Thursday, February 05, 2009

Former Marianna Dozier School For Boys Inmates File Lawsuit Against "One Armed Man Troy Tidwell" and The Florida Department of Agriculture Et Al.

WMBB ABC NEWS TV-13 PANAMA CITY FLORIDA... Former Dozier Inmates File Lawsuit 02/02/09 A Marianna man, Troy Tidwell, is the only individual listed in a class-action suit that alleges he and several state entities are responsible for alleged abuse at the Florida Industrial School for Boys Marianna FL.

The class action suit, filed by Bryant Middleton, William Horne, Roger Kiser and Jimmy Jackson (The White House Boys), lists the defendants as the Florida Department of Agriculture, the Florida Department of Children and Family Services, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the Florida Department of Corrections, and Troy Tidwell of Marianna.

Tidwell is being represented by the law office of Frank Bondurant and Matthew Fuqua of Marianna. The suit was filed Jan. 22 in Pinellas County. The abuse was alleged to have taken place in Jackson County, but the state entities named in the suit are based in Leon County — part of the basis for a motion for dismissal filed by Bondurant and Fuqua.
Bryant Middleton-
William Horne-
Roger Kiser -
Jimmy Jackson-
"All others similarly situated"
Florida Department of Agriculture-
Florida Department of Children and Families-
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice-
Florida Department of Corrections-
Troy Tidwell-
Robert E. Curry

“It’s in the early stage of litigation and we’re not prepared to comment at this time. We don’t think Troy Tidwell has done anything wrong and the facts of the case will ultimately bear the proof,” Bondurant said Friday.

Late last year, a group of men who call themselves the White House Boys made allegations of abuse — and possibly murder — which they allege took place in the 1950s and 1960s at the reform school now known as Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.

Since the group has come forward, the state Department of Juvenile Justice placed a plaque acknowledging the abuse on the school grounds, where the bulk of the abuse allegedly took place, in a building known as the White House. Subsequently, Gov. Charlie Crist ordered a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the allegations, and the contents of unnamed graves near the school’s grounds.

The one-armed man; Hundreds of former residents of the school have come forward with similar stories, many of them alleging that Tidwell was one of a handful school employees who committed the abuses.

In several interviews with the Floridan, several former residents who are not part of the suit describe being severely beaten under cover of night by a one-armed man, allegedly Troy Tidwell. They claim Tidwell would turn on a fan to muffle the sounds made during the whippings. A phone number listed for Tidwell is no longer in service.

In December 2008, Tidwell declined to speak with CNN, but he was recently quoted in the Miami Herald saying the boys were “spanked” but not injured. “Kids that were chronic cases, getting in trouble all the time, running away and what have you, they used that as a last resort,” Tidwell told the Herald. “We would take them to a little building near the dining room and spank the boys there when we felt it was necessary.”

Bill Davidson of Sneads believes punishment went beyond spanking at the Florida School for Boys. “People are saying it was typical punishment for that day and time? I was a kid back then and I can tell you what happened at that place was well beyond punishment. It was abuse. It was abuse. They pure beat the hell out of them,” Davidson said. “I remember bringing it up. I asked him to show me his scars again. He was marked for life. Scars criss-crossed his backside and the backs of his legs. When I asked him questions, he’d tell me not to ask no more,” Davidson said. “He’d turn his head and cry. Makes me glad I was a POW in Vietnam and not a boy at the Marianna school.”

“When I read about this in the paper, I started to cry again. But I’m glad these men are brave to come out about it,” Davidson said. “I ain’t getting no money to talk about this. I just think what happened was wrong and I want everyone to know. I cry over it. No human being should be beat like that ... Lord, I wouldn’t even beat an animal like that. I’d take a gun and shoot it before I beat it like that.”

Interviews continue; Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement continues to investigate allegations similar to Davidson’s. A FDLE representative said Friday that investigators are still in the process of talking to individuals and reviewing records. She could not say how many interviews had been conducted. But she said that the amount of time that has passed since the alleged abuse took place, combined with the fact that the school has changed hands several times, means investigators have a lot of work at hand.
1). Florida Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan - A growing Klan group based in Florida, claiming chapters in some 18 states, mostly in the South, the Northeast, and the West Coast.
2). National Aryan Knights of the Ku Klux Klan - A small Klan group with chapters in Florida and Louisiana. Incorporated by Charles Denton, National Aryan Knights of The Ku Klux Klan LLC is located at PO Box 246 Englewood, FL 34295. National Aryan Knights of The Ku Klux Klan LLC was incorporated on Friday, May 19, 2006 in the State of FL and is currently inactive. Cleve Denton represents National Aryan Knights of The Ku Klux Klan LLC as their registered agent.
3). United White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan - A small Florida Klan group.
5). The Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Florida As late as 1952, a Grand Dragon (state president) spoke to the Florida Sheriff’s Association where he received applause for condemning an assassinated civil rights worker as a troublemaker. Only in the 1970s did Klansmen have trouble keeping their jobs in law enforcement, a reversal of fortune best symbolized by the defeat of the Klan sheriff of Lake County, Willis McCall, for reelection after beating a black prisoner to death in 1972.

In 1901, the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture inaugurated a rule requiring prospective guards to sign an application under oath for appointment as state guards. The lessee, the Florida Supervisor of Convicts and the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture all had to approve each employment application. All sub-lessees were required to investigate references and determine the character of guard applicants. Pay for guards remained low, but the application process improved the type of men hired.

No legislation addressed the steadily increasing reports of prisoner beatings and other abuse in the convict camps. A convict named Hughes was severely beaten and then released from a camp at Holder. One week later he died. A coroner's jury found that the man had been ill with tuberculosis and could not work. Guards ordered Hughes to complete his assigned tasks or suffer discipline. The jury found that Hughes died of tuberculosis, but little doubt existed that the severe beatings hastened his death.

Another incident of brutality happened in a turpentine camp near Ocala. It garnered considerable notice, even in other states' press. Eleven young men visited Florida on a hunting trip. The Alachua County Sheriff arrested them as vagrants after they had been in the state about ten days, and the court sentenced them to serve thirty days on the county convict farm.

The men were eventually able to present their case to Judge Hooker in Alachua. They appeared before him "faint from hunger and with back bloody from repeated lashing." The Florida Times Union reported that the men received such barbarous treatment that some of them might die. "They were chained to negroes and ordered to do tasks which were impossible." The reporter revealed that stripped naked, the men were tied across logs, where a guard lashed them with raw hides until they bled. The end of the lash gashed their faces badly, and according to Judge Hooker, nearly tore Cumming's ear off.

Sixty-seven Jackson County residents donated $1,400 and 1200 acres of land near Marianna for the construction of the reform school. In 1899, two three-story brick dormitories were completed each designed to hold seventy-two children. One building housed white children and the other black children. The reform school opened on January 1, 1900, finally providing a separate place to incarcerate some of the children in the Florida prison system.

A 1903 report of a "Citizen's Committee" to the Florida Children's Commission however, charged
that the Boy's reform school was "nothing more than a prison." This committee found forty- four children imprisoned at the reform school in Marianna, including thirty-seven black males, five white males and two females. Committee members reported they "found them in irons, just as common criminals, which in the judgment of your committee, is not the meaning of a 'State Reform School' as defined by the law creating said school."

In its first five years of operation, the BOY'S school provided neither vocational nor academic education.
Children were "hired out" to work for people in the area FARMS, or they were compelled to cultivate the school's farm acreage and do maintenance work. The Marianna Times Courier explained that the Board of Managers of the school told their reporter "the Legislature has never provided money to pay a teacher."

The reformatory was meant to separate children convicted of a crime from the general prison population, but it is obvious in several Prison Reports that not all juvenile offenders were sent to the industrial school. A writer in the Tallahassee Weekly True Democrat reported that under a 1905 contract, the Board of Commissioners recently signed, "men, women and boys would be leased (WHO TOOK IN THE MONEY FROM THE LEASE ?).

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture McRae reported in 1920 that The Boys'
Industrial School at Marianna had an average attendance of "approximately three hundred
since it was established some twenty years ago, one-third of the boys were white and two-thirds were black." By 1920, the school operated two racially separate campuses. McRae expressed much concern with the quality of the executive supervision of the boys and girls schools. He asserted that the Governor and his cabinet, which also served as the Board of Commissioners, provide supervision. On June 30, 1930 the Boys Industrial School at Marianna reported a rapidly growing population and a high incidence of escapes.

According to the Committee report, boys held in this institution were aged ten to eighteen years . It criticized the practice of not separating older boys from younger, or inmates convicted of crimes from inmates merely dependent on the state.

The 1920s to 1930's was also a time of rising racism and nativism. In Florida, the extreme manifestation of those factors was the power of the Klu Klux Klan (Marianna Fl site of Negro Lynchings). Many individual racial incidents occurred, including public hangings (Marianna FL). Several times white mobs attacked black communities and burned them out. Black's homes burned in Perry, Rosewood, and Ocoee. Racism and nativism occurred nationally, not only in Florida.

Bill Warner
private investigator
WBI Inc private Detective Agency
Sarasota FL