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Daughter Of Groveland Four Man Reacts To Posthumous Pardon

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In Florida 70 years ago, four black men were accused of raping a white 17 year old. The case became a notorious example of injustice and racism in the Deep South. The men were known as the Groveland Four. All of them have died. And now Florida's Clemency Board has unanimously agreed to pardon the men posthumously. Carol Greenlee is the daughter of one of those men, Charles Greenlee, and she joins us now. Welcome.

CAROL GREENLEE: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: So for the last 70 years, you have been confident of your father's innocence. Tell me about the moment you heard that acknowledged from officials in Florida.

GREENLEE: My faith has kept me on the right path. And when I heard that the county had apologized publicly about the injustices that were done, I was elated.

SHAPIRO: That apology, we should say, was in 2017.

GREENLEE: That's right. The state Florida legislature unanimously, in both houses, issued an apology and asked that the governor expedite the pardon. That was it. So we waited and waited and waited. And we thought, oh, yeah, this is going happen. But it never did. And every encounter with state officials during that time, they would say that the process has to take place. They had thousands of requests in front of them, and it had to go in sequence.

SHAPIRO: The teenager who falsely accused your father and the three others of this crime, Norma Padgett, is still alive and spoke at the clemency board's hearing on Friday. And she insisted that she did not lie all those 70 years ago. So what was it like to hear her say that even after all of this evidence has shown your father's innocence?

GREENLEE: It was not to take away from the moment that I was there to witness. I went there not knowing that she was going to be there, not knowing that the governor was going to take a vote. I went there to, again, hear a discussion about the evidence and to keep on the rules and keep focus on seeing through that my father innocence will one day be done. I had already pretty much accomplished the first goal, and that was letting the world know the truth. And the second was to get him pardoned. I was glad she was there because that was a piece that I had not heard, that she had not spoken or not said anything about it. So that, in itself, to hear her say that, backed up against all of the evidence, was, again, a relief for me.

SHAPIRO: You must have some mixed emotions today about the fact that neither your father nor the other three men who were falsely accused lived to see themselves pardoned.

GREENLEE: Yes. I wish my father had lived to see it. But I know that as long as my father lived, he was not going to push it. He was not going to even allow me to push it because he said so and because of...

SHAPIRO: Why? Why didn't he want you to push it?

GREENLEE: ...Because it was too painful. He wanted to put that behind him. And he would say to me, Carol, stand up and look behind you. As long as you're looking behind you, you can't see your opportunities in front of you. You can't move forward in a positive way. And if you are doing something that's going to help only you, leave it alone. So I ask you, he said, who will it help? And lord knows, in that chamber Friday, it told me that this pardon - this process, the law, criminal justice system in this country works. It's the people that keep it from working.

SHAPIRO: This pardon is still something short of a full exoneration, which would affirmatively state the innocence of these four men including your father. Do you plan to keep fighting for that further step?

GREENLEE: Yes, that is to totally clear my father's name. And if it takes exoneration to do that, I will not quit. I may get tired. And my father say, rest if you may but just don't quit. I will not quit until it is done.

SHAPIRO: You have one son. What do you want him to know about his late grandfather, your father?

GREENLEE: My father was a proud man, was a family man, was one that would protect his children no matter what. He was a person that felt compassion for the underdog. My father loved his family, respected authority and taught us to do the same. And I have passed that on to my son, my nieces and nephews.

SHAPIRO: Carol Greenlee, daughter of Charles Greenlee, one of the Groveland Four posthumously pardoned by Florida's Clemency Board. Thank you so much for joining us today.

GREENLEE: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.