As the months of the Fall of 1973, kept passing the hearings and reporting and researching by the
press took much of the load off of me. It was not me saying it...now it was the press. I just led
them to the stories and the places, furnished them with some of the background research and let
them the dig deeper into the story. I just so happened to be in the story myself.
I had an associate that I had met down the road who at one time was him self the Deputy
Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health for the state of Texas. His name was Lynn
Dan Kerr, a psychiatrist from Houston, Texas. Dr. Kerr became my "Deep Throat" in this
saga that I was on. He would point to me directions to head with my research and he knew
the inside of the system and was my mentor as a gadfly and provocateur that I was...hippie
wanting change in humanity...whatever? I knew in my heart what was wrong and what was
right and I was compelled, though I knew
This is only a few of the articles that came out. The stories were covered by major press all
over Texas and a huge movement of change begun on a very out of control system. People were
being neglected and harmed at the hands of the state and with public money and the system
had to be reformed. What upset me most was that it was children and youth. I knew and was
right in the knowing that this would ruin my career as a professional and by this time I was so
in shock from the real world of madness that I did not think I could stay in the field anyway.
From one article I am quoted saying, "Ben Standley, director of the
organization, described Texas
mental institutions as overcrowded and dehumanizing. He said that TDMHMR is a giant
bureaucratic agency and needs to be decentralized.
In testimony before the committee Monday, Atty. Gen. John Hill said
Gov. Dolph Briscoe should
call a special legislative session to deal exclusively with the "well-being of children and youth in
With this I was reading and feeling that we were beginning to crack
the giant and that what I was saying
and writing at night and giving to the press and others was with some real back bone and having the Attorney
General agree with me was a feather in my hat.
I was getting correspondence from many in the Texas government and felt
that I had a political movement
that many of the Senators were interested in what the issue really meant in the name of children. I was
taking the time to not only do my homework and make sure my facts were right, but I would take time
and go to the various Senators and Representatives office at the Capitol and do my dog and pony show
Another area of the story that took me to some dark corners of life
and death and to know things
that grown men really did not want to deal with was something that hit me while doing some
research in the records of some kids that were dying. Looking back I remember that I was
wondering around an area behind the State School and I found some grave stones...I was
dealing with the living dead and the records of the dead. Dead children. I find fresh graves.
I find old graves and I have many dark thoughts.
On October 19, 1973, THE TEXAS OBSERVER released a major
cover article that went
deep into the past months since the August Press conference that I held when I showed folks
the tip of the iceberg and opened the can of worms that that the administration of the Texas Dept.
of Mental Health and Mental Retardation did not want opened.
In the article they discuss many areas that the first Press conference
took the research or hunt
down different trails. From the drugs being experimented, deaths at the Texas facilities, kick-
back payments from big Drug companies, lavish expenditures by the Department while the
patients and resident lay in inhumane conditions by the tens of thousands. On one occasion I
was scheduled to make an appearance before one of the House Sub-committees investigating
the conditions and I had it set up to take all the members of the committee on a total unscheduled-
ed and surprise visit to some of the backwards of the Austin State School. No one at the the
School knew that any minute about 12 cars with members of the press and the Texas State
Legislature and Texas Senate was just going to pull up right to the wards and these men and
women all dress in the Capitol attire were going to walk into man's inhumanity to man.
One of the legislators had to go out side and puke after seeing some
of the wards where the
profoundly and severely mental retarded are warehoused and with the states money treated as
inhuman animals. I could have talked in that chair at the Capitol with all these Senators drilling
me with a "kill the messenger" suspicion and defense of the State attitude, that noting could be
wrong like you say it buddy...so I just took them out and said...here Mr. Senator look. Then
looked and they were moved. Some cried. I had gained a new respect with these men and
In the "Texas Observer" article it also stated, "Ben Standley of Free
the Slow cites a study at the
Austin school that showed 84 percent of the patients actually had lost abilities of the patients
actually had lost abilities after admission. Standley says that the state schools are "character-
ized by overcrowding, disrepair, locked doors and the overpowering odor of day rooms where
patients often appear nude or in institutional garb. "He describes a "lack of purposeful activity,
aimless and endless milling about or lying on the floor, medicated "straight jackets," the injured
lying in their own blood before being taken to inadequate medical attention."
MHMR administrators are rankled by the rather emotional charges of the
members of Free the
Slow, but most are ready to admit that the state's facilities are in desperate of more money. The
"Texas Observer" states, "Right now there is more momentum for reform of MHMR institutions
than perhaps at any other time in the state's negligent history. The House of Rep. is studying
the situation and so is a special citizen's panel authorized by Dr. Wade, Attorney General John
Hill and the Texas Association for Retarded Children have called for a special session on youth
After three years on these backwards sometimes for 24 hours at a time,
I would go and watch
on the nights of full moon, I would be there during a thunder storm. I worked with Dr. Charles
Cleland at the University of TX, who was the renown person in the study of mental retardation
and was involved in some of his published and revolutionary research on the profoundly and
severely retarded population. Some of the research I worked on with him during my studies
at the University of Texas while I was working at the State School became the opinions that
were the mainstream in the knowledge of this population in our society.
I read everything I could get my hands on about mental institutions.
From Irving Goffman's
"Assylums" to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"...I set in on and took courses at the U of T
and was not in any degree plan, so I just took what interested me. Even signed up and was
accepted to some graduate courses. I felt always that I needed to be working and spending
my real learning time in the institutions. I was very luck to land the job at the Austin State
School and be taking the course at the same time, while living the birth of the Austin Texas
music scene. Which I was jumping right into the big middle of with the "play" time that I had
in my life during this the cross that I was bearing..."You are doing the work of the Lord my
Grandmother would tell me."
In a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance sort of rebel James Dean, Jerry
Jeff Walker, "Up Against
the Wall Red Neck Mother provocature gadfly gonzo journalist approach to the truth and what
was right and wrong.
Next thing I know there is a major investigation of the state by the
United States Department of
Justice and the FBI. Over the months the U.S. agencies began to come in behind me and prove
that my allegations were correct and that their should be changes made. One statement was even
made by David Wade himself endorsing the idea of designating a single "umbrella" agency to
evaluate child care in the state of Texas.
There became a mandate from the U.S. to the State of Texas to shut down
some of their facilities,
and set up a system to license the care of children in the State of Texas. For me this was a big
success. Prior to my work there was no standard of care of license agency that was really
watching over the care of children. Gatesville home for boys was virtually shut down, as was
Brother Rollof's home for kids and others came under close study.
I was near leaving the United States by this time...and I would soon
leave for Central and South
America where I would wander and wonder for years...thinking about what I had just seen and
learned about life and man...and man's inhumanity to not only men...but to his own children.
2001-2007 Benford E. Standley
All Rights Reserved.