Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King “Deeply researched and superbly composed.” Kirkus Starred Review

Devil in the Grove
Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, 
and the Dawn of a New America          

A gripping true story of sex, murder, race, and the law that brings to light one of the most dramatic and untold stories in American legal history—and offers a rare and revealing portrait of the young and vibrant civil rights attorney, Thurgood Marshall, as he has never been seen before. 
Arguably the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century, Thurgood Marshall was on the verge of bringing the landmark suit Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court, when he became embroiled in an explosive and deadly sex case that threatened to change the course of the civil rights movement and cost him his life.   
In 1949, Florida’s orange industry was booming and citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor. To maintain order and profits, they turned to Willis V. McCall, a violent sheriff who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. When a seventeen year-old white Groveland farm girl cried rape, McCall was fast on the trail of four young blacks who dared to envision a future for themselves beyond the citrus groves. By day’s end, the Ku Klux Klan had rolled into town, burning black homes to the ground and chasing hundreds into the swamps, hell-bent on lynching the Groveland Boys. 
And so began the chain of events that would bring Thurgood Marshall, the man known as “Mr. Civil Rights,” into the deadly fray. Associates thought it was suicidal for him to wade into “The Florida Terror” at a time when he was irreplaceable to the burgeoning civil rights movement.   But the lawyer would not shrink from the fight—not after the Klan murdered one of Marshall’s NAACP associates in the case and not after Marshall endured continual threats that he would be next. 
Drawing on a wealth of never-before-published material, including the FBI’s unredacted Groveland case files, as well as unprecedented access to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund files, King weaves a rich and driving narrative that captures Thurgood Marshall’s brilliance, resolve, bravery, patriotism, and even humor, in his epic struggle to save the lives of four young men falsely accused of rape. Devil in the Grove shines new light on this remarkable civil rights crusader, set against the heroic backdrop of a case that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson decried as, “one of the best examples of one of the worst menaces to American justice.”
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Willis McCall, moments after he shot Walter Irvin and Samuel Shepherd.  McCall claimed the two prisoners had attempted to escape from his Oldsmobile 98 on the eve of their retrial. 

Sheriff Willis McCall, alone in his car with the two Groveland Boys, Walter Irvin and Samuel Shepherd cuffed together in the front seat, veered off the highway, down this small road in Umatilla, Florida in the dead of night, and ordered the prisoners out of the car to fix a flat tire. 

FBI investigators located the missing bullet, buried in the soil beneath Walter Irvin’s “blood spot,” a bombshell discovery that officials at the highest levels of government tried to hide from Thurgood Marshall. 

Walter Irvin took three bullets at the scene, but pretended to be dead and miraculously survived.  His version of the shooting was much different from McCall’s, and made front page headlines across the country.

Gilbert King