Jack Floyd remembers

By Danny 'The Vagabond' CrownoverBy Danny 'The Vagabond' Crownover

The Vagabond received the most interesting letter from Gadsden attorney Jack Floyd and wishes to share with the reader what he had to say:
“I have been reading with interest the ‘Life Around the Dwight Mill Village.’ The Feb. 15 issue was getting to almost my time in Alabama City.

“I grew up there at 1002 (now 3002) Elliott Avenue (now Meighan Boulevard) across from Elliott Community Center (it was Elliott Grammar School then.)

“In prior articles, it was mistaken about the street destination before it became Meighan Boulevard. From the Square in a western direction toward Attalla was called Elliott Avenue. From the square in an eastern direction toward Black Creek was called Kyle Avenue.

“As a young boy, I knew Dr. Robert A. Burns well. I also knew his son, Dr. Bob Burns, and his daughter, Mary Burns Shepherd.

“When I was a little boy, Mary Burns became the rage of Alabama City.

“Dr. Robert A. Burns was sending her overseas to visit in Spain. Most people in Alabama City at that time had never been any farther than Attalla or Gadsden. My older sisters were excited for her.

“She went to Spain. The trouble was, Mary was in Spain when the Spanish Civil War began. It took forever for Dr. Burns to get Mary back into the United States.

“Also, my brother-in-law, Colonel Lowe Herndon, and Dr. Bob Burns, the son, were close friends. Lowe Herndon told the story of Bob returning to Alabama City with his M.D. degree. All the young men joined him at their usual gathering place in Alabama City.

“It was a drugstore on the ground floor on Wall Street near where Dr. Bob Burns had his office on the second floor.

“It was indicated that Dr. Robert Burns was instrumental in the formation of Emma Sansom High School. At that time, Alabama City had a separate school system.

“When the school system was established, and Emma Sansom High was built, he called my father, George W. Floyd, to be the first superintendent of Alabama City Schools.

“We moved to Alabama City and my father, George W. Floyd, served as superintendent of Alabama City Schools until Alabama City merged with the City of Gadsden.

“At that time, George Floyd became principal of Emma Sansom High School, where he served as principal until he was appointed Postmaster of the Alabama City Post Office.

“My father, George W. Floyd, was one of the founding members of the Etowah Historical Society.

“My sister, Kate Briscoe, and my brother-in-law were also founding members.

“My father was born April 15, 1881, on a cotton farm in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. He completed only the fourth grade in school.

“When the Spanish-American War started in 1898, he joined the army. He was a member of Company K, 41st Volunteer Infantry. It was the first military unit in history to circumnavigate the globe.

“It was the first time since the Civil War that southerners had joined the United States Army wearing a blue uniform. He was sent to the Philippines.

“Former United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who grew up on an adjoining farm to my father in Clay County, commented to me by letter some 40 years ago when I applied for admission to practice before the United States Supreme Court, that one of the prettiest sights he ever saw was George Floyd coming home from the Philippines in that ‘pretty blue uniform’.

“My father spent two years in the Philippines and rose to the rank of Sergeant. It was decided that English should become the official language, rather than Spanish.

“With his fourth grade education, he was chosen to be a teacher in a one-room school in the Philippines where none of the children spoke English, and he spoke no Spanish.

“He taught them English, and all other subjects, and they taught him Spanish, which he spoke fluently the remainder of his life.

“When he came home from the Philippines, he returned to Clay County and applied to teach.

“When he told them he had been a teacher in the Philippines for two years, they hired him. His formal education was still a fourth grade education.

“He began teaching, and later became principal of a number of schools, Superintendent of Education of St. Clair County Schools and the Superintendent of a Methodist Boarding School in Flat Rock, Alabama.

“He later came to Alabama City as Superintendent of Alabama City Schools.

“He had three daughters, Kate Briscoe, Rob Spurrier and Maud Herndon.

“They had been living and going to school at the Methodist Boarding School in Flat Rock. They graduated high school there. It was in the midst of the depression. No one had money to go to college.

“George Floyd left Flat Rock with his family, moved to Birmingham and began teaching at Ensley High School so his three girls could attend Birmingham Southern College. He also decided to enroll in Birmingham Southern. He went there and told them that he wanted to work on his Masters Degree.

“The school thought he had a college education because he had been a superintendent of schools, principal and teacher, so they allowed him to do so, although he only had his fourth grade education. He and my sisters finished Birmingham Southern together, they with Bachelors Degrees and he with a Masters Degree.

“He later served 25 years as a member of the Gadsden City Board of Education.

“George W. Floyd Elementary School is named in his memory.”

Yours very truly,

Jack Floyd

To contact the Vagabond, you can e-mail him at dkcrown@bellsouth.net or write to him at The Messenger at 408 Broad St., Gadsden, AL, 35901.

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