White House Boys Tell Haunting Tale

March 9, 2009 - 4:48 PM
Tanya Mendis

An investigation is underway into unthinkable crimes of torture and abuse against children. The crimes
are alleged to have happened at a reform school in Florida, during the 50's and 60's. And now, one by
one, grown men are coming forward and telling the horrors of what happened to them. One of those men
lives in Dalton.

Don Smith came to Dalton with the circus years ago, leaving behind his life in Florida. He was one of a
group now know as the White House Boys. And he's telling his story, 47 years later.

Behind the walls of a small white building in the middle of a reform school for boys in Marianna, Florida,
secrets been locked away for decades.

Now, one by one, the boys who were forced to live there. Either because of a run in with the law, or a run
out of luck, are coming forward. Telling tales of unspeakable horrors and torture at the hands of those
who were there to protect them. One of those boys was Don Smith who now lives in Dalton, Ga..

"I don't block things out, some people can," he said. "I can't. If it happens to me, I remember it."

It was 1962. Smith was 15 years old. He was caught joyriding in a stolen car and was sent to the Florida
School for Boys.

"It started off right from the start," he said. "You took off your hat, and you crossed your heart and you
stood attention toward the flag, Nazi style I would call it, would you not?

If you messed up, there were consequences. The punishment was whipped out in the building the boys
called the White House. What happened in that house has now led to a state investigation.

"It was a leather strap about (three feet) long," he said. "It was thick and wide, and it had a handle built
into it."

Smith says for 13 months, he gritted his teeth through too many beatings to count. But the worst was the
beating he got for fighting another teen.

"What you do, you lay down on a bed, and I mean it, it had a terrible smell about it. And the pillow was
awful," said Smith. "It was dead. Death. That time, I laid down on the bed, and I don't remember him ever
saying 'this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you.' He just told me get down there boy! And anyway, I
laid down and grabbed the bed and looked that away, and I just started counting."

Smith says there was blood on the floor, blood on the walls. And the sound of a steel-centered leather
strap hitting his flesh.

"The thing that I remember the most is when Mr. Waters would make his swing, he would scratch his foot
against the floor, winding up, like a baseball, like a baseball player," said Smith.

Smith says he was hit 67 times. But by the end of the day, he would be punished again for telling another
boy what had happened.

"The last thing i said was 'Oh God!' I passed out on that second beating."

And his story isn't unique. Now, more than 155 people have come forward, filing a lawsuit, and claiming
abuse, torture, rape and worse: On the site of the now-closed school. Investigators have uncovered 32
unmarked graves.

Graves many think mark the spot for boys who met violent ends. Smith says it's time for him and others to
speak for those who can't.

"I'm telling the truth. I think you know I'm telling the truth. I think God almighty up there knows I'm telling the
truth," said Smith. "He gave me the knowledge to give to you to have it to be told. And the hell with these
people in Marianna."

Smith says he's tried to put his past behind him, but he says it will always haunt him.
Note: This video will take about 1.5
minutes to load.