An open letter to Marianna
By Letter to the editor
Published: June 01, 2011
This is not a letter about whom or what is right or wrong. This is a letter about what we have allowed to happen to
ourselves as Americans in the last three years.
No matter the reason for the closing of the former Dozier School for Boys … it is closed. At this point, neither boys
nor employees will benefit.
Now, both Marianna residents and former boys from the school exist with hard feelings towards one another. As
relatives of White House Boys pass through your town, they are refused service at restaurants and word is out that
we are not welcome in your town. Why have we allowed this to happen?
The White House Boys know that 99.9 percent of the residents of Marianna are good, kind, and caring individuals.
They are people who had absolutely nothing to do with what happened many years ago. Today they would
immediately, without hesitation, stand up and stop the abuse of any child, whether at the school or living next door to
Most White House Boys moved on and made something of their lives. They are military officers, businessmen,
authors, and several are millionaires. We are also husbands, fathers and most of us have now become grandfathers.
We are kind, respectful. We do (at times) open doors for ladies and we always help those less fortunate than
ourselves. We do kind things because we know very well what it felt like to be “less fortunate.”
When I wrote my book, “The White House Boys — An American Tragedy,” I only wrote about what personally
happened to me. I knew there were other horror stories, but I did not realize how many more. I thought nothing could
have been worse for me at age 12 than living at the Children’s Home Society in Jacksonville. How wrong I was! After
the treatment and the beatings I received at the Florida School for Boys at Marianna, I could barely walk for days, but
was ordered to continue working as if nothing at all had happened.
I will be the first to admit that being an employee at the school is not an easy job. It is a thankless task – being called
names behind your back, having boys spit and curse at you is very difficult to stomach. It is a job I could never do, as
I would most likely be fired after the first altercation with a boy acting in such a disrespectful and hateful manner.
I remember standing behind several of Dozier’s female employees at the closing of the White House several years
ago. As one lady entered the White House, she covered her mouth and with tears in her eyes she said, “Oh my God,
it’s true.” I knew right then there were actually some who did care about what had happened to us many years prior.
Even while at the school, I had no feelings towards the town of Marianna. I use to say to myself, “Golly, I wish I could
earn a pass and go the movies and look at all the pretty girls.” Well, I never earned a pass. Now I am now too old to
care about the pretty girls but I would one day like to come to Marianna and go see a movie. I would like to tip my
hat, open the door for someone at a restaurant there, smile, and say, “Good morning.”
All that has happened is very unfortunate, but we cannot allow these differences to destroy who we are as a people.
Those who abused us are all gone (except one). You and I are the only ones left to remember, and we should never
allow events from the past to come between us — for you are innocent — just as I wish to be.
Roger Dean Kiser