AUGUST 18TH, 2018
WHILE IN PART one I focused on the other pieces of Bob’s life, unrelated to his time at Dozier & his many years of activism following. The focus of this post is going to be the opposite. Dozier was a huge part of his life & to not acknowledge it would be the like erasing the half of a man who spent his life fighting. As a child he fought to stay alive while serving a sentence at the Dozier School for Boys. As an adult he would spend years fighting, not just for his own justice but to change the entire Juvenile Justice System. It would be amidst this battle that he would be faced with his biggest fight…The fight against cancer. Ultimately this would be the one fight that wouldn’t be won.
I SAT IN the row in front of three of the original Whitehouse boys, now men in their 60’s & 70’s. & Their grief was palpable as I listened while they talked about losing yet another member of the club that none of them had asked to be in to begin with. Each of these men gave eulogies, speaking of their friend & the important work he’s done in regards to Dozier.
IT WAS DIFFICULT to watch these men say goodbye to not just one of their comrades but a brother. It didn’t just touch my heart but it ignited a new fire in me to continue the fight. What I didn’t expect to feel was the anger that came with the sadness. Bob had spent so much of his life just trying to get Florida to do the right thing & would never get to see it through to the end. For lack of better terms, I was pissed! It was confusing for me as I don’t feel that I have any right to have these feelings…But they were there & are still with me today.
ANOTHER POIGNANT MOMENT was hearing the tender words spoken by USF Forensic Anthropologist, Erin Kimmerle. Erin not only fought mercilessly to get the approval for the exhumation of Dozier’s Boothill Cemetery, she lead the project from beginning to end in spite of the town of Marianna trying to push her & her team out. It was clear by her reception that she is a treasured member of the Whitehouse Boys family. “Somewhere In Time I’ll Find You” she began in her soft spoken voice…This was a poem written by Bob years before & it couldn’t have been a more perfect way for her to begin her tribute to Bob as he had indeed found her & in turn, she had found some of the Lost Boys of Dozier, finally returning them to the open arms of their families.
I HAD BEEN fortunate enough to have met Erin & her assistant the day before while at Bob’s house & I was totally starstruck. I’ve been following her work since the Dozier dig & can honestly say that she’s my hero.
THOUGH I’M NOT a religious person, I thought the the officiant, whom I later learned had been involved during the exhumation of the Boothill Cemetery at Dozier & had counseled Bob & some of the others, did an amazing job connecting with everyone & knew when to lighten the mood. He was the perfect person to have leading such a somber occasion.
AT THE CONCLUSION of the service, there was a reception at the church. It was then that I got to sit down with several of the Whitehouse Boys & listen to their memories of their dark time at Dozier. The details of which I will be sharing in my next post. So you guessed it…TO BE CONTINUED!
I will however, leave you with this:
*Originally Released 09/20/2018*
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UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA DOZIER ARCHIVES: http://guides.lib.usf.edu/dozier
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