Volusia County coalition honors lynching victims

Lee Snell, killed in 1939, to be recognized in National Memorial of Peace and Justice

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A Volusia County organization is honoring the life of a man who was lynched 80 years ago.

Lee Snell was killed in 1939 and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says nationally, he’s one of more than 3,500 people killed by lynching over a span of a few decades.

“He never made it to jail, he never had his day in court,” said Daisy Grimes, with the Volusia Remembers Coalition.

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Grimes said Snell was a World War I veteran, husband and father.

He was a cab owner and was driving in April of 1939 when he hit and killed a white child who rode his bike out in front of him. Grimes said the sheriff was taking him to jail when they were stopped on Old Deland Road.

“The sheriff got out, he took Mr. Snell out with him, supposedly to protect him, or whatever, but the brothers of this young kid who was killed, they shot Mr. Snell in the knee,” she said.

The brothers lynched Snell but were later acquitted.

Eighty-two years later, the coalition is collecting the soil from the lynching site and placing it in two jars.

Lee Snell, a lynching victim killed in 1939, will be recognized in the National Memorial of Peace and Justice. (Image: Molly Reed/WKMG-TV) (WKMG)

“One will remain in Volusia County and we’ll display it at various places throughout the county,” said Grady Ballenger, a professor emeritus at Stetson University and co-chair of Volusia Remembers.

The second will be filled on Saturday during a virtual ceremony. Ballenger said there will be international organizations with hundreds of members also attending the ceremony to honor Snell. The jar will then be sent to the National Memorial for Justice and Peace.

Ballenger said Snell’s name will sit among thousands.

“Just to see that range of soils is a reminder that we Americans are a range of skin colors but at base, we are all human beings,” he said.

Snell is one of five lynching victims the organization and equal justice initiative have identified in Volusia County.

“We know there’s more than 4,000 lynchings in this country as we know there’s more than five in Volusia. It’s just five that we’ve been able to identify,” Grimes said.

Volusia Remembers is also working to get the other four victims’ jars in the memorial. It’s also going to put historical landmark signs at the sites of the lynchings.

You can find information on how to attend Saturday’s virtual ceremony here.