Skip to comments.USF researchers find 19 more graves at Dozier School for Boys
Posted on 12/11/2012 8:48:37 AM PST by null and void
Researchers from the University of South Florida say there are at least 50 graves on the grounds of a former Panhandle reform school higher than a state estimate of 31 graves and that a second cemetery is likely to exist.
Anthropologists and archaeologists from USF have spent months conducting field work, scientific analysis and ethnographic research at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, which has been the subject of investigations into abuse allegations and suspicious deaths. The school, which opened in 1900, was closed last year.
A USF report contradicts a previous state report that said the identities of all 31 people buried at the school cemetery were confirmed.
"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.
Several White House Boys and the members of a family attempting to find out what happened to their son attended a news conference announcing the results of the investigation today at USF.
"A major part of what anthropologists do is to give voice to people who are voiceless," said Christian Wells, an associate professor at USF who participated in the investigation. "Certainly in this case, these boys and many of these families today don't have the social or political influence to have that voice."
Former Gov. Charlie Crist ordered an investigation into the Dozier school in 2009 after the White House Boys, many now in their 60s, and others told their stories to newspapers. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated, concluding that there was no foul play and that the 31 graves contained the bodies of 29 boys and two adults who were accounted for.
But Erin Kimmerle, a USF assistant professor of anthropology who has worked around the world examining grave sites, applied for and was granted an archeological permit from the state Division of Historical Resources. She also received permission from the state Department of Environmental Protection to access the historic land. Historic cemeteries are considered valuable cultural resources and Florida statutes provide protection for them and mandate rights of families to have access.
Kimmerle's group used ground-penetrating radar equipment to search for "anomalies" in the soil at what is known as the Boot Hill cemetery on the school site. If an anomaly was recognized, researchers would dig a surface trench to confirm that different types of soils were mixed in the trench, indicating the ground had been disturbed in a manner similar to the digging of a grave.
Her group did not exhume any bodies or remove body parts, in keeping with the scope of the USF permit.
Antoinette Jackson, a USF associate professor of anthropology who is also participating in the investigation, said the history of "wholesale segregation" in the South and at the school suggest that there is likely another burial area on the grounds.
"I'm very excited about the next step in this process," Jackson said. "That's a big question for me. I have very limited knowledge of any cemetery being integrated in that time period because segregation was so complete."
The USF group's 118-page report recommends additional ground-penetrating radar work in the area; exhumation and autopsies to determine cause of death and identification; additional research of historical documents; and further interviews with family, employees and others with knowledge of the school.
That could lead to the discovery of more graves on the Dozier school property. But further investigation would require the intervention of an authority such as the state attorney's office, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Governor's office, or a private lawsuit seeking exhumation of graves.
Kimmerle said her group will have "continued discussions" with those authorities. She said the USF group "would be happy to (continue the work) if they ask us."
One of the great accomplishments of my life, was staying out of Gatesville reform school as my friends were taken away one by one, my friends used to tell horror stories in the early 1960s, by the late 1960s and early 1970s they were suffering early deaths.
Reform school for the boys, and chain gangs for the adults. Texas used to be a rough place, even in the 1950s and 1960s.
Parts of it still are. Like Jacksboro Highway on a Saturday night.
so, the same people who concluded back in 2009 that there was "no foul play"?
The associated video is well worth watching.
“Institutional care” is an unnatural and dangerous combination, as all of America will be learning now.
Want a side bet on what they'll find when the exact same bloody-handed people investigate themselves again?
Is Florida a SWIVED UP State or what!? We in Iowa got RID of our “reform schools” and the like in the EARLY 70s.
Even as a kid I read the daily papers, and in Houston, the excitement and killings and shootings for whites seemed to be concentrated on Airline drive and Hempstead, and I couldn’t wait to go and experience the strangeness and intensity of those strips of bars and clubs, although the drinking age back then was 21, I was lucky enough to join that world at age 17.
The white hot intensity of redneck bars started dying out by the early 1970s, there was still the occasional shootings and stabbings, and beatings, but the violence of the old days that color so much of the old country western songs, disappeared long ago.
I will never forget what it was like to move to Southern California, and see people sign their name on a chalk board to politely wait their turn to challenge the guy holding the pool table, it took a long time for me to realize that it was real. Another sign of civilization in California, was going to the bathroom, and not having to look for position and weapons (like the urinal farthest from the door or the lid on the toilet tank).
My Father had a First Cousin who was sent there. He was sort of the family black sheep and always in trouble. He was a great musician tho.
According to Daddy, he was not a bad kid at all but got into some fairly minor trouble and the judge decided to make an example of him apparently hoping to straighten him out.
Instead he came out a hardened criminal and remained so the rest of his life. He did maintain his good nature tho and was generally well liked despite his record.
Rather than leave criminals to sit and watch tv in jail I’d prefer seeing prisoners working chain gangs along highways etc.
Here in Florida non violents are doing all sorts of road work for the counties.
Let me see the Reform School was open from early 1900 to 2009? Lots of people get sick and in institutions disease spreads rapidly. In the early 1900’s a lot of people died from disease!!!
I agree, I remember sitting for long periods and watching the chain gangs during my youth, a well run chain-gang is beneficial and healthy.
I was associated with TYC in the late 70s and visited there days before it was closed. It was down to the very last handful who were there waiting to serve the remainder of their time in the military or behind real prison bars - their choice. Some of the guys started running their mouths and bam! it turned into an all out riot. I’m guessing that cost them the military option. The girls (not at Gatesville, obviously) were 10 times worse than the guys. They’d just as soon gouge your eyes out as to look at you. The “school” facilities were ticking time bombs with the counselors in charge only at the pleasure of the little thugs.
A lot of these are deaths that were not documented. The families in some cases were told that the child ran away, but they never heard from them again. So the belief is that some of the children were murdered by their keepers and buried in the unmarked, undocumented graves.
“Lots of people get sick and in institutions disease spreads rapidly.”
Those have been accounted for. Recorded and tallied.
The issue is the SURPLUS number of graves, if that is what they are, and if the remains are modern.
I walked into the restroom at The Brown Derby in Hollywood.
Three urinals, a big black dude at urinal #1, a big black dude at urinal #2. The see me come in, look at each other and nod.
At that point I just knew what was coming.
I step up to #3 and no sooner did I get started than -sure enough- the guy on the end says, "Man that water's cold!"
The guy in the middle says "Sucker's deep, too!"
To which I blandly replied: "Oh, it's not that deep..."
They darn near peed themselves laughing.
A lot of things changed in America by the late 1970s, that goes for the mental hospitals also.
Sounds like Tucker Prison Farm down in Arkansas back in the 1960s when quite a few unmarked graves were found there.
My dad lived in terror that we would be sent to a “reform school”, so he dragged us kicking and screaming from wonderful New Mexico to a farm in the back hills of Arkansas. We had never been in trouble before but he just got that idea in his head and Bam! - in the tick infested Ozarks we ended up.
True, but it is intersting that it usually plays a role in any systematic cruel and unusual abuse. Check out prison rape for punishment.
They probably didn’t keep very good records turn of the Century I mean early 1900’s.. This is about money!!! I believe!!!!! I bring a suit nobody still alive to defend themselves automatic money from the State!!!!
Do you have some vested interest in suppressing an investigation of unaccounted for human remains at a location where multiple ‘runaways’ remain unexplained?
Also the time span for this institution begins in the early 1900’s, but ends in relatively recent times.
This might end up involving money, but the real issue is human skeletons buried under the lawn.
Which is why there will be an investigation.
Lots of “boys” escaped Dozier, either before or after they spent time there.
I met a few in the USAF.
I imagine the other service branches saw more. It’s not as if it was a well guarded secret, or that Dozier wasn’t a well known hellhole for youths who “misbehaved” in Florida, in my generation.
Not knowing many people who were incarcerated as adults, I won’t speculate on how many cemented their criminal lifestyles, based on what they learned at Dozier.
There were few places as bad,at the time, from what I remember.
People now question why so many State Mental Institutions were shut down on such a large national scale.
It was because the Mental Institutions were even worse than the juvenile correctional institutions, concerning open and horrendous abuses of inmates by government paid employees.
But let’s try it again, right, because we have cameras now...