January 15, 2014, Tampa, Florida - Jeffery Sampson, who grew up in Jacksonville, has recently come forward with the story about his brother Gregory, his return from Florida School for Boys, and his subsequent death, and it is heart-breaking. Gregory was a happy, healthy 12 year old when he was sent to the Marianna reform school run by the State of Florida, renamed Arthur G Dozier School for boys before it closed.
Jefferey's brother, Gregory, was sent to FSB on March 16, 1965 at age 12 – the day before his 13th birthday. When he arrived at the boys' reform school, he was assigned to Washington Cottage. What happened after his admission doesn't quite add up. What the family does know is that Gregory was admitted to a hospital in Pensacola in October, 1965 – just 6 months after his arrival in Marianna -- and he remained there through December, although the school's newspaper, The Yellow Jacket, lists Gregory on the Honor Roll in November and December of 65. How did a hospitalized child make the Honor Roll at the reform school? Was that some kind of cover-up? In January, 1966 the school's newspaper, The Yellow Jacket, has a notation that Gregory was in the hospital and they wished him a speedy recovery.
It was not uncommon in the 1950's and 1960's for the school to withhold information from a boy's family regarding an illness or injury. In fact, in the 1930's Thomas Varnadoe was sent to Florida School for Boys in September a healthy boy. A month later, he was dead – the family was told he died of pneumonia. The staff buried his remains on school grounds before the family was even notified of his passing, and when his family arrived at the school asking for his remains in order to bring them home for proper burial they were he'd already been buried on school property. Similarities exist between the Sampson and Varnadoe stories. In both cases the boys arrived at FSB in good health and then something terrible happened, and in both instances communication between the reform school and the boys' parents was almost non-existent. One can only wonder how many other healthy youngsters died under suspicious circumstances or had life changing injuries after being sent to Florida School for Boys (later named Arthur G Dozier School for Boys aka Dozier”.
In the case of Gregory Sampson, all anyone knows is that he was hospitalized in October of 1965, seven months after he was sent to FSB, he remained hospitalized for 3 or 4 months, he returned home disabled and died soon thereafter. The family was well aware that something horrible had happened to Gregory during his stay at the Florida School for Boys, which many refer to as “Hell on Earth”, but they would never find out the truth. What they do know is that Gregory arrived home in a wheelchair, unable to walk, he had a patch over his right eye because he was unable to see out of that eye, and could barely see out of his left. He had minimal use of his arms, and was unable to speak so no one could ask him what had happened and if anyone at the “school” had harmed him. But, one thing was perfectly clear. He was not the same boy that left for FSB, and the reform school blamed his deteriorated state on a brain tumor. The Sampson family has never been able to verify that diagnosis..
Gregory died on June 6, 1966, less than six months from his return from the reform school, and just over a year from being sent to the Florida School for boys. His death had a profound effect on their family, and especially his older brother, Jefferey, who began to act out in a negative way– not knowing how to deal with the emotions after his brother's untimely passing. Ironically, Jefferey's poor behavior landed him in the same reform school that returned his brother to the family severely disabled. When Jefferey arrived at Florida School for Boys, some of the detainees who'd been there at the same time as his brother Gregory, told Jefferey that Gregory's “problems”
Jefferey is seeking anyone who knew his brother, Gregory Sampson, at Florida School for Boys between March and October of 1965 when Gregory was admitted to the hospital. He is hoping that by finding men who attended the reform school at the same time as Gregory, he will find someone with information about his brother. Jefferey has difficulty remembering much of his childhood – perhaps it's his brain's method of protecting him from painful childhood memories and trauma, or perhaps its because he was shot in the head and a neck by a resident of Marianna during one of his attempts to run away from the reform schoo. He can not recall the names of the boys at FSB who told him they had information regarding his brother's condition. Those boys – grown men now – may hold the key to uncovering whether or not Gregory was the victim of foul play, as were so many others while under the “care” of the State of Florida.
Jefferey is not the only one trying to find out what actually happened to his brother, Gregory. He has a sister and a niece who are also actively searching for the truth about Gregory Sampson. His niece is a nurse and would love to be able to examine the hospital records of her deceased uncle, if they are still available after all these years.
If you have information about Gregory Sampson, or know of other boys who died or were injured after being sent to Florida School for Boys in the 1950s or 1960s, please contact Jerry Cooper, President of The Official White House Boys Organization at 239-542-3831 or contact the organization via email: TheOfficialWhiteHouseBoys@
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