#Willie James Howard, 15-years-old, sent cards to all his co-workers at the Van Priest Store in Live Oak, Florida. After all it was Christmas, and Howard was in a cheerful mood. Unlike the other cards, Willie’s card to Cynthia Goff, a white store employee, revealed that Howard had a crush on the young girl. In his greeting card to the young girl he simply expressed that he someday hoped white people and #black people would like one another. At the end of the text he wrote: “I love your name. I love your voice. For a S.H (sweetheart) you are my choice.” He signed it Y.K.W (You Know Who).
Although, the card was only meant for Cynthia, her father, Phil Goff read the card. He took two friends along with him to young Willie’s home and demanded to see the boy. Despite Willie’s mother pleading with the men, they dragged Willie away, and then they later kidnapped Willie’s father, James Howard from work. The white men drove the two Howards to the embankment of the Suwanee River, they bound Willie’s hands and feet and stood him near the edge of the water. The men told Willie he had two choices, either he could jump or be shot. Young Willie jumped into the cold water. His father was forced to watch at gunpoint. The next day Willie’s body was pulled from the river.
When questioned by the police, Goff and his accomplices admitted to taking Willie to the river to punish him. But they only had plans to scare him; however, Willie became hysterical thinking that his father was going to whip him and jumped in the water unprovoked. Willie’s father feared for his life so he signed a statement supporting the white men’s account that night. Shortly after the signed statement, James Howard and his remaining family fled Live Oak.