Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King

Devil in the Grove won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2013.

Last month’s selection for our Diversity Book Club was the Pulitzer Prize-winning Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King about Thurgood Marshall and his NAACP colleagues defending black men against racist charges. I’m working on a review of the book. In the meantime, here are two new words I learned.


Hoping to keep within Lake County’s jurisdiction any inquiries into the fatal shooting, Willis McCall had asked Judge Futch to have a “court-appointed elisor” investigate the death of Samuel Shepherd, but Futch had declined, stating, “the Governor said he would not recognize such a person.” p. 241

My Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (published in 1979) doesn’t have an entry for elisor. to the rescue — an elisor is a person who performs the duties of a sheriff when he’s disqualified from doing it himself. In this case, Sheriff McCall shot Shepherd. Even in the racist climate of Lake County, Florida, at that time, he couldn’t investigate the incident himself.


It was Hunter’s galluses that captured Marshall’s eye. Red galluses….If segregation and white supremacy wanted a symbol in the South, it was found in red galluses. pp. 293, 294

My college dictionary did better with this one. As I guessed from context, galluses mean “suspenders” in some American dialects. This may have been a deliberate choice on the part of the author — aside from expressing a Southern dialect, the word “galluses” is related to the word “gallows.” Appropriate in a book that discusses lynching.

button for Wondrous Words Wednesday memeWondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by Bermudaonion’s Weblog. Kathy says: “Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.”

Signature of Joy Weese Moll


Elisor and Galluses #WondrousWordsWednesday — 13 Comments

  1. Both words are new to me. I live near Lake County, Florida and have never heard anyone use the word galluses. Must have stopped using it before I moved to the area.

  2. Both new to me- sounds like an interesting book! Race relations always intrigue me. I like the blog update. I’ve changed my design as well when I heard Weaver II was losing its support. What theme is this?

    • The theme is called Twenty Fourteen. I want to make some changes to the colors (but it’s not as obvious how to do it as it was with 2010 Weaver) and rescue some sidebar items that went missing when I updated. What theme are you using?

      • I’m using Graphy. It’s not perfect… I don’t like how the featured image for each post shows up at the beginning of my posts, or that my header gets lost once you leave the home page, but I do like the open feeling of it. I’m not sure if the serif font is a good thing… but will stick with it for now.

  3. Those are two interesting words. For some reason, galluses brings back childhood memories of relatives calling each other galluses. I’m not sure what they meant exactly, but at the time I thought they meant “idiot or dummy.”

  4. I’ve heard the word “galluses” on t.v. Used for suspenders. I didn’t relate it to gallows and lynchings. Thank you for the book title. I really like the theme of your book club. The recommended titles are good too. How does a person become a member? Is it just for BEA?

    • Our book club meets in real space and time! If you live in the St. Louis area, we’d love to have you! But, I’m guessing that if you did we’d have hooked up by now.

  5. Good catch on the galluses/gallows! I’ve seen the word before, but if it wasn’t in context I’d never know it.And I’ve never heard of elisor, at first I thought it said elsinor.

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