THIS IS THE FIRST WEB SITE OF THE WHITE HOUSE BOYS. THE SITE WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1999 BY ROGER DEAN KISER, AUTHOR/CHILD ADVOCATE
(In 2001 Roger began writing the book "The White House Boys-An American Tragedy" which exposed the horrible abuses which occurred at the Florida Industrial School for Boys at Marianna (Later named "The Author G. Dozier School for Boys".
IN MEMORY OF OUR WHITE HOUSE BROTHERS:
John Brodnax * Roger Bryan * James Young * Jackie Florence * Michael O'McCarthy * Frank Marx * Randall Morgan Steed * Manuel Giddens * Michael Smelly * George Owen Smith * John Bennett * Ellis Adams * John GoForth * Timothy Gabriel * Don Brace * Hollis Sutton * Edgar Elton * James Bundy * Michael Bates * Richard Tabb * Michael Raines * William Michael Squires * Leonard Simmons * Eddie Gillman * Nathaniel Sawyer * Arthur Williams * Schley Hunter * Calvin Williams * Charlie Overstreet * Edward Fonders * George Robinson * Walter Askew * Nollie Davis * Robert Rhoden * Samuel Bethel * Lee Smith * Joe Stephens * Thomas Varnadoe * Richard Nelson * Robert Cato * Grady Huff * James (Joseph) Hammond * Earl Wilson * Billey Jackson * Richard Dees * Edwin Fudge * Larry E. Martin * Virgil "Ike" Dwight Whitten * David (Freddie) Hutchins * Stephen T. Turner * Emmett Gillman * Cecil Andrew Barger * Wayne Howard * George Edward Driver, Jr. * Thomas Edward Howard * John Argersinger * Leo Thomas Scott *
As the Dozier property is now up for sale to the general public; we need to make sure that this state request is adhered too and that the White House is not destroyed or desecrated in any manner as this is a historical building/site which needs to stand forever so that such atrocities will never happen again in the state of Florida.
Yes, we all know the Dozier School was just a reverent and pleasant Sunday School who brought the boys their slippers and kissed and hugged them each evening before tucking them into their nice warm beds.
MARIANNA — The old reform school on the edge of town is all but abandoned. The only activity is from a few guards who watch the gate to make sure the locals don't cut the razor wire and strip the darkened buildings bare of copper. But in this little blue-collar city a few miles up State Road 276, the shuttered campus, home for a more than a century to Florida's juvenile delinquents, has surged back into conversation.
They call Marianna the "City of Southern Charm," but that sweet-tea nickname has been poisoned, some here are saying, by its connection to the reform school, built in 1900, and by incessant derision from a group of several hundred men who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, extreme beatings from school staff and tales of classmates who disappeared.
But no matter how many tell of being tortured at the Florida School for Boys, no matter how similar their stories or how many old newspaper clippings support their claims, some residents here refuse to believe them.
And now that the state attorney general and a team of anthropologists from the University of South Florida want to exhume remains of boys buried in a neglected campus cemetery, to see how many died and how they met their deaths, locals are shoving back, trying to discredit the men and stop the exhumation.
"That stuff happened before I was a tickle in my daddy's drawers, and it can stay in the past," said Woody Hall, 43, who works for the local power company and thinks the men are after money. "Let old dogs rest. Let it be. Leave it alone."
"When they say torture and murder, it's a slur against us," said Sue Tindel, a clerk in the Jackson County courthouse. "It's personal."
It's personal because some in this Panhandle county of about 49,000 people know the men who ran the school. They sat by them at the Baptist church. They broke bread and rode horses together. They can't believe that respected members of the community would march off in the morning and do terrible things to boys behind closed doors.
"If anything suspicious had've gone on out there, I'd know," said Robert Earl Standland, 79, a lifelong friend of R.W. Hatton, one of the school's deceased disciplinarians who has been accused of abuse by scores of men. "He and I had a relationship such that he would've let me know."
In 2008, five men went public with stories of savage beatings in a dank building called the White House. More than 450 more have come forward since then making almost identical claims. But many believe that unassailable truth lies buried in the ground, proof to Marianna residents that they're not lying.
Horror next door
At a public meeting last week, a state NAACP representative who toured the campus recently with Sen. Bill Nelson compared the White House to a Nazi gas chamber at Dachau, Germany, suggesting that those who lived near the concentration camp did not know of the atrocities until the camp was liberated.
"I propose to you that many people in Jackson County did not know what was going on," Dale Landry, regional vice president of the NAACP, told the Jackson County Commission. "This is not an indictment of Jackson County."
A man from nearby Two Egg grew incensed.
"What kind of a situation are we in when people are comparing Marianna to Dachau? That is absolutely ridiculous!" said Dale Cox, a lay historian and former television reporter who interrupted the meeting. "Dozier school is no more Dachau than I'm Santa Claus."
Cox, 50, recent recipient of the Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year award, is leading the charge to disrupt the project. He prompted the Jackson County Commission to file a petition to intervene in the medical examiner's motion to exhume bodies from the cemetery, which is being considered now by a circuit court judge.
Cox has argued that Jackson County taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for the project. Last week, he asked the Marianna police chief to investigate whether anthropologists studying the old cemetery had the right to dig shallow trenches, a common process known as ground-truthing, while mapping the graveyard with ground-penetrating radar.
"If they violated state law, I feel they should be charged," Cox wrote to the chief. "I'm providing this for your information, but if you need extra information or someone to file a complaint, let me know!"
Chief Hayes Baggett told the Tampa Bay Times he spoke with state land officials and has chosen not to investigate.
"I'm not interested in wasting one taxpayer penny on a witch hunt," he said.
Voice for elderly
Cox said he's not motivated by money, and he's not writing a book about the controversy, as he did about a notorious, unsolved 1934 spectacle lynching in Jackson County. He said he's speaking for elderly citizens of Jackson County who feel they haven't had a voice in rebutting the abuse claims. But Cox's opposition to the cemetery survey stretches back a year, before the cemetery mapping project was widely known. Documents obtained by the Times show that Cox was urging his state lawmakers to stop the effort in April 2012.
"It strikes me as appalling and odd that taxpayer dollars would be spent on digging up graves that another taxpayer investigation has determined are in no way related to the allegations made against the school," he wrote, referring to a 2009 investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that relied on incomplete records and found that no prosecutable crimes had been committed.
"Is there no way that funding for this project can be withdrawn or eliminated by the State Legislature?" he wrote. "Marianna has suffered the loss of jobs and undeserved notoriety during a severe recession due to this fiasco and surely as taxpayers we shouldn't be called upon to fund the digging up of graves too."
The cost likely will be covered by the state and by federal grants. The state Senate in March recommended spending $200,000 on the project, and Nick Cox, statewide prosecutor for the Attorney General's Office, promised Jackson County commissioners that no one would ask the county to cover the cost.
Dale Cox said he first learned of the cemetery in the mid '80s, when he was working for a local television station. He researched it at the time for a story and has continued to learn more; he provided information to the FDLE during its investigation.
But Cox's record as an expert on the graveyard is blemished. He posted a photograph in 2009 on his blog that he claimed was an aerial shot of the cemetery. "As I have been reporting here all along, there are no 'mystery graves' or 'unmarked graves' in the little cemetery near Dozier School in Marianna," he wrote. "As I reported two weeks ago, most of the graves were there when the aerial photograph shown here was taken of the school area in 1940."
But graduate students at USF couldn't match the photograph with the known cemetery. They turned it 45 degrees counter-clockwise and the roads in the photograph matched a different part of campus, far from the known cemetery. Cox now says the geographical features he thought were graves were actually bee hives.
"He's a farce as far as I'm concerned," said Jerry Cooper of Cape Coral, who says he received more than 100 lashes in the White House in 1960 and paid for a lie detector test to prove it. "I don't know what his motivation is. It just don't add up."
Cox was also sure several years ago that the cemetery contained 31 graves, which matched the exact number of pipe crosses planted in the small clearing in the pines. But when the USF survey with ground-penetrating radar identified 50 possible grave shafts, many in the woods outside the perimeter of the cemetery, Cox changed his opinion. He thinks there are approximately 53 graves there now.
"At that time I was coming up with 31," he said in an interview. "But we knew there were gaps in the record."
Those with a personal stake in the exhumation wonder why Cox and others are opposing discovery with such certainty. Glen Varnadoe of Lakeland made a promise to his dying sister to find the remains of his uncle Thomas, who died at 13 after a month of incarceration. He was healthy when he was sent to the school, his family said, but school records say he died from pneumonia. The retired CEO has spent thousands of dollars on attorneys to stop the sale of the school property so anthropologists can continue searching for another graveyard.
"My biggest question is: What do they have to hide?" Varnadoe said. "If Marianna and Dale Cox want me off their rear-ends, they could walk out there and point to Thomas' grave and I'll get him and never visit their . . . town again."
Varnadoe wonders whether the Ku Klux Klan buried dead black men on school property. That may sound improbable to modern readers, but Thomas Varnadoe was reported dead on Oct. 26, 1934, the same day an illiterate black farmhand was tortured, killed, mutilated by a throng of 5,000, and then hanged from a tree that still stands outside the county courthouse. Jackson County in the early 20th century was well known for its lawlessness, violence and unabashed klan activity.
Between 1900 and 1934, six other black people were lynched, one of the largest counts of any Florida county at a time when the state had the highest ratio of lynchings to its black population of any other state. Three days before Thomas' death, the headline in one of the local papers read, "Ku Klux Klan May Ride Again, Jackson County Citizens May Rally to Fiery Cross to Protect Womanhood."
"We've been marking graves in this country since 1776," Varnadoe said. "There's a specific reason they didn't do it at that school. What else is buried at Dozier that the people of Jackson County don't want the rest of the world to know about?"
Varnadoe is one of four descendants of dead boys known to be buried on school property who approve of the exhumation. The Attorney General's Office is trying to locate others, and a circuit court judge will likely entertain opposing opinions. A case management hearing has been scheduled for Monday.
Cox said he can't object to Varnadoe's desire to retrieve his uncle's remains.
"I do object to digging up everyone in order to find one body," he said. "I have serious questions about, for the next year, for the next two years, the publicity they're going to generate against our community. And if they don't find what they want out there, it's going to go on. We all know that. They tell us that this is to give us closure? This is just the beginning."
The cost of bad press
It's hard to tell whether the publicity surrounding the school has hurt the county's economy, outside of several hundred jobs lost when the state closed the school in 2011.
Pam Fuqua, executive director of the Jackson County Tourist Development Council, hasn't seen a measurable impact on tourism dollars coming into Jackson County, she acknowledges, but there is anecdotal evidence. Fuqua recently brought a bus of Canadian snowbirds from Bay County to Jackson County, and as the group drove past the old school, many of them recognized it and asked about its current status. That, she said, reflects poorly on the people here.
"It's had a negative impact on the community," Fuqua said, "What we need is some closure."
The biggest draw to the county is eco-tourism, like the magnificent caverns and cool clear springs. The second is history, she said, the antebellum mansions and historic buildings. It's a certain version of history the folks here want to show off, separate from the boys' school.
"We don't want to be known for this," she said.
USF team looks for lost graves at closed Dozier School for Boys
By Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer
The fates that befell boys across a century at the state's oldest reform school, here on the outskirts of town, are hard to imagine. They came here to be reformed and some never left. � Eight burned to death in 1914, locked inside a tinderbox dormitory. More than 20 died from influenza and pneumonia. One boy was murdered by his peers while locked inside a 7- by 10-foot building for days. Another died, according to school records, during a tonsillectomy. Records suggest at least 81 boys met their deaths in state custody in the 111 years the school was open.
For the families of boys who died here, what's more disturbing is that no one knows for sure where they and dozens of others are buried. The school cemetery, called Boot Hill, was neglected for years. School burial records are incomplete. Folklore is inadequate.
But a team of anthropologists, biologists and archaeologists from the University of South Florida has been working quietly to find answers in a place shrouded by mystery. The massive multidisciplinary project, made public for the first time here, aims to preserve the records, inventory historic buildings, find the graves, identify the forgotten remains, protect the historic cemetery and open it to families.
"It's a humanitarian effort," said Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist and assistant professor at USF who is guiding the project. "I hope for those families that have questions and are looking for information, that this will begin to give them some of the information and history they're looking for."
Thirty-one metal crosses in a little clearing in the woods mark a mystery.
The crosses, situated inside cable fence that measures 11.5 meters by 15.5 meters (38 feet by 51 feet), were planted in 1996, after a former superintendent discovered the old graveyard in disarray and grown over. Trees had fallen on concrete crosses that had been placed in the 1960s. Workers discarded those in the woods and planted the new metal crosses in rows based on depressions in the ground where they thought boys were buried.
The state closed the campus in June after a century-long cycle of scandal and short-lived reform at the school, which has been known as the Florida Industrial School for Boys, the Florida School for Boys and the Dozier School for Boys. Over the years, kids were locked in irons, beaten with a leather strap in a building called the White House, locked in isolation for as long as three weeks, hog-tied. The school has been subject to lawsuits and scrutiny, but no one has been able to answer the questions about the cemetery.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated in 2008 and 2009, but could not come up with records that showed who had been buried where, or exactly how many bodies were buried at Boot Hill. The FDLE determined that ground-penetrating radar would be futile because so much time had passed. "There were too many variables," the lead investigator said in 2009.
But Kimmerle, 39, thought radar could work. She and archaeologist Richard Estabrook applied for an archaeological research permit with the state's Division of Historical Resources and persuaded the Department of Environmental Protection to grant access to the cemetery.
The two have used GPR to find clandestine burials for law enforcement agencies in Florida and to map historic burial grounds. Kimmerle was chief anthropologist in 2001 for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and she worked with a Peruvian team in 2008 near Putis, a hamlet in southern Peru where men, women and children were buried in mass graves since the 1980s.
In February, she and her team began mapping Boot Hill using GPR and other "ground truthing" techniques to try to establish how many boys are buried here and where exactly their remains are located. The radar suggested the burials extended into a patch of woods north of the existing cemetery clearing.
Kimmerle enlisted the help of the warden at nearby Jackson County Correctional Facility. Convicts cleared trees, kudzu and underbrush from woods to the north, opening a large area around the base of an old oak.
On Tuesday morning, as the sun peeked over the pines, Kimmerle and her team drove down a narrow path in the woods and parked short of a small clearing. They hauled their gear, shovels and shears and trowels, in 5-gallon buckets to the edge of the cemetery and found stakes they had used to mark their old grids.
Estabrook inspected the new clearing. "They did a great job," he said. "This is perfect."
"Maybe we can jog around these trees and treat this as its own little grid," Kimmerle said.
They staked out a grid and Estabrook went to work with the GPR, which he named Matilda, pushing the device back and forth along the lines, like mowing a lawn. The GPR recorded 250 subsurface samples every 2 centimeters, and Estabrook watched the monitor, noting places where the radar picked up an anomaly, a spot where the subsurface density changes.
"We've got an anomaly right here," he said, toeing the ground.
"Nice," Kimmerle said.
She followed, marking the anomalies with orange flags. Before long, a portion of the new clearing was speckled with markers. Estabrook sat at a card table and looked at his laptop. Images from the radar flashed on the screen. He explained what he was looking at.
"The cemetery isn't really contained here," he said, pointing to the white crosses. "It's more over in that area. That's the area we're interested in. That's why we came back."
After lunch, Kimmerle surveyed the new field.
"I think I want a trench," she said. "I think I want to do it here."
Four graduate anthropology students set to work under the hot sun. They staked out a section of earth 5 meters long and half a meter wide, running north and south, perpendicular to the graves, which have an east-west orientation in folk cemeteries. With shovels and a pickax, they broke through the topsoil and gradually penetrated a layer of orange clay.
When the trench was half a meter deep, they scraped flat the walls and floor. Most of the trench walls revealed a clean line between the dark brown topsoil and the orange subsurface clay. But at two wide spots that should have been solid clay, you could see a mixture of clay and dark brown soil.
"There's one there," Kimmerle said. "That's a shaft."
"Yeah," said John Powell, a grad student. "That's a big change."
"Let's clean that up," Kimmerle said.
The burial shafts aligned perfectly with anomalies that had registered on the GPR. The mixture of soil and clay suggested that at some point in the past, a hole had been dug and filled in, Kimmerle said.
"We had a strong sense when we came this far that the cemetery had moved," said Estabrook. "This is some of the better proof we have."
The team dug a longer trench that ran farther north and identified several more burial shafts. They also found buried two rows of hand-made bricks near the burial shafts that seem to indicate graves.
By the end of the week, they found five confirmed burial shafts to the north. The northernmost anomaly was more than 20 meters from the marked cemetery. Kimmerle said it's clear that the marked cemetery doesn't account for all the burials. And the radar has indicated there are multiple anomalies to the east as well. Kimmerle is going to ask for even more forest to be cleared so that section can be mapped.
"We're finding graves throughout this whole area," Kimmerle said. "Each step gives you a little more information."
Besides mapping the cemetery, a biologist has been coring a group of cedar trees � known to mark folk cemeteries � found along the perimeter, to determine when they were planted. The team located remnants of an old fence that may outline some earlier property line. Others from the anthropology department are interested in ethnography, which includes interviewing former wards, employees and area citizens, and taking stock of the historic structures on campus, from the syrup house to the butcher shop to the saw mill, dilapidated buildings that are now entangled by vines and forest. The USF Libraries Special Collections wants to preserve the historic school-related documents.
The mission for Kimmerle and Estabrook in this phase is to use the historical records, data and testing to establish a minimum number of graves. But they won't know for certain how many there are without a more thorough excavation.
"That'll be the question," Estabrook said. "Do we have more than 31?"
"That's the question," said Kimmerle.
Two families of boys said to be buried here � Thomas Varnadoe in 1934 and George Owen Smith in 1941 � have expressed interest in repatriating their remains to family plots.
"I would just like to have some closure," Thomas Varnadoe's brother, Richard, told the Tampa Bay Times in 2009. "And I'd like if someone could find his remains and dig him up and get him down here where we could give him a proper funeral and bury him close to family.''
Kimmerle said she wants what is right for those families.
"Their wishes and rights will guide what happens next," she said. The group hopes to present its initial findings at a symposium in the fall.
"I think everyone can understand that children came here and died here and there are people who are related to them who have questions," Kimmerle said. "Nobody wants to see a cemetery lost."
Ben Montgomery can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-9650.
This is the effect several men had while discussing the brutal beatings (fourty years later) that occurred at FSB Marianna
"The White House Boys" was formed by Roger Dean Kiser and Robert W. Straley.(picture l-r) Dick Colon, Michael O'McCarthy, Roger Dean Kiser and Robert Straley. Together they exposed to the public the horrors hundreds of boys suffered at the hands of those responsible for their care at several Florida Indistrial Schools.
The "White House" Torture Chamber
In this small white building, where boys were beaten until their underwear or pajamas had to be surgically removed from the buttocks, lives the memories and horrors of the worst child abuse in Florida's history.
"If one of your kids were kept in such circumstances you'd be up there with rifles."
Governor Claude Kirk
Blood still on the walls, ceiling and floors even after fifty years. The terrible screams I heard and the brutal beatings I witnessed as a twelve year old will remain in my memory forever. The beatings I suffered are not my horrors today. My horrors are the beatings of crying boys that I had to witness before my own beatings. The horror of knowing that I was next. For almost thirty minutes, at age sixty-two, I stood alone in the exact room where I was almost beaten to death. With my heart racing and the side of my neck pulsating, I lit a cigarette and I cried without feeling shame.
The thick concrete walls and the loud industrial fan easily muffled the horrible screams of the boys as they were beaten bloody. Some were carried to the hospital in wheelbarrows and some had to have their underwear or pajamas surgically removed from the buttocks.
THE WHITE HOUSE Torture Chamber
“We was a-pissin� in our britches,
'cause we knew that place so well.�
Most people could never imagine the horrific acts that were committed behind the secret doors of this schools ironically beautiful brick buildings and lush lawns. The victims, and they truly were victims, have finally come forward to unearth the deadly deeds that occured there. The men who made it through this school with their lives, and not much else, now call themselves the White House Boys, after the small white building that still sits on those lush lawns, where they were raped and beaten, to the point of nonrecognition, on a regular basis.
These men now need society's support in order to do what they were not able to do as little boys. These men now need our support in order to stand up to their offenders, support to finally receive what they were continually denied, a life.
"They call it "The White House?"
TROY TIDWELL Mr. Troy Tidwell was one of the main beaters at the school. His beatings of boys ran into the thousands. There are many who despise Tidwell for what he did. Personally, I hold the State of Florida responsible. The Governors knew, Senators knew, Congressmen knew as did most judges and local officials; yet they did nothing to stop these atrocities. Tidwell has stated under oath that he was only doing his job and that may very well be true. However, if that is the case then why does he not step forward and tell the truth before meeting his maker one day? Though most will never forgive him; a few of the men he brutally beat might have some form of respect for a man who tried to right a wrong.
Robert Loyal Currie This was a man who was assigned by the State of Florida to help, train and guide children but in the process he destroyed many lives. The amount of young boys he molested will never be known. There were many instances where this man's actions were exposed and he should have been removed from his position, but many in authority chose to look the other way. I, for one will forever be affected by the evil deeds done in this man's office. I shall forever remember the looks on the secretaries� faces as they sat by with looks of pity and said absolutely nothing.
When Nightmares Become Real
The horror of these brutal beatings stayed with these boys for many years. Some had to sleep with a light on at night for years.
THE ABUSE CONTINUES
Teen freed from lockup amid sex abuse claims
A teen was released from a state juvenile lockup in Pembroke Pines amid claims in a federal
lawsuit that youths held there had endured ``horrific'' abuse.
BY MAR CABRA
Lawyers for a 15-year-old boy who was held 10 months in a state youth lockup claimed Friday the teen
had been sexually abused in a laundry room by a staff member, who molested him yet again at a dental
office when his pleas for help were ignored by administrators.
The teen's claims are contained in a 28-page class-action civil rights lawsuit filed in Fort Lauderdale
federal court Friday.
A few hours later, the teen, identified in court records only as D.B., was released from state custody by
Broward Juvenile Judge Elijah Williams.
The lawsuit, initiated by an affiliate of the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center, claims
that children held at the Thompson Academy youth corrections program in Pembroke Pines ``endured
horrific physical and sexual abuse by staff at the facility and were intimidated by staff from reporting the
``Even if the child is not an angel, no child should be subjected to abuse at the hands of a state [agency],''
said Gordon Weekes, Broward's chief assistant public defender.
Jesse Williams, senior vice president of Youth Services International, which operates Thompson Academy,
told The Miami Herald that the allegations are being investigated by law enforcement and state social
service agencies. He called the claims ``unsubstantiated and unsustained.''
David J. Utter, one of the attorneys who filed the complaint, said the lawsuit would not have been filed ``if
we did not believe that D.B. had been sexually assaulted.'' Utter said D.B. tried to commit suicide three
times while at the facility by drinking bleach and attempting to hang himself.
D.B.'s mother, who did not want to be identified to protect her son's privacy, said program administrators
never notified her of her son's alleged assaults, nor of his attempted suicides.
`Before my son got into the program he had never tried to hurt himself,'' she said. ``Although he was
supposed to be getting rehabilitation, his life has only gotten worse.''
Thompson Academy is not the first program that contracts with the Department of Juvenile Justice to face
allegations of physical abuse. In April 2006, state lawmakers shut down several military-style boot camps
after a 14-year-old Panama City youth, Martin Lee Anderson, died following a particularly aggressive
Lawyers with the law center said they interviewed about 20 kids from Thompson Academy, and all of them
raised concerns about the facility, including allegations that they were forced to go hungry.
One youth, identified as D.L., claimed in the suit that a Thompson Academy staff member slammed his
head into a concrete wall, twisted his arms behind his back and banged his head into a metal door during
a restraint. Unlike D.B., D.L. remains at the lockup.
Attorneys with the law center also contend that Thompson Academy staff members tried to cover up the
abuse by preventing detainees from visiting lawyers or speaking with them by telephone.
NO MORE CONTACT
Williams, the Youth Services International executive, said the staff members identified by the law center as
abusers no longer have contact with youth sent to the company's programs by the state -- and will be fired
if they are found to have harmed any children.
``We take every step and measure to make sure the kids are protected,'' Williams added.
On Friday, Judge Williams released D.B. to his 36-year-old mother. He declined to say whether the youth's
claims are well-founded, saying the determination is for state law enforcement or child welfare
administrators to make.
``We're going to celebrate the whole weekend,'' said the boy's mother, who said Thursday was D.B.'s 15th
birthday. ``I've been waiting for this day.''
I have had many friends during the course of my life. A few of these friendships have fallen to the wayside and a few survived numerous hardships and disagreements friends have with one another.
I have two friends named Andrew Puel and Robert Straley who also went to the Reform School at Marianna back in the 1900s. Andrew never actually went to the White House Torture Chamber while there nor was he molested by staff members as were Robert and many boys during their stay at the school. However, what he did see was the result of one boy’s beating as he showered after returning from the White House. The shock of seeing a white boy’s skin turned as black as a car tire was something Andrew never forgot or got over. After I wrote the book “The White House Boys-An American Tragedy,� Andrew contacted me and we became friends.
Over the past three years Andrew Puel and Robert have helped me investigate and hunt down many of the employees who beat, molested and harmed many boys during that era. He, being of modest means, has spent thousands of dollars from his small one-man janitorial business to help get justice for the boys (now men) who were tragically and brutally beaten and abused.
Again, I have had many friends during the course of my life but I cannot think of any one friend that I have more respect for than I do for my friends Andrew and Robert. It is an honor for anyone to be lucky enough to have such individuals as true and trustworthy friends.
Roger Dean Kiser, author/child advocate
"It hurts, it really hurts. Still today, when you think about it, it really hurts."
<*********CENTER COLUMN BEGINS HERE*********>
Mr. O.J. Keller UPSET BY THE BRUTAL BEATINGS OF THE BOYS :The beatings were brutal and in my opinion they were criminal in nature."
The atrocities author Roger Kiser suffered at the hands of his "caretakers" in this Florida institution will make your toes curl. The depravity of the people running this home for boys will sicken you. The triumph and hope that Mr. Kiser offers as a result of his broken life will make your life's troubles pale to trivialities, and cause you to question what right you've ever had to complain.
As Mr. Kiser continues his work with the state of Florida and even the FBI, in an effort to ensure that heinous crimes like the ones committed upon him and other young boys are a thing of the past, he has put his personal life back together, setting an example for all of mankind that nothing is greater than the human spirit.
Written with the strength of a survivor and the compassion of one who knows severe physical and emotional pain, Mr. Kiser's book is a well-scripted look into a childhood of hell.
While the subject matter is difficult, the book is exceptional. It flows from fact to feeling in an effortless, plain-spoken manner and is interspersed with photos as well. The White House Boys...An American Tragedy is a must-read true story of abuse and hope.
The White House Boys: An American Tragedy Overview
Hidden far from sight, deep in the thick underbrush of the North Florida woods are the ghostly graves of more than thirty unidentified bodies, some of which are thought to be children who were beaten to death at the old Florida Industrial School for Boys at Marianna. It is suspected that many more bodies will be found in the fields and swamplands surrounding the institution. Investigations into the unmarked graves have compelled many grown men to come forward and share their stories of the abuses they endured and the atrocities they witnessed in the 1950s and 1960s at the institution.
The White House Boys: An American Tragedy is the true story of the horrors recalled by Roger Dean Kiser, one of the boys incarcerated at the facility in the late fifties for the crime of being a confused, unwanted, and wayward child. In a style reminiscent of the works of Mark Twain, Kiser recollects the horrifying verbal, sexual, and physical abuse he and other innocent young boys endured at the hands of their "caretakers." Questions remain unanswered and theories abound, but Roger and the other 'White House Boys' are determined to learn the truth and see justice served.
OUR ATTORNEYS The Masterson Group
We (all who were abused) are currently being represented by a team of lawyers in an effort to seek justice because of the acts of violence that were committed. Our attorneys are interested in determining if there are other witnesses to the abuse that we are attempting to expose. If you would be willing to serve as a witness to the acts of violence, please call Thomas Masterson at 1-727-896-3641 He is one of the attorneys in our legal team that is involved in our representation. You must call to join the SB-0046 senate action bill. Holland & Knight-
100 Norlh Tampa Street. Suite 4100 I-
Tampa, FL 33602-
On the top information bar (under "photos") are pictures of the inside of the "White House Torture Chamber." Most of the pictures were taken on October 21st, 2008. Even after fifty years, blood stains still remain on the walls and floors. Some say horrible screams of agony are still heard in the late night hours.
As I entered the White House for the first time in almost fifty years, I will never forget walking behind several female guards now working at the facility. "OH MY GOD! IT'S TRUE," she said, as she covered her mouth with both hands.
I smiled to myself knowing that the truth lives on.
The toilet facilities are just as nice today they were fifty years ago. As I stood looking at this toilet on October 21, 2008; I well remember one boy asking to use the bathroom before his beating and that request was refused. When the beating was complete the boy left the building with feces all over his legs and boots. He never shed a tear but covered his face with both hands from the embarrassment.
The White House videos and photos shown on this site, was a punishment building where boys from 9-16 years old were brutally whipped with a 3-4 inch wide by two and a half foot long leather strap with a sheet metal insert. Thirty to fifty lashes for general infractions, one hundred lashes for running away. There was a facility for black boys across the street. Whatever happened to the white population was nothing compared to what the blacks suffered, up to two hundred lashes, possibly murder.
The Florida State Reform School, currently being called the Authur G. Dozier School for Boys, established by the State of Florida's lawmakers, has been hiding a horrific secret for over half a century.
The school, which was built in 1897, was intended to be a place where adolescent boys, some as young as 8 years old, could be separated from the prison system, and the evils of adult criminals, and could receive the education and mental support they needed as young men. It was established in order to provide young offenders a place where they could grow and learn, and in that way, be reformed enough to be contributing members of society. Instead, it became a "new kind of hell" which destroyed many lives.
Doctor Byrd tesitified before a United States Subcomittee on juvenile delinquency and his testimony (transcript on information bar above) clearly shows that Troy Tidwell lied during his deposition.
Kissimmee, Florida First Reunion
Orlando, Florida Second Reunion
Brunswick, Georgia Third Reunion
Tallahassee, Florida Fourth Reunion
Kissimmee, Florida Fifth Reunion
Kissimmee, Florida Sixth Reunion
The White House Boys met in Brunswick, Georgia for their first reunion, Kissimmee, Florida for their second reunion, Orlando, Florida for the third reunion and then Tallahassee, Florida. The fifth reunion was held in Kissimmee where many friendships were reformed, pictutres were shared and many tears were shed. Thoughts were revised, many closed hearts were opened and (after fifty years) smiles began to return to many a sad and somewhat hardened faces. As children, these are men who have overcome the most horrible of abuses. They should be very proud to have survived.
"Dear Mr. Kiser, I saw the page regarding the leather-strap. Jesus Christ, 2.46 pounds. Do you know that thing's heavier than a baseball-bat (Typical MLB Bat: 30 - 33 oz = 1.875 lbs - 2.0625 lbs)? To think people like Hatton, Tidwell, and Dozier were swinging that thing at teenagers and children with the force of a baseball pitcher hurling a 90 mile an hour fast-ball (not to mention the fact that people in the State of Florida, and the FSB's Superintendant considered this to be completely acceptable)... Absolutely despicable.
What appeared to be nothing more than a beautiful campus to the general public allowed the brutal beatings, molestations, rapes and possible murders of children to continue (behind closed doors) for more than fifty years.
Florida Governor's Mansion Library
The book "The White House Boys-AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY" by Roger Dean Kiser has been placed in the Florida Governor's Mansion Library. The horrors that took place at FSB and OSB will be known by every governor residing in that residence for generations to come.
Roger's film "THE BULLY" * Click Here Directed by Edward Asner (Mary Tyler Moore Show).
Even after fifty years, I remember (very well) entering the Florida School for Boys Reform School grounds. The beauty of the manicured lawns, the well kept buildings, the gymnasium and the large swimming pool somewhat calmed my fears. How could anything be worse than the years of beatings, cursing and the sexual molestations I was suffering at the hands of the mean and hateful Matron, Mother Winters? Was it possible that a school operated by the State of Florida might be worse than was my ten year childhood living at the Children’s Home Society Orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida? There was no way. Or was there? I found it hard to believe that anyone, other than in the German concentration camps, could possibly be that mean and cruel?
The facility covered about 1400 acres. It was just a small smidgen of land hidden deep in the North Florida woods. My country, known as the United States of America, had just saved the world from Hitler and the Japanese. But I guess the Army and Marines didn’t know about what was happening in Jackson County ‘cause that was a place where Superman or even God himself might have feared to tread.
Little did I realize at the time that I was entering a place of immense hate, excessive cruelty and a realm of total bloody horror. It was a time in Florida’s history that formed many negative memories in the minds of thousands of young innocent little boys. Memories that would haunt, curse, damage and destroy the wives, children, families and even the friends of the men these boys would one day become.
My twelve year old eyes shifted from side to side as we entered the campus. My mind was racing as I tried to decide if what I was about to experience was good or bad. I had heard from the Duval County juvenile authorities that the reform school looked like a college campus and I guess they were right as it sure was a pretty place. My shoulders began to relax as the county police car pulled up in front of the large, white administration building. I smiled as a tall thin man walked toward the car. As he reached the back door of the car, I smiled and then pressed my lips together, hoping to hide my fear.
“Move your fuckin� ass, young man,� he screamed.
I knew right then and there that I had entered another hell hole. That night I cried for Matron, Mother Winters to come and get me so I could once again kiss and smell her wrinkled old body in the darkness.
I have been asked many times why I have pursued this matter for so many years. Was it the beatings, the abuse-maybe it was the killing of young boys? I had never given it much thought. All I knew was there was this deep feeling inside me that I had never forgot. One evening after the family had gone to bed, I lit a cigarette, opened a Coca Cola and I walk out onto my front porch. I stood there thinking about that question. All at once it came to me. It was not the beatings, the abuse, the molestations or the murders. It was the fear I felt inside my twelve year old mind on the two minute walk from Mr. Hatton’s office to that damn White House Building door. Not knowing if I would walk back out alive. I will never forget having at act brave in front of the other boys when all along I was scared half to death. I will never forget wondering if I were about to die.
(A picture is worth a thousand words)
One can tell by the look of joy and the Christmas spirit glowing upon these two boys's faces, as they hold X-mas gifts, just how wonderful life was at FSB Marianna. R.W. Hatton had to be one of the most cruel individuals ever employeed at that school. The many young lives he ruined will never be known. Even in death this man is not entitled to any respect, at least not from me.
continued my efforts to write about the abuses as well as document other men's stories. The abuses include beatings, floggings, rape, molestations and in some cases the murder of many children. Their stories can be read at the "victims stories" link above.
Florida State Archives
The book "THE TRUTH-YOU DECIDE" by Roger Dean Kiser and Andrew Puel has been placed in the Florida Archives and the horrible abuses committed by the State of Florida upon innocent children will be on display for all to see for generations to come.
The grave yard and the White House (Satellite view)
Copyright: 1991-2012 Roger Dean Kiser for The White House Boys - All Rights Reserved.
In January of 2001 I got a letter from the mother of a Florida state employee who was working at the Boys School, located in Clewiston, Florida stating that boys were being taken out at night, made to strip naked in 36 degree weather, and made to stand in metal wash tubs full of cold water. Other smaller naked boys were then placed on their shoulders and the boys were made to stand in that manner for as long as three hours at a time. The result of that investigation proved the allegations to be true and immediate action was taken.