Researchers and others believe white children who died at Dozier were buried somewhere on the South Campus, and they cite the conventions of the South in the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s as support for their beliefs. If the children were housed in different dormitories, ate in separate mess halls, played on segregated sports teams and studied in classrooms far apart why would they have been buried together?
It was the law of the land that there be separate facilities, and also the custom of the South that whites and blacks be buried separately, said Robert S. Bolt, a Tampa lawyer who is representing the Varnadoes.
And court pleadings filed Thursday say researchers have interviewed townspeople, former inmates of the youth camp and relatives who say they either saw burial sites on the South Campus or were told about them by people who had.
Said Bolt: There is plenty of good evidence that thats where the white cemetery is.
But in a letter last August, a head of the state Bureau of Public Land Administration, Victoria F. Thompson, denied Kimmerles request, due to the upcoming surplus sale of this property and liability concerns.
DJJ is spending $357,521 yearly to maintain the property, which is not expected to fetch more than that at sale.
Bids for the Dozier property, described as gently rolling, improved and wooded, in a sale announcement were to be opened next Monday. In their complaint, the Varnadoes say going forward with the sale will forever prevent them from retrieving the remains of Thomas Varnadoe, whose death certificate says he died on or about Oct. 26, 1934 of pneumonia.
Glen Varnadoes father, who died in 1973, was sent to Dozier, along with Thomas, when the two brothers were arrested in Hernando County on malicious trespassing charges, Glen Varnadoe said. A Dozier student newspaper reported that Thomas had been in poor health when he entered the youth prison, but family members long have disputed that claim. The Yellow Jacket newspaper also reported that Thomas was carried to his grave by fellow inmates who acted as pallbearers while a large contingent of staff members looked on solemnly.
Varnadoe said his father never discussed Thomas death, though he did insist that only he and a grave-digger attended the funeral. At Thomas funeral, they dug a hole and they put him in, he said.
If researchers can identify Thomas remains, Varnadoe said, he would like to place them right beside the headstone of his mother.
Varnadoe says he suspects some of the newer buildings on the South Campus likely were erected atop the bones of children who were unceremoniously deposited under the ground, as he says Thomas was. And he fears the boys, like his uncle Thomas, will remain there forever if DJJ is allowed to sell the site before the graves are located and preserved.
To think he will spend an eternity buried under a parking lot somewhere is just a travesty, Varnadoe said.