A good friend to Savannah, and a truly good guy, Floyd Adams left us last week for the only place he knew was better than his home town. Like General Oglethorpe, he had a plan for his city, and he worked it. Floyd broke a few rules along the way—like being the first African-American to win a city-wide election—but he knew how to make new rules that were better.
Although I have lived most of my adult life in Savannah, I was raised in rural West Virginia. There, in the 1960’s, racism was an abstract thing, as there were almost no African-Americans living closer than the cities to the north. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a hero to me, not because of his march on Washington for civil rights, but because he was in favor of non-violent revolutionary change, and against the draft. When I moved to Savannah in 1981, I was still very naive about race, and especially the politics of race. Since then I have come to understand “the struggle,” and how, even today, it is long from over. Floyd Adams showed me how that stigma could be overcome, and how a black man from the mean streets of Savannah could be a mayor for all people. He lived what Dr. King preached.
Floyd knew how to organize people, and then listen to them; and to figure out if there was a way for his government to help them without being too much of a burden on others. He understood the art of compromise. I remember when he was Mayor and I was chairman of the new Trade Center Authority we negotiated the levy of a penny sales tax on local hotel guests to be collected by Savannah to support the new convention center’s operations. Floyd insisted that Hutchinson Island, the chosen site of the new Trade Center, be annexed into the city of Savannah so that the future development would be open to all citizens, and not become another gated community. He was right, and, of course, he won.
Floyd Adams will be remembered for as long as Savannah exists, because he was able to unite Savannah at a time when others were trying to pull her apart. I hope he will be in heaven, doing the same things he did here in Savannah.
Goodbye Floyd, and thanks!