Abuse at Dozier school ruined local family

Daughter says treatment there robbed her of her father

By Kevin Bouffard
The Ledger

WINTER HAVEN — The final University of South Florida report on deaths and abusive practices at the former Dozier School for Boys brought Rachel Thompson McCoy
understanding but no peace.

McCoy, 43, of Auburndale, is the youngest daughter of Truman Thompson, who was committed to Dozier at age 13 in 1958 and was repeatedly whipped and abused
over the following 13 months.

As an adult, Thompson drank heavily and had frequent bouts of rage, often inflicted on his three daughters, said McCoy and Thompson's brother, Marcus Thompson,
66, of Auburndale.

He died at age 34 in a fatal car crash in 1978, when he got behind the wheel drunk.

“I have no happy memories of my dad,” said McCoy, who was 6 years old when he died. “What I remember was anger, rage. I was scared to death to talk to him.”

It was only in March that Marcus Thompson told McCoy about her father’s experiences at Dozier. She found information through the Internet, including reports on the
USF investigation into Dozier practices and 55 unmarked graves at the school.

Truman Thompson’s short, troubled adult life grew directly from his Dozier experience, his daughter and brother agree.

“They (Dozier officials) robbed me of my father,” she said. “I understand why he was an alcoholic, why he had so much anger. To read what those men have gone
through and to realize that’s what happened to my father, it’s hard to imagine.”

Still, the knowledge does not erase the childhood pain, McCoy said.

Marcus Thompson, eight years younger than Truman, has fonder memories of his protective older brother, he said. But he acknowledged his brother had a drinking
problem; frequent bouts of anger, often triggered by minor slights; and no respect for authority — all of which he blames on the Dozier experience.

“My brother had a real good heart,” he said. “He was a guy I always looked up to. It kind of took a piece out of my heart when he went missing for a year (at Dozier).”

Truman Thompson never shared much about his Dozier experience with him, other than to say one time the officials took boys out of their dorms randomly for beatings,
Marcus Thompson said. The beatings occurred at the White House, the shack on campus infamous for that purpose, according to the testimony of scores of other
former residents.

But the older Thompson did share more details with other relatives, he said. He spoke of being tied to a ceiling pipe during one beating and other times being restrained
on a bed for a beating with a leather strap, usually until the victim bled.

Other former Dozier residents told USF researchers and The Ledger of being tied to a bed in the White House for whippings. Like Truman Thompson, they also
experienced substance abuse problems, anger issues and problems handling authority in adult life.

“I detected a lot of changes when he returned,” Marcus Thompson said. “I would put a very definite connection between the amount he drank and the Dozier school.”