Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Troy Tidwell, who doled out 'spankings' at the Florida School for Boys, answers to allegations

MARIANNA — They say Troy Tidwell drew blood. They say he dragged the boys to a tiny building on the campus of the Florida School for Boys in Marianna, made them bite a pillow and hit them so hard with a leather strap that they feel it 50 years later.

They say he enjoyed it.

More than 200 former students of the state-run reform school, now in their 50s, 60s and 70s, accuse Tidwell in a class-action lawsuit of abuse. They tell of picking underwear from their lacerations and being black and blue from their thighs to their backs.

For the first time since the men told their stories publicly in October, Tidwell was made to face the allegations.

He called it "spanking," according to those at his deposition here Thursday. He said it was state-sanctioned discipline, punishment for kids who tried to run away or got caught smoking. He said he hit kids eight to 10 times per infraction with a thick leather strap, but never hard enough to harm them.

He said he never made a boy bleed.

Tidwell was the focus of a St. Petersburg Times report called "For Their Own Good," which documented a history of abuse at the school, now known as the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. Since the article was published last month, dozens more men have told similar stories of being abused by Tidwell and other school employees.

Tidwell, who was hired at Florida School for Boys in 1943 as an instructor and houseparent, is 84. He's in poor health and frail.

He was dapper Thursday. He wore a navy blue suit with a crimson shirt and matching handkerchief. He carried a multicolored cane.

He spoke quietly during most of the deposition. At times he seemed upset, aggressive even.

Bryant Middleton was sitting a few seats from Tidwell during the four hours of testimony. Middleton, sent to the school in 1959 for incorrigibility, said Tidwell wouldn't look him in the eye.

"He inflicted so much harm on me that it totally changed my life," Middleton, 64, said after the deposition. "I was brutally hurt, physically and emotionally. For him to say he never hurt anybody, well, he hurt me."

Tom Masterson, an attorney representing the men, said he wasn't surprised that Tidwell denied abusing children. He tried presenting historic testimony from a former psychologist at the school who told a U.S. Senate panel that the beatings with the leather strap constitute "brutality."

But Tidwell said all discipline was state-approved protocol. They called it Final Disciplinary Action.

"The ultimate issue is: How do you define abuse?" said Masterson. "He denied that he harmed anybody, but when you have 200 people telling the same story …"

Masterson said he will question Tidwell again in coming weeks.

The deposition came a week after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement closed its investigation into a small cemetery on the reform school campus. Investigators found no evidence that the 29 boys buried there died at the hands of school staff. They did not exhume any remains or use ground-penetrating radar to determine how many bodies are in the ground, and they relied heavily on staff-generated reports to account for the deaths.

The FDLE is still investigating allegations of abuse at the school.

Tidwell's attorney, Matthew Fuqua, refused to answer questions.

"He did good," was all he said.

Thursday afternoon, deposition over, Tidwell stepped out of his lawyer's office into the light. Photographers snapped pictures as he carefully walked to a waiting car, his eyes down, a police officer keeping watch nearby.

He said nothing.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at or (727) 892-2283. Ben Montgomery can be reached at or (727) 893-8650.

Troy Tidwell, who doled out 'spankings' at the Florida School for Boys, answers to allegations 05/21/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 25, 2009 5:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries


    It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

    Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.
  2. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week


    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]
  3. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91


    LOS ANGELES — Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced showman who jumped and hollered to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, has died. He was …

    In this Sept. 2, 1990, file photo, entertainer Jerry Lewis makes his opening remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon fundraiser in Los Angeles. Lewis, the comedian whose fundraising telethons became as famous as his hit movies, has died according to his publicist. [Associated Press]
  4. Mastermind of lottery rigging scam that netted millions faces 25 years


    DES MOINES, Iowa — For a decade, computer programmer Eddie Tipton reliably showed up for work at the central Iowa office of the Multi-State Lottery Association and earned the confidence of his co-workers, a team of technicians entrusted to build computers used to randomly pick numbers for some of the most popular …

    FILE - In this June 29, 2017, file photo, Eddie Tipton, the former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director who admitted to masterminding a scheme to rig lottery games that paid him and others $2 million from seven fixed jackpots in five states, is seen in court in Des Moines, Iowa. Tipton is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) IADES501
  5. Pasco County man killed in wrong-way crash on New Jersey Turnpike


    MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Authorities say a Florida man driving the wrong way on the New Jersey Turnpike was killed when his SUV crashed head-on into another vehicle.