The Committee

About This Episode


The Committee chronicles the actions of the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee (or Johns Committee) of 1956-1965. Formed in response to the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education decision, and amidst anti-Communist fears in the country, its initial targets were civil rights activists and NAACP members pushing for desegregation. Senator and Committee Chairman Charley Johns shifted the focus in 1961 to Communist sympathizers and homosexual teachers and students at state universities. During its existence, the Committee was successful in firing or expelling more than 200 suspected gay and lesbian students and teachers throughout Florida.

Through archival footage and photos, and interviews with former students Rev. Ruth Jensen-Forbell and Chuck Woods, and retired police officer John Tileston, Jr., The Committee highlights the scare tactics used by the Johns Committee in its attempt to root out homosexuality and Communism on state campuses. In the documentary, Woods — who had been interrogated by Tileston, Jr. - reunites with him publicly for the first time in 50 years to discuss what happened during that dark period in the state's history.