BOOKS: The Horror, The Horror


AMAZON: Hidden far from sight, deep in the thick underbrush of the North Florida woods are the ghostly graves of more than thirty unidentified bodies, some of which are thought to be children who were beaten to death at the old Florida Industrial School for Boys at Marianna. It is suspected that many more bodies will be found in the fields and swamplands surrounding the institution. Investigations into the unmarked graves have compelled many grown men to come forward and share their stories of the abuses they endured and the atrocities they witnessed in the 1950s and 1960s at the institution. The White House Boys: An American Tragedy is the true story of the horrors recalled by Roger Dean Kiser, one of the boys incarcerated at the facility in the late fifties for the crime of being a confused, unwanted, and wayward child. In a style reminiscent of the works of Mark Twain, Kiser recollects the horrifying verbal, sexual, and physical abuse he and other innocent young boys endured at the hands of their “caretakers.” Questions remain unanswered and theories abound, but Roger and the other ‘White House Boys’ are determined to learn the truth and see justice served. MORE

JACKSONVILLE.COM: The boys were ordered to lie on a thin, dirty mattress, bite into a pillow, hold onto the headboard and remain silent during a flogging that left their bodies blackened and bloodied.

JACKSONVILLE.COM: A 15-month state investigation into the group’s allegations, however, found insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against officials of the state-run Marianna school, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Thursday. State Attorney Glenn Hess said he couldn’t prove or disprove criminal wrongdoing after reviewing a 13-page summary of the FDLE report. He said he also interviewed investigators and attorneys representing both the White House Boys and an administrator. Hess said he believes some of the allegations would be considered abuse by today’s standards. But he said those cases would likely not have been found criminal decades ago, when they were used as corporal punishment, in an era when such treatment was accepted as a way to encourage obedience. Hess oversees prosecutions in the judicial circuit encompassing Jackson County, where the school is located. It remains open as the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a state-run maximum security facility for at-risk youth. “If you take and transport yourself to the 1950s to a rural, non-fenced boys detention center, given the standards of discipline that was acceptable in the home and in the schools … I doubt it would have been considered criminal back then,” Hess told the Times-Union. MORE_

HERE & NOW: Roger Dean Kiser was 12 years old when he was first sent to the Florida School for Boys in Marianna. That was in 1959. The state-run reform school became the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. In the 1950s and 1960s, former residents say they were beaten and some of their friends were killed. “The first thing I noticed is men would come into the dorms at night and the boys would be taken out,” says Kiser. “Some would never come back.” Kiser says the title of his 2009 book, “The White House Boys: An American Tragedy,” refers to the small building where boys were brought to be beaten. The Dozier School was closed in 2011, but questions remain as to how many boys are buried on the property and who those boys are. Researchers have found evidence of nearly 100 deaths at the school. Earlier this month, the Florida legislature approved the exhumation of the bodies at the school. The digging is slated to begin Labor Day weekend. Kiser says finally the “disappeared” boys will be reunited with their families and receive a proper burial. “I think the governor, the state of Florida, owes every one of these boys a public apology,” he said. MORE