It's been 70 years since one of the worst episodes of racial violence in Florida history began.
Four black men were wrongly accused of raping a white woman in 1949. The four men became known as the Groveland Four. They were tortured, murdered or falsely imprisoned by a Lake County sheriff for a crime they didn't commit.
Now the Orlando Sentinel, then called the Orlando Morning Sentinel, is apologizing for its role in the chain of events.
"The story had many more ugly twists and turns marked by lies, cover-ups and injustice," the paper's editorial page wrote Thursday. "You wouldn't know it from reading the Orlando Morning Sentinel in the years immediately following the incident."
Rather than questioning the official version of what happened, the Sentinel stated, the Morning Sentinel sympathized with the culprit, Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall.
After a federal grand jury was impaneled in 1950 to consider civil rights violations in case, longtime Lake County reporter Ormund Powers responded with a lengthy article. Powers, who covered the incident from the start, wrote, "The case is closed, but angry and malicious words still come from a radical Northern Negro press and certain Negro writers."
Powers wrote fondly of McCall, one of the genuine villains in Central Florida's history. In a November 1951 column, Powers had this to say: "Knowing McCall as long as we have, and watching his face as he testified about the Shepherd-Irvin matter before the coroner's jury, we have no doubt he was telling the truth when he said the Negroes attacked him and he shot in self defense."
Many more examples are in the archives, and the coverage had consequences. In a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the convictions of Shepherd and Irvin, the Sentinel's electric chairs cartoon was cited as one of the factors that should have led to a change of venue in the men's original trial.
The Groveland Four coverage then would not happen today. Reporters and editors at the Sentinel are expected to question official versions of events, not to blindly accept them.
However, that does not excuse us from taking responsibility for past coverage, even if it was nearly 70 years ago.
In 2017, the Florida Legislature unanimously asked Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet to pardon the four men for the crimes they didn't commit. They didn't.
Today, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Cabinet will discuss the case.