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Friday, March 20, 2009
Daughter of Dozier’s Doctor Wexler Speaks Out
Letter to the Editor, Jackson County Times
A few months ago, I became aware of the ongoing investigation of alleged abuse at the Florida School for Boys
(FSB) which allegedly occurred several decades ago. I’ve read online postings by men who claim to have been
victims at the school, investigative newspaper articles, and Sid Riley’s two-part article for the Jackson County
Times. It also appears that while the State of Florida is conducting its investigation, there is considerable
contentiousness taking place: one party accusing cover-up, another defending the institution and the town itself.
It is unfortunate that these allegations of FSB staffer misconduct were not filed until nearly 45 to 50 years after the
events. Many of those who could testify as either defendant or witness to any abuse at the school are no longer
alive. At least we have Mr. Riley’s article which follows the journalistic tradition of conducting interviews with the
surviving individuals who had first-hand knowledge, especially those of the medical community.
My interest in the proceedings is to have the truth told, whatever it may be. Personally, I doubt the story of the
"white house boys" as they tell it is 100% correct, but a complete denial of any wrong-doing by officials is not true,
either. The purpose in my writing this letter is to add my own first-hand observations.
My father was Dr. Isadore Wexler, the physician at FSB from 1960 to 1970. My mother, Rella Wexler, was the
executive secretary for the school’s superintendent (first, Arthur Dozier, then David Walters). Our family lived on the
grounds during the ten-year time period. As a high school student, I regularly assisted my father in the campus
clinic and his office.
My father’s specialty was penal institution medicine. His career included the Kentucky Institute for the Criminally
Insane, Sing Sing Prison (New York), and Norfolk State Prison (a maximum security facility in Massachusetts). Over
the years, he spoke regularly and graphically about what he did—and saw—in these settings. I grew up hearing
about everything from his treatment of rat-bitten prisoners chained in a dungeon to his official duty of viewing and
verifying deaths by electric chair.
During my father’s tenure at FSB, I became aware that “strappings” (this is what it was called in the 1960s)
occurred, although I’m not sure who told me. My sister and I were told to stay away from the “white house.” We also
knew about the on-grounds cemetery which already existed when we moved on campus in 1960. We were told that
it was for boys who had died decades before during an epidemic. During the time we lived at FSB, I was never
aware of any talk of current deaths or burials.
In his article, Mr. Riley wrote that if there were the abuse and mysterious deaths to the extent alleged, it most surely
would have had to come to the attention of the hospital staff. I agree with his observation. No physician would have
tolerated such outrageous mistreatment requiring extensive medical care without speaking up. I would have heard
about it from my father, but didn’t.
In fact, shortly after my father came to the school, he had a confrontation with Superintendent Dozier about the
boys going shoeless on the work crews. He treated so many foot injuries that he insisted the boys be required to
wear shoes or boots. Mr. Dozier told my father that would ruin the “beloved image of the barefoot boy in the South.”
If this type of injury was sufficient to annoy a physician—even one who had seen much worse—I cannot imagine
him remaining silent about ongoing brutal beatings during the time he cared for the 800 boys.
The men who now insist they were so badly abused at the school certainly did not have a pleasant experience
there. I cannot comment on their motives for waiting this length of time before coming forward. However, they
deserve the right to see their allegations thoroughly investigated.
At the same time, I hope that the media covering this story will be unbiased, ethical, and immune to taking sides. As
Jack Webb of Dragnet (one of my father’s favorite TV programs) used to say: “Just the facts, ma’am.”
March 16, 2009
Posted by Times Staff at 8:11 AM
Addition by Roger Dean Kiser
I worked with Dr. Wexler in the hospital, along with nurse Womack and that damn cat of hers. I found the doctor to be a very kind man. One who, once in a while, would allow we boys to go into his office and smoke cigarettes. I also remember Doctor Wexler having me suture up several boys as he could not see how to make the sutures as his coke bottle glasses made it very difficult for him to see at times.
Doctor Wexler also had a bad habit of grabbing boys by the penis and making jokes. There were never any stories about him being a pervert or any stories of sexual abuse about him. He was just a man with a strange doctor's weird sense of humor. However, there was a story told about him getting mad at one young boy because he would not stand still when being given a shot in the buttocks. Doctor Wexler got extremely mad, took the cigar from his mouth and burnt the black boy on his anus.
There were numerous other stories which I will not disclose at this time. I will tell of the one young boy who complained that he could not go to work because is buttocks was hurting. Doctor Wexler bend the boy over the examination table "for a looksie." He had two boys hold the young boy down while he cut off a small one quarter inch hominoid, without the use of any antistatic. The boy screamed in total horror during the procedure. Doctor Wexler was also known (under orders from the director, Mr. Hatton) that any boy who ran away from the school needing medical care or minor surgery)from an injury caused during the escape, that "no antistatic would be wasted on such a boy."
I spoke with Shiela back in 2001 about this incident after she telephoned me from a airport after reading my story "The horrors of the White House." I believe she told me she was flying somewhere overseas for a business meeting. She was aware that this issue was about to be exposed at that time.
The reason no boy ever reported what was happening at the school is for this reason: The State of Florida and its FSB employees were the top GODS of the State of Florida and they made sure every single boy knew and boys remembered that fact. As there is no one above “GOD,” there was no one to complain to. That along with the threats that you or your family would be killed if you ever opened your mouth about what was happening at the school was enough of a reason for me to keep my mouth shut for many years.
The punishments handed out at that facility were torturous and ungodly. Boys were afraid to say anything about anything for fear that they too would beaten, raped or simply disappear in the darkness of night. In my 63 years on this earth, I have yet to see a beating or flogging on the movies or on television that was as brutal as we boys took at Marianna.