For the past five decades, Benford E. Standley has
worked to better the conditions faced by the
millions of homeless, runaway and missing children of our nation, working
with the United States
Department of Justice, The F.B.I., The Texas Rangers, and several
congressional committees and
legislators. He has written hundreds of letters and three books,
that speak towards the historic
abused that fall upon our nation's children and youth. Standley has produced and been part of
several large symposiums regarding children and youth. He
also wrote some of the first legislation
in the state of Texas benefiting this population, and has co-producer
two videos that has received
National awards and recognition. He was trained in psychology
and did an internship with the
National Institute of Mental Health for one year working with autistic
children in Austin, Texas, and
in undergraduate studies at North
Texas State he worked with this population under the direction
of Dr. Charles Cleland.
Over the years he has produced many benefits and shows that were for
children and youth and has
a long history as a many of letters writing and sending his research
to politicians and religious leaders.
Besides looking inside my own life growing up I remember some of the
biggest revelations that I had
and points in my life where I took a turn was when I was in college
and in a Fraternity Tau Kappa
Epsilon, I in fact help get this national fraternity on campus.
When I got out to Sul Ross State
University out in Alpine, Texas in 1965, they did not have any national
fraternities on the campus.
I thought, how am I going to go to fraternity parties if there are no
frats. So with the help of some
of the administration and the Dean of Men I began and organized the
movement to have the Tekes
come on the Sul Ross University campus. During these years in
the Fraternity and the change of
my life growing through the years of 1965 through 1969, was one hell
of a ride. But, I remember
part of the Fraternity was that we had to go out into the community
and do work for kids. I was
somehow touched in those days. I then moved into the study of
Psychology in college and started
becoming very interested Children and their problems in life and mind.
I think back to my own past sometimes as some of the roots. My
dad left when I was two or
three years old...I wish my Mother was still alive to answer some questions
that are coming to
my own life??? 1970 I began to study psychology, child psychology
and autistic children
interested me and I worked on a study that was working with these kids
and behavior modification.
Did a deep study of B.F. Skinner and got into working with rats, pigeons
and went deep into the
study of children with learning problems. I worked at one of
the top clinics working with Autistic
kids in the country that was being run at North Texas State University.
From 1970, at some point, I moved to Austin, Texas and went to work
for one of my professors
I had had at North Texas. He hired me to work on a Internship
at the Austin State School, where
the population was mostly mentally retarded...I saw man's inhumanity
to men for three years...
could not see any more. I had one particular job as a Psychology
Intern on a grant that happened
to be the firs time the National Institute of Mental Health funded
a study of Autism. Part of my
job was to travel around the state and find 40 of the most classic
cases of autism in the state
school system and then to bring them to the Austin State School where
they were put on a project
called the Aspen Project.
With these travels and my other visits to various institutions, detention
centers and other places
where children are warehoused I began to see conditions that made me
feel that I was back
in the dark ages. This inhumanity was more than I would take,
and just not do anything. For some
months I began to take notes and write about what I was seeing and
experiencing. I did my
research through records at the State School and was lucky to be able
to see inside so many
different facilities around the State of Texas. I read other
books about mental institutions, I
would go to the University of Texas Library and try to research, I
would talk to some of the
other employees and began to get a small group of other professionals
that were also fed up
with the inhumanity that they had to live and experience ever day.
I remember Pat Thompson
and I began to first talk, then a good friend and another social worker
Oralee Poteet and her
husband who was a very brilliant guy, who smoked a pipe and was a great
mind would set
around with me at night and we began to put together a organization.
Another associate Richard Halpin, another social worker joined our team
and we stared writing
up our ideas and named the group Free The Slow. The idea was
that many of these kids and
adults were institutionalized and warehoused because the were not of
a certain IQ...we thought
that it was not the matter of their IQ and they were not "retarded"...they
were just "slow."
Many times because of their mental problems, trauma, or language and
that made them suffer on the IQ tests.
I was discovering some very disturbing things about the deaths of some
of the patients, I was
uncovering drug experimentation, care workers sexually abusing the
patients and beatings,
patients tied to their beds, locked in rooms, tied to their beds, put
in straight jackets and tied
to chairs, behind barbed wire fences and more. Then two kids
that I knew at the School died
and I knew it was from the conditions...so that was the straw that
broke my back...I had to
do something...as a writer, I wrote this in the form of a paper, a
list of grievances and a press
I was living with my new young wife Valerie Howard, a college sweetheart
and someone that
was much to young and gentle to understand the dark sick world that
I was digging up at
work and the subject of my writings, meeting and talks. After
some months of preparation I
organized a Press conference at the Texas State Capitol.
August 10, 1973, the day following the Press Conference
all of the major papers in Texas
released various stories regarding the Press conference and the list of grievances
Story leads off..."Gov. Dolph Brisco requested an investigation
by Dr. David Wade, commissioner of the Texas Dept.
of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, into the circumstances
surrounding the deaths of two children at the Austin
State School...The article went on to say that Ben Standley,
Director of the Free the Slow organization, held a press
conference Thursday to present a list of grievances about
the State's treatment of mentally retarded people and throw
support behind efforts made by State Rep. Lane Denton's
sub-committee probing child care in Texas...This question
needs to be extended to the warehousing of the mentally
retarded and autistic kids who are not being helped in the
large institutions," Standley, a psychologist, said.
Years ago I had worked for a newspaper out in Alpine, Texas
when I was doing undergraduate
work at Sul Ross University. For years I somehow considered
myself a poet and a writer.
Though very strangely I could not spell. Anyway, I learned
about the working of the press. I
have always dreamed to be a writer and have always been a passionate
researcher for the facts
and the truth of a matter as close as can be researched.
Living in Austin, Texas we had the access to the Capitol press offices
for most of the major press
had offices there. The Legislature was in scission, so
all the press was in town. I wrote up a press
release and the list of Grievances that was mentioned in the articles.
I was shocked at the number
of press that turned up for our press conference that we called.
Press room at the capitol was
full. We had no idea what we were doing, but I knew I knew what
was right and what was wrong.
Somehow what I had seen over the past few years had me so upset with
society and everything I
just did not know what to do. So, I guess as they say I
followed my heart and told the truth.
I researched and made sure that what I said came from a real place
of knowledge from research
and experience. My Grandmother on my Oklahoma side of the family told
me that this work I was
kids is the work of the Lord."
I later find out that this was a historic roll that the
Rangers played in this movement. It was
later reported that this was the first time that the Texas Rangers
had been called up to investigate
a State Department of this nature. I always felt proud and have
something to tell my grandchildren
some day about the time I worked with the Texas Rangers.
Of course at first it is KILL THE MESSENGER. I was attacked you
might say, by Senators,
State Reps, officials from the Governors office and the Texas Rangers.
Later down the road the
FBI and the United States Department of Justice would come in on the
investigations. I was
drilled for hours and hours about how I knew what I knew and who and
the hell am I...some 20
something year old that is turning the department of mental health
and mental retardation upside
down...yeeeeeeehaw...I was loving the pressure in many respects.
I feel that I have opened a can of worms. The press jumped
all over this as did many concerned
individuals in the private and political arena. The case and
bottom life was care of children, and
as a society we have to be aware of their needs. I felt good just to
see all the coverage, investigation,
hearing and public interest in what was going on in the lives of these
thousands of kids I had seen
suffer over the past few years in my work.
The man just above is Senator Carlos Truan, who was headed the Committee
on Human Resources
and was very interested in the issue. In a letter to me he stated:
Dear Mr. Standley, Thank
you very much for your constructive and helpful testimony before the
Committee on Human Resources
of the Texas House of Representatives in Austin last week.
We are deeply grateful
for your contribution to our work.
State Representative Dave Allred from Wichita Falls wrote me
a letter on Sept. 6, 1973, saying,
"Thank you very much
for the copies of the press release you brought to my office.
and as chairman of the
Mental Health-Mental Retardation Subcommittee of the House Human
I am very interested in mental health and the welfare of the people in
state schools and hospitals...Some
staff members have already started looking into this field. And
I would request from
Free The Slow documentation of the statements in the press release... Again,
thank you very much for
your courtesy and interest and please keep me on your mailing list for
releases, etc. ,so I can
keep abreast of things.
From the article I am quoted saying, "Ben Standley, director of the
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 Texas."
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
also feeling great support from offices
of Rep. Lane Denton of Waco, Senator Carlos Truan of Corpus Christy,
Rep. Mickey Leland (God
rest his soul) of Houston, Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas,
and the Governors office seemed to
be jumping in my band wagon and the fears and some of the "paranoia"
I was experience about being
hurt because of what I was uncovering began to relive my mind somewhat.
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
It was a great time in Austin. We had since 1970, the Armadillo
World Headquarters and more fun than
you could shake a stick at taking off right from the musical streets
of Austin, Texas. While I worked and
studied in the class rooms of the University of Texas and spent hours
upon hours in the backwards of the
state institutions that were to care for children and seeing some of
the most shocking things in my life, I
was working and being part of one of the great music happenings in
history...I still wanna go home to
the Armadillo. I was also working with some of the top guys in
the biz like Jerry Jeff Walker, Gary P.
Nunn, Michael Martin Murphey, and a little down the Austin trail I
hooked up with Willie Nelson and
Family. Onward through the fog...
As my of my generation we had been suffering the
aftermath of 1970 and Kent State, realizations of
what really went on in Viet Nam for the past
three years, loss of Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. Water-
gate seemed to just keep pouring more on my desire
to spend some time out side of the United States
and its influences. Besides the experience
of the past year that I worked with the State and of Texas
put me into a sort of shock and I knew I had
to go somewhere far in reality and my mind to heal...
wonder and wander.
For 8 years I had traveled Mexico and West Texas,
I was very interested in the Native American
people feeling my own Native America blood, and
I was wanting to see the great ruins of the
Aztec, Mayan and Inca Nations of Central and
South America. Moved to Costa Rica and with a
brother we bought land and built a house and from there I spent time in
America and traveled a number of countries in Peru seeing the great lands of