Gilbert King is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Devil in the Grove, and The Execution of Willie Francis, and is a featured contributor to Smithsonian magazine’s Past Imperfect.  He lives in New York City.

Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Martethe shall, The Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, by Gilbert King (Harper, 2012)

Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King.  Published by Harper, March, 2012. 

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The Cast

Thurgood Marshall, Special Counsel, NAACP

“There is no man alive or to be born who can prevent me from arguing the Groveland case before the U.S. Supreme Court!”

Norma Padgett, Allegedly raped by the Groveland Boys

“Thomas he jerked up my dress...and he made me take off my pants...  Thomas raped me first, Thomas did.”

Franklin Williams, Associate Counsel, NAACP

“Jesus Christ, there is somebody behind us!”

Willie Padgett, Husband of Norma Padgett

“You little son of a bitch. You were there. You had better get my wife or I am going to kill you.”

Jack Greenberg,

Assistant Counsel, NAACP

On the evening of the trial, 25 cars full of klansmen circled his hotel, “with Confederate flags flying, some carrying blazing torches.”

Mabel Norris Reese, Reporter 

“The trampling of their honor must be avenged [and that] revenge will be accomplished by a more frightening and awful means than a mob has at its command.”

Harriette and Harry T. Moore, Executive Secretary of the Florida NAACP

“I’m going to keep doing it, even if it costs me my life...I may live to be a ripe old age or I may be killed tomorrow, or next month, or perhaps never, but I intend to do this until the day I die.” --Harry T. Moore

Sheriff Willis McCall and his jailer with three Groveland Boys, Walter Irvin, Charles Greenlee, and Samuel Shepherd

“If I thought a white woman had been raped within a hundred miles of Groveland and Negroes were suspected, I would have opened the door and left.”

--Sixteen year-old Charles Greenlee

Curtis Howard, Attendant at Dean’s Filling Station

“Discredit Curtis Howard...Try to pin his own activities that night and the probability that he knew the Padgetts before.”

--Defense memo

Jesse Hunter, State Attorney

“A lot can happen with a good fast car and vicious men.”

James Yates, Deputy Sheriff of Lake County

“There might not be any damned trial.”

Thurgood Marshall, Jack Greenberg, Franklin Williams, Alex Akerman and his wife, along with NAACP counsel James Nabritt and Robert Carter after arguing the Groveland Boys case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Paul Perkins, Jack Greenberg, Walter Irvin and Thurgood Marshall at the defense table in Ocala, Florida. 

“Cases of this kind are the kind that will try the souls of men.” --Thurgood Marshall in closing arguments.

Thurgood Marshall had just begun to try what would become the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education.  The man known as “Mr. Civil Rights” and the most important American lawyer of the 20th Century was about to make history.  

But first, he would have to make it through the deadliest case of his career, where four young men, the Groveland Boys, were headed for Florida’s electric chair, falsely accused of raping a seventeen year-old white girl.  The case would pit Thurgood Marshall and his legal staff against the murderous Lake County sheriff’s department, a malicious prosecutor, J. Edgar Hoover, and the Ku Klux Klan, bent on preserving and protecting the Flower of Southern womanhood and the Southern way of life. 

In a relentless, true-to-life narrative, Gilbert King shines a bright light on the heroic story of the young, charismatic lawyer, Thurgood Marshall as he’s never been seen before, in the heart-stopping case he would never forget. 

Groveland.   (read more)AboutBook.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0
About the Book



News and Appearances




Willis V. McCall, Sheriff of Lake County

“I expect I’ll get a lot of criticism for this, but I’d rather be criticized than dead.”

1951.  America was on the verge of change...
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Gilbert King

“One of the best examples of one of 
the worst menaces to American justice.”
              -Justice Robert Jackson

Justice Robert Jackson of the U.S. Supreme Court “This case presents one of the best examples of one of the worst menaces to American justice.”