I have been asked many times what spurred me on in the fight to expose the atrocities that happened to me and other boys at the Florida School for Boys at Marianna some fifty years ago. Basically, it all boils down to two statements. As a twelve year old boy and after being beaten bloody at the White House I remember my body shaking, I placed my finger in my mouth and I bravely mumbled: “One day I’m gonna come back here and tell what you people are doing around here.” The man in the director’s office pointed his finger at me and screamed: “Talking like that is a good way to wake up dead tomorrow morning sonny boy.” I knew right then that I would return one day and expose the horrors taking place at that school. I contacted every governor in office since Governor, Reubin Askew and have fought to expose this for more than twenty-five years. No one else (not one individual) stepped forward to help fight or expose this terrible atrocity until 2008 when the story finally broke in the news media. Click here to read the original story.
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CONTACT INFORMATION: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
Roger Dean Kiser, Sr.
Child Advocate Office
303 Juliette Circle
Brunswick, Georgia 31525
TO VIEW THE USF REPORT CLICK HERE
The White House Boys article appears in this issue of People Magazine
To view pictures of the USF meetings in Tampa, Florida click here
To View The White House Boys Web Site Click on the Book Cover.
To View the American Orphan Web Site Click on the Orphan Cover.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement (2011) “As far as we are concerned this case is over.”
White House Boys response (Jerry Cooper) “This case is not over until the White House Boys say it’s over.”
THE DECISION HAS BEEN MADE TO EXHUME ALL BOYS' BODIES AT DOZIER
click here to view video
Florida will exhume remains of 100 children who died at Dozier School for Boys
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday authorized a year-long dig for human remains at a closed Panhandle reform school, saying the state cannot ignore abuse that went on for decades.
Scott and Cabinet members --- Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam --- approved a land-use agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection that allows University of South Florida researchers to search for reportedly unaccounted-for bodies of boys who died between 1900 and 1952 at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.
"We're not exactly sure what happened there, but we know it wasn't good," Bondi said.
"We have to look at our history," she added. "We have to go back, we know there are unmarked graves currently on that property that deserve a proper burial. It's the right thing to do."
Putnam said that the search for bodies is not an indictment of the Marianna or Jackson County communities, but against a facility "that was ignored for too long by state."
"There is no shame in searching for the truth," Putnam added. "Families who want closure, who want answers, deserve those things."
A temporary restraining order, issued in October 2012 by Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper, has delayed the state's intention to sell the Dozier property.
The efforts of USF researchers have faced opposition from some longtime Jackson County residents who expressed concerns about what effect exhuming bodies from lands around the one-time "high risk" reform school will have on the local economy and the image of the community.
Sid Riley, publisher of the Jackson County Times, implored Scott on Aug. 1 to deny USF's request "to dig up those Christian buried grave sites at Dozier."
Riley expressed concern about how removing of bodies will impact the local economy and that survivors will try to use what may be found to seek "reparations" from the state.
"The bad publicity which will ensue during the year or more of time which will be involved will seriously hamper our local tourism development programs, as well as economic development efforts for our county," Riley wrote. "Please do not allow them to engage in this greed motivated waste of money."
Cooper's order allows the research work to proceed until the body of Thomas Varnadoe is exhumed.
Varnadoe died a month after arriving at the school in the 1930s. He was 13. A family member from central Florida has sought to move the remains to a family graveyard.
The researchers have been investigating the Panhandle school, which at one time encompassed 1,400 acres, to determine whether boys at the reform school were possibly killed and buried on school grounds.
Robert Strayley, 66, who was sent to the school in 1963 after running away from his home in Tampa several times, recalled that floggings were still being administered to boys at the school throughout his 10-month stay.
"This is a historic moment for Florida because they reached into a past for Florida that was so dark that nobody wants to talk about it," said Straley, who attended the Cabinet meeting with others who had been sent to the school and are known as the "the White House Boys" and "Dozier Boys."
"Even after they banned flogging in 1922, by Gov. (Cary) Hardee, as being too cruel punishment for even the most hardened criminal, it went on at this boy's school," Straley said.
Researchers using ground-penetrating radar have identified potential graves on what is considered the "colored" cemetery within the site and believe there should also be a "white" cemetery on the grounds.
The Legislature put $190,000 into the state budget to fund the research, determine the causes of death, identify remains, locate potential family members and cover the costs for any re-internment.
However, the excavation work has been on hold as researchers have been unable to get needed approval to dig.
On July 15, Secretary of State Ken Detzner denied a permit sought by the USF researchers to dig at the Panhandle site.
Detzner said his department's Bureau of Archaeological Research didn't have the authority to approve the excavation, noting that the department is "restricted to the recovery of objects of historical or archaeological value," but "not human remains."
In May, Jackson County Circuit Judge William L. Wright denied a request by Bondi's office that also could have cleared the way for exhuming remains.
After having experienced the most horrible two years of my life at a Florida reform school in 1959-1960; I have worked for more than twenty years to expose the horrors that took place at the Florida Industrial School for Boys at Marianna (later known as the Arthur Dozier School). The beatings, the molestations, the rapes, the nightly disappearances and even the murder of young boys are memories that have haunted me for many years. I yelled and screamed for years yet no one would believe me. Now the bodies of young boys are surfacing and the stories are coming to light and now I know for sure that it was not just a child-hood bad dream.
When boys and or girls are taken away by the state, for whatever reason, and placed in a state care facility they may not have to love them but do have a responsibility to care for and protect those children. At the former Florida Industrial School for Boys at Marianna (Dozier School) many boys’ lives were destroyed as were many of the lives of their families and children in later years. Had any parent treated their children in the manner the state treated us they would have been sent to prison for years. The state took on that responsibility not by choice but by court order and to have allowed boys to be beaten bloody, molested, raped and killed is something they should be held responsible and accountable for just as would have our own parents.
Roger Dean Kiser, author/child advocate
Today many parties are meeting in Marianna, Florida and tomorrow afternoon there will be a meeting between Professor, Erin Kimmerle (University of South Florida), The NAACP, The Martin Luther King Group, Andrew Puel (for the White House Boys), the U.S. Al-jazeera News Organization and other major media outlets.
A REMEMBRANCE FLAG
After traveling to Tallahassee and viewing the main sign in (REGISTER) records; here is what we found the boys were charged with and why they were sent to the Florida School for Boys at Marianna. Anyone can clearly see that these young boys were dangerous, hardened criminals who should have been taken directly to the electric chair rather than to the reform school for such vicious crimes.
One page lists the names of 67 boys.
18 were sent to the school for “Runaway.”
29 were sent to the school for “Being incorrigible.”
4 were sent to the school for using “Using foul language.”
3 were sent to the school for “Breaking and entering.”
4 were sent to the school for “Joy riding.”
5 were sent to the school for “Smoking cigarettes and skipping school.”
4 were sent to the school for “Refusing to follow direction.”
My story and the stories of some three hundred other men, contained on this web site, will give the readers some idea of the terrible abusive and bloody horrors that were suffered by these men when they were children. Children, some as young as five or six, who ran away from physically, sexually or verbally abusive homes; yet were labeled as incorrigible children by the juvenile court system of Florida. Under court order these children were sent away too physically work on state owned farms located at The Florida School for Boys at Marianna. In addition these same children were used by the local Marianna, Jackson County community working on ranches and unloading railroad cars for as long as twelve hours a day without any pay whatsoever. That in itself was terrible but nothing compared to what was happening behind closed doors at the institution. Many boys disappeard during the night and were never heard from again. Now bodies are being discovered around the campus.
When driving onto the campus one would think it looked like a college campus. Beautiful buildings, manicured lawns, a swimming pool, a football field, hospital, dining hall and at Christmas thousands of cars visited the facility to see the hundreds of decorations and thousands upon thousands of colored lights which decorated the main drive. Yet behind all this beauty there were brutal, horrendous and merciless bloody beatings, molestations, rapes and even murders taking place in a small, thick cement walled building know as The White House. There were many nights when young boys were taken from their cottages screaming and crying and were raped by the staff. Many of these boys never returned to their cottages and were never heard from again. Our investigation has never found any records (Social Security-Crinimal-Employment-Tax or Property ownership or other information) regarding any of these boys in later years. They just simply disappeared, some were as young as five.
I arrive at the school on June 3, 1959 at the age of twelve (12). I am not sure exactly what age I was as the orphanage never had a birthday party for any of the children and most of we kids never knew what our exact ages were until we grew up and managed to secure a birth certificate. In my case it was when I turned 27 years old.
Upon entering the school I was rather taken by all the beauty and the neatness of the campus. Though somewhat scared; I was not as scared as most kids sent to the school because I was already institutionalized and use to such environments. But I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the large swimming pool, football field and the gymnasium. This had to be much better than the orphanage and "look at all this here stuff," I remember saying to myself. This had to be much better than only having one broken swing to swing on and a roller skate that only had three wheels. But, little did I know, as a great big smile crossed my lips, that a devil was hiding behind every tree, every building and even behind every blade of manicured grass. And little did I know that America had its own concentration camp for little boys right here in the good ole U.S. of A. It is a bloody, horrible and never ending nightmare that many of us still suffer even to this very day, some fifty years later.
After a vicious and brutal bloody beating at the White House; I swore that I would one day expose what was happening at the facility. And that I did. Some fifty years later I wrote the book The White House Boys-An American Tragedy which, with the help of other men who were abused at the school, closed down the campus for good. The University of South Florida is now on the grounds hunting for the bodies of boys who were killed, buried or simply dumped in the North Florida swamps. At present 96 bodies have been located. If the USF investigation is allowed to continue; many additional bodies will be found on both the North and South sides of the campus as well as in the garbage dump. This will not include the many bodies that were taken into the swampland areas and dumped and possibly eaten by alligators. There were stories of boys being beaten to death at the White House Torture Chamber then their bodies taken to the incinerator and burned with the daily trash. The ashes were then cleaned out and taken “to the peanut field and used as fertilizer.”
The few employees who did have the guts and fortitude to come forward (after all these years) called the beatings cruel, brutal, totally inhumane and criminal in nature. I guess one had to actually be there to see the boy’s Levis split at the seams after 20 or thirty swats with the heavy weighted leather and metal strap. I guess you had to be there at the hospital to see the boys’ underwear which had been beaten into their skin and then surgically removed by the school’s nurse and the aging physician. Yes, one would have to have been there to really understand the horror, the cruelty and the brutality of it all.
THE BOOKS and STORIES of
ROGER DEAN KISER, SR,
To a child who has nothing,
a little bit means everything.
To a child who has everything,
a little bit means nothing.
Roger Dean Kiser. Author
Being on total disability; It is only through the sale of my books that allow me
to continue my work as a child advocate, helping abused children and American orphans.
CLICK BOOK COVERS TO READ A STORY OR PURCHASE A BOOK
"My friend, Roger Dean Kiser has to be one of the best unknown
short story writers in America. I am honored to have his
autographged work in my personal library."
Wendy's International, Inc.
Considering I only had a sixth grade education; I am honored that many of my stories have been used for educational purposes. Over the years I have given much of my work away for free, mainly to organizations and schools (for testing) that use those stories, books, CDs and materials for the benefit of educating children and helping abused kids. I have never forgotten being mentally and verbally abused by my teachers while attending Spring Park Elementary School and while living at The Children's Home Society in Jacksonville, Florida and The Florida School for Boys at Marianna.
ROGER KISER'S BIO
Published author Roger Dean Kiser's stories take you into the heart of a child abandoned by his family and abused by the system responsible for his care. Through his stories, he relives the sadness and cruelty of growing up an orphan in the early 1950s.
Today, Kiser lives in Brunswick, Georgia with his wife Judy where he continues to write and publishing his heartfelt short storis. Unknowingly at first and by the power of the Internet, Kiser's short stories have touched millions.
In the vein of Mark Twain, Roger Dean Kiser's collection of almost 1,000 stories has captured the drama and emotion of not only his childhood, but also his current day tales. Kiser's short stories carry with them strong images and feelings that search out and find that common thread which connects each of us to our own emotions.
Roger Dean Kiser is the author of the books "Orphan, A True Story of Abandonment, Abuse and Redemption," "American Orphan" and "RUNAWAY, Life on the streets-The Lessons Learned" and "The White House Boys-An American Tragedy." Many of Roger's stories have appeared in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul Books and have been enjoyed by thousands.
Roger will never forget how he and about 300 other children were treated as though they were less than human while living at the Children's Home Society Orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida. How he and hundreds of other boys were brutally beaten, abused and some raped at the hands of officials employed at the Florida Industrial School for Boys at Marianna in the 1950s and 1960s.
Roger's short stories have also been published in books such as: Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul, Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul, Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul, Chicken Soup for the Friend's Soul, Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul, Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul, Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul, Chicken Soup for the Adopted Soul, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories to Soothe the Spirit, Heartwarmers, Heartwarmers of Love, A Cool Collection I and A Cool Collection II (Israel), Connections-Textbook and CD Rom (Israel), Faith & True Stories of Friendship, Teen Miracles, Man's Best Friend (Australia), The Next Voice You Hear, Soul Disclosures, Dog Buddies (Australia), Skyline Magazine IV, Venice, Gulf Coast Living, Petwarmers CD Collection, Kiwanis Magazine, as well as his own CD titled "The Life and Times of Roger Dean Kiser."
Roger's short story "The Bully" was made into a short film by Executive Producer Edward Asner (Mary Tyler Moore Show), and has been entered into several major film festivals in the United States.
Between Edward Asner's bustling, award winning career and a busy political agenda, the actor has still made himself available to lend his support and voice to Roger Dean Kiser.
CONTACT: e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
Roger Dean Kiser, Sr.
Child Advocate Office
303 Juliette Circle
Brunswick, Georgia 31525
Please donate if you can to help me continue my work