Age of Barbarity: The Forgotten Fight for the Soul of Florida

Billy Townsend

Billy Townsend was an award-winning reporter and editor for several Florida newspapers, including the Tampa Tribune and Lakeland Ledger. He began his career with the Palatka Daily News. Townsend is a fourth-generation son of Palatka. His great grandfather, Judge Vertrees Walton, was a key figure in the historic 1920s struggle against the Klan and Protestant vigilantism. Townsend knows intimately many of the hallowed spaces where Florida’s Age of Barbarity reached its climax. Today Townsend lives in Lakeland, on Florida’s I-4 Corridor, with his wife and three children. He writes for professional services firm PwC and provides cultural and historical commentary at


A near civil war swept Florida—and much of America—in the wake of World War I and Prohibition. It pitted white versus black, Protestant versus Catholic, wet versus dry, and savagery versus civilization.


Age of Barbarity: The Forgotten Fight for the Soul of Florida is the untold story of this civil war, as lived through the eyes of the people who fought. Florida’s conflict saw the storming of jails, the maiming of Catholic clergy, and the fierce resistance of patriots, black and white.


The Florida Ku Klux Klan reached the peak of its power there in 1926. And it was there that men and women of bravery and desperation dealt the Klan its most significant defeat. The multi-racial, multi-faith Florida we know today—much like the America we know—emerged from the crucible of the extraordinarily violent 15-year period between 1915 and 1930.