THE OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE BOYS ORGANIZATION
Welcome to The Official White House Boys Organization Website
.Board of Directors 2014-2016
President - Jerry Cooper / Vice President - Nate Dowling (RIP)
Vice President - Bill Price
Treasurer - Peggy Marx / Secretary - Babbs Cooper
Sergeant At Arms - James "Harley" DeNyke
MEDIA CONTACT PHONE# 239-542-3831 OR 239-994-1280
In this house, the State of Florida beat and scarred our bodies, wounded our souls, and dampened our spirits. But now… united…we rise up…and join together to ensure that this history is never, ever repeated! (Marti Somnitz)
Perhaps the best way to learn "About Us" is to read the most recent news articles about the USF Anthropologists and their finding unmarked graves at the Florida School for Boys aka Dozier Reform School, or you could watch some of the many videos about this topic. You might want to also read articles about Juvenile Justice in the state of Florida HERE. . We are also starting to gather stories from men who spent time at Florida School for Boys. To read these stories of Heartbreak, Perseverence, and Overcoming Obstacles, click HERE. In addition, many of the White House Boys have written books about the terrors of the Florida School for Boys in Marianna, FL (FSB, later named Dozier) which are further down on this page. You can read the St Petersburg Times (now Tampabay Times) expose' on the White House Boys by READING HERE. Also on this page, is one White House Boy's essay entitled, "What is a White House Boy" and our Mission Statement. Lastly, there are a selection of articles and videos from 2008 and 2009 which cover the early stages of our quest for justice.
SEE THE FACES AND READ ABOUT THE MEN WHO MAKE UP THE WHITE HOUSE BOYS, AS FEATURED ON JACKSONVILLE.COM, CLICK HERE
FROM JACKSONVILLE TIMES-UNION
These are the stories of former inmates and staff at the Florida Industrial School for Boys, presented as an ongoing series.
Here is an excellent summary of the saga of the White House Boys by Ben Montgomery & Waverly Moore of the Tampa Bay Times (formerly St Pete Times)
THE FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Men, Women and Children in the Stockade: How the People, the Press, and the Elected Officials of Florida Built a Prison System - by Anne Haw Holt - A Dissertation submitted to the Department of History
Click HERE to read
BOOKS WRITTEN BY WHITE HOUSE BOYS
ESSAY Written by a White House Boy, and Read at the Memorial Service, April 13, 2013
Make Being A Survivor Mean Something To Those Around You
Don't Let It Go To Waste
According to the dictionary a survivor is “a person who lives through an event in which others died”. That definition certainly is appropriate for the White House Boys. Some boys saw death, and watched children -- young, skinny kids – wore down to the bone with hard work and slave-type labor. They would slowly wane away to nothing but skin and bones – and then some just disappeared. We've seen the pictures – little boys – mostly looking scared to death.. They were not near old enough or big enough to physically take the beatings administered by large, grown adult men.
Why are there so many of us? Usually there's only a handful of survivors left to struggle through the painful memories of living a nightmare on any given night. Not one single night goes by that grown men don't cry as they remember the fear that accompanied their sleep.
So why are there so many survivors of our particular cause? Is it because we earned extra credit for surviving such a life-altering event?
Why so many? Over 500 little boys shed the same tears, and live the same fears for oh, so many years? Why us? And why did You, Father God, keep each of us alive? Why me Lord? What have I ever done? To deserve even one of the pleasures you've shown?
What is there still left for each of us to do? We're old and most grateful just to be alive! Physically, we are exactly where you want us. Some are better off still, others quiet. But we are indeed giving You the glory for all the success we have had. Especially for life itself. As we assemble ourselves at the foot of mercy, we lift Your Name high above all names.
Yet many of us are still blind and we beseech You to remove the scales of blindness so all may see the foot of the Cross and meet Jesus on a personal level. Lead us, oh Lord, through the power of Your Holy Spirit as we travel this road we are on – the Road to Justice against child abuse. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
You said that those who hurt the little children would be better off if a millstone was tied around their neck and them be dropped into the deepest sea*. We, as survivors, claim that promise today Lord. We forgive them, to the best of our ability, but still believe they must pay the penalty. Have mercy on them Father. We pray for our enemies at Dozier Boys School -- those who mistreated us, those who beat us and those who watched and did nothing. Living with that is punishment enough... until Judgment Day.
Look how far we have come. From a nobody group of old and tired men to being world renown. We have made TV, radio and major newspapers all around the world. And, as our accounts of old are proven true through modern day technology, the gravity of the situation is finally being recognized as accurate and true. Nobody believed something this terrible could happen a stone's throw away from our State Capitol. They could hear the screams from there.
Today we are extremely grateful to still be alive, able to hug and kiss our families, friends and WHB brothers. To still be in the fight for justice and truth – just the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We will be completely satisfied when all the truth is finally revealed. Will we be here? Maybe, maybe not?
So, we must continue to do our part, however little it may be, and keep the ultimate goal in the foremost of our mind. We do it so this type of poison can be erased from human life.
We must continue to stand up strong and brave, and always vigilant against the intrusion of those who seek to harm our little ones. Cradle them when they're babies. Cuddle them when they want to wiggle.
And always remember how precious they are. And, how dependent upon you for their everything. Be tender, patient, long-suffering, and always quick to forgive and forget. Children need love, guidance and protection. Always remember how the mistreatment of little children will be judged one day.
Never forget what you survived, but let it go and try to make the best out of what you have now. You are alive and mostly well. Some do better then others, but accept your lot. Spend more time being thankful, because some are worse off. Spend your latter years trying to “Live As If It Never Happened”, while you try to help somebody along the way.
That's the message here today. Help somebody along the way. It doesn't have to be a big deal -- little things mean so much. Help a WHB or a neighbor with a problem. Pay for a mother's groceries at the supermarket. Give back without expecting anything in return. Make being a survivor mean something to those around you.
Don't let it go to waste. Share even if you only have love, then share your love! Share your compassion! Open your heart to the joy of being a survivor who cares. There are many survivors in our organization, but we are looking for survivors who care. Who cares enough to join us in our search for justice. The key word “join” means: help us, get involved, do something to promote our plight to the world.
Be a doer and not just a survivor. Be more than a survivor. Be a survivor who cares enough to put forth some effort helping others, especially children, along the way.
Written by White House Boy Mike Sapp
*Matthew 18:6 English Standard Version (ESV)
6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,[a] it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
George Owen Smith, shown in what his sister says is one of the last photos of him alive, makes a face for the camera in an undated photo. Smith died at age 14 under murky circumstances at the Florida School for Boys in 1941. [Family photo]
Ovell Krell does not know what killed her brother Owen almost 70 years ago. Officials back then told her family he crawled under a house and died. She was only 12, but
it sounded like lies. Her family has always believed Owen, 14, was killed by staff at the Florida School for Boys.
Now she's 80, and a state investigation and a glossy report offer no comfort and no new answers.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded an investigation Friday into a cemetery at the Marianna school, now called the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.
Its report identifies 31 people buried beneath white metal crosses on the campus, and finds no evidence that the school or the staff contributed to their deaths. But investigators also admit:
• They relied heavily — at times exclusively — on incomplete and deteriorated records kept by the school.
• They don't know the exact whereabouts of any of the remains because the graves were unmarked for years, until a superintendent ordered Boy Scouts to make markers.
The same man supplied the number of graves — 31 — based on an educated guess. Some 20 years later, part of the cemetery was destroyed by prisoners farming the land.
Another superintendent ordered pipe crosses erected, but workers had no reference point and placed them based on "how they thought they should be arranged."
• They did not exhume remains or use ground penetrating radar to determine how many bodies are in the ground or where they are placed.
Last month, the state-run reform school was the subject of a St. Petersburg Times special report, "For Their Own Good," about dozens of men who said they were severely beaten there as boys in the 1950s and '60s in a cinder block building called the White House.
In recent weeks the Times has also spoken with two men who say they were forced as boys to dig child-sized holes on the campus. These men, suspicious of authority, would not cooperate with investigators, fearing they would destroy evidence.
Mark Perez, FDLE chief of executive investigations, said "hundreds" of witnesses "did not provide any first-hand knowledge . . . that would refute the information provided in these records."
But investigators did not talk to several people who claim to have knowledge of suspicious deaths. They did not talk to Roger Kiser, a founder of the White House Boys,
the group featured in the Times report. They didn't talk to Johnnie Walthour, a 73-year-old Jacksonville man who told the Florida Times-Union a friend died after a beating in the early 1950s.
And they did not talk to Ovell Krell.
• • •
CLICK THE ARROW BUTTON AT LEFT TO START THE ABOVE VIDEO
Owen and Ovell. They weren't angels, but they sang like them. Brother and sister, listening through the scrub for the Saturday night sounds that wafted out of the juke joint. Singing, heads to the heavens, to the South Florida Ramblers.
Owen made his first guitar out of a cigar box because his daddy couldn't pack oranges fast enough to buy the real thing. The Depression strangled Central Florida, but Owen tried to sing it away.
He had a rambling spirit. He would split for Gasparilla Island, without telling a soul, and come back with stories about fishing the gulf with his grandpa.
Then, in 1940, when George Owen Smith was 14, he left and didn't come back.
His parents got word he was behind bars in Tavares. Auto theft, even if he didn't know how to drive. The sheriff shipped him off to the state's only reform school, a mean place called the Florida Industrial School for Boys.
Owen sent a letter home to let them know he was fine. Then the weeks went by with no word.
The next they heard he was in Bartow, not far from Auburndale, caught running from reform school. He had almost made it home.
Then came the letter from Marianna. "I got what was coming to me," the boy wrote.
After that, the letters stopped, no matter how many stamps his mother licked.
Frances Smith wrote to the school's superintendent, Millard Davidson, in December of 1940, asking about her son. Davidson wrote back saying no one knew where Owen was.
"So far we have been unable to get any information concerning his whereabouts,'' said his letter, dated Jan. 1, 1941.
She wrote back, telling him she would be at the school in two days to search for her son.
That letter apparently arrived in Marianna around Jan. 23, 1941. That's when the Smiths heard the news from an Episcopal priest in Auburndale. He was apologetic. Said the school had found Owen.
A friend drove them to Marianna. The school's superintendent told the family that Owen's remains were found under a house in Marianna. They identified him by his dental records and the markings on his laundry.
The superintendent led the family through the woods to a clearing, to a patch of fresh-turned earth.
Even at 12, Owen's sister knew something wasn't right. Her brother goes missing. Then just before the family arrives to help look, he's found under a house, and buried before his own parents can pay their respects?
The family met with another boy in the presence of the superintendent. The boy told them he and Owen had escaped. They were walking toward town when the headlights hit them. The boy stood still. Owen split. The last time the boy saw Owen, he told the family, he was running across an open field. Men were shooting at him.
• • •
Ovell Smith is Ovell Krell now. She was a Lakeland police officer for two decades, one of the first female officers in Florida. She still doesn't understand what happened to her brother. Why would he crawl under a house? Why would he not come out, even if he were starving or ill? Why would a 14-year-old boy just lay down and die?
Maybe that's why she has kept those letters for all these years.
Her mother was never the same. For 40 years, she spent every day in bed, and every night on the porch, listening for Owen to come whistling home.
Early this month, Krell wrote a letter to the FDLE describing the family's account. She got no response.
"I think they should dig further," she said. "I stake my life that there was a conspiracy."
According to the report released Friday, George Owen Smith "escaped from the school in September of 1940 and his remains were found in January 1941 under the Marianna residence of Ms. Ella Pierce. After a coroner's inquest, no cause of death could be determined due to the extreme decomposition of the body."
The report says he is buried with 28 children who died from fire, pneumonia, drowning, acute nephritis, tuberculosis, a ruptured lung, homicide, all while in state custody. He is one of five children whose death certificate lists no known cause of death.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Ben Montgomery can be reached at (727) 893-8650 or email@example.com. Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at (727) 892-2283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO CREDITS: EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times
Sister still wants answers
At magazine.tampabay.com, you can:
• Read the entire FDLE report.
• See video of Ovell Krell talking about her
• Read "For Their Own Good," a special report on abuse at the Florida School for Boys.
Who is buried in the cemetery? (Per FDLE report)
• Ten students and two staff members who died in a dormitory fire Nov. 18, 1914:
Bennett Evans, carpentry teacher; Charles Evans, guard; Joe Wetherbee, Walter Fisher, Clarence Parrott, Louis Fernandez, Harry Wells, Earl E. Morris, Waldo Drew, and Clifford Jeffords, 15, of Clearwater
• Leonard Simmons, May 9, 1919, no cause of death
• Nathaniel Sawyer, Dec. 12, 1920, no cause of death
• Arthur Williams, Feb. 26, 1921, no cause of death
• Schley Hunter, April 15, 1922, pneumonia
• Calvin Williams, Dec. 31, 1922, no cause of death
• Charlie Overstreet, Aug. 19, 1924, died during tonsillectomy
• Edward Fonders, May 18, 1925, drowned
• Walter Askew, Dec. 18, 1925
• Nollie Davis, Feb, 8, 1926, pneumonia
• Robert Rhoden, of St. Petersburg, May 8, 1929, pneumonia
• Samuel Bethel, Oct. 15, 1929, tuberculosis
• Lee Smith, Jan. 5, 1932, influenza
• Joe Stephens, May 9, 1932, fell from mule
• Thomas Varnadoe, Oct. 26, 1934, pneumonia
• Richard Nelson, Feb. 23, 1935, pneumonia
• Robert Cato, Feb. 24, 1935, pneumonia
• Grady Huff, March 4, 1935, acute nephritis (kidney disorder)
• James (Joseph) Hammond, May 2, 1936, tuberculosis
• George Owen Smith, Jan. 24, 1941. Runaway found under a house, death certificate indicates no cause
• Earl Wilson, Aug. 31, 1944, strangled and beaten by four fellow students
• Billey Jackson, Oct. 7, 1952, kidney infection
• Two dogs, details uncertain.
• Sue the peacock, Dec 27, 1947. According to her obituary: "An elaborate funeral service was held and several of the students were present to pay full respects to her remains."