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Fort Worth Experts Identify First Remains From Dozier Boys School Graves

Florida Memory Project
State Archives of Florida
Boys with administrators at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida in the 1950s.

Five stories that have North Texas talking: researchers from the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth I.D. the first person from the unmarked graves at a Florida reform school, a Houston-based oil company will be moving to North Texas, Texas has been criticized for overspending when it comes to border patrol security, and more.

DNA researchers from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth have identified the first person buried in unmarked graves discovered at the now-closed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Florida.

The person was identified as George Owen Smith, who died in 1940. DNA experts were able to identify Smith using fragments of his bones and teeth. According to WFAA, only eight other families have given DNA samples to match with the remains removed from the mass graveyard.

In the last decade, hundreds of men have come forward to tell stories of abuse and beatings at the state-run institution. These men are known as the “White House Boys”, who were sent to the reform school in the 1950s and 1960s.

Jerry Cooper was 16 when he was sent to the school in 1961. He told NPR about one such beating he endured:

School staff got him out of bed at 2 a.m. one day and took him to the White House where he says they threw him on a bed, tied his feet and began beating him with a leather strap. "The first blow lifted me a foot and a half off that bed," Cooper recalls. "And every time that strap would come down, you could hear the shuffle on the concrete because their shoes would slide. And you could hear the shoosh, shoosh, bam." Cooper passed out, but a boy in the next room later told him he counted 135 lashes.

Official records list 31 boys at the school cemetery, but researchers from the University of South Florida excavated 55 coffins from another grave.

Correction 10:31 a.m.: The original post incorrectly referred to the graves at the Arthur Dozier School for Boys as "mass graves." Also, the researchers who identified the remains came from the UNT Health Sciences Center in Fort Worth, not the University of North Texas' Denton campus.

  • Game wardens and Texas Rangers are pitching in to help overwhelmed Border Patrol agents. This “all hands on deck” approach has prompted criticisms that the state has been overreaching and overspending to police the border, the New York Times reports. Personnel patrol the river on speedboats outfitted with .30-caliber machine guns and bulletproof shields. Surveillance planes with infrared technology and a $7.4 million price tag circle the airspace. Last month, Governor Rick Perry announced he would be sending 1,000 Texas National Guard members to the Rio Grande Valley. He says it has little to do with the scores of unaccompanied children crossing the border, but rather policing human trafficking and drug trafficking efforts. The mayor of Edinburg questioned this move. “The perception is being raised that we’re a war zone here, and that’s the furthest from the truth,” Richard H. Garcia told the Times.

  • Houston-based oil and gas company Magnum Hunter Resources will be moving its headquarters to Las Colinas. The Dallas Business Journal reports the reason is in part because CEO Gary Evans was tired of making the weekly commute from his Preston Hollow home to Houston. He’s made that commute for years, but after selling off the Eagle Ford division of in 2013, he saw little reason to keep the company in Houston. Magnum Hunter has staff in both Houston and Dallas, and Evans hopes to get everyone under one roof by the end of March 2015.

  • North Texas hospitals have been experiencing a baby boom this summer. The reason? It’s all thanks to that winter ice storm we experienced back in December, NBC 5 reports. At Baylor Hospital in Dallas, doctors typically deliver about 10 babies a day. Last month, they’ve had 24 deliveries in one day. One mother who recently gave birth said, “It all makes sense. What else are you going to do when it’s cold outside? Snuggle up!” 

  • Arlington acapella group Pentatonix have released a Ninja Turtles-inspired video called “We Are Ninjas,” the Dallas Morning News reports. It’s not the only musical homage to the anamorphic turtles. Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign, and Juicy J have done an updated version of the “Turtle Rap” for the Michael Bay reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, much to Vanilla Ice’s displeasure. It’s doubtful that the rapper would have a problem with “We Are Ninjas.” Watch the video:

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.