Dozier School for Boys could get memorial soon

Nearly 100 people died at state-run reform school

News Service of Florida photo by Tom Urban

Entrance to former Dozier School for Boys

MARIANNA, Fla. - The Dozier School for Boys, a state-run reform school where nearly 100 people died and countless others told horrible tales of abuse, could be getting a memorial soon.

Jerry Cooper was sent to the Florida school for boys in 1961.

"I walked into hell," Cooper said.

Cooper endured notorious beatings at Dozier. He is part of the "White House boys," a group of men that tell stories of the abuse that happened at the state-run reform school.

Stephen Britt's uncle was one of the bodies recovered at the site.

"He was stabbed the day before he was supposed to be released," Britt said.

Both men are part of the task force charged with creating a memorial for the victims of the school and figuring out where unclaimed remains should go.

The task force has the option of keeping the remains on site or moving them elsewhere and creating a memorial.

"Burying them together in death will send a signal out that Jackson County and Marianna has evolved into the next level of humanity," Britt said.

"Everybody agrees that they should not be reinterred on that property," Cooper said. "It's just that they were found in very ungodly situations in that cemetery."

Historian Dr. David Jackson said the town and county can't just gloss over the school's history.

"It would be a slap in the face to some people if you take the bodies and you bury them somewhere else, and you make it appear that Dozier didn't exist," Jackson said.

The task force has until Oct. 1 to submit recommendations.

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