Deposition scheduled in 'White House Boys' case

Troy Tidwell was cottage father during alleged abuse cases
May 12, 2009 - 3:04 PM
Andrew Gant
Daily News

Attorneys in the White House Boys abuse lawsuit have scheduled a four-hour deposition of a former cottage father
who still lives near the site.

Troy Tidwell, 85, of Marianna, will be questioned and videotaped for a four-hour session May 21, attorney Greg
Hoag confirmed.

"I anticipate this is only going to be one of two depositions on him," Hoag said. "Obviously, we're going to discuss
allegations in the complaint."

The allegations include beatings and lashings at the Florida Industrial School for Boys in the 1940s, '50s and '60s,
many of them allegedly under Tidwell's watch.

Some 220 men have joined the class-action lawsuit, all claiming they were abused during stints at the Marianna
reform school.

Tidwell has said the abuse claims are exaggerated and fall decades past the statute of limitations for battery.

But he has become a central figure in the case, known in many accounts as the "one-armed man" who administered
whippings in a small cinder-block building known as the White House.

Tidwell is required to participate in the deposition.

"I get a chance to sit across the table from Troy Tidwell for the first time in 50 years," said Bryant Middleton, a Fort
Walton Beach war veteran who alleges he was abused at the school in 1959.

Middleton, one of four men representing the class as plaintiffs, said two more former school staff members have
been located in Jackson County and "there is a very strong possibility that one of them is considering coming over to
our side to be an ally."

While attorneys are in Marianna for Tidwell's deposition, they'll inspect "a number of documents" requested from the
school, now operating as the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, Hoag said. Those will include on-site employment
and discipline records the state has not yet provided.

Gov. Charlie Crist has acknowledged and apologized for unspecified abuses that occurred at the school.

State officials have said they don't plan to exhume bodies from a makeshift gravesite on school grounds. Middleton
and others in the case say there could be victims of abuse buried there.

The state also has reported many school records as incomplete or missing altogether.

Since the lawsuit was filed, the plaintiffs have organized reunions with other former wards whose allegations are
"absolutely consistent" with those in the complaint, Middleton said.

One such reunion is scheduled for May 30 in Kissimmee.