Days of Fear: A Lynching in St. Petersburg

By Jon Wilson and Jane A. McNeil

         Days of Fear exposes the shocking story of a gruesome 1914 murder in St. Petersburg, Florida and the calculated lynching of the Black man accused. Who killed Frank Sherman with a shotgun blast inches from his head? What in the restless photographer’s life led to his bloody end? And why did powerful men decide John Evans had to die for the crime? This book explores true-crime events buried for decades. It tells of the friendless Evans torn from his jail cell, marched down the main street, strung by his neck from a pole, and riddled with gunfire from men, women, and children. It suggests that someone close to Sherman killed him, igniting three days of brutality in a town that cherished its reputation as a placid and profitable resort. Days of Fear describes in detail St. Petersburg as it existed more than a century ago – a growing waterfront community particularly comfortable for white people but often difficult for Black people.  It tells a grim story the authors hope is relevant to the twenty-first century’s periodic mob violence and domestic terrorism.    

“ . . . this book should be read by all, from school children to politicians, to  understand the past and help heal the present.”

Evelyn Newman Phillips, PhD Professor, Central Connecticut State University                   

“As a former police officer and chief in the City of St. Petersburg, I implore all of its citizens, criminal justice personnel and government officials to read the book and commit themselves to ensuring the travesties Wilson and McNeil expose are never repeated, either by lynching in the traditional sense or through other forms of police brutality and unjustified shootings. While informative, more importantly, St. Petersburg’s sad history is prescriptive.”

Dr. Goliath J. Davis III, PhD


Meet the Authors

Jane A. McNeil


     Jane A. Mc Neil, a playwright and philanthropist, was born in Winter Park, Florida and spent her childhood in St. Petersburg. She earned her MFA degree in Creative Writing at Rosemont College in Rosemont, Pa., and earned a Certification in Practical Theatre from Villanova University. Currently, she is working on the adaptation of her late mother’s play, based on the incidents that took place in November 1914. Said McNeil: “If we bury the racial crimes of the past, those who were not held responsible will succeed from the grave in denying their guilt.”

Jon Wilson


Jon Wilson was born in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and moved to St. Petersburg with his family in 1956. He worked for thirty-seven years as a reporter and editor for the St. Petersburg Evening Independent and the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times). After retiring from newspapers, he worked as Florida Humanities communications consultant for eleven years. Wilson holds master’s degrees in journalism studies and in liberal arts from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He is the author or co-author of five books about St. Petersburg, and in 2021 received a Key to the City from Mayor Rick Kriseman for inclusive chronicling of the city’s history.

Are you an author?

St. Petersburg Press Supports Authors to get their work Published.