White House Boys
A Project Dedicated to
the Survivors of the White House
Florida Industrial School | Florida School for Boys | Okeechobee School for Boys
Board of Directors
- President – Jerry Cooper (239) 994-2871
- Vice President – Charles Fudge (727) 385-6109
- Treasurer – Peggy Marx (941) 356-2444
- Secretary – Babbs Cooper (239) 994-1280
- Sergeant At Arms – James “Harley” DeNyke (863) 773-7526
- Deputy Sergeant At Arms – Roy Conerly (352) 342-5508
WHO ARE THE WHITE HOUSE BOYS?
We are the faces of 108 years of state sponsored child abuse.
“Those who do not learn the lessons of history are bound to repeat them.” Santayana
The state of Florida has one of the worst records for juvenile care in the United States. The negligence on the part of the Department of Juvenile Justice continues to this day: Underfunded, poorly trained and screened staff, overcrowding and the lack of a progressive system of care, treatment and skill training produces a recidivist rate “…for males … 46 percent and for females it is 28 percent.” (Florida Performs.com.) That includes boys and girls returning to the system for “more of the same,” or “graduating” to adult correctional institutions.
“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee…” John Donne
We are more than “our brother’s keepers.” We are the guardians of the health and welfare of any child in our neighborhood, town, city, county and state. The children are our heritage and our future. When one is mistreated, it affects an entire society. We must stand for justice now; on their behalf and ours.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
As is any democratic movement for justice, it takes time and requires patience and diligence. It requires us to exhaust every available institutional remedy so when and if we reach the point of a negative response from the powers that be, we are able to demonstrate to the citizenry that we have been reasonable and met with an unreasoned response. When we have exhausted that democratic course and we must seek alternate methods in our pursuit of justice.
With the “abeyance” of the Claims Bill in the Florida legislature we have reached one of those negative responses to our call for justice. If and when we enliven the Claims Bill we will officially state our grievances, provide the proof of the wrong done to us and our kind and hold the state government responsible for our reparations while at the same time educating the voting people of the state of Florida, especially that of our class of people, of the consequences of this system of injustice levied upon us and now upon the current class.
We have now entered the first course with our class actions suit in the Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in and for Pinellas County, State of Florida, Civil Division. Should our case fail there we have the option to continue with appeals into the appellate courts and the federal courts. That process is fraught with years of delay; not a healthy outlook for the aging “White House Boys.” And frankly, our case is not likely to overcome the barriers of Statute of Limitations which require a court to rule that the damage done was so severe as to demand that the statute be set aside in pursuit of justice or Sovereign Immunity (King’s Law stipulating that you could not sue the King (the state) for the wrongs it has done you.”) That too requires a judgment that the harm is of such magnitude that it overrides the King’s protection; in this case its defense of its minion, Tidwell it has thrown the cloak of the king over him.
Frankly, we will never receive justice if we are unwilling to work for it. We will never receive justice if it is we who stand alone. We can only achieve justice if the people of the State of Florida rally to our cause and demand redress and reparations be ordered by the legislature and signed into law by the governor. This process is as old as the call for political and social justice and it requires conscious raising, organizing and the means to bring the voice of the people to the powers that be. What follows is a tried and true democratic method to achieve just that.
HOW WE GOT HERE?
We have had our differences in getting here. Some were where we allowed personality issues to override principles, some of the differences were of a strategic nature and we bear the error. Much of the personal pain that affected those decisions came from the irrevocable lash marks and sexual defilement and their pain consequences and more reflected damage done to us.
But it is time to let the past be the past for there is one common factor that unites us: we were the throwaway kids of the State of Florida and victims of the infamous White House and dens like it at other Florida School for Boys and Girls.
The state treated us with inhumane measures, but we have survived.
We were the children who would be under the rule of DJJ today. Thus, we are in a unique situation to be of service to those who are like us. (For the accurate Time Line of how we became “the White House Boys” and the history of our campaign)
The social origins of the children who would become known as “The White House Boys” which includes all the boys and girls confined at the Florida Schools for Boys and Girls and the later designated prisons for juveniles:
Understanding the racial and economic backgrounds of The White House Boys, all those juveniles who suffered incarceration in the Florida Schools for Boys and Girls and under the rule of the Department of Juvenile Justice, tells us that kids from our class are that last of the last. We are the last to have stable homes; the last to have the benefit of emotional support for our growing years; we are the last to have adequate funds for food, clothing, lodging, adequate health care; last to have decent a decent education; the first to be drafted; the first to be casualties of war; the last to be adequately defended in court– we were then, the last to have a decent enough background for jobs; to be able to earn our way.
We were the first to be victims of our parent’s dysfunction, many of who were previous victims of the same social system into which we were born: drug addiction, alcoholism and spousal and child abuse. These were a matter of everyday life in our homes. Out of the dysfunction we exploded into the arms of the law enforcement and the courts. Rather than support, care and treatment; rather than having the benefit of adequate legal representation before a court, or psychological this abomination of life been revealed: in the true story realized intesting and then counseling or treatment, we were ship-loaded into the state system: whether it was first orphanages, (foster care homes,) or directly into state-wide institutions, we soon became the basis of a sub-class of Floridians whose most likely final destination was more confinement, more dysfunction and then more confinement until a good part of our lives had been wasted away.
The “career path” for our peers was meaningless jobs or the military. Very few of our class would every see the “American dream” realized. At best it would be working our lives away at menial jobs, labor or low management positions; living on high interest credit until a meager Social Security would allow us to die slowly, encumbered by age and illness. That was the forecast if we were lucky enough to evade life sentences in prison or mental institutions or death row.
Only a couple of times in Florida history have Gideon’s Trumpet (Henry Fonda television movie,) and Chattahoochee, with Gary Oldman and Dennis Hopper. Those were the only portraits of the cruel and inhumane Florida system of corrections and mental health treatment for the world to see. Or recently in the cases of Anderson who was smothered to death in a boot camp or Caldwell who was hammered to the ground and gang beaten at Dozier have we seen how this system continues its role as the grim reaper of the children of Florida’s dysfunctional poor, working and destitute classes.
The White House Boys’ cause is larger than the recognition of our pain and suffering; more important than an apology from the temporary politician living in the Governor’s mansion; more significant than any reparations given us. Our cause is to bring light where there has been none and is to this day the dark shadows in which the state best operates. To reveal a social and economic system so inherently corrosive that it eats away the lives of millions of people by either jailing them or holding them in submission to the profit of the state until old age or death takes them.
WHAT MUST BE DONE?
First each of us must prepare then send our story to be posted on this website, then to everyone you know via email, directing them to our websites. Build an E-Mail and phone tree: you will have five non-White House Boys to email and/or phone when there is significant news or an event that requires attention. Each of those five will know five more, and so on and so on.
Second, we must ask those to pass it on to everyone they know, and so on and so on.
Third, arrange for speakers for events at your church or social organization to explain who the White House Boys are and what we are about. A speaker’s committee and a information committee (to provide both print and electronic information on the White House Boys,) must be elected with volunteers to serve.
Fourth, each of us must write emails or hard mail to, and then telephone the offices of, your state elected officials telling our stories and demanding that the State of Florida take the necessary measures to “make us and our families whole” for the damage done to us and our peers.
Fifth, we must reach out to the religious institutions in our community and ask that they join with us in pursuit of justice for ourselves and our families, and extend a watchful eye over and a call for mercy for those behind the wires of DJJ.
Sixth, because we chose this course we must exhaust the state and, where applicable the federal court remedies – while simultaneously supporting the forthcoming Claims Bill which will cause legislation to be passed giving us reparations and putting into law those reforms necessary to see that the state of Florida will “Never, Ever Again” abuse its most vulnerable children but rather, lock into place budgetary and legislative guarantees that those children placed in the State’s care receive the education, psychological and physical care that will better their lives and give them an equal opportunity to be socially successful.
Lastly, we must prepare to follow in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. who taught us that those in power only respond to more political power and that peaceful, nonviolent protest is constitutionally guaranteed and is a righteous process for letting those in power know they may be not long in power should they not join us in our just cause.
WHAT IS A WHITE HOUSE BOY?
Written & Submitted By: “Bornacracka”
(An essay by a White House Boy – The day we walked out of Marianna or Okeechobee, every one of us who survived the beatings, earned the right to become known as “a White House Boy.” The physical pain, mental anguish and terrifying fear will live with us until we die. The after/side effects are never entirely extinguished from our memories. We learn how to hold them in check … most of the time.
We become as chameleons, developing the ability to blend in and remain anonymous, watching from without, scared to become part of anything because if we do, we probably will just get another “hurt.” It’s much simpler and safer for us to sit outside the main circle and not have to choose sides and make decisions.
We have our opinion on things, you can bet on that, but it is hard to put our feelings into words because where we grew up you were never allowed to express an opinion without the fear of receiving another late-night beating. Sort of taught us how to ‘hold things in’, you know keep it all repressed. (So that’s where that comes from???) Plus most of us get flustered quite easily, especially when it comes to things like talking in front of other people. That just isn’t one of our natural given gifts.
We come from many different backgrounds and areas of the state but we were all sent to reform school from a Florida city and county, sentenced by a Florida Judge, Truant Officer or Police Officer. We all received an ‘indeterminate sentence’ –one with no expiration or ending date. Not a single one of us were ever read our rights, had a lawyer or were given the opportunity to defend ourselves or hear and question witnesses. Our civil rights were violated at every step of the illegal machine we were herded through– like cattle headed to slaughter, just like the Jews in Auschwitz.
We are white, black, brown, strong, weak, tall, short, fat, thin, bald, long-haired, sick, well, smart, fast, slow, rich, poor and accompanied by numerous other physical afflictions like “bad backs” and “lower joint problems”. We have a wide variety of emotional issues that cover the complete spectrum of mental disability. If it has a name, one of us lives with it. Do we want to talk about it? No!
We are everywhere. There are hundreds of us; probably even thousands. Some of us have become moderately successful, while others have climbed the ladder to the top and become rich and successful. But the vast majority of us have only reached success through our families, our children and grandchildren. We relive our youth through helping them be children who are happy, well taken care of and never emotionally or physically abused. This is where we finally learn unconditional love, through those we leave behind.
No matter where we work, play or gather we are always going to meet people who don’t understand us, because they’ve never heard our story. We are entitled to receive respect from those who know the horrors and fears that lingered behind that White House Door. But, most of the world outside of Florida doesn’t have a clue what the name even means. It is our goal to change that. We want everybody to recognize the meaning behind the name “White House Boys” and to understand that to be one of the White House victims means that you have been brutalized worse than an animal by the State of Florida — beaten bloody until you could not walk — by the State operated facility’s supervisors at Marianna and Okeechobee Reforms Schools
We were all traumatized from our experience with the state, but in a variety of different ways. For most it was a physical, an emotional and/or even a mental problem. But regardless, we are all White House Boys.
DON'T LET IT GO TO WASTE
ESSAY Written by a White House Boy, and Read at the Memorial Service, April 13, 2013
Make Being A Survivor Mean Something To Those Around You
According to the dictionary a survivor is “a person who lives through an event in which others died”. That definition certainly is appropriate for the White House Boys. Some boys saw death, and watched children — young, skinny kids – wore down to the bone with hard work and slave-type labor. They would slowly wane away to nothing but skin and bones – and then some just disappeared. We’ve seen the pictures – little boys – mostly looking scared to death.. They were not near old enough or big enough to physically take the beatings administered by large, grown adult men.
Why are there so many of us? Usually there’s only a handful of survivors left to struggle through the painful memories of living a nightmare on any given night. Not one single night goes by that grown men don’t cry as they remember the fear that accompanied their sleep.
So why are there so many survivors of our particular cause? Is it because we earned extra credit for surviving such a life-altering event?
Why so many? Over 500 little boys shed the same tears, and live the same fears for oh, so many years? Why us? And why did You, Father God, keep each of us alive? Why me Lord? What have I ever done? To deserve even one of the pleasures you’ve shown?
What is there still left for each of us to do? We’re old and most grateful just to be alive! Physically, we are exactly where you want us. Some are better off still, others quiet. But we are indeed giving You the glory for all the success we have had. Especially for life itself. As we assemble ourselves at the foot of mercy, we lift Your Name high above all names.
Yet many of us are still blind and we beseech You to remove the scales of blindness so all may see the foot of the Cross and meet Jesus on a personal level. Lead us, oh Lord, through the power of Your Holy Spirit as we travel this road we are on – the Road to Justice against child abuse. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
You said that those who hurt the little children would be better off if a millstone was tied around their neck and them be dropped into the deepest sea*. We, as survivors, claim that promise today Lord. We forgive them, to the best of our ability, but still believe they must pay the penalty. Have mercy on them Father. We pray for our enemies at Dozier Boys School — those who mistreated us, those who beat us and those who watched and did nothing. Living with that is punishment enough… until Judgment Day.
Look how far we have come. From a nobody group of old and tired men to being world renown. We have made TV, radio and major newspapers all around the world. And, as our accounts of old are proven true through modern day technology, the gravity of the situation is finally being recognized as accurate and true. Nobody believed something this terrible could happen a stone’s throw away from our State Capitol. They could hear the screams from there.
Today we are extremely grateful to still be alive, able to hug and kiss our families, friends and WHB brothers. To still be in the fight for justice and truth – just the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We will be completely satisfied when all the truth is finally revealed. Will we be here? Maybe, maybe not?
So, we must continue to do our part, however little it may be, and keep the ultimate goal in the foremost of our mind. We do it so this type of poison can be erased from human life.
We must continue to stand up strong and brave, and always vigilant against the intrusion of those who seek to harm our little ones. Cradle them when they’re babies. Cuddle them when they want to wiggle.
And always remember how precious they are. And, how dependent upon you for their everything. Be tender, patient, long-suffering, and always quick to forgive and forget. Children need love, guidance and protection. Always remember how the mistreatment of little children will be judged one day.
Never forget what you survived, but let it go and try to make the best out of what you have now. You are alive and mostly well. Some do better then others, but accept your lot. Spend more time being thankful, because some are worse off. Spend your latter years trying to “Live As If It Never Happened”, while you try to help somebody along the way.
That’s the message here today. Help somebody along the way. It doesn’t have to be a big deal — little things mean so much. Help a WHB or a neighbor with a problem. Pay for a mother’s groceries at the supermarket. Give back without expecting anything in return. Make being a survivor mean something to those around you.
Don’t let it go to waste. Share even if you only have love, then share your love! Share your compassion! Open your heart to the joy of being a survivor who cares. There are many survivors in our organization, but we are looking for survivors who care. Who cares enough to join us in our search for justice. The key word “join” means: help us, get involved, do something to promote our plight to the world.
Be a doer and not just a survivor. Be more than a survivor. Be a survivor who cares enough to put forth some effort helping others, especially children, along the way.
Written by White House Boy Mike Sapp
*Matthew 18:6 English Standard Version (ESV)
6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,[a] it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
THE YELLOW JACKET NEWS
Mariana School for Boys Newspaper
The digitized issues spanning 1933-1973 of The Yellow Jacket were compiled from the collections of the State Library of Florida and Florida State University.