Research for On the Shoulders of Giants
Written by a living witness, a former client of Dozier
My experiences while serving time at the Arthur Dozier School for Boys, a.k.a., the Florida School for Boys.
About June 1966, I was sent to the above mentioned reformatory school after having been convicted in juvenile court of breaking and entering and multiple auto thefts.
I was driven from the juvenile shelter at Jacksonville, Florida, to the Arthur Dozier School for Boys by one Jacksonville, Florida, police detective. I’d guess the drive took about 2½ – 3 hours. Upon arrival I was delivered to the orientation building which was fairly new (new building). There was perhaps 30-50 boys already housed in the orientation building. New arrivals had to spend six weeks (about) in orientation where we were grilled on the do’s and don’t’s and rules.
There were no gun towers nor were there any fences or walls around the property. Integration of races was fairly recent at the school. The colored/negro section of the school had recently been closed/shut down because of Federal Government order to racially integrate. All the boys, including myself, were housed on the once white compound for two reasons: 1) the once white compound had a few new dormitories and had housed the Administration Building and Medical Building; and 2) the colored/negro side of the school, needless to say, was run-down and dilapidated.
Also the school had just recently built a confinement building which was called the adjustment building. More often than not the boys in the adjustment unit were fed at noon, spinach served straight from the can, one-half boiled egg and one slice of white bread. Because I worked Food Service, I bear witness there was no discrimination racially where these control meals were served. Also, often times “normal” meal was served but only after it had been well blended by food service. Then was also my first time seeing a confinement loaf.
Nevertheless, after I completed orientation I was moved to my assigned housing, Reality House was the name of my cottage. There were about 6 other cottages – the only name of those cottages that I’m able to recall is Reality House, Bethune Cottage, Washington and Filmore cottages.
[Name redacted] was the school’s superintendent. I don’t know if it’s fact but I was told that he, [name redacted], was the school’s first black superintendent. [Name redacted]’s reputation among us boys (more black than white) is his, [name redacted], habit of beating us across the nose with his index and second finger at once while he scolded or angrily counseled us. Such would sometimes cause nose bleeds. I must reiterate [name redacted] used extreme caution and favoritism when dealing with white boys. Remember, he was superintendent of a newly racially integrated institution. There were several boys there from influential backgrounds, whose parents had money and because they were white, political power and connections.
At this point it’s interesting to note that Mister Arthur Dozier is buried on the school’s property. He is buried in the median leading to the administration building to this very day. Arthur Dozier was a dangerous and cruel man. He’d died before I arrived but I met so many boys that personally had been beaten by Arthur Dozier.
Behind the administration building was the compound’s chow hall. Perhaps 100 feet away from the chow hall was a white tool shed looking building that was known as “The White House.” Inside the White House was a bench or sometimes a chair or two also. There was “sometimes” eyehooks in the wooden benches or floor. Obviously and for obvious reasons the hooks could not be left in place.
The White House’s purpose was for corporal punishment for us boys. We were taken there for supposed paddling/spankings. However, there were quite a number of homosexual staff. Once one-on-one inside the White House staff (only males) would fondle boys, perform or receive oral sex, finger some boys or force some boys to perform some other sex act. However, more often than not the beatings almost always drew blood. But most importantly no boy dared tell any adult what had sexually been done to him – especially a black kid.
The cottages had upstairs and downstairs floors. Each cottage was assigned one guard which we were mandated to call Cottage Father. Reality House was the name of my cottage. That means 3 shifts 3 different cottage fathers. Our (the boys) showers and sleeping area and day/TV rooms were all downstairs. None of us had any business upstairs as that was the cottage father’s area/quarters. There was a bedroom in the cottage father’s area. Very discreetly gay or bi cottage fathers would take boys upstairs late, late at night for sexual pleasures. Again no one talked. There was no such thing as phone calls and all mail was read each night by the cottage fathers.
In 1967 I accidentally set our chow hall on fire. I was grilling some pork shoulders. A kitchen staff member had set the grill temp for me and walked off. I turned it up so it’d cook faster. A flame caught behind the grill. The staff member grabbed the soda fire extinguisher, sprayed the flame and that, soda’ed water, caused the grease fire to flame up into the vents thus causing, in 1967, $50,000 in damage. To this very day no one knows I accidentally caused that fire. [Illegible] information should be on the internet now. Anyway, while they repaired the chow hall we all had to walk over to the closed down colored/negro compound and use its chow hall all three meals. That walk was a distance of at least almost ¼ mile. The property is and was huge. We ate very well when in population. The school raised its own beef and chicken.
If we had any personal problems day or night we had the right to yell “Group Meeting” – everyone had to drop whatever they were doing (about [illegible]) meet in the dayroom and resolve whatever the problem was.
Every so often we would be told that some “ran away” (a.k.a. escaped) but the only boy that I know to be found and brought back is a homosexual about 13 years old, who had knocked himself out by running into one of the pine trees, in the dark, about the tree line. When one of our fellow disappeared for any reason we were strongly discouraged and urged not to ask questions. PERIOD.
There was a standard sized swimming pool and is where I learned to swim in 1967 – 3 ft. to 12 feet deep. I don’t recall ever having a lifeguard present.
About once a month we were visited by students from Florida State University. I believe, looking back, they were law, psychology or some type of crime students.
The White House was officially closed about 1965-66 but that still didn’t prevent boys from being taken there for the purpose of discipline. Only one employee from my day at the school is/was still alive in 2011. He was a closet homosexual that was a psychologist. Right now can’t recall name but will.