December 25, 2013

On this day December 25th...

DARC Ethiophile Chronicles

On this day

December 25, 1951 on “Christmas“ evening Mr. & Mrs. Harry T. Moore were murdered as they slept when a bomb went off under their bedroom in Mims, Florida. NAACP Florida president Harry T. Moore was a revered and courageous teacher and civil rights worker who was actively supported by his wife Harriette,.

Harry T. and Harriette V. were the first true civil rights activists of the modern civil rights era in the State of Florida. Harry T. Moore organized the first Brevard County branch of the NAACP in 1934 and became its president. He would later travel throughout the state organizing branches and 1941 organized and became President of the Florida State Conference of NAACP branches. In 1945 he formed the Florida Progressive Voter's League and became its Executive Director. This organization was instrumental in helping register over 100,000 black voters in the State of Florida.

In July 1949, the Groveland rape burst upon the national scene, after four young black men were accused of raping a white woman. A white mob went on a rampage through Groveland's black neighborhood, and the National Guard had to be called out to restore order. Once again, Moore threw himself into the case. After uncovering evidence that the Groveland defendants had been brutally beaten, Moore leveled those charges against the most notorious lawman in the country: Sheriff Willis McCall of Lake County.

Groveland defendants Walter Irvin, Sammy Shepherd, and 16-year-old Charles Greenlee were convicted in 1949, and Irvin and Shepherd were sentenced to death. In April 1951, however, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Irvin and Shepherd’s convictions; Lake County immediately prepared to try them again. On November 6, 1951, while Sheriff McCall was driving two of the defendants, Walter Irvin and Sammy Shepherd, back to Lake County for a pre-trial hearing, he shot them, killing Shepherd and critically wounding Irvin. McCall claimed that the handcuffed prisoners had attacked him while trying to escape. Irvin claimed that McCall had simply yanked them out of his car and started firing. The shooting created a national scandal. Harry Moore began calling for McCall's suspension and indictment for murder. Only six weeks later, on Christmas Day 1951, Moore himself was killed when a bomb was placed beneath the floor joists directly under his bed. Moore died on the way to the hospital; his wife, Harriette, died nine days later.

The protests over the Moore’s deaths rocked the nation, with dozens of rallies and memorial meetings around the country. President Truman and Florida Governor Fuller Warren were inundated with telegrams and protest letters.

Despite an “extensive” FBI investigation, however, and two later investigations, the murders have never been solved; no one has ever been convicted of the crimes. Harry Moore was the first NAACP official killed in the civil rights struggle, and he and Harriette are the only husband and wife to give their lives to the movement.



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