supporter Sheriff Willis V. McCall. I am not certain form what I have read if McCall was a card-carrying member of the KKK but he was a violent racist man who was eventually suspended from office after winning several reelections over a African American prisoner being kicked to death. McCall resigned in 1973 after many years of alleged corruption and abuses of power. This Groveland Four case became national news for several reasons. Two of the men were in Orlando at the time of the alleged rape and another was 17 miles away. The story itself is long and involved and included the participation of Harry T. Moore a civil rights activist that worked to gain African American voters and Thurgood Marshall, who later became a Untied States Supreme Court Justice. After the arrests of the four men area residents demanded that they be given up immediately to be lynched. The sheriff refused so angry mobs of citizens went to Groveland and shot into homes and set many on fire. The residents of Groveland had been told that they were coming and many were loaded into pick-ups and taken out of town before the rioters arrived.

There are so many facets to this story I could go on and on but the most vile occurrence was when Sherriff Willis V. McCall was transporting two of the defendants from Raiford State Prison back to Lake County for their retrial, the first trial having been overturned by the Florida Supreme Court due to pretrial publicity. Sherriff McCall pulled over on the side of the road and shot the two handcuffed prisoners. McCall says they tried to escape but the one that survived tells a different story, which you can read here.

The article that I read yesterday made McCall sound like he was in some way doing his duty as sheriff to protect these young men. The author sis say that McCall was racially- biased and she did say that the young men were brutally beaten to obtain “confessions” she did not say that the young men were handpicked because they were considered “troublemakers” by Lake County standards because two of them still wore their military uniforms at times and were considered “uppity”. She did not mention the murders of the two young men on the side of the road. She did not mention the razing of Groveland. She mentioned that McCall tried to “placate” and angry mob by arresting the four men. She also mentioned that the KKK stirred up trouble through rallies and demonstrations.  Does a night of terror where people’s homes were set fire and shots were fired qualify for as a rally?

She also suggested reading the book “The Groveland Four: The Saga of a Legal Lynching by author Gary Corsair. I happen to have this book on my bookshelf and it tells a much different story than her article. I purposely have not named the magazine that published this article because the editor and many of the staff are friends and I am going to take this up with him directly.

The reason I get so very angry about such white-washing of the truth, no matter how well-meant is that in my opinion if we do not stick to the facts of our history, no matter how abhorrent, how do we raise our young people so they will be better than ourselves and our forefathers?


Books to Read:

The Groveland Four: The Sad Saga of a Legal Lynching

Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (P.S.)

Mr. Vickers: A Random Conversation

In Florida, Writing on April 12, 2013 at 10:36 am

The Lost Parrot atnight

I love to hear other people’s stories. I love to hear from people where they have been, who they are and what happened. I heard such a story yesterday. There is a restaurant in downtown Mount Dora, Fl. that is now called The Lost Parrot. Over twenty years ago it was not a restaurant it was a gas station and bus stop. Under the wood floor in the downstairs bar you can still find the old car lifts. At a table close to me was a gentleman looked over to me and said, “Years ago this used to be the bus station.” I told him I had heard that. “This is where I met Mr. Vickers.” He goes on to tell me the story of Mr. Vickers which I am going to relate to you.

According to Mark:

One day I was down the street at my restaurant and someone told me there was an accordion player at the bus stop. I walked up hill to see what was going on. There on the bus bench sat a man and next to him was an accordion case. He sat very still. As I watched him I realized that he was completely blind. Eventually I went up and introduced myself. We talked. I told him that he could come to my restaurant and I would make him a sandwich and get him a beer if he played for the customers. He did. Mr. Vickers was a wonderful accordion player.  Several of my regular customers were local musicians and they loved to hear him.

I asked Mr. Vickers to meet me at the restaurant at eight o’clock the next morning. I showed up a half hour late because I had a few drinks the night before. As I pulled in I saw Mount Dora’s finest loading Mr. Vickers into the back of their patrol car. A little while later I called down to the police station and asked how much it would cost to get Mr. Vickers out of jail. They told me they hadn’t thrown Mr. Vickers in jail they took him down to the shopping center. I went down to the shopping center and there he was playing his accordion and he had a hat next to him filled with money. I asked Mr. Vickers if he would be interested in coming down to the restaurant and playing for a bit. He told me to come by and pick him up later. I did and he played and I fed him.

As I got to know Mr. Vickers, well know him as well as I could since he was very close- mouthed about his past, I learned that he had crossed the United States seven times without the benefit of a seeing -eye dog. He used his cane and his wits to find his way. Can you imagine that?

Mr. Vickers smelled something terrible. To remedy the situation a friend of mine picked him up one day and threw him in his shower. That Mr. Vickers sure could play his accordion and he drew people to my restaurant. Whenever he played my little place was packed. It was just a small sandwich shop but we had some good times there. Every once in a while as Mr. Vickers played I’d hand him a beer. The arrangement suited both of us.

I asked Mark if he stayed a long time and he told me, ”No it wasn’t very long, but I will never forget Mr. Vickers.  I found him right outside here sitting on a bus bench.”

I just thought that was a nice story. Everyone has a story and if you pay attention you may learn something about them and maybe even yourself. I wonder if Mr. Vickers is still alive and still playing his accordion.

A Baby, A Giant and Magic: Keeping an Eye on Shaquille O’Neal

In Florida, Inspiration, Writing on March 29, 2013 at 7:43 am


In 1993 my son was in a hospital in Orlando recovering from a life threatening illness. He was three weeks old. That week was one of the most difficult weeks of my life and we almost lost that wonderful little boy who today is 19 years old. At the end of his stay he was moved from pediatric ICU, one afternoon I was returning from grabbing a cup of coffee and when I entered his room I could not help but notice that there was a seven foot tall black man holding my son. My son who was born a healthy weight of 7 lbs and 12 oz. looked like a premature infant in his huge hands. But what really struck me was the man’s eyes. There was so much tenderness and kindness in their depths that I have never forgotten it.

The man was Shaquille O’Neal who at that time played for the Orlando Magic. I am not a basketball fan, by any means but I have also kept my eye on this guy. What developed from that is a sense of awe. I don’t use that word lightly. I am in awe of Shaq’s personality, intelligence and his ability to keep it real. He does so much good out in the world and he does it through real connections and humor.

Shaq recently bought a home in Lake County, Fl. where I live and rumor had it that in the last election he was going to make a run against out sheriff but then decided not to. What excites me about Shaq living here is not his celebrity but his willingness to make where he lives a better place. He can do so much to encourage our youth.

Shaq may be nerd, a comedian and one of the greatest of the greats on the basketball court but to me he is a man who knows how to walk the walk and talk the talks. He is a man of integrity, honesty and all-around coolness.

BTW Shaq…. Thanks for making a not so great day a very special one 19 years ago. You have no idea what that visit meant to me. You are a giant among men.

My Son Today: TanyaGaryWeddingFrankand Madre

The Exhumation of Florida’s Children: Digging Up the Past at Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys

In Florida, Writing on March 13, 2013 at 8:58 am

Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi has asked a judge to allow the exhumation of bodies of the young boys at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fl. The purpose of the exhumations is to identify the bodies and establish their cause of death.


This may be the first time that you have heard about the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. This was a reform school operated by the state of Florida. It opened in 1900 and was permanently closed in 2011. At one time it was the largest facility of its kind in the U.S.

Alumni of this school are nicknamed “The White House Boys”. The White House was concrete building on the property that was used to “punish” the children. You see, Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys used torture, beatings, humiliation and other violent treatments to keep the boys in line. The stories are sickening and terribly tragic.

Here is an Pulitzer Prize winning series written by Ben Montgomery and Waveny Ann Moore for the Tampa Bay Times
It was this series that first made me aware of the atrocities at this school. For Their Own Good

Every time I read about this school I can’t help but wonder how these abuses took place in a state-run institution and why after so many reports this climate of child abuse was allowed to flourish. There were letters from parents of these kids to state officials begging for help. Some kids just disappeared. How many more schools were there like this across our nation?


It makes me ill to think that we failed these children. Many of the residents were incarcerated for minor infractions such as running away. Some were as young as nine years old.

I can’t even put in words how deeply saddened I am every time I hear a story about the White House Boys. This is one of many dark chapters in Florida’s history.

Other Links:


Florida School for Boys: Wikipedia



Another Reason Florida is a Strange Place to Live: Giant Mosquitoes

In Florida, Writing on March 11, 2013 at 12:26 am


Did you see the movie, “Jumanji”? That is what my Florida summer could look like. It seems that there are mosquitoes that are 20 times the size of an average mosquito that are threatening the great state of gray hair and Geritol, Florida. It isn’t like Florida is known for teensy weensy mosquitoes in the first place. Most of our pests are bigger, badder and crazier than many other places. These mothers are the size of a quarter and rumor has it their bite feels like you are being stabbed. No, really. Stabbed. Maybe that is slightly better than being shot but I would think being stabbed would have to suck.


There’s a guy at University of Florida who is an entomologist and he spends a lot of time hanging out with the stinging, flying, crawling insect population of our fair state. His name is, Phil Kaufman. Phil makes it clear that should we have a rainy season that these beasties will be gunning for us.

Gallinippers. That’s what the giant mosquitoes are called. Sounds like a kid’s TV show on Sprout. It would not sound very intimidating if you ran down the street yelling, “The gallinippers are coming. The gallinippers are coming.”

They can eat a tadpole. Not only does that seem kind of mean but for me it put’s their size into perspective. The ONLY cool thing about gallinippers is that they also eat other insects including the smaller mosquitoes.

I feel particularly bad for little kids and livestock. The only advice I have seen on how to prevent being stabbed by one of these SOB’s is to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants. That does not sound appealing when it’s 95 degrees with 80% humidity. Oh, keep in mind that’s not foolproof. They can bite through the clothing. Also back to our friendly bug nut, Phil he says that repellants may be ineffective because of their size. So, I guess we are S.O.L.

When I told my son about the possible threat to our already pest beleaguered state he said, “Oh, well. I guess it’s just one more sign of the impending apocalypse.” I can almost hear the horses galloping towards use…being chased by massive, tadpole-eating, viscous gallinippers.

Maybe we should call these guys:
Links to other articles about Giant Florida Mosquitoes:

The Great Floridian Python Hunt or Snakezilla vs Florida Rednecks

In Florida, Writing on January 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm

I live in the state that is currently hosting The Great Floridian Python Hunt. Over 1,000 people have joined the hunt and according to a local television station out of Orlando, WESH 2, about 22 snakes have been killed.

The reason this killing spree is necessary is that irresponsible people had let their pythons escape into the wild, or even worse they released them into the wild and now like a bad syfy movie they are taking over. It is no longer safe for small pets to be let out unattended because of the wild exotic animals.
Snakes aren’t the only problem. There are wild iguanas, monitor lizards, birds and many more exotic animals wandering around.

This can’t be good.

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