Tuesday, December 12, 2017
News Roundup

Boys' remains from troubled Dozier school to be buried in Tallahassee, memorial to be erected on school grounds

MARIANNA — The bones came up from the red earth of Jackson County, from a forgotten corner of the campus of Florida's oldest reform school. Putting them back into the ground, deciding how and where the remains of boys who died in state custody should spend eternity, proved hard.

After a tense, emotional, five-hour meeting of a task force charged with making that decision, the nine-member board voted to recommend that the legislature rebury the boys somewhere in Tallahassee and erect some sort of monument at the reform school, acknowledging the school's history.

FOR THEIR OWN GOOD: Read the complete Times' investigation into the Dozier boys school.

The lack of specific details on where the burials should occur and what any memorials should look like is a reflection of deep disagreement among the panel, which included local and state politicians, historians, a clergyman, an NAACP representative, a former state trooper and the president of a group of survivors and former wards of the school.

The decision was the latest chapter in a saga that started in 2008, when five old men began speaking publicly about how they were beaten and molested in the 1950s and '60s at the Florida School for Boys, which opened in 1900. More than 500 men have made similar claims. After a Tampa Bay Times investigation, forensic anthropologists from the University of South Florida spent three years unearthing and identifying 53 sets of remains found in a hidden cemetery and in surrounding woods. About half have been matched with names, and a handful returned to families. The rest are being stored until an exact burial spot is chosen.

The task force settled early on three locations where the remains would be buried: Garden of Memories Cemetery on Lake Avenue in Tampa; Tallahassee Memory Gardens Cemetery, six miles north of downtown Tallahassee; and back in Jackson County, maybe even at the original site. There were also calls to bury them on state property near the state capitol, within view of state legislators, as a reminder.

The survivors of abuse at the Florida School for Boys, called the White House Boys, were nearly unanimous in opposition to returning the boys to the campus.

"Those bodies should never be returned to Jackson County," said Bob Baxter, whose parents sent him to the school in 1950. "To return those boys back to a place like that would be like killing them again."

But Dale Landry, representing the Florida state conference of the NAACP, favored a memorial on the old reform school campus as a permanent reminder of the shameful way children were treated there.

"You've got to acknowledge what you did in the past," he said, speaking of the people of Marianna, many of whom opposed digging up the cemetery. He pointed out the history of racial violence in Jackson County, the 1934 spectacle lynching of Claude Neal and that more than 70 percent of the remains buried at the reform school were identified as African American. "I say to Jackson County: Remember what happened. You have the opportunity to protect the children."

James Dean, the Marianna city manager, called for reconciliation. He said that the negative attention has harmed the town's economy and the area has lost 5,800 jobs since the school, also called the Dozier School for Boys, closed in 2011.

"We are not for hiding anything," Dean said. "But the citizens in our community are not for sensationalizing what happened at the reform school." He said any memorial at the site should be "modest" and "tell the entire story of the reform school, both good and bad."

But "this county stood there and wouldn't let them dig up the bodies," Landry said. "There's blood on that land, and just to try to wash it away won't work."

The Rev. Russell Meyer, executive director of the Florida Council of Churches, called for a broader remembering, asking that buildings on the old campus be preserved to help tell the dark story of what was once the largest reformatory in the country.

"If we don't get the 'why' right, what we build will fail to do the work that needs to be done," he said. "At the center of Dozier is a trauma that spread across the state of Florida. Without a place, the dead are forgotten even though their deaths impact generations thereafter."

In the end, agreeing on the specifics proved too difficult.

Florida A&M history professor David Jackson, the board's historical advisor, warned the panel that relocating the remains will make people wonder why they were moved. He pointed out memorials at Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary.

"What do you want the story to be? This is not about black and white. It's about child abuse and the state of Florida's neglect of the children in its care," he said. "If the remains are buried outside the community, there will be questions about why they were not buried in this place."

Ben Montgomery can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8650. Follow @gangrey.

Comments
Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

TAMPA — The season started in August with “Hard Knocks,” packed bleachers at training camp and cheers for coach Dirk Koetter.It ended Sunday with a 24-21 loss to the Lions, a lot of empty seats and chants of “We want Gruden ba...
Updated: 3 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 11

Monday’s scoreboardGirls soccerDixie Hollins 4, Boca Ciega 0Palm Harbor U. 2, Countryside 2Osceola 7, Northeast 0Largo 1, Seminole 0Boys soccerIndian Rocks Chr. 3, Northside Chr. 1Palm Harbor U. 4, Countryside 1...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays made a small deal Monday in acquiring INF Joey Wendle from Oakland while continuing to discuss bigger ones that seem likely to eventually lead to the trade of closer Alex Colome and then others.The Rockies and Mets joined ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Mon., Dec. 11, midday:32 251 1266e_SRit91903Mon., Dec. 11, evening:52 400 7181e_SRit23090Fantasy 5Mon., Dec. 11...
Updated: 5 hours ago
HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot ShotsEmily Joseph, NortheastJoseph, a senior, has been a deadly shooter since her sophomore year. But this season she has added to her game. "She’s gotten physically stronger and has gained confidence," coach Will White said. "She used t...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Florida A&M names Willie Simmons football coach

Florida A&M names Willie Simmons football coach

TALLAHASSEE — Willie Simmons was named football coach at Florida A&M on Monday. The Tallahassee native will be introduced today. Simmons, 37, has been the coach at Prairie View A&M the past three seasons (21-11, including 6-5 this season). He played ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton may hasten Rays’ dismantling

Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton may hasten Rays’ dismantling

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The latest obstacle keeping the Rays from contending in the American League East loomed even larger Monday afternoon in pinstripes.The Yankees’ formal introduction of Giancarlo Stanton also could be an accelerant to the departure o...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Residents wonder what’s next after fire destroys Tampa apartments (with video)

Residents wonder what’s next after fire destroys Tampa apartments (with video)

TAMPA — When her apartment complex caught fire Monday afternoon, Peaches McIntyre grabbed her four children and baby stroller and ran outside.Hours later, she looked at the smoldering building with her 5-year-old autistic son, Choice Underwood, huggi...
Updated: 6 hours ago
3 Trump accusers call for congressional inquiry; Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist; 18 win anti-Trump climate grants; more in U.S., world news

3 Trump accusers call for congressional inquiry; Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist; 18 win anti-Trump climate grants; more in U.S., world news

United States3 Trump accusers speak, hoping to be heard nowThree women who have previously accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment shared their stories Monday on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today. Jessica Leeds, Samantha Holvey and Rachel Crooks s...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Judge denies former Clearwater fire chief’s motion for a new trial

Judge denies former Clearwater fire chief’s motion for a new trial

A Pinellas circuit judge denied a bid for a new trial in the case of Jamie Geer, the former Clearwater fire chief serving a life sentence for sexually abusing a girl throughout her childhood.Geer, now 63, was in court in October seeking the new trial...
Updated: 6 hours ago