Dozier memorial, burial funds move forward
By Jeffrey Schweers
Tribune/Naples Daily News Capital Bureau
TALLAHASSEE -- A memorial and money to bury the dozens of missing children whose bodies were exhumed at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna made
it a step closer to becoming a reality today, sailing through a senate appropriations subcommittee.
Presented by sponsor Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, SB 708 would create a fund to pay for the proper reburial of the children exhumed and
identified and returned to their families, preserve the records and artifacts uncovered by University of South Florida and appoint a task force that would include the next
of kin of one of the boys to create a memorial.
“This ensures that the continuation of the sacred work” started by USF anthropologists and a legion of volunteers who spent years uncovering the bodies and identifying
the remains, Joyner told members of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation Tourism and Economic Development.
It also would “ensure the children of Dozier get a final resting place with dignity without having the funds to do so or depending on the whims of charity,” Joyner said, who
sponsored the bill because she remembered school mates who had gone to Dozier.
The bill would provide $1.5 million to reimburse the next of kin of the 48 boys whose bodies were exhumed and identified since by a team led by University of South
Florida anthropologists. The task force would have to come back to the Legislature next year to ask for money for the memorial.
Over three years, a team that included more than 100 volunteers from 20 agencies, excavated 55 graves at and around a burial area called Boot Hill Burial Ground
marked by 31 white metal crosses, as well as the site of a 1914 dormitory fire and the south campus.
They found 51 bodies, but three bodies were charred too badly to have any usable DNA remains. Seven bodies have been positively identified and four have been
returned to their families for burial. Erin Kimmerle, the lead USF anthropologist who began the project in 2012, said they are still in the process of identifying the bodies.
The committee unanimously approved the bill, which has its next stop at Senate Appropriations.
Senate Minority Whip Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, said it was time “Florida rectify these wrongs that occurred years ago.”
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