George Owen Smith
1926 - December 1940
Find A Grave Memorial

In August of 2014, a report came out that a 14 year old boy who had "gone missing" in 1940, had been identified, sadly, he was identified by DNA, because he was deceased. George Own Smith had been sent to live at the Florida Industrial School For Boys for being a car with friend who had stolen the car. In December of that year, after not hearing from her son in quite some time, Frances Smith wrote a letter to the Superintendent asking bout her son. Frances was sent a letter from Superintendent Millard Davidson telling her that at that point in time, no one knew where her son was. It was only a month later that Frances and her family was asked to come to to school and they were lead to an unmarked grave and told a story about how her son ahd tried to run away from the school and had been found dead under a house and was buried there. Frances did not accept that her son was dead and she went home to wait for him to show up.

Newly renamed the Arthur G. Dozier School For Boys, the institution had been thought to have trouble from the start when it opened in 1900 and was housing up to 500 troubled boys. The facilities were said to be decrepit and there were reports that the guards had beaten the boys quite often. Some of the boys who had been there during the 1950's and 1960's and were now grown men had been accusing the staff of physical and sexual abuse for years. Some of the men who used to live there called themselves the "White house Boys" because there was a white building where they say that the worst kinds of abuse took place. The Florida Department Of Law Enforcement had done an investigation and could not say if what they said was true or false, saying that too much time had passed.

A ceremony dedicating a memorial to the suffering of those who were sent to the "White House", took place with some of the men who had suffered inside being recognized. Dick Colon had been a member of the "White House" group and he is picture below, walking among the white, metal crosses that mark the graves of the those who actually were recorded as being buried at the school

Media coverage of that event and an order from Governor Charlie Crist, allowed for a further, deeper investigation into what had taken place over the years in this school for boys. Official records say that 31 children were buried at the school between the years of 1900 when it opened and 2011 when it closed due to budget troubles. Sadly, the official records were wrong and at least 24 more bodies were discovered between the months of September and December of 2013 when researchers did an excavation of the school yard.

The first boy to be removed from his unmarked grave was George Owen Smith and it appeared that George had been buried in a hurry, only two feet deep he was lying on his side with hands above his head, naked other than being wrapped in a blanket. George was identified by DNA that matched his sister Ovell Krell who was by then 86 years old:

"This is what we worked for. It was not an easy road"

Researchers were not able to figure out what had killed George. Ovell said that her brother used to wear a guitar string around his neck and their family would sing country & western songs to entertain themselves. George's family kept his wallet which had a Junior G. Man card in it which was from a radio program about a former FBI Agent:

"It was important to him and I often wondered why he left it"

Ovell said that George had never been in trouble before, that riding in the stolen car had been the first time. Boy were sent to the home for things like petty theft, truancy or running away fro home. In 1968, corporal punishment had become illegal in institutions run by the state and when the Governor at the time, Claude Kirk had gone for a visit to the school, he found everything was in broken down, leaky ceilings, holes in the walls, cramped sleeping arrangements, not heat in the Winter and buckets were being used as toilets:

"If one of your kids were kept in such circumstances, you'd be up there with rifles"

Some of the boys bodies had been found under roads and in overgrown areas which were far away from the white, metal crosses marking the 31 graves that had been officially recorded.

Jerry Cooper who was head of the White House Boys group sid that George's disappearance and the circumstances behind it added with the way he had been buried, supported the allegations of abuse at the school:

"I want an apology from the state for what happened there, but so far, no go. I they apologize,
they are admitting guilty and they aren't going to do that"

Jerry told about how he remembered being beaten with a leather strap in the White House. Jerry had also been sent to the school for being in a stolen car. A 62 year old man remembered what it was like to be at the school:

"I still have bad nightmares about being in that place. I been beat with a leather
paddle. Had my arms twisted up so far behind me, they broke my arms. If they
don't cover it up, I believe their gonna find out a whole lotta things that the state
would rather keep quiet. But you had to live it, to know what it was about"
Norman Whiddon

To my knowledge, no one had been charged in the deaths of any of the children at the school. Let's hope that changes and someone pays for what was done to these children.

The lead researcher in the case said:

"We may never know the full circumstances of what happened to Owen or why his case
was handled the way it was. But we do know that he now will be buried under his own
name and beside family members who longed for answers"
Erin Kimmerle

George was going to be re-buried next to his parents.

The "White House" in the background with construction of the dining hall in the front.

To read about the "White House Boys", you can click these links:
"The White House Boys"
"The Official White House Boys Organization"

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