Found by police wandering the streets of Jacksonville, IL early in the morning of Oct. 11, 1945. Deaf and mute, he was unable to communicate with anyone, and no relatives could be found. According to the police report, the name "George Dunkley" was written in the young man's vest when he was picked up, so that might have been his name. However, the records also show that no one by that name was ever reported missing, so "Doe" may have gotten the vest from someone else. He was labeled "feeble minded" and sent by a judge to the Lincoln State School and Colony, a notorious mental institute in Jacksonville. He soon became blind also, possibly from diabetes but also possibly from the abuse and mistreatment he got in the institution: beatings, hunger, overcrowding, and the generally dehumanizing treatment of inmates. Since he was unable to tell anyone his real name, the mental health system labeled him "John Doe no.24", though hints of his identity and former life would surface during his 30 years at the Lincoln colony and 18 more years in various other institutions, the last 6 at the Smiley Living Center in Peoria: He would scrawl the name "Lewis", and pantomime jazz bars and circus parades. But his true identity will probably never be known. During his stay in the Springfield ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens) Center, the surname "Boyd" (i.e., John Doe Boyd) was assigned for reasons now unknown. In 1993, he had surgery for colon cancer, but his health continued to decline and he died of a stroke 3 months later. After his death, the noted country-music singer Mary Chaplin Carpenter read of him in The New York Times and was moved to write and perform a song, "John Doe no.24", and to purchase a headstone for his unmarked institutional grave. His story is told in the book God Knows His Name: the True Story of John Doe no.24 (2000).
The New YorkTtimes, Dec.5, 1993, section 1, p.48.
1929?-28 November 1993