Sunday, March 08, 2009

Wrongly Convicted Black Man’s Murder Case Shines Harsh Light on 1960’s Arcadia Florida Sheriff, In 2009 Florida Cop Quits Over KKK Membership.

Wrongly convicted black man's murder case shines harsh light on Arcadia. James Joseph Richardson was convicted of murder in the 1967 deaths of his seven young children in Arcadia, but was exonerated two decades later.

Another 20 years later, he is seeking compensation for the conviction under a new state law. He could get more than $1 million.

A white sheriff and a white prosecutor in Arcadia who, the story goes, framed a poor black fruit picker and brought shame to this town. Arcadia Fl Sheriff Frank Cline was immediately suspicious of Richardson. To this day, Arcadia Sheriff Frank Cline's role in the investigation is deeply debated. Some say Arcadia Florida Sheriff Cline framed Richardson.

The Florida Ku Klux Klan’s ability to survive "repeated cycles of expansion and decline. During the 1960s, the Reverend Charles Conley ("Connie") Lynch, called the KKK’s "traveling parson," was one of the most popular Klan speakers when he appeared at rallies in his trademark pink Cadillac and wearing a Confederate battle flag vest in Central and South Florida towns.

Between 1865 and 1965 over 2400 African Americans were lynched in the United States. In Florida, when two black men attempted to vote in November 1920 in Ocoee, Orange County FL, the Klan attacked the black community. In the ensuing violence, six black residents and two whites were killed, and twenty five black homes, two churches, and a fraternal lodge were destroyed.

During the Depression, the Klan continued to wither away -- except in Florida, which had an estimated 30,000 members. Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa were the most powerful klaverns. Although Florida Klansmen continued to terrorize African Americans, they expanded their targets to include union organizers, particularly in the citrus belt from Orlando to Tampa.

One of the most notorious Klan incidents in Florida history occurred in Tampa in 1937, when labor organizer Joseph Shoemaker was flogged, castrated, and tarred and feathered, Shoemaker eventually died from his injuries.

KKK activism increased as a reaction against the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Among the more notorious murders by Klan members in Florida are;
1). The 1951 Christmas Eve bombing of the home of
NAACP activists Harry and Harriette Moore in Mims, Florida, resulting in their deaths
2). Marianna Daily Times-Courier, Marianna Fl, October 26, 1934. "
Big Preparation Made for Lynching Tonight" of the Negro Claude Neal.

During the 1970s and 80s, the Klan splintered into competing factions and its membership declined. That trend continued in the 1990s. NYT...Ku Klux Klan Stages Parade Through Palm Beach Fl July 29, 1990 . Thirty members of the Ku Klux Klan and white racist youth groups marched in Palm Beach Fl this morning in front of 1,000 spectators, journalists and police officers.

Today, although its numbers are relatively small,
Florida has one of the more active Klans, and its commitment to racial hatred and prejudice have not gone away.The KKK organizations and their Florida home towns in 2009 are listed below.
• Tampa Knights, Valrico (East of Tampa)
• New Order of Knights, DeLand
• Klay County Klaven, Grandin (East of Gainsville)
• United Clan of the Confederacy, Interlackien
• Realm of Florida, Melbourne
• Commonwealth Knights, Christmas (East of Orlando)
• Keystone Knights, Davie (West of Fort Lauderdale)
• Invisible Knights, Kathleen (near Lakeland)
• Suwannee River Knights, Chiefland
• Knights of Lockhart, Orlando
• Knights of the Forrest, Gainesville
• Knights of the Apocalypse, Valrico (East of Tampa)
• Confederate Independent Klansman, Holder (near Crystal River)
• Florida Knights, Lake City

Not much has changed in Florida since 1967 when James Joseph Richardson was framed for murder in Arcadia Fl by what appears to be the white Sheriff, see following current articles;

October 2, 2008, Marianna Fl teacher ‘told students thatCHANGE’ stood for’ NXXXXR...November 10, 2008 Florida High School Keeps KKK Founder's Name. More than half the students at Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Fla., are black, and some members of the community object that they are forced to attend a school that was named in honor of a racist.

February 6, 2009, Florida Police Officer Resigns Over KKK Allegations. A Fruitland Park police officer resigned after an investigation revealed that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Eyewitness News discovered that officer James Elkins quit his job when the Fruitland Park Police Department opened an investigation, but by that time Elkins had already quit.. "Yes I am an ex-Klansman and I'm done," Elkins told Eyewitness News. Fruitland Park investigators said the KKK certificates with Elkins' name on them show he's been hiding behind the KKK robes of hate since at least 2006.
The nature of Klan influence in Florida communities, showing how it joined forces with politicians, religious institutions, and especially police departments, giving its crusades for "law and order" credibility. Even after its heyday of the 1920s, Klansmen in many communities continued to serve as poll watchers in contested elections, state investigators into racial crimes, key contributors and supporters of important politicians, and especially as regular and deputized members of police forces.

As late as 1952, a Grand Dragon (state president) spoke to the Florida Sheriff’s Association where he received applause for condemning an assassinated civil rights worker as a troublemaker.

Only in the 1970s did Klansmen have trouble keeping their jobs in Florida law enforcement, a reversal of fortune best symbolized by the defeat of the Klan sheriff of Lake County FL, Willis McCall, for reelection after beating a black prisoner to death in 1972.