About Us The Official White House Boys Organization

Welcome to The Official White House Boys Organization Website

.Board of Directors 2014-2017
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# 239-887-3597 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)

This page contains:  Stories written by / and about White House Boys * Books written by White House Boys (links sto where you can purchase them as well)  * Links to news articles about the White House Boys * The Mission Statement of The Official White House Boys * Videos of White House Boys telling the stories of their lives and abuse at Florida School for Boys (AKA Florida Industrial School for Boys, AKA "Dozier" or Arthur G Dozier School for Boys) in Marianna, Florida.  It is a long page, so be sure to scroll down to the end so you don't miss anything.  

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.



These are the stories of former inmates and staff at the Florida Industrial School for Boys, presented as an ongoing series.

Part 1 --

Part 1: 'Why did you cause me to turn out this way?' 
Three Jacksonville men tell of the abuse they suffered at the Florida Industrial School for Boys and the bitter lives they led afterward.
Part 1 --
Part 2: Beatings weren't unusual at the school A former superintendent, another staff member and two former inmates recall an era when corporal punishment was accepted and applied at the school.
Part 1 --
Part 3: The death of a boy named Billy 
A Jacksonville man recalls the chilling tale of a burying a younger buddy who kept running, kept getting caught and kept getting beaten before he died.
Part 1 --
Part 4: FDLE: Documented deaths at reform school graveyard give no indication of abuse

FDLE: No indication of abuse from graveyard probe Authorities did not interview Jacksonville man who tells about burying beaten friend   Posted: May 15, 2009 - 10:44am


Below on this page you can read our mission statements and snippets from books written by some of the White House Boys (men who were abused at the hands of the State of Florida at The Florida School for Boys (aka Dozier, aka Florida Industrial School). 
But first, here are 3 videos that speak volumes..

 This film is a portrayal of the horrific beatings that occurred at Dozier School for Boys at Marianna, Florida, from the 1920's to the 2000's. Boys, some as young as nine, were beaten so badly at the Dozier School that their underwear had to be surgically removed by the school's aging physician. Some boys simply disappeared after the beatings and were never heard from again. Exhumations at the Dozier School for Boys is going to start in August of 2013. The truth will be unearthed.


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)

USF report reveals more deaths and graves at Dozier than state admitted  

FDLE investigation into Florida School for Boys cemetery is over, but mystery lingers

In Marianna, dig for truth encounters desire to keep past buried 

Researchers find more graves at Dozier than state said existed  

Cabinet agrees to let USF researchers exhume bodies at Dozier 

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



The Boys of the Dark by Robin Gaby Fisher and Michael O'McCarthy
A story that garnered national attention, this is the harrowing tale of two men who suffered abuses at a reform school in Florida in the 1950s and 60s, and who banded together fifty years later to confront their attackers.Michael Orsquo;McCarthy and Robert W. Straley were teens when they were termed ldquo;incorrigible youthrdquo; by authorities and ordered to attend the Florida School for Boys. They discovered in Marianna, the ldquo;City of Southern Charm,rdquo; an immaculately groomed campus that looked more like an idyllic university than a reform school. But hidden behind the gates of the Florida School for Boys was a hell unlike any they could have imagined. The schoolrsquo;s guards and administrators acted as their jailers and tormentors. The boys allegedly bore witness to assault, rape, and possibly even murder.For fifty years, both men---and countless others like them---carried their torment in silence. But a series of unlikely events brought Orsquo;McCarthy, now a successful rights activist, and Straley together, and they became determined to expose the Florida School for Boys for what they believed it to be: a youth prison with a century-long history of abuse.  READ MORE ABOUT THE BOOK AND SEE ROBERT STRALEY INTERVIEWED BY FOX BY CLICKING
Chasing Freedom: Life of a White House Boy By Brother-in-Law (BiL) 

This is a true story about a young man named BiL (Brother-in-Law), who was illegally sentenced to prison, his struggle to survive while incarcerated, and his path after his release. BiL is a White House Boy survivor and believes that the inhumane treatment he endured at the reform school for boys at Marianna, through the beatings and emotional torture, was the catalyst that ignited his criminal career. He lost all respect for authority after being beaten and mentally abused so badly by those entrusted with his life. After twelve years of illegal incarceration, his original sentence was declared null and void, but it still took him two more years to finally walk out of prison a free man. It is proven now, through the judicial system, that BiL should have never been sentenced to prison because his sentence constituted "Double Jeopardy". 

The Ice Cream Factory aka The White House

Paperback, 245 Pages 
     (2 Ratings)

Ships in 3-5 business days
The life and times of Claude Robins. A young man tells his youth in the south. Click this link for more info, or to purchase:
 For all readers who read and loved Patrick Smith's "A Land Remembered," THE CRACKERS" The Legend of Jessie B. Tucker, will reignite your love of old Florida and it's fascinating legends and history. You've read about how the west was won. This book is about how the wild and uninhabited middle of Florida was tamed! THE CRACKERS: The Legend of Jessie B. Tucker is a story about four families who fled Georgia during the civil war and headed south. Although this story is a fictional novel based on historic facts and family legends about the events that happened to Michael's ancestor, Jessie B. Tucker, it is not just a history of occurrences during and after the civil war. It is about the lives of these white families from Georgia that came crashing together with a band of Creek Indians. The subsequent meeting of Jessie B. Tucker and Two Worlds, the ancient shaman and spiritual leader of the Creek band, sparked the merging of whites and Indians that changed the Tucker clan and the lifestyle and landscape of Central Florida. Last but not least, this story is about the love that held these white and Creek families together. Against all odds, these unlikely partners prevailed to create a new life and help to launch the second largest cattle drive in the Union, leaving a legacy that lives on many generations later. Join Michael in this adventure of old Florida and some of the wonderful characters that just might have lived in this exciting chapter of Florida's beginnings. The Crackers, The Legend of Jessie B. Tucker, is the first novel in an exciting series of the adventures of the Tucker's extended family.


A Project Dedicated to the Survivors of the White House
Written in 2009

We are the faces of 108 years of state sponsored child abue.

“Those who do not learn the lessons of history are bound to repeat them.” Santayana

The state of Florida has one of the worst records for juvenile care in the United States. The negligence on the part of the Department of Juvenile Justice continues to this day: Underfunded, poorly trained and screened staff, overcrowding and the lack of a progressive system of care, treatment and skill training produces a recidivist rate “…for males … 46 percent and for females it is 28 percent.” (Florida That includes boys and girls returning to the system for “more of the same,” or “graduating” to adult correctional institutions.

“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee…” John Donne

We are more than “our brother’s keepers.” We are the guardians of the health and welfare of any child in our neighborhood, town, city, county and state. The children are our heritage and our future. When one is mistreated, it affects an entire society. We must stand for justice now; on their behalf and ours.

Where are we now?

As is any democratic movement for justice, it takes time and requires patience and diligence. It requires of us to exhaust every available institutional remedy so when and if we reach the point of a negative response from the powers that be, we are able to demonstrate to the citizenry that we have been reasonable and met with unreasoned response. When we have exhausted that democratic course and we must seek alternate methods in our pursuit of justice.

With the “abeyance” of the Claims Bill in the Florida legislature we have reached one of those negative responses to our call for justice. If and when we enliven the Claims Bill we will officially state our grievances, provide the proof of the wrong done to us and our kind and hold the state government responsible for our reparations while at the same time educating the voting people of the state of Florida, especially that of our class of people, of the consequences of this system of injustice levied upon us and now upon the current class.

We have now entered the first course with our class actions suit in the Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in and for Pinellas County, State of Florida, Civil Division. Should our case fail there we have the option to continue with appeals into the appellate courts and the federal courts. That process is fraught with years of delay; not a healthy outlook for the aging “White House Boys.” And frankly, our case is not likely to overcome the barriers of Statute of Limitations which require a court to rule that the damage done was so severe as to demand that the statute be set aside in pursuit of justice or Sovereign Immunity (King’s Law stipulating that you could not sue the King (the state) for the wrongs it has done you.”) That too requires a judgment that the harm is of such magnitude that it overrides the King’s protection; in this case its defense of its minion, Tidwell it has thrown the cloak of the king over him.
Frankly, we will never receive justice if we are unwilling to work for it. We will never receive justice if it is we who stand alone. We can only achieve justice if the people of the State of Florida rally to our cause and demand redress and reparations be ordered by the legislature and signed into law by the governor. This process is as old as the call for political and social justice and it requires conscious raising, organizing and the means to bring the voice of the people to the powers that be. What follows is a tried and true democratic method to achieve just that.

Getting here.

We have had our differences in getting here. Some were where we allowed personality issues to override principles, some of the differences were of a strategic nature and we bear the error. Much of the personal pain that effected those decisions came from the irrevocable lash marks and sexual defilement and their pain consequences and more reflected damage done us.

But it is time to let the past be the past for there is one common factor that unites us: we were the throwaway kids of the State of Florida and victims of the infamous White House and dens like it at other Florida School for Boys and Girls.

The state treated us with inhumane measures, but we have survived.
We were the children who would be under the rule of DJJ today. Thus, we are in a unique situation to be of service to those who are like us. (For the accurate Time Line of how we became “the White House Boys” and the history of our campaign)

The social origins of the children who would become known as “The White House Boys” which includes all the boys and girls confined at the Florida Schools for Boys and Girls and the later designated prisons for juveniles:

Understanding the racial and economic backgrounds of The White House Boys, all those juveniles who suffered incarceration in the Florida Schools for Boys and Girls and under the rule of the Department of Juvenile Justice, tells us that kids from our class are that last of the last. We are the last to have stable homes; the last to have the benefit of emotional support for our growing years; we are the last to have adequate funds for food, clothing, lodging, adequate health care; last to have decent a decent education; the first to be drafted; the first to be casualties of war; the last to be adequately defended in court– we were then, the last to have a decent enough background for jobs; to be able to earn our way.

We were the first to be victims of our parent’s dysfunction, many of who were previous victims of the same social system into which we were born: drug addiction, alcoholism and spousal and child abuse. These were a matter of everyday life in our homes. Out of the dysfunction we exploded into the arms of the law enforcement and the courts. Rather than support, care and treatment; rather than having the benefit of adequate legal representation before a court, or psychological this abomination of life been revealed: in the true story realized intesting and then counseling or treatment, we were ship-loaded into the state system: whether it was first orphanages, (foster care homes,) or directly into state-wide institutions, we soon became the basis of a sub-class of Floridians whose most likely final destination was more confinement, more dysfunction and then more confinement until a good part of our lives had been wasted away.

The “career path” for our peers was meaningless jobs or the military. Very few of our class would every see the “American dream” realized. At best it would be working our lives away at menial jobs, labor or low management positions; living on high interest credit until a meager Social Security would allow us to die slowly, encumbered by age and illness. That was the forecast if we were lucky enough to evade life sentences in prison or mental institutions or death row.

Only a couple of times in Florida history have Gideon’s Trumpet (Henry Fonda television movie,) and Chattahoochee, with Gary Oldman and Dennis Hopper. Those were the only portraits of the cruel and inhumane Florida system of corrections and mental health treatment for the world to see. Or recently in the cases of Anderson who was smothered to death in a boot camp or Caldwell who was hammered to the ground and gang beaten at Dozier have we seen how this system continues its role as the grim reaper of the children of Florida’s dysfunctional poor, working and destitute classes.

The White House Boys cause is larger than the recognition of our pain and suffering; more important than an apology from the temporary
politician living in the Governor’s mansion; more significant than any reparations given us. Our cause is to bring light where there has been none and is to this day the dark shadows in which the state best operates. To reveal a social and economic system so inherently corrosive that it eats away the lives of millions of people by either jailing them or holding them in submission to the profit of the state until old age or death takes them.

The political course of action — What Must Be Done:

First each of us must prepare then send out our story to our respective websites, and , then to everyone you know via email, directing them to our websites. Build an E-Mail and phone tree: you will have five non-White House Boys to email and/or phone when there is significant news or an event that requires attention. Each of those five will know five more, and so on and so on.

Second, we must ask those to pass it on to everyone they know, and so on and so on.

Third, arrange for speakers for events at your church or social organization to explain who the White House Boys are and what we are about. A speaker’s committee and a information committee (to provide both print and electronic information on the White House Boys,) must be elected with volunteers to serve.

Fourth, each of us must write emails or hard mail to, and then telephone the offices of, your state elected officials telling our stories and demanding that the State of Florida take the necessary measures to “make us and our families whole” for the damage done to us and our peers.

Fifth, we must reach out to the religious institutions in our community and ask that they join with us in pursuit of justice for ourselves and our families, and extend a watchful eye over and a call for mercy for those behind the wires of DJJ.

Sixth, because we chose this course we must exhaust the state and, where applicable the federal court remedies – while simultaneously supporting the forthcoming Claims Bill which will cause legislation to be passed giving us reparations and putting into law those reforms necessary to see that the state of Florida will “Never, Ever Again” abuse its most vulnerable children but rather, lock into place budgetary and legislative guarantees that those children placed in the State’s care receive the education, psychological and physical care that will better their lives and give them an equal opportunity to be socially successful.  

Lastly, we must prepare to follow in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. who taught us that those in power only respond to more political power and that peaceful, nonviolent protest is constitutionally guaranteed and is a righteous process for letting those in power know they may be not long in power should they not join us in our just cause.


(An essay by a White House BoyThe day we walked out of Marianna or Okeechobee, every one of us who survived the beatings, earned the right to become known as “a White House Boy." The physical pain, mental anguish and terrifying fear will live with us until we die. The after/side effects are never entirely extinguished from our memories. We learn how to hold them in check … most of the time. 
    We become as chameleons, developing the ability to blend in and remain anonymous, watching from without, scared to become part of anything because if we do, we probably will just get another “hurt.” It’s much simpler and safer for us to sit outside the main circle and not have to choose sides and make decisions. 
We have our opinion on things, you can bet on that, but it is hard to put our feelings into words because where we grew up you were never allowed to express an opinion without the fear of receiving another late-night beating. Sort of taught us how to ‘hold things in’, you know keep it all repressed. (So that’s where that comes from???) Plus most of us get flustered quite easily, especially when it comes to things like talking in front of other people. That just isn’t one of our natural given gifts.
    We come from many different backgrounds and areas of the state but we were all sent to reform school from a Florida city and county, sentenced by a Florida Judge, Truant Officer or Police Officer.  We all received an ‘indeterminate sentence’ --one with no expiration or ending date. Not a single one of us were ever read our rights, had a lawyer or were given the opportunity to defend ourselves or hear and question witnesses. Our civil rights were violated at every step of the illegal machine we were herded through-- like cattle headed to slaughter, just like the Jews in Auschwitz.  
    We are white, black, brown, strong, weak, tall, short, fat, thin, bald, long-haired, sick, well, smart, fast, slow, rich, poor and accompanied by numerous other physical afflictions like "bad backs" and "lower joint problems". We have a wide variety of emotional issues that cover the complete spectrum of mental disability. If it has a name, one of us lives with it. Do we want to talk about it? No! 
    We are everywhere. There are hundreds of us; probably even thousands. Some of us have become moderately successful, while others have climbed the ladder to the top and become rich and successful. But the vast majority of us have only reached success through our families, our children and grandchildren. We relive our youth through helping them be children who are happy, well taken care of and never emotionally or physically abused. This is where we finally learn unconditional love, through those we leave behind.    
    No matter where we work, play or gather we are always going to meet people who don’t understand us, because they’ve never heard our story. We are entitled to receive respect from those who know the horrors and fears that lingered behind that White House Door. But, most of the world outside of Florida doesn’t have a clue what the name even means. It is our goal to change that. We want everybody to recognize the meaning behind the name "White House Boys" and to understand that to be one of the White House victims means that you have been brutalized worse than an animal by the State of Florida -- beaten bloody until you could not walk -- by the State operated facility's supervisors at Marianna and Okeechobee Reforms Schools    
    We were all traumatized from our experience with the state, but in a variety of different ways. For most it was a physical, an emotional and/or even a mental problem. But regardless, we are all White House Boys. 
Written & Submitted By: "Bornacracka" 

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)

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.

FDLE investigation into Florida School for Boys cemetery is over, but mystery lingers  
By Ben Montgomery and Waveney Ann Moore, Times Staff Writers
In Print: Saturday, May 16, 2009

 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.

• • •


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.

Case closed.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Ben Montgomery can be reached at (727) 893-8650 or Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at (727) 892-2283 or

Sister still wants answers

At, you can:

• Read the entire FDLE report.

• See video of Ovell Krell talking about her
brother's death.

• 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."


President of The Official White House Boys Organization, Jerry Cooper, has just recorded a song about the White House Boys and the atrocities that occurred at The Florida School for Boys and Okeechobee School for Boys.  Cooper states, " I did these songs for all who have been a part in one the most horrific stories of child abuse in American History. I will not accept any compensation for the "White House Boys" song in any way" and he also  adds that he has no plans to go back to his career in country music.  To read the entire story and listen to the Public Service Announcement, as well as read the story about the song written by Kevin Wood and published in Bay Community News: , CLICK HERE

Click the radio buttons below to hear "The White House Boys" song, as well as its flip-side "Welcome to My World", which he dedicated to his lovely wife, Babbs.  

"The White House Boys"
Written By:
Billy Joe Burnette-Bobby Lewis-Jan Woods
Publishing-Bobby and Patrica Music

"The White House Boys"

"Welcome to My World"

Nashville Country Legends Join Fight In New Song “The Whitehouse Boys” to Remember The Deaths and Torture of, and Seek Justice for, the Abused Children of the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Jackson County, Florida.


Due to the fact that no one nominated anyone to run for any of the board offices listed in the announcement below, no election was held.  The nomination stage (ending midnight September 25, 2015) came and went with no new names submitted, therefore The Official White House Boys Board of Directors will stand as is for the 2016 - 2017.

TOWHBO Nomination & Election Committee - Diane Fudge, Chairperson 



With this year's reunion, comes time for the election of the officers for The Official White House Boys Organization (TOWHBO) for the 2016 - 2017 term.

The following officers of the current Board have graciously offered to serve again. 

President:  Jerry Cooper
Vice President / Speaker of House
:  Bill Price (Note: Nate Dowling served as VP until his passing, God Rest His Soul)
Secretary:  Babbs Cooper
Treasurer:  Peggy Marx
Sergeant at Arms:  Jim "Harley" DeNyke


We are currently accepting your nominations for candidates for each of these positions should you so choose. If you are a member of The Official White House Boys Organization and would like to nominate someone's name to appear on the election ballot and that person is willing to serve, please submit the Board Position and Nominee's name by email before midnight on September 25th to:   

Ballots will be available and elections will be held at the October 17th Reunion.  Ballots will be counted that day and the 2016/2017 Board of Directors will be announced.  Results will also be posted on this website.

If you can NOT attend the reunion and vote in person, absentee ballots will be available on this site for internet voting once the nomination period is complete.  Absentee ballots will be counted in with votes placed at the reunion, so please do NOT send in an absentee ballot unless you know that you will not be able to attend the reunion and vote in person. 
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