February is Black History Month. Sadly, one of the country’s most disturbing cases of racial injustice occurred in Lake County. In 1949, four black men were falsely accused of raping a white Groveland teenager. The men—Ernest Thomas, Samuel Shepherd, Charles Greenlee, and Walter Irvin—became known as the Groveland Four. Ernest was killed by a mob led by then Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall. In 1951, the sheriff shot Samuel and Walter point blank, killing Samuel. The gross injustice the accused endured is detailed in “Legal Lynching: The Sad Saga of the Groveland Four” written by award-winning journalist Gary Corsair. The book can be ordered on Amazon.com. In February 2020, a monument to the memory of the Groveland Four was erected in downtown Tavares, outside the historic courthouse where the 1949 trial was held.
MORE BLACK HISTORY
In January 1923, a racially-motivated massacre of black people and the destruction of their town, Rosewood, occurred in Levy County. A 1997 movie titled “Rosewood” recreated the shameful event. It starred Jon Voight, Ving Rhames, and Esther Rolle. Parts of the movie were filmed in east Lake County towns, including Cassia and Mount Plymouth. The movie didn’t make much noise at the box office, but it did garner considerable acclaim. The New York Times’ Stanley Couch called Rosewood Singleton’s finest work, writing, “Never in the history of American film had Southern racist hysteria been shown so clearly. Color, class and sex were woven together on a level that Faulkner would have appreciated.”
WORTHY OF THE HOOP-LA
You don’t have to wait until next month’s NCAA Tournament to watch some exciting basketball. Montverde Academy, which won its sixth GEICO High School National championship in 2022, remains one of the nation’s elite teams and features some true standouts. Rivals.com ranks Sean Stewart as the 10th best player in the Class of 2023. KJ Evans is ranked as the 16th best player, and Marvel Allen is the country’s 52nd best player. Sean committed to Duke, KJ will play at Oregon, and Marvel is headed to Georgetown
'PLAY IT COOL'
A little ‘drama’ on Valentine’s Day has never (we don’t think) resulted in divorce. Plus, taking your loved one to a local theatre production is much more stimulating than handing her a bouquet of roses. Be bold and try something different on this day of love. You have several theatre choices, including Bay Street Players in Eustis, IceHouse Theatre in Mount Dora, Melon Patch Theatre in Leesburg, and Moonlight Players Theatre in Clermont.
A NEW ERA
Heather Bentley Long, MSN, was appointed CEO of Leesburg-based UF Health Central Florida. She brings more than three decades of nursing and hospital operations experience to the role. Most recently, she served as chief operating officer of UF Health Central Florida. She also held various executive leadership positions with Altamonte Springs–based AdventHealth. UF Health Central Florida includes UF Health The Villages Hospital, UF Health Leesburg Hospital, and the UF Health outpatient network.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Lake County Schools announced that the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) selected Michelle Metheny, a teacher at Tavares High, to receive a $500 Diana McLendon Excellence in Teaching Award. Ms. Metheny was recognized at the 30th annual Statewide CARD Conference in Orlando on Jan. 13, 2023. Diana McLendon, for whom the award is named, was a champion for students with autism and was known for her innovation, teaching excellence, impact on student success, collaboration, and leadership. The award recognizes teachers who share her passion, advocacy, and excellence in the classroom. Congratulations, Ms. Metheny!
February is not only reserved for lovers, but for lovers of books. That’s because February is National Library Lovers Month, dedicated to the people who love the buildings, halls, or rooms that house numerous collections of books, books, and books, says nationalday.com. If you are eager to celebrate, you are lucky because Lake County is home to about 20 libraries. Visit www.mylakelibrary.org for addresses and more information.
Collectors will love the Renninger’s 2023 Antique Extravaganza set for February 17-19 at Renninger’s Twin Markets, 20641 U.S. Hwy. 441, Mount Dora. The special event features more than 800 vendors selling antiques, collectibles, vintage items, and more. The show is outdoors in open air buildings and tents. This popular event includes the Indoor Antiques Center and the Street of Shops at the Antiques Center. For more information, visit www.renningers.net/mt-dora or call 352.383.3141.
UP, UP AND LONG AGO
In late 2009, Tavares officials rebranded their community and adopted the city’s current slogan, “America’s Seaplane City.” And although the slogan is on the newer side, the concept is not. In fact, the city’s first recorded seaplane flight off Lake Eustis took place on Feb. 23, 1914. According to information found on Tavares’ official website, the flight—made in a Benoist airboat—was piloted by Tony Janus, the first licensed airline pilot in the world.
FUN FOR PUPS
Looking for some dog-friendly fun? Consider “Poochapalooza”! This unique event starts at 10am on February 18 at Lake Louisa State Park, 7305 S. US Highway 27 in Clermont. The day features vendors, exhibitors, demonstrations, food, drawings for prizes, and activities for your pooch, all included in the $5 (per car) admission fee. For more information, contact Amy Schulz by phone at 352.250.4801 or by email at email@example.com.