My name is Ovell Smith Krell. I am a sister of George Owen Smith who was an inmate at Florida Industrial School for Boys in Marianna, Florida (now known as Dozier School for Boys).
My brother, age 14 ran away from home in the spring of 1940 (month unknown) soon afterward my parents received word he was in jail in Tavares, Fl. for stealing a car and wrecking it, my brother had never driven a car in his life. He was in the company of a 19 year old boy who was released to his parents to go home in Georgia.
My brother was taken to court and sent to this school in Marianna, Florida. My parents learned of this when they received a letter from him after he arrived in Marianna. At the school-a few months passed- my Mother had not heard from him again, she wrote to the Superintendent, Millard Davidson, to inquire about him. She was notified at this time that he had escaped and his whereabouts were unknown. Shortly thereafter they were notified that he was in custody of Polk County, Fl. at the sheriff's dept. in Bartow, Florida. My Father went down there and was told he had already left for Marianna to be returned to the school.
My Mother wrote Mr. Davidson again and she received a letter from my brother advising he had been returned to the school and I quote, "I got what was coming to me". We later learned from a boy who was there ate the same time that they took my brother to the White House and when they brought him out they were carrying him. The boy said they heard his screams and that he was taken to the infirmary (which accounts for the time we did not hear from him). The letter mentioned above is the last communication we ever had with my brother.
In late October, 1940 my Mother again wrote to Mr. Davidson but never heard from him. She wrote to him again in late December, 1940. She received a letter in January, 1941 advising that they, the school had no knowledge of my brotherís whereabouts. (I have enclosed a copy of the letter).
We heard nothing else for about three weeks. She wrote again advising Mr. Davidson she was coming up there in two days to investigate my brother's disappearance. Apparently, Mr. Davidson received this letter on January 23, 1941. The minister of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Auburndale received a call on that day asking him to please contact my parents and tell them my brother had been found dead under a house in downtown Marianna.
His body was badly decomposed and the body had apparently been there since he left the school in November, 1940. The home he was found under was occupied by two men. One was a doctor and the other was a lawyer. They never once suspected anything nor claim to have smelled any foul odors coming out from under their house.
The minister was supposed to call Mr. Davidson back and tell him of my parentís plans.
The plans were for my brother to be kept at a funeral home in Marianna and they would be there the next day (January 26, 1941).
Upon arrival the funeral home advised they had not received my brother's body and knew nothing about the situation. My parents and I went out to the school and went into Mr. Davidson's office. He told us he did not receive any call from the minister and so my brother had been buried the afternoon of our arrival. Oddly, it was the SAME day he was found dead. He was buried at 3:30pm, within hours of his being found.
We learned that he had not even been embalmed, no casket, NOTHING. We were shown a fresh pile of dirt in a cemetery and were told that was where my brother was buried.
Unfortunately, my parents did not have the means to have the body excavated and moved to our home town, so we had to leave him buried there.
I would like to say here that we talked to a boy in Mr. Davidson's presence that told us he and my brother escaped one night and were walking towards town when they saw lights behind them and knew their absence had been discovered. The boy said he stopped and waited to be picked up, but that my brother ran out across an open field. He said the last thing he heard or saw were two or three guards shooting at my brother. I have always felt that he was shot and killed that night and had been buried to cover up that fact. Had my Mother not been so persistent in finding out what happened to my brother, he would have not have been reported missing or dead.
I think they dug up his body and put him under the house where he was found, so they could avoid being investigated on his disappearance. When we got home we had a letter from a minister in Marianna, telling us he had been called out to preside over my brother's grave. Although we never saw his body, I do believe he was killed and buried in the cemetery at the school. It is a cemetery where there were a lot of graves with no markers, not one. We were allowed to go only where they said my brother was buried, absolutely no further. We do know he was there by the letters we received. We know something happened to him, ending in his death and that the school covered it up, which was evidenced by the quick burial of his body.
I would like to state that this horrible thing happening to my brother destroyed my Mother's mental and physical health, which in turn caused all of us to suffer the rest of our lives and she never recovered from it.
My Fathers name was George W. Smith and my Mother was Frances S. Smith and we resided in Auburndale, Fl. during this time.
I want to thank you for reading this and taking the time to listen to my story. Should you need further assistance or information from me, please do not hesitate to give me a call.