Tuesday, June 06, 2023

ANOTHER VICTORY: SJSO Website Removes Its False Statement about "Exoneration" of Segregationist Sheriff L.O. Davis

The St. Johns County Sheriff's office on the morning of June 6, 2023 removed a false statement that disgraced segregationist Sheriff LAWRENCE O. DAVIS was "exonerated" by the Florida Senate of corruption charges. DAVIS encumbered the position from 1949-1971, when he was removed by the Florida Senate on 44-2 vote. 

Nearly ten (10) years ago, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech, I wrote and requested removal from the Sheriff's website of three (3) extravagant falsehoods about Dr. King and DAVIS, by e-mail to the then-Sheriff, DAVID SHOAR.   

Each of the three (3) falsehoods was previously published in a 20th Century Sheriffs section of the 1995 yearbook of the St. Johns County Sheriff's office, under Sheriff Neil Perry.

Sheriff SHOAR never wrote me back about the falsehoods and never explained the etiology of the pro-segregationist falsehoods on the website of the St. Johns County Sheriff.

The falsehoods were that: 

(1) DAVIS held the town together during civil rights demonstrations, when in fact he was an ally of the KKK and found in contempt of court by United States District Court Judge Bryan Simpson; 

(2) Dr. King was arrested here in 1964 by "federal agents," and 

(3) In 1971 the Floridan State Senate "exonerated" DAVIS when in truth and in fact, the Florida Senate confirmed the Governor's removal action and removed Sheriff DAVIS from office by 44-2 vote. 

The first two falsehoods were ultimately removed over the hears.

But the lying statement about DAVIS's putative exoneration remained until June 6, 2023. Thanks to Sheriff Robert Hardwick and Captain Durden for removing the false statement after I brought it up during public comment on the Sheriff's proposed FY 2024 budget. In speaking to County Commission several times this year, I requested action to remove the falsehood, most recently by analogy to the federal Data Quality Act.  

Thank you, SJSO, for removing the last of the falsehoods, nine (9) years, nine (9) months and nine (9) days after I first requested it by e-mail to Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, on August 28, 2013, the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech.   No thanks to insolent, incompetent, corrupt ex-Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, who legally changed his name from "HOAR" in 1994.

SJSO: Please consult with county historians to produce a more balanced history of 20th century Sheriffs for our website, including accurate depictions of past wrongs!

Facts matter. 

Corrupt segregationist Sheriff LAWRENCE O. DAVIS was not "exonerated."

Michelle O'Connell did not commit suicide.

Justice for Michelle O'Connell.


From "20th Century Sheriffs" section of SJSO website on June 6, 2023, before deletion of the falsehood about DAVIS being "exonerated." The corrected website does not yet say that DAVIS was removed by the Florida Senate on 44-2 vote. (I've marked the now-deleted falsehood in red with strike-through, so people will always remember that we once had segregationist St. Johns County Sheriffs who committed crimes that were covered up by their successors, who were willing to spend public monies on lies:

Sheriff Lawrence O. “L.O.” Davis – 1949 until 1970. Sheriff Davis held office for 21 years. During those years, society saw a changing culture. In 1952, a new jail was completed, and Sheriff Davis moved his headquarters from the old jail on McWilliams Street to a new jail on Lewis Speedway.

One of Sheriff Davis’ deputies, Deputy Masters, was on the beach patrolling and found a man sleeping on the beach. Deputy Masters, being in civilian clothes, wearing a gun and a very small Sheriff’s shield, approached the man. When the man awakened, he saw Deputy Masters’ gun and thought he was being robbed. The man then reached for his gun, and Deputy Masters shot the man. Later at the hospital, Deputy Masters asked the man why in the world did you go for a gun? The man said, “I thought your were trying to rob me.” The next day, Deputy Masters went down to the store, bought khaki work shirts and slacks, and pinned his shield on his shirt. Later Sheriff Davis got patches, and they were sewn onto the khaki shirt. From there, our current Sheriff’s uniform developed into what it is today.

It was also during Sheriff Davis’ time that the first marked patrol car was put on the street. Painted green and white with a star on the sides, the car was assigned to Deputy Noah Carter.

One major development that his tenure as Sheriff saw was the civil rights movement. In 1963, the Reverend Martin Luther King was arrested by deputies and booked into the St. Johns County Jail. Shortly afterwards, Dr. King and others were released from jail.

Sheriff Davis was one of the founders of the Florida Sheriff’s Boys Ranch, which grew from a small camp on the banks of the Suwannee River to a working ranch system, serving thousands of Florida’s children every year.

In 1970, then Governor Claude Kirk removed Sheriff Davis from office based on allegations made by several individuals. Subsequently, in a trial, Sheriff Davis was found innocent. Later, at hearings in Tallahassee in front of the Senate, Sheriff Davis was exonerated. Governor Kirk appointed Dudley Garrett, to take Sheriff Davis’ place.

In the 1972 election, “L.O.” Davis tried to regain the office, but lost to Sheriff Garrett.


In 1970, then Governor Claude Kirk removed Sheriff Davis from office based on allegations made by several individuals. Governor Kirk had appointed Dudley Garrett, to take Sheriff Davis’ place.

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