August 18th, 2018
IN A BEAUTIFUL little church in Tampa, Florida, on a hot summer day, people gathered to say goodbye to Mr. Robert Straley. If you Google his name you’re going to get results that are 99.9% Dozier related. Bob was very public about his time at the school & his fight for justice. That’s what he was known for, so that’s what you’re going to get. Before his passing, that’s all I knew of him. To me, he had been Mr. Robert Straley, Whitehouse Boy.
OF COURSE THERE was more to this man than just Dozier & having had the privilege of spending quite a bit of time in his home, I got to know not Mr. Straley but Bob. That’s the side that I’m going to share with you today.
ROBERT STRALEY ~ AUTHOR & POET
BOB WAS NOT just a talented writer but an actual published author. He collaborated with Michael O’ McCarthy (also a Whitehouse Boy) & Robin Gaby Fisher (a Pulitzer Prize winning author) to write the book “The Boys of the Dark: A Story of Betrayal and Redemption in the Deep South.” The book chronicles the events at Dozier & is a great read! I was given several hardback 1st edition copies that Bob had at his home & I absolutely treasure them. I highly recommend reading it! Don’t take my word for it though, go grab your own copy! I will put the link for it below…OR feel free to reach out to me & if I REALLY like you, I may be willing to hand over one of my copies!
HIS WRITING DIDN’T stop at just that book. He also wrote poetry & short stories for many years. I do have tons of CDs that contain a handful of his short stories & would definitely be willing to give one to anyone who asks. Having read some of his other work, I can honestly say it is beautiful. Of course my favorite is a poem called “Please Remember Me” which was written about the lost boys of Dozier. I also love another titled “Facing Cancer, Finding Jesus”, written during his final days …Having lost my own dad to cancer, this particular piece broke my heart.
A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS MAN
BOB OWNED A successful novelty business. In fact, he started building his company, Firefly Vending, out of his garage & was one of the first to manufacture the chemical glow necklace. The glow necklace continues to be one of the top selling novelty items, selling millions every year. He spent close to 40 years of his life attending festivals & expos selling these items with 15 of those years running his other company, Nashville Glow Light, selling LED electronic novelties before finally retiring.
HE ALSO RAN a latex mold business & I was lucky enough to see the passion & detail that he had put into each piece. They were absolutely amazing!
GREAT FRIEND, AVID TRAVELER
HE LOVED TO travel & there were many photos of him posing at the beach, in the mountains & visiting other countries. The photos would also show the close group of friends that he spent a lot of time with, some of which I would have the pleasure of meeting throughout the week before his service. It was very apparent that when he made a friend, it was for life & the general consensus of the people I spoke to was thag he was generous, kind & would bend over backwards to help someone in need.
A LOVING FATHER
LAST BUT CERTAINLY not least, Bob had a beautiful daughter that he unfortunately lost way too soon. Though I know the details of her passing, It’s not my place to share them. What I will say is that the photos of them together show how much he loved her & there was not one person I spoke to that didn’t say how deeply he mourned the loss until he took his last breath. One of the most touching part of the service was when a tape of his daughter singing “Amazing Grace.” Her voice filled the church, giving me goosebumps. She had the voice of an angel which could explain why Bob was obsessed with them, filling his house with angels of all types.
THERE WERE OTHER little windows into Bob’s life that I found were pretty awesome. His grandmother was an artist & some of her paintings were hanging in his home. Seeing them made it clear that Bob’s talent was undoubtedly passed down from her.
INSPITE OF THE situation that had gathered everyone together, it made the experience a bit more bearable to hear some of the stories of the other side of a man that I’d only known for his activism. Overall, I’d say Dee Dee & family did a fabulous job planning a memorial service that not only celebrated Bob’s life but seamlessly tied together all of the parts of a man who had packed so much into his life.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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FOR COMPLETE INFO ON THE ARTHUR G DOZIER SCHOOL FOR BOYS VISIT: http://www.whitehouseboys2007.com & http://thewhitehouseboysonline.com/index.html#.W5hiq6gpBxC
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Robert Straley’s Book “The Boys of the Dark: A Story of Betrayal and Redemption in the Deep South.” ~ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8463024-the-boys-of-the-dark