(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.
(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."
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 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."