It is with great sorrow that we, the family of our beloved Clay Rivers, announce his passing. His body was found by authorities late last night in a wooded area in Ocoee, hanging from a tree. Please respect our privacy during this time of deep mourning as we try to understand this unspeakable act. Thank you.
—The Rivers Family
The fear that members of my family would ever have to post the above message or something similar has been a palpable fear I’ve lived with since I was in my early twenties. While I seldom, if ever, had reason to be in Ocoee, I grew up hearing rumors about Ku Klux Klan activity in Lake County. This has been a pervasive fear among Black families who have lived in central Florida long enough to know of Ocoee’s reputation as a sundown town. For years, a well-known sign even gave public notice that Black folks should not be found in Ocoee after sunset.