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<v narrator>Dr. Joseph Farrar, age 56, indicted <v narrator>for murder with malice. <v narrator>A 17 year old blue eyed girl was in his custody, the indictment says, <v narrator>in November 1971, when she took a large dose of insecticide. <v narrator>Farrar voluntarily and with malice, killed her, it says, by <v narrator>willfully and intentionally failing to secure medical treatment. <v narrator>Who is Dr. Farrar? Center of this ever widening controversy? <v narrator>Farrar operated the Asten Educational Foundation in Houston. <v narrator>Inside this ivy covered building with barred windows. <v narrator>Literature advertising, the foundation gave this address. <v narrator>He advertised one of his schools called Asten Academy at yet another <v narrator>Houston address, but that address was this same building on a side <v narrator>facing another street. <v narrator>It was the first sign of Farrar's unusual way of doing business. <v narrator>Farrar called himself a consulting educational behavioral scientist.
<v narrator>He owned a Ph.D. From a university in Saltillo, Mexico. <v narrator>Not accredited by the Mexican or American governments. <v narrator>For this and other reasons. <v narrator>The state of Texas refused to license him as a practicing psychologist. <v narrator>A few folks around Liberty County, home of the now famous Artesia Hall School, <v narrator>felt ambivalent about J.D. Farrar. <v Speaker>He just had the ability to con just- or at least the gull to try to con anybody <v Speaker>in the country that he could ever come up with. <v Ezell Rhoden>As for Dr. Farrar is concerned. <v Ezell Rhoden>I think he is a fine gentleman, and I believe that he was doing a good job in his school. <v Speaker>He is a neurotic, or mad man, in my opinion, quote, said <v Speaker>the judge. <v Ezell Rhoden>I think if the majority of the people knew the true story of <v Ezell Rhoden>what went on out there and the way those children came to him and and <v Ezell Rhoden>how they left him, the difference between them would be like black and white. <v Speaker>And he had a philosophy of instilling fear in the students.
<v Sonny Huey>We was talking to uh, Dr. Farrar up out of jail out here about five or six officers in <v Sonny Huey>there. And every time someone would try to say to him, he would just go plumb <v Sonny Huey>ape me. He couldn't even talk to a man who's supposed to be a doctor like he was, <v Sonny Huey>couldn't even sit down and talk to a bunch of grown men. <v Sonny Huey>And I'll tell you, I just, I just don't think somebody like that ought to be handling <v Sonny Huey>people, handling little kids. <v Ezell Rhoden>I had occasion to speak with the children out there at school on several different <v Ezell Rhoden>occasions, privately, so to speak. <v Ezell Rhoden>And I found- never did find one that had anything derogatory at all to say about <v Ezell Rhoden>the doctor. <v Sonny Huey>He said, I'll tell you one thing, I don't want you ever help me again. <v Sonny Huey>I don't want you messing any of my students. I said, friend, I wasn't helping you to <v Sonny Huey>start with. I was helping these kids. If I caught you in a mudhole someplace, I'd just <v Sonny Huey>cram you a little deeper in there. <v Ezell Rhoden>In order to handle children that had proceeded this far down the <v Ezell Rhoden>road, so to speak. I think a certain amount of discipline was necessary and I <v Ezell Rhoden>don't think anything was done that didn't justify the, the end.
<v Speaker>I would say that he had a philosophy of child care and child discipline <v Speaker>that harked back to the Dark Ages. <v Sonny Huey>They got up and shook his finger to me, then said later on after he couldn't get the <v Sonny Huey>kids released to him he said. <v Sonny Huey>I guess, you know, you don't get that 75 dollars, unless they're delivered to me <v Sonny Huey>personally or back to that school. I said friend, you can take at $75 and you can do <v Sonny Huey>what you know with it. <v narrator>Artesia Hall came to light on Mother's Day 1971 <v narrator>when five girls escape the school located deep in the low lands of <v narrator>Liberty County. Usually escaped students were returned to Artesia <v narrator>Hall for $25 a head bounty paid by Dr. <v narrator>Farrar. But things were different this day. <v narrator>A game warden named Sonny Huey found three of the girls. <v Sonny Huey>So when I rounded a slow curve. <v Sonny Huey>I got a glimpse, some right around cross road right here. <v Sonny Huey>So I just towed it up and second, I run down a right quick and jumped out of my truck,
<v Sonny Huey>run out into the woods here and to see if I could see 'em. <v Sonny Huey>But I stopped. I didn't hear any brush breaking or anyhting. <v Sonny Huey>And I knew then that it had to be the little girl we're looking for. <v Sonny Huey>So I just started talking to him. Tell him, said baby, come out of words now, because <v Sonny Huey>we've got more snake bite victims this time of year than anything. <v Sonny Huey>I said, you all get snake bit and you gon' die in those woods. <v Sonny Huey>I said, if you come out, I promise you nobody will hurt you. <v Sonny Huey>One little girl spoke up. She crying and said, Sheriff, we come out. <v Sonny Huey>Will you please take us, let us talk to somebody and take us any place but back to that <v Sonny Huey>school or to Cleveland. To take us somebody- let us talk to somebody. <v Sonny Huey>And I said yes. I'll take you to Liberty, the county seat of this county and let you talk <v Sonny Huey>to sheriff. So two of the little girls came out. <v Sonny Huey>So I walked out there to 'em, they come out behind a big old gum tree out there. <v Sonny Huey>So I walked out there to 'em. I said, baby where's the other three little girls? <v Sonny Huey>One of the girls said. I don't know, sir. Should we split up? <v Sonny Huey>I don't know where they're at. So I looked out little briar patch out there kind of <v Sonny Huey>thickety, I seen one of 'em laying flat on his stomach a little girl from Jacksonville, <v Sonny Huey>Florida. And I told her, I said, come out, you little runt.
<v Sonny Huey>So she came out and of course says all crying and says, sir please don't take us back to <v Sonny Huey>that school. I said, baby, I'm gon' take you to Liberty like I promised you. <v Sonny Huey>So we got in the truck, loaded em up and we turned around. <v Sonny Huey>I started out in route to Liberty with 'em and <v Sonny Huey>we got up on top of the hill here. <v Sonny Huey>And two of these fellers from working for the school down here <v Sonny Huey>was coming from a farm house outside road there. <v Sonny Huey>And the little girls recognized him. Of course they started crying again. <v Sonny Huey>They was afraid that he was gonna see 'em. I just told the little girls to lay down in <v Sonny Huey>the seat, just duck down so they couldn't see 'em. <v Sonny Huey>Nobody's gonna hurt 'em. <v Sonny Huey>They passed by and I just waved at 'em and went on by. <v Sonny Huey>I pulled up here and met state warden Westlum, and his father that's coming out to grab <v Sonny Huey>a pit back here ward's fray. <v Sonny Huey>I pulled up, got out. <v Sonny Huey>I was telling him what the deal was with these kids that picked up. <v Sonny Huey>And we heard a vehicle coming down the road. <v Sonny Huey>Look back to the curve here and a pickup game around a curve, of course.
<v Sonny Huey>Little girls looking back too and they recognize the pickup is being <v Sonny Huey>Mr. McIlvaine that worked towards the school. <v Sonny Huey>Course they started crying saying, sir, please don't let him get us. <v Sonny Huey>Don't let him get us. That's Mr. McIvaine. <v Sonny Huey>I said baby there's not anybody gon' mess with ya. I said, now don't cry, nobody's gonna <v Sonny Huey>hurt you. Mr. McIvaine, he drove up, got out and I walked back and introduced myself. <v Sonny Huey>He said, Well, I see you got three of them. I said yessir. <v Sonny Huey>He said, You girls get out and get in the truck. <v Sonny Huey>I said, no, sir, Mr. McIvaine, I'm in route to Liberty with these kids. <v Sonny Huey>I said, He said nah, I'll just take 'em back to that school, said, y'all get out, and I <v Sonny Huey>said. No sir. Now, Mr. McIvaine, I'm in route to Liberty with these girls. <v Sonny Huey>He said, well, there's no need for that. So we got custody of these kids, I said, I can't <v Sonny Huey>he-, but I got custody of 'em right now. We in route to Liberty. <v Sonny Huey>He said, well, we'll see about that. I said, well mighty fine. <v Sonny Huey>So he turned around and poked him back I presume at that school. <v Sonny Huey>And I asked Westlum and his father if they would follow me on into Liberty with these <v Sonny Huey>kids. Of course, he said he would. <v Sonny Huey>When I got up there, I turned 'em over to the chief deputy, Clay Autrey.
<v narrator>The three girls were brought here to this back office in the Liberty County Jail in the <v narrator>early afternoon of Mother's Day 1971. <v narrator>One of them remained here in the Liberty Jail at her own request for nearly a month <v narrator>because her parents didn't claim her. <v narrator>The other two girls stayed in this office all afternoon until Dr. Farrar and their <v narrator>parents arrived to pick them up. <v narrator>The girls were brought to this lobby and Dr. Farrar in front of the parents <v narrator>grabbed the girls by the hair and dragged them out this door. <v narrator>In front of a crowd of protesting deputies, the girls were dragged onto this porch <v narrator>where one deputy said he'd shouted at Farrar, I wouldn't treat my dog like that. <v narrator>Farrar reportedly turned and snared and dragged the girls down the steps <v narrator>and to a waiting car. <v narrator>The name Artesia Hall connotes a 19th century British Academy, <v narrator>but its face hardly bears that out. <v narrator>Students lived in close quarters here, and neighbors frequently saw boys
<v narrator>and girls marching along nearby roads in military formation <v narrator>counting cadence. Sometimes the cadence counting was heard late into the <v narrator>night. Liberty County Attorney Jack Hartnell began hearing stories <v narrator>about Artesia Hall, which in 1972 had no license. <v narrator>He sought an injunction to shut down the school, but three days before the <v narrator>hearing, a license was mysteriously granted. <v narrator>That hearing was held here in November 22nd, 1971, in Judge Clarence <v narrator>Cane's courtroom, the Liberty County attorney, sought an injunction <v narrator>to shut down Artesia Hall because it was operating without a license. <v narrator>It was only on the day of that hearing that Judge Kane was told the license had been <v narrator>issued mysteriously three days before. <v narrator>After attorneys quickly established that that license had been issued, which made this <v narrator>hearing moot. Judge Kane took over the questioning. <v narrator>For several hours, he grilled Sue Keney, the Houston welfare worker who
<v narrator>sanctioned the licensing of Artesia Hall. <v narrator>Judge Kane asked Mrs. Keney about the licensing procedure. <v narrator>She replied If everything in the facility meets the standards, then <v narrator>there is no reason not to license them. <v narrator>If they do not meet the standards, then they should not be operating. <v narrator>And it is our responsibility to find out whether they do or do not meet the <v narrator>standards. Judge Kane and is it your feeling that this does <v narrator>meet the standards? Mrs. Keeney: Yes, sir. <v narrator>We went down it standard, by standard. <v narrator>She further said that the man she instructed to write the Artesia Hall report, <v narrator>Bobby Flat, had only visited the campus one time. <v narrator>And Mrs. Keaney also testified that she usually accepted the analysis <v narrator>and recommendation of these licensing reports from her caseworkers. <v narrator>Unless those recommendations are not based on facts. <v narrator>There have been lots of stories told about discipline here. <v narrator>Some of those emerged in caseworker reports presented in legislative subcommittee
<v narrator>hearings into the Artesia Hall controversy. <v Speaker>They use handcuffs, have a cage of chain-link wire <v Speaker>for punishment. <v Lonnie Cruver>The cage was a reality. <v Lonnie Cruver>It was in use and had actually been used, one of the staff members <v Lonnie Cruver>told me. The very purpose of the cage <v Lonnie Cruver>was to restrain students. <v Speaker>Chop hair off indiscriminately and use a, quote, <v Speaker>shaking treatment, end quote. <v Lonnie Cruver>Take the child by the shoulder or by the hair of the head and shake them just <v Lonnie Cruver>vigorously until they felt like the child had been punished sufficiently. <v Speaker>This is quoting the judge, Artesian Hall had a chain-link fence <v Speaker>with barbed wire. And Mr. Cruver, DPW <v Speaker>worker, said he would not recommend licensing. <v Lonnie Cruver>These measures of child discipline or his
<v Lonnie Cruver>disciplinary measures. We just couldn't feel were acceptable. <v Lonnie Cruver>They amounted to child abuse. <v Lonnie Cruver>They were degrading and dehumanizing to the students. <v Lonnie Cruver>They cause them to lose self-esteem. <v Lonnie Cruver>This is not something that a child ought to be subject to. <v narrator>The subcommittee also tried to find out why Artesia Hall was ever licensed. <v narrator>After four caseworkers recommended denial of the license. <v narrator>The only report, even close to being positive, was issued by a consulting psychiatrist, <v narrator>Dr. Jack Houser, who later said his report had been misrepresented <v narrator>to support the licensing application. <v Rep. John Whitmire>We're going to have to establish why this place was ever licensed in nineteen seventy one <v Rep. John Whitmire>before we can follow how it held his license for over two years. <v Rep. John Whitmire>We're going to dr. Houser's second report. <v Rep. John Whitmire>Testimony by Dr. Houser has shown that the welfare department
<v Rep. John Whitmire>misinterpreted his recommendation of where he said that Artesia <v Rep. John Whitmire>Hall met minimal standards. <v Rep. John Whitmire>He told this committee that he never intended for the welfare department to <v Rep. John Whitmire>think that he stated that Artesia Hall met the standards of the State Department <v Rep. John Whitmire>of Public Welfare lastly procedures. <v John Lindell>My investigation in March of 1972 revealed <v John Lindell>that the facility did meet standard with <v John Lindell>the exception of having the medical reports up to date. <v John Lindell>Many things can happen in three months and it is my testimony that many things did <v John Lindell>happen. Of which, Mr. Burr had no knowledge and I testify that-. <v Rep. John Whitmire>Tell us what happened. Tell us what happened. <v Rep. John Whitmire>[Lindell: The-] outside of you hiring a special consulting psychiatrist, which the <v Rep. John Whitmire>department had never done before and has never done since. <v Rep. John Whitmire>Other than that, what else happened? <v John Lindell>It was unusual to employ a psychiatrist to evaluate this, <v John Lindell>but I don't think that that should be held against the department.
<v John Lindell>I think that that should be considered a wise move to get <v John Lindell>further experience from a professional person who could <v John Lindell>evaluate that aspect. <v John Lindell>That aspect was evaluated. <v John Lindell>We do not place the responsibility for this licensing study upon <v John Lindell>Dr. Houser. We certainly do place responsibility for what he wrote in <v John Lindell>his reports. <v John Lindell>He did indicate in his second report that he did not find any evidence <v John Lindell>of the abuse and harsh treatment that he described <v John Lindell>in his earlier report. <v Rep. John Whitmire>Mr. Burrow's testimony for this committee contradicts everything you're saying right now. <v John Lindell> I'm telling you the truth. The-. <v Rep. John Whitmire>I hope you know, you're under oath. <v John Lindell>I'm under oath. <v Rep. John Whitmire>I'm either asking you to read that last paragraph, which makes Mr. Burrow's <v Rep. John Whitmire>recommendation to the department or not read it. <v Rep. John Whitmire>It's the last paragraph where he summarizes what he thinks about Artesia Hall. <v John Lindell>I will read it.
<v Rep. John Whitmire>Well, what do you know? <v John Lindell>I recommend it now of an institution licensed to Artesia Hall <v John Lindell>based largely on the nature and extent of the verified complaints contained in this <v John Lindell>report. I further recommend no continuances in our court <v John Lindell>action to enjoin Dr. Farrar and Artesia Hall from further operation. <v John Lindell>Artesia Hall should be permanently enjoined from operating. <v Rep. John Whitmire>Thank you, sir. It's a very negative report, isn't it? <v John Lindell>It was very- it was so negative that we filed an injunction based upon this information. <v Rep. John Whitmire>That was the last official report that you had from a supervisor. <v Rep. John Whitmire>Was it not? <v Lonnie Cruver>We found a number of things that were not acceptable in our <v Lonnie Cruver>understanding of the license standards. <v Lonnie Cruver>And these were situations that we felt like <v Lonnie Cruver>should be the basis for denying a license to for Ar- for Artesia <v Lonnie Cruver>Hall. <v George Campbell>I do not believe a license should be issued <v George Campbell>when there is doubt.
<v George Campbell>That this doubt must be cleared because you have to live with it. <v George Campbell>You know? <v Rep. John Whitmire>At the time the license was granted on November 19th, was the, all doubt removed? <v George Campbell>No. <v Rep. John Whitmire>In 1972 when there was a young lady died, <v Rep. John Whitmire>was all the doubt removed as to the type treatment children was receiving? <v George Campbell>There was doubt throughout, in my mind throughout the whole time. <v George Campbell>I think there was doubt in Mr. Leatherman's mind and we as anything came in. <v George Campbell>I think we had exchanges about our concern as to whether Dr. Farrar <v George Campbell>really understood what he was doing. <v Rep. John Whitmire>Was there any doubt June 19th 73', about two weeks before this committee <v Rep. John Whitmire>began their investigation as the type treatment that children was received in Artesia-? <v George Campbell>Yes. Yes. <v narrator>The Artesia Hall controversy has burgeoned into a statewide scandal <v narrator>spilling over into several other states which send their children here in Texas to <v narrator>private child care institutions. <v narrator>Subcommittee hearings and investigations go on and on, but so far,
<v narrator>no clear cut answers have emerged, only that private child care institutions <v narrator>in Texas had been loosely regulated. <v narrator>If at all. <v George Campbell>I think we have a very wide range of care from some very excellent <v George Campbell>care to some poor care. <v George Campbell>And some of them are really so out of touch. <v George Campbell>They don't realize, they don't realize what the quality of care is that they <v George Campbell>need education and help. <v Sonny Huey>Most people they, if it's not right on their nose then they are not concerned with it. <v Sonny Huey>But when something happens right in your back door. Then, well, it's just hard for a lot <v Sonny Huey>of people to believe that this could be happening in their county. <v Sonny Huey>An operation like that going on and nobody knew nothing about it. <v Sonny Huey>And the only thing about it, it's just crying shame that this thing has rocked along, <v Sonny Huey>for so long that it had to cost a little girl's life before anything could be done about <v Sonny Huey>it.
Artesia Hall
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Program Description
"This documentary tells the story of Artesia Hall, a privately-operated school for delinquent children. "One of Artesia Hall's students died from a dose of insecticide, causing a statewide scandal and indictment of the school's director for murder with malice. The scandal also revealed Texas's state welfare department had allowed several such schools to operate unlicensed and unsupervised. The scandal later widened to include kickbacks to Illinois officials who channeled their delinquent to these Texas schools. "Although hundreds of stories were written about Artesia Hall, all of the stories we know of were written from either legislative hearings or court proceedings. This film documents the entire Artesia Hall story, as told by local people who knew of the school long before its director was charged with murder. "The documentary was filmed at the wilderness school, in the small, nearby towns of Liberty and Cleveland, also in Houston and in the state legislature, Austin."--1973 Peabody Awards entry form. The documentary includes an interview with Sonny Huey, the man who found the girls after they had escaped from Artesia Hall. Huey describes the girls as being in distress and begging him to take them anywhere but back to the school. Huey prevented the school's guards from taking the girls back and instead, took them to Liberty county. One of the girls stayed in the jail for one month, as her parents never showed up. The other two girls? parents returned them to Artesia Hall, where Dr. Farrar dragged them out of the jail by their hair. Dr. Joseph Farrar was the self-titled Consulting Educational Behavioral Scientist at Artesia Hall, but his Ph.D. was not achieved through an accredited institution and he was not a licensed psychologist in the state of Texas. Upon investigation, it was discovered that his methods were less than humane as kids would have their hair forcibly and inexplicably cut, they would be forced to march around the grounds all day, and as punishment for misbehavior, they were locked in cages and shaken vigorously. The institution was taken to court for operating while unlicensed but three days before the hearing, a license was mysteriously granted. The court heard the questionable reasoning behind the licensing as previous inspections described Artesia Hall as unsuitable for teaching and disciplining children.
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Duration: 00:18:00
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Chicago: “Artesia Hall,” 1973, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 8, 2023,
MLA: “Artesia Hall.” 1973. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 8, 2023. <>.
APA: Artesia Hall. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from