THE LONG ROAD TO MARIANNA’S NOTORIOUS WHITE HOUSE
Project Director, The White House Boys Survivors Organization.
The Infamous “White House”
The Infamous "White House" Punishment Building where hundreds if not thousands of male children were beaten
and tortured at Florida’s Florida School for Boys. It is now sealed until its demolition. It has been “memorialized” by
Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice in a commemorative event initiated by the White House Boys Survivor’s
Organization on October 21, 2008
December 8 , 2008:
A group of ex-juvenile offenders and one time inmates during the 1950’ and 1960’s known as the White House
Boys Survivors’ Organization who were imprisoned in the Florida’s School for Boys at Marianna, Florida, held a
press conference on the steps of the federal building in Tallahassee to call upon the newly elected Republican
Governor, Charlie Crist, to begin an immediate investigation into their charges of extreme and brutal torture and
beatings inside the school’s “White House.” They called upon the US Department of Justice, Cold Case unit,
Criminal Division, Civil Rights Section to enter the investigation.
The next day the group’s Project Director, Michael O’McCarthy met with the Governor’s executive staff to discuss
the nature of the order of investigation the governor had just signed. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement
and the Department of Juvenile Justice immediately began that investigation which would include an investigation
into the identities of suspected but unidentified human remains buried under the ground of what was during
segregation called “the colored boy’s side.”
The story of the White House Boys is a shocking one in the annuals of American correctional history. It defies either
the word “corrections” or “rehabilitation,” much less the treatment expected to be given troubled children placed in
the care of the state for treatment and rehabilitation.
In the intervening months over two hundred boys (now men) have contacted the White House Boys with
independent, narratives verifying their individual stories of brutality and torture in the White House. Their accounts
plus the acknowledgement of these atrocities by the State of Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice.
Please refer to our website: www.whitehouseboys.com for a sampling of these stories, TV & Print Reportage.
The White House Boys Survivors’ Organization’s mission is to establish through the State of Florida an outreach
and treatment program for those now adults who were victimized; to create and independent Ombudsman program
available both to the juvenile offender and/or relative to assist them in obtaining either professional legal and/or
medical assistance wherein applicable.
Further the White House Boys are seeking the appropriate means to redress the grievances for all victims of the
White House, investigate the allegations of aggravated assault, sexual exploitation, violation of child labor laws and
to exhume the remains to be found in an unidentified mass grave site found on what was once known as the
“colored boys side” during the era of segregation, as well as stories of random murders and disposal of boys during
Excerpts from victims: VISIT TO THE WHITE HOUSE, by Michael O’McCarthy. Age 16.
THE PADDLE. An innocuous schoolroom term given it by the director. The Paddle. Two strips of quarter-inch
polished leather, two feet long, over two inches wide, separated by a sixteenth-inch piece of taut, pliant sheet metal.
Attached to a four-inch round hand grip, the leather was perforated on either side midway down, with one-eighth-
inch holes, ending in a half-inch long taper. The effect brought the whipping weapon down in a cracking slap that
drove through the thinness of the cotton shorts, into the upper tissues of the skin. Halfway through the beating, the
holes were filled with blood-covered flesh.
The boys were led into a dank. whitewashed corridor six feet wide, eight feet high. The aged walls were lit only by a
single wire-encased bulb glaring against the musty ceiling.
Three quarters of the way down the corridor were two identical rooms, one on either side, both lit with bulbs
encased in the rusty wire mesh. The boys were directed to the one on the left-the Colored Boys room it was called-
equal and identical, separate by law. Word had it the only difference was in the number of strokes given blacks.
The room held nothing but a rusting, GI-green army cot, with an uncovered, striped mattress and pillow, dark with
the liquid stains of human misery. The two runaways were uncuffed and ordered to sit on the cot. The two
Statesmen stood over them, silent, watching as the terror began to tremble their bodies. A third state man stood
waiting in the corridor. The director began to question them:
Why did you boys run? … Don’t you know you can’t get away from here? You boys are lucky; farmers hereabouts
shoot runaways. Either that or the swamps get them. What’s your excuse? … if you’ve got one, I want to hear it.”
Woody began to cry softly, the director’s voice signaling the inevitable emotional buildup to the beating.
Mike crying too, tried to speak: “I don’t know … I could take anymore … I just wanted to get away … I …”
Dennis said nothing; the director slowly tapped his game right foot. Finally, Mike gave up, his head bowed.
“All right,” the director said.
“Which of you will go first?”
Neither answered. The director pointed to Mike.
“You then, let’s go---into the other room. And giving a nod to Dennis, the director led Mike in the White Boys room.
Pointing to the army cot, the director gave the instructions:
“All right now, son, it’ll go easier on you if you do as I tell you. You’re to lay down on the cot on your belly; turn your
face to the wall. If I were you, I’d stuff the corner of that pillow in your mouth. Once we begin, don’t turn your head.
Don’t cry out or scream if you do, we start all over again. Place both hands on the cot frame and keep hold of it. Do
not try to get up or try to stop us. If you do, we’ll send for some kitchen boys to hold you down. I’d try to stay as
relaxed as you can; you’re less likely to be hurt.”
The mask of sternness began to slip. Something---remorse perhaps---began to flow down the long lines of his face.
“Now get this straight in your head. Every boy is told about running away. You knew the punishment; you’ve seen
boys brought back to your cottage from here. You knew what to expect when you were caught. So you asked for
The new mask melted into place: two hundred years old; seen from a thousand Protestant pulpits; from a multitude
of Southern court benches at sentencing time; before the cringing figure of a mischievous child; at the hanging of a
good slave gone bad; before the daughter being sent away from the unacceptable lover.
The patriarch stood towering before Mike. A long pause followed as he turned the show of his flawed right leg on
the cement floor. Then he spoke the formula: “Let me tell you something son, this is going to hurt me more than it
Have said his piece, the director pulled himself erect, the tone of self-pitying condescension gone from his face.
“All right now, lay on down there, turn your head and get a’ hold of the cot.”
The boy, visibly shaken, did as he was told.
The director spoke again:
“You best do as I said and stick the corner of that pillow in your mouth.”
Mike caught the pillow corner in his mouth, turned his head flat on its side, shut his eyes, and waited. Seconds,
minutes of clenched waiting. His body trembled. Sweat ran under his arms; sweat ran down the crack of his ass, the
white-cotton shorts turning damp, clinging to the skin of his buttocks. He lay there in the silence, waiting for it to
He heard Dennis’ footsteps return. The director step halfway out the door and tell him to “hit the fan.” And then
heard the awful roar of the huge exhaust fan at the corridor’s end. The whole of the White House seemed to
shudder under its force. It filled the room until no sound but the fan was possible.
Half in fear, reacting to the shock of the fan, Mike turned his head toward the director. In a glimpse of terror, he saw
it. Pushing his head back toward the wall, he took the pillow again in his mouth; his hands squeezed the bed frame;
he clamped his eyes shut.
The first stroke exploded. The sound like the booming Ka-Pow of a shotgun slammed into his ears as the impact of
the blow penetrated into the tissues of his ass. The second stroke was higher, cutting just across the top elastic of
Crack-Pow. The boom echoed louder off the barren walls; the shock of pain cracked into his lower back. He was
driven deeper into the mattress.
The mattress and springs pushed his body up to meet the third stroke: Crack-Pow. The skin on the back of his
thighs was ripped upward with the stroke’s completing.
Crack-Pow. Two thousand, three thousand, four thousand. The pain began to turn a deep, bright red as it ran
He saw it clearly. Swinging in an arc over the director’s head, slapping in the cheeks of his ass.
The Paddle began to pull and suck to the side and away. Finally, with each stroke, the tapered end snapped the
flesh, cracking it wherever it had grown taut and swollen. Crack-Pow. The strokes were coming in a marked rhythm
As the director began each stroke the foot of his twisted right leg slid on the cement floor, making a terse rasping
sound. Then as the paddle was swung up and over the director’s head, it scraped against the ceiling just before it
came down against the flesh. Between the eighth and twelfth blows the boy, now crying softly into the pillow, began
to try different measures to ease the blows.
First he waited the split second between the scrape on the ceiling and at the impact, tightened his lower back, ass,
and legs, and just as the blow landed, he would force himself to go limp.
Between the sixteenth and twentieth, he tried just the opposite. Just as the blow was to land, he would go rigid; as it
ended, he went loose.
Somewhere between the twenty-third and twenty-sixth, he succumbed to deep guttural moaning, biting the pillow
deeply so it was tight against his tongue and the roof of his mouth. He knew nothing would ease the pain as the
Director, in his practiced, methodical manner, alternated the strokes first to the middle buttocks, then to the back of
the legs, then to the small of the back, then hit just one cheek, the tapered end snatching and tearing at the inside
of the crevice.
At the thirty-first stroke, the boy went into a state of semi-shock. The roar of the fan, the lunging breathing of the
Director, the scraping foot, the paddle catching at the ceiling — all became surreal. The blows passed into his
body, sending a numbing wave into his groin, on into the mattress, pushing him deep into the springs. At the thirty-
sixth stroke the boy lost track of numbers. Then, without apparent reason, after ten or twelve more, it ended.
For the first time since the beginning, the Director spoke: “All right now, get up.”
The boy tried, but nothing moved.
“I said, get on up.”
The boy again tried to move his legs, to turn, but nothing worked. “If you don’t get up off that cot like I told you, we’
re going to start all over again. Now get up.”
Pulling against the bed frame, Mike moved his body from the cot. Pushing, he turned toward the Director who was
already looking out the door to the Colored Boys’ Room where Woody was waiting; the long strap hung hot and
ready in his hand. An image of a hard-hewn woodcutter awaiting the next load of logs filled the boy’s mind. Crying,
he finally managed to sit upright on the sagging cot, as Dennis re-entered the room.
“Alright boy, stand up, drop your shorts, bend over, and let’s have a look at you.” Mike finally struggled to his feet
as Dennis moved closer. He turned his back to the Statesmen, pulled slowly at the waistband, and drew the shorts
to his knees as he bent.
“That ain’t too bad.., some bleeding,” the Director motioned with his hand, talking to Dennis. The boy, head down,
looked through his knees. The already mud-smudged, tattered shorts were now blotted with blood.
“Okay, you can pull them up. Go with Mr. Dennis and do as he tells you”; the Director turned and went into the
Colored Boys’ Room.
Dennis motioned to Mike to follow him down the corridor. Limping stiff-legged, the boy obeyed. “Now you just stand
over there in the corner with your face to the wall and wait. Don’t make any more noise, or else the Director wilt
have you back in that room.” It was the first time since entering the White House that Dennis had spoken to the boy.
“We’ll take you down to the hospital afterwards to see to your leg wounds.” Dennis left the boy standing face
towards the wall, as Woody was taken into the White Boys’ Room.
Dennis gone, Mike leaned against the wall, gulping for air, trying to stop the trembling. A few feet to his left, the fan
roared on, covering the voices in the White Boys’ Room. Suddenly the second round of strokes began, the sound
cracking 0ff the walls, echoing into the corridor, breaking in the boy’s ears. He slunk to his knees, falling against the
wall, covering his eyes with his forearm.
The Director again took up his steady rhythm: Crack-Pow two thousand, three thousand, four thousand — Crack-
Pow. The fifth stroke, the sixth...
The boy pushed his head harder into his arm, but the image of the Director swinging the strap over his shoulder
and down upon the prone body would not fade. Again and again he could see it fall.
Between the sixteenth and nineteenth stroke the boy called Woody began to cry out at each impact. At the twenty-
third, the Director shouted at him, “Boy, I told you to stuff the corner of that pillow in your mouth and keep it there. I
don’t want to have to listen to your crying and bawling.” The strap fell upon the boy as he got the pillow back into
When the twenty-seventh stroke hit Woody, it must have cracked him open. He screamed. A loud, deep, animal cry
of agony. Again and again he screamed. As each explosion of leather on ruptured skin broke, he screamed. By the
thirty-third, the screaming was one long, continuous wail, rising with each stroke.
After the thirty-sixth stroke, a scuffle broke out in the White Boys’ Room. Mike heard the Director yell to the other
Statemen, “Get him back on his stomach,” and to the boy, “Boy, this is it with you. Now you lay yourself back down
there or else we’ll send for the kitchen boys. You ain’t getting anything you don’t de-serve. Now lay back down
there and take your medicine like a man.” Woody was forced back on the cot and the beating and the wailing
An insane image began to fill Mike’s mind. He’d seen it dozens 0f times at the movies and on the TV: Somewhere
out West, a fort is surrounded. The last remaining troops of a long siege peer over the stockade walls. Over a not-
too-distant hill, the glow from an Indian camp lights the nocturnal horizon. The cavalry troops are waiting to see if
the volunteer sent to get relief makes it through the encircling savages... Suddenly, the silence is broken by a
scream. A loud, deep, screaming cry of agony as the volunteer’s white skin is ruptured.
Succumbing to hysteria, Mike’s scream mixed with those of the boy on the cot.
Finally, the beating stopped. The three Statemen came out of the White Boys’ Room. “What is the matter with you,
boy . . . do you want some more of the same?” Mike looked up and saw the three pallid-skinned Christians; the tall
angular one swinging the blood-wet weapon in his hand. With all his force, with all the resourcefulness he could call
upon, he shouted, “I’m praying to Jesus for forgiveness!”
After a long pause, the Director spoke again, “Well boy, you just do that, but you’d better do your praying a lot
quieter — Or else you’ll have a lot more to pray about. Now keep quiet, hear me!”
Without waiting, he led the Statemen back into the room, and the beating continued; through forty, forty-five, fifty.
At the fifty-sixth stroke, Mike lost count.
He slowly pulled himself to his feet as the sound 0f the exploding crack of The Paddle, Woody’s cries, merged into
the receding roar of the fan. The pain from the wounds on his foot and leg, from the swollen, cracked flesh of his
back and buttocks, melted into rage. It no longer mattered how long, how many blows retribution the Statemen
inflicted. They had done all that was necessary. Originally published by Southern Exposure – The Institute for
Southern Studies, UNC Chapel Hill, SC – Growing Up Southern – Pantheon Books.©
First published in SOUTHERN EXPOSURE 1980 – anthologized in GROWING UP
SOUTHERN , PANTHEON, 1981
Robert at 12
Robert Straley’s Story:
I was thirteen when I was sent to the Florida School For Boys in Marianna (FSB). I had an abusive relationship with
my mother (mental abuse) and starting running away from home. This got me sent to the Juvenile Hall. I was there
for about a month and then, one day, without a clue or plan, I and another boy climbed the fence, razor wire and all,
and ran into the woods. We were caught about a week later and I was sent to Marianna as the outcome.
There were about eight of us that traveled in the back of a locked truck to arrive at The Florida School For Boys.
When I first saw the FSB grounds I was surprised at how beautiful it looked. There were two story brick cottages
surrounded by foliage and oak trees.
I saw a group of boys walking in line to one of these cottages. To my surprise they were mostly wearing street
clothes which excited me as I was small, weighing only a hundred and five pounds and the clothes I had been
issued in the Juvenile Hall were far too big, I was lost in them. I spent the day pulling up on my pants. I had a
hopeful feeling because the place looked nice, I could make some friends. I thought I might like this new place.
We were given uniforms, you could wear street clothes if your parents would send them, processed and assigned a
cottage by age. I was thirteen, only three or four months from fourteen so I was in a cottage where the boys were
from thirteen to sixteen. When we had put our state clothes on our bunks I drifted off to set on a bench at the back
of the cottage, being shy and not knowing what to do. Three of the boys that had traveled in the truck with me came
over and sat down. They immediately started to talk about running away as there were no fences. They asked if I
wanted to go and I told them I thought I would stick it out as the place didn't look all that bad. I left, never dreaming
that there was a boy that had been behind us and listening to every word. A brown-nosing snitch.
We had supper in a large mess hall ... We marched in single file back to our cottage and when we got there I and
the other boys that had been setting on the bench were quickly gathered up by a tall man (known official to be
named at a later date). He said we were going to the "White House" for talking about running. When I had the
audacity to say that I had not done that, he just grabbed me by my neck and practically threw me into a waiting car.
His grip was like iron.
It was a short trip to the "White House", we were pushed and shoved into a darkened doorway and a small room.
The tall man whose name I believe was (known official to be named at a later date), reached up and started a huge
fan that made a considerable racket. Mr. (known official to be named at a later date) grabbed one of the boys and
said "You're first," turning to give the rest of us a cold look.
We stood with wide eyes, trying not to tremble, but our fear was overwhelming as we heard the faint screams and
cries of the first boy. The fan was not quite noisy enough to completely blot out those fearful sounds. When the first
boy came out his eyes were bloodshot and he was shaking like a leaf, his hands on his crotch. It seemed as if time
had slowed down to a mere crawl. It was eerie, unreal. Something beyond our young comprehension. Two more
boys went in and came out with shocked expressions and glazed eyes. I was scared to death. I had never been
whipped, I had never been in a fight, I didn't know what pain was, but I was about to find out.
The other boys were standing against the wall, faces down turned, averting each other's watery gaze. I remember
looking at them as if they could somehow help when the tall man came around the corner quickly and grabbed me
by my arm. I winced in pain, these men were strong and didn't mind letting you know it. There was Mr. (known
official to be named at a later date), a long, thick leather belt, longer than my arm, hanging from his hand. A low
iron bed with a thin mattress, a stained sheen and dirty striped pillow was up against the wall. He told me to grab
the bed rail and turn my face to the wall. I did and the beating began.
The first four or five blows were so hard I was merely stunned and amazed at how far down in the bed the force of
the blows had sent me. Then it started to get bad, really bad, some of the blows were landing just at the top of my
legs and some just at the bottom of my back. It felt like my skin was ripping, being peeled off. I rolled over and
started to get up thinking it would be better to fight these men, anything would be better than this, maybe they'd just
knock me out. No such luck. The tall man grabbed me by the neck and slammed me down on the bed, his knee on
my back. I started screaming, begging, shouting to God to help me, but the beating continued. Each lash felt as if it
were tearing off my flesh and with each lash the pain just got worse. Finally it was over.
I was in a state of shock, Someone pulled me off the bed and pushed me toward the door. I remember missing the
door way and stumbling straight into the edge of the door frame. They took us to the shower room and made us
change into our new state clothes. We all looked at each other as we stripped while the men watched us with a
satisfied look. All of us had bloody underwear that was literally beaten into our skin. One of the older boys that had
more courage ripped his off fast, like ripping off a bandage that has been on a wound. We did the same, it burned
like fire. Once naked we were told to hit the showers. The water was cold and it felt like someone had thrown acid
on the raw flesh of our wounds. The top of our legs to the bottom of our backs were deep black and blue with red
patches where the skin had come off. We had only gotten thirty five to forty five lashes, if you ran and got caught
you automatically got one hundred. Virtually every story from the hundreds of men who have contacted us verify
the specific details of this barbarism Others tell of knowing about, witnessing, or being told about other crimes,
namely the murder and disappearance of boys from FSB.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is now conducting an investigation into these charges
We need your help in writing to you local newspaper editor, television and radio show and asking them
to help locate the boys now men who were victimized at FSB between 1950-1970. We especially want to
reach out to the African American community where our outreach has had the least effect.
You may call 24 hrs a day to (727) 447-4441 and if we are not available, leave your name and telephone number
and if you are a White House Boy or other. Thank you.
In Florida 1922: A man's death abolishes "flogging" of male prisoners. The Panama City Pilot detailed his story and
death on Feb. 2, 1922, headlining the article as "Florida's Disgrace."
Martin Tabert's Death By Flogging
(Tabert) was ordered to pay $25 or spend three months at hard labor. But through mishandling, the Leon County
court never received the money…. Against normal procedure … a guard whisked Tabert away to … the foreign-run
Putnam Lumber Co. in the tiny community of Clara in Dixie County, 60 miles south of Tallahassee. …Tabert labored
in the swamps cutting and clearing timber. He soon suffered from fevers, headaches and oozing sores. When he
could no longer remain in the woods, Walter Higginbotham, the whipping boss, propped him up on his swollen feet
and flogged him about 50 times with a 5-foot leather strap because Tabert failed to do his day's work. Tabert
begged for mercy, but he was so weak he could hardly talk. While he lay in his bunk unconscious, the company
doctor examined him and left quinine, for what he diagnosed as "pernicious malaria." But Tabert died a little after 8
p.m. That night.,...As a result of Tabert's death, Governor Cary Hardee signed bills which forbid the flogging of
prisoners and outlawed the convict leasing system in Florida. The leasing system was not completely abolished
See more about Florida Correction’s Brutal History @=
This drew national outrage which stopped the flogging of adult prisoners in 1922 but did not stop the
same punishment for children? Note the "five foot leather strap" comment in the Martin Talbert story. The
difference between that and that they used on children until 1967 was a foot and a half?
The Repercussions of Violence on Children:
All psychiatrists and psychologists agree on one point: Brutal physical punishment of a child only results in one
thing - psychological trauma that is permanent and irreversible, and in most cases leads the subject to commit acts
of violence and abuse as adults on their own children and wives, and, acts of violence against the innocent public.
(Please see http://www.whitehouseboys.com/ for the 108 year history of the torture, beating and torture of male
children at Florida School for Boys.)
The terrible abuses at FSB were well known to the government of the state of Florida and to its citizenry:
St. Petersburg Times - Mar 20, 1968
REFORM SCHOOL BLASTED: Keywords: kirk+rifles+marianna
In this article as per quote by Gov. Kirk
"If one of your kids were kept in such circumstances you'd be up there with rifles"
Kirk said after a half day tour of the schools at Marianna and Okeechobee
"Somebody should have blown the whistle on Marianna a long time ago"
St. Petersburg Times - Feb 24, 1969
JUDGES STUNNED BY CONDITIONS AT BOY'S SCHOOL
The Evening Independent - Feb 25, 1969
GRAND JURY SHOULD PROBE BOY'S SCHOOL AT MARIANNA
Oct 2, 2008 Tampa Bay Online
Louis de la Parte: A Crusading Champion For Florida's Forgotten
Back in the days when the mentally ill were shuttered away in institutions and
troubled children faced cruel conditions in jails and reform schools, one lawmaker
stood alone as the champion for reform. His name was Louis de la Parte, and what
he saw in Florida's mental hospitals, prisons and juvenile reform schools enraged
him so much that he dedicated his leadership to reforming the system. Twenty
years later, de la Parte called for the reformation of HRS because of its ballooning
inefficiencies. He would make unannounced visits to state institutions, then
present fellow legislators with irrefutable testimony that spurred sweeping
reforms. When the director of the state's reform school for boys in Marianna was
fired for whipping children, then reinstated by a powerful politician, de la Parte
drove to the school and found the blood-splattered shed where the abuse had
Note: This is as close a representation of the actual whip that we could find, and is very close as we were whipped
in a building, the whip was about 3 to 4 foot. This is actually a Louisiana prison whip
This was NOT banned for children. This is Florida's most shameful secret!
"The White House" on the first page was the punishment building where boys from 9-17yrs old were whipped with a
4 inch wide by three and a half foot long leather strap with a sheet metal insert. Thirty to fifty lashes for general
infractions, one hundred lashes for attempted escape. Although there was a facility for black boys across the street
for many year African American children were beaten in the White House … but in a separate room as
desegregation continued at FSB until 1964. Our reports are that black children were beaten far worse than whites,
though after a certain number, 50 or more, the consequences, both physically and mentally become blurred by the
sheer psychological terror visited upon the children. They would never recover.
A “cottage” where the children at the Florida School for Boys were housed – rear view with basketball and
recreation courts. On the right is the boy’s dormitory housing up to 60 boy’s beds, on the left their locker room,
shower and toilet waiting room and show stalls. The second floor was the residential quarters for the “Cottage
Fathers” and family.