UPDATED December 11th, 2012
UPDATE August 9th, 2013….Jackson County Attorney Frank Baker Marianna Fl Charged with Conspiracy and Bank Fraud, Jackson County Attorney Frank Baker Had tried to Stop Exhumation of Bodies at the Dozier School for Boys. see https://pibillwarner.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/attorney-frank-baker-marianna-fl-charged-with-conspiracy-and-bank-fraud-baker-had-tried-to-stop-exhumation-of-bodies-at-the-dozier-school-for-boys/
TROY TIDWELL ‘ONE ARMED MAN’ TORTURED BOYS AT DOZIER SCHOOL.
TAMPA TRIBUNE 12/11/2012….”We’ve always known the day would come when this type of information would come out,” said Bryant E. Middleton, who was sent to Dozier in 1959. “And to me, it’s going to provide some closure, it’s going to provide some emotional relief, and a lot of satisfaction knowing there is a good chance now that state employees who perpetrated these crimes against these children may be held accountable.”
Jerry Cooper, sent to the reform school in 1961, also praised the USF investigation. “We have been on the right purpose here all along, and that’s why we’re not going to stop,” Cooper said. “We want to know what happened to these kids.” Children were originally committed to the school for serious criminal offenses, but state law was later amended to include those convicted of minor incidents such as truancy.
Middleton and Cooper are among the so-called “White House Boys,” a group of men who claim they were lashed unmercifully with a leather strap in a cottage known on the campus as the “White House” in the 1950s and ’60s. Cooper said he barely survived a 135-lash beating in the White House. Inmates also told of rape, isolation, hog-tying and other atrocities. Some said they saw boys led away, never to return. And they remembered a graveyard, eventually grown-over and containing 31 unmarked crosses made of pipe.
MARIANNA — The Florida State Reform School — more dungeon than deliverance for much of its 108-year history — has kept chilling secrets hidden behind red-brick walls and a razor wire fence amid the gently rolling hills of rural North Florida. Established by state lawmakers in 1897 as a high-minded experiment where ”young offenders, separated from the vicious, may receive careful, physical, intellectual and moral training,” the reformatory instead became a Dickensian nightmare. Three years after the facility opened, kids were found chained in irons. A 1914 fire took six young lives while guards ”were in town upon some pleasure bent,” records say.
And in the 1980s, advocates sued to stop the state from shackling and hogtying children there. The instrument of his torment was a long leather strap — like the kind used in old-fashioned barber shops, except that part of it was made of sheet metal. ”If I had them people in front of me, I’d have to ask them if they realize how many lives they destroyed,” Robert Straley, 64, a Clearwater said. “They beat you. They put the rage in you.”
‘When you inflict that much pain and brutality on a child, they’re traumatized for life,” he said. “Period.” Troy Tidwell Jr (the one armed man), 84, a retired supervisor still in Marianna, acknowledges that children were disciplined at The White House, though he denied any of the inmates were injured. For decades, the Marianna reform school was a powerful symbol of the force Florida would bring to bear against youngsters who broke the law — or simply refused to conform. Records show that runaways, truants and ”incorrigibles” often found themselves locked within the same walls as car thieves and assailants, boys who if they ‘disappeared’ no one would go looking for them.
In a building just across from the White House was a place the boys referred to as the rape room. Robert Straley, 62, of Clearwater FL, was 13 and about 105 pounds when he was sent there. He remembered being waked one night and accused of smoking. “I was on the entertainment list for the night. That’s what it was,” Straley said. He remembers a man with an iron grip (one armed man) grabbing his arm. “They were monsters. Oh, my God, the things they did,” Straley said. “When these men had me down, you weren’t going to turn into Bruce Lee, you only had one option, and that was you could scream all you wanted.” Dick Colon remembers trying not to scream. He was told by guards that if he made a peep, the beating would last longer. Guards would force him to lie on a bed.
“The pillow he asked you to bury your face in was all blood and snot and guts,” Colon said. He described the pain as feeling like someone pouring a pot of boiling water on his naked body. The pain got worse with each hit. “You screamed in your mind and your heart, and in every ounce of your body you screamed, but you didn’t peep. The man told you, ‘Don’t peep! I’ll start at one and I’ll go all over again,’” said Colon, 66, who now lives in Baltimore. He remembers standing up after one of the beatings and coming nose-to-nose with a guard who had a smile on his face. “I thought to myself, ‘God almighty, if I could right now, I would reach into your chest cavity and I would pull out your heart and I would bite it while you looked at me,’” Colon said. “He looked at me with a face of satisfaction and contentment over the whipping that he gave me.”
The “Whitehouse” was a small white house where boys were taken for severe punishment, mainly for running away. However, over the months things had gotten out of hand at the Florida School for Boys at Marianna, now known as the Dozier G. School for Boys. Boys were being beaten, some almost beyond recognition, for the simplest of infractions. Tony, the young boy walking ahead of us was being taken for the crime of stepping on the house parent’s foot while playing a game we called “capture the flag.” As we stopped at the rear entrance of the dining room, the young boy and two men continued on to the white house, located some 200 yards from our location. All at once, Tony began to run, screaming at the top of us lungs. Within seconds the two men had tackled him and were beating him with their fists. We said not a word, as we knew better than to open our mouths or act as if we realized what was happening in the distance.
As we entered the dining room to eat, we constantly watched from the corner of our eyes to see if Tony was returning. More than a half an hour passed and no one came from the building. We were told when more than thirty minutes had pass; most likely the boy did not survive the beating and that his body would not be removed from the building until after dark. I constantly looked at Mr. Sea Lander with a look of horror on my face. He would smile and wink back at me. “Don’t worry about it, son,” he would motion with his lips, as he waived his left hand out to his side. I too had visited the White House several weeks earlier where my underwear had been beaten into my buttocks.
I was taken to the hospital where the material had to be surgically removed by Doctor Wexler and Old Nurse Womack. As we lined up for a return to our cottage, the White House door opened. The two men, both their pants covered in blood; drug Tony out the door by his legs. I jumped as his head hit the ground about twelve to fifteen inches below the doorway. Tony, twisting his body back and forth on the ground, leaves, dirt and pine straw were sticking to his bloody face and upper body. About twenty yards from were we were standing, the two men dropped the boy’s legs and left him lying in the dirt.
Slowly rolling onto his stomach, Tony managed to make it to his knees. We watched as his house parent came around the building and walked up to Tony. “You little punk-ass afraid little bastard,” said the man, as he slapped Tony on the side of his face. Slowly, Tony raised his arms into the air, his face and neck so bloody that we could not even tell who he was, and he screamed as loud as he could, “I EARNED THE RIGHT TO BE AFRAID.”
The house parent slapped him across the face as hard as he could. “He earned the right. He earned the right. He earned the right,” yelled one of the boys from our cottage, from the back of the line. Immediately, all twenty-eight boys from our cottage were screaming “HE EARNED THE RIGHT,” over and over and over. “Okay Boys, you made your point. Let’s get moving,” said Mr. Sea Lander. The detention center is still open, but the White House building has been locked up since 1967, see photo of the room below with Mike McCarthy, left, and Dick Colon from 12/09/08. When we returned to cottage twelve Mr. Sea Lander lined us up on the clay basketball court and he began to speak.
MOVE IT.” We boys hurriedly ran to the dormitory and sat on our bunks as instructed. After that incident a feeling of pride sat in amongst us boys. A feeling of what team-work meant and what we could accomplish by standing together. That sometimes ‘the power’ is in the masses and not in the single, even in the worse of places. The lesson for me was taught through Mr. Sea Lander. A thoughtful man, though he had to do a thankless and very difficult job to perform, was always fair and treated us boys with kindness and respect. It was he who made it possible for me to not take my hatred out on an innocent society, a place in which I would one day live.
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