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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Coach Milton Johnson, A Man Without Reproach

Contributed By Tom Bennett

Budgets for athletics were tight in 1962. That summer, basketball coach and athletic director Milton Johnson of Chipola Junior College drove our Bluebird bus, with our baseball team, gloves, bats and balls, to Miami for the annual Florida junior college baseball tournament.
Groveland, Fla., High had a 6-foot 7-inch, 190-pound center who had averaged 20 points and 22 rebounds his senior year in basketball. He was a rebounding vacuum cleaner and he had a seven-foot wingspan -- although not the state’s top grades. We decided to stop off there and see him. Coach took me with him as we went to the principal’s office and asked permission to speak to Austin "Red" Robbins.
"I think he’s out there in the parking lot somewhere," the principal said. Sure enough, we found the future star center for Chipola, the University of Tennessee and teams of the American Basketball Association cutting class and sitting in a vehicle smoking a cigarette.
Nothing ever perturbed Milton "Bat" Johnson, and he offered a scholarship to and signed Red, arranging for him to be in Marianna by summertime. Then we cranked the Bluebird and drove on to Miami Stadium.
He had a hands-on beginning at Chipola. In the summer of 1961, preparing for his first year as coach, Johnson received permission from the administration to rent an abandoned, one-story 1940’s brick home in Marianna. It was -- I guess still is -- about halfway between the Chipola campus and the town. This would become the dormitory of the basketball team.
Coach Johnson, Team Manager Doug Hayes and I went in with brooms and mops. We carried out the corpses of rats and squirrels. We scoured the walls. We bought 12 of the longest beds we could find in Marianna. That fall the team moved in with Doug and me.
Coach Johnson’s tiny office on the southeast corner of the Chipola gym had a desk, his chair, a typing table with a folding chair, and a filing cabinet. That little table and folding chair inches behind his head became my workspace. One day with as much ceremony as there was in 1960s Florida junior college athletics, he awarded me space in the front of the top drawer of the filing cabinet. There I began storing the scorebooks and my files with the players’ biographies and our all-time records.
For the 1962-63 basketball season, since after all we had Red Robbins arriving soon from Groveland, it was time for the school to have its first press guide of 32 pages. I typed it on stencils. The gentle lady who was President Ned Haven’s secretary – I wish I could recall her name – ran off my 32 stencils 100 times.
A newspaper printed for us a one-color, wrap-around cover for "CHIPOLA 1962-63 Basketball Handbook." This cover has posed-action photos of stars Charles Clark of Enterprise, Ala., and Gary Bryan of Malone, Fla. (Robbins not yet having proved his mettle, though prove it he would) plus the year-by-year Chipola won-lost records since 1947-48 and the team and individual records up to that time.
In March 1963, Coach Johnson drove the Bluebird with the 12 players and Doug and me from Marianna, Fla., to Hutchinson, Kan., 900 miles one way, for the national junior college tournament. We lost in the second round and never had a flat tire or breakdown on the Bluebird.
Milton Johnson was a man without reproach. I saw him get red in the face many times after turnovers or fouls, but never heard him swear or raise his voice. His courtesy to others, his bearing and temperament… these were at such a high level every moment of every day that all around him could not fail to try to emulate the man. I know I have done so ever since, and will to the day of my own departure.
Retired newspaperman Tom Bennett of North Carolina was the Indians’ student sports publicity director in 1961-63, and also was the editor-in-chief of the Chipola Papoose student newspaper in 1962-63.

Community Honors Chipola’s Coach Johnson

Last Tribute to a Lifetime of Accomplishments By Sid Riley

Most men work earnestly for a lifetime, raise a family, love and are loved, age, and pass. Within a relatively short time, after another generation or perhaps two, they are forgotten and gone forever, their genealogy being the only lasting effect of their having ever lived. However, there are some among us who leave a lasting mark.
The memories of these unique individuals normally result from the legacy their life’s work leaves for the benefit of future generations. Usually these individuals are writers, artists, musicians, politicians, philosophers, scholars, explorers and others whose life efforts create enduring results. The number of people impacted by the work dictates the scope of the lasting tribute which is created.
Chipola’s Coach Milton Johnson was such a man. Through the influential role he played during the initial years of development of Chipola College, he has left a legacy which will long endure. In the process he positively touched the lives of hundreds of his players, and peers. He was one of the founders of a sports program at Chipola which will endure as long as the college is here.
Coach Johnson will be immortalized in the annuals of the College for his accomplishments as a coach, and the foundation of a sports program which has developed into a nationally recognized success. He established a tradition of success.
Locally, he is even more revered for his work as a positive role model and mentor for all of those who were fortunate enough to play under his guidance. His lasting, positive influence on hundreds of lives is another of the legacies he left with us.
In his later years, those who loved and respected the man and his accomplishments took opportunities to express their appreciation to him. Tributes such as naming the new college gymnasium/ health center for him, inducting him into the National Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Fame, and numerous events and banquets which were held in his honor gave all of those who loved and respected him the opportunity for expressing those feelings. Those who admired the Coach can be assured that when he passed, it was with a feeling of satisfaction for his lifetime accomplishments.
Editors Note: For more on Coach Johnson please read Clint Cox’s "Simply Put" in the Sports Section.

Artificial Limbs Available Locally

Skilled Prosthetics Practitioner is building legs in Marianna
By Sid Riley

Need a new body part? How about a new finger, or even an arm, or how about a whole new leg ?…. Dale Petersen, a skilled, licensed prosthetist can make you feel like a new person. Well, it’s really not quite that simple, but Dale Petersen is providing a much needed service to the medical community in Jackson and several surrounding counties.
He has opened Vital Prosthetics here in Marianna at 4299 Third Avenue where he custom builds prosthetic devices in accordance with prescriptions written by area doctors for these items. He specializes in building custom devices in his fabrication lab. He is a sixth generation Floridian, and third generation crafter of medical appliances.
Petersen graduated from high school in Clermont, Florida, and obtained his associate degree from Tallahassee Community. He attended school in White Bear Lake, Minnesota where he obtained his technical certification to make orthotic and prosthetic devices. He then became licensed in Florida and Georgia. After obtaining his licenses, he received his Practitioner Certification by successfully completing the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (the ABC) three part exam at Northwestern University.
He has worked as a Practitioner/Technician with a large prosthetic firm in Tallahassee for over twenty four years. Last year he decided it was time for him to go into business for himself..
After investigating, he realized Marianna and the surrounding area needed his services and skills among the medical communities. In January, 2008 he opened Vital Prosthetics.
He can build a custom prosthetic appliance for any body appendage, including fingers, arms, toes, and legs. These are custom built to assure maximum comfort and fit. He specializes in a special cosmetic covering for these items which match skin color, making it difficult for the casual observer to realize the appendage is not flesh and blood.
They will provide free consultation to anyone who wishes to bring an existing prosthetic device to them that may be causing a problem. He also will make house calls for patients when they cannot travel to his office. Additionally, for the first time in Marianna, veterans and military personnel can obtain prosthetics locally.
Petersen is assisted in his business by his wife, Martha Gail. She is the daughter of the well know "Red" Smith who owned and operated Red and Sam’s on Lake Jackson in Tallahassee for many years. They are both avid fishermen. We certainly welcome this family and their unique business to our community, and wish them great success. They can be contacted at 850-526-0063. Their web site is

Friday, February 6, 2009

Defending Dozier

(Part Two) Telling the "rest of the story".
By Sid Riley
Unfortunately, you can throw mud and dirt further than you can throw clean sand. The same axiom is true for news. When the media chooses to dig out accusations and possible negative events while ignoring hundreds of possible stories about positive influences, good programs, and years of professional work from dedicated personnel, the negative stories will be picked up by national television, and news wire services around the world. The positive, truthful stories will receive little notoriety.
This is the second story of a series of stories in this paper’s effort to tell the full history in "Defense of Dozier", as a rebuttal to the wild claims and exaggerated stories about historical events which might or might not have occurred at our local Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in the 1950’s. These claims have not been proven or substantiated, but much national media attention has been generated which includes very negative publicity for our community.
(This week we have focused on the medical staff and medical treatment at the school).
Truth in Medicine:
If severe physical abuse was occurring at Dozier, the effects of that abuse would quickly come to the attention of the existing medical staff at the school. For vicious beatings to be administered involving hundreds of lashes with giant whips, causing blood to splatter on the walls of the room….medical treatment would have to follow.
This means the Doctors and nurses who were on staff would have to help "hide" the fact that the beatings were occurring. Their professional ethics would have to be discarded for the benefit of the school’s administration. Those who knew the medical professionals who were involved will attest to the integrity of these people and their absolute belief that if these injuries had existed they would have immediately taken action to disclose these practices to the public and to the State authorities.
This is one of the strongest points for believing that there is no truthful substance to the questionable claims currently being made by a few previous residents of the school….almost sixty years after the events were to have taken place. Many feel their fabricated and exaggerated claims are driven by hopes of personal gain from the political practices of today which often result in claims against the State being rewarded with huge payments from the public coffers, in order to avoid litigation and negative publicity.
During the 1930’s and into the 1940’s, medical services to the reform school were provided by Dr. Baltzell. This fine physician was recognized throughout the county for his benevolence, professionalism, and ability. To think of him as being complicit in a cover-up for beatings being administered to children at Dozier is unimaginable to those who remember him.
Lenox Williams:
(Excerpt from the interview with Mr. Williams as related to medical treatment.)
"The boys always had great medical care. They also received any dental treatments they needed. I can recall a couple of instances where boys had disfigurements from birth and we felt the boy was having emotional problems as a result of these defects. I arranged for them to be sent to specialists who then recommended remedial plastic surgery to correct their problem. This had a dramatic effect on their self esteem and ability to function in their society. Dozier did more for those boys than they could have ever hoped for in their previous home environment."
"We always had a great medical staff on campus. I know if there had ever been any type of physical abuse going on they would have noted it and reported it to me immediately."
Dick Hinson:
One leading senior citizen in our area who remembers Dr. Baltzell, Dick Hinson, called to remind us about the serious problems with infection which existed during much of this era. Penicillin had not yet been developed, and many, many small wounds frequently became infected. Hinson relates how Dr. Baltzell used a special black ointment which he spread on the wound and the red streaks of infection which emanated from the spot.
"If these beatings had really occurred as these gentlemen are claiming, there most certainly would have been infections which resulted. Dr. Baltzell and his treatment would have been an absolute necessity. His involvement could not have been avoided…and he would not have allowed any abuse to go unpunished," Hinson related.
"Another dear friend and very, very ethical professional who administered to the boys at Dozier was Dr. Richard Schulz. I can assure you, there was no medical evidence of injuries from any form of mistreatment from the administration while he was in service there". Hinson stated emphatically. "He insisted on nothing but the highest level of moral standards, and it would have been inconceivable for him to not report any abuses to authorities."
Dee Calloway:
Dee Calloway who is a registered nurse, worked as part of the medical services team at Dozier from 1966 thru 1973. She was a medical assistant to Dr. Wexler who was then the campus physician and who also lived on the campus. "He was an excellent physician. He loved the boys and they loved him", she relates.
"After Dr. Wexler retired Dr. Richard Schulz became our doctor. He held a medical clinic each day, seeing those that needed medical care. Both of these doctors had a policy where they could be called at any time, day or night, by the nurse on duty." Calloway continues. " Nutrition was excellent! If a child required a special diet, these foods were ordered and special meals were prepared to accommodate these needs. All meals were well balanced.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s there were several residents who were put on psychotropic drugs by a psychiatrist. Back then we didn’t have specific diagnosis categories of behavior such as ADD, ADHD, etc., it was just ruled as an emotional disorder, nervous system disorder, or retardation. Also, there was a percentage of the population that was gay, and sometimes that entered the medical arena." She continued.
"In 1963-64 there was a "Charlie John’s Commission" who came on campus from Tallahassee to "clean up homosexuality" on campus.
"We all loved those boys. Now some were very mean, and had to be treated with that in mind. We had innocent boys who were only nine or ten years old that desperately needed to be loved and should not have been there. We had others who should have been in prison. For instance we had students Cotton and Morris Brown who killed a Jackson County Deputy, James Bevis with his own gun. Then we had the Indian boy from the Everglades who viciously attacked Mr. and Mrs. Jackson at their home on highway 71 N. Mrs. Jackson later died from injuries resulting from that attack.".
"In all of those years I was working as a nurse on the evening shift, there was NEVER a child brought to us for medical treatment who had in any way been abused. Lenox Williams, the Superintendent, would never have allowed abuse of a child.
It was not uncommon for boys who were about to be released to run away from Dozier to prevent being sent back home. I have had them tell me they never had it so good. ‘Good food in my belly, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and good care’. It really angers me to have all of this wonderful work tainted by the greedy, outrageous claims of a few past residents."