The Floyds – Part 1
Editors note: This is the first of a five part series about the Floyd family, written by JD Hansard.
By JD Hansard e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack and Verna Floyd of Charleston had four children – Don, Jacque, Davis and Jerry. They all graduated from Charleston High School and all graduated from college; Don and Jerry from Arkansas Tech, Jacque from Henderson State and Davis from Midwestern University in Wichita Falls, Texas. Jerry and Davis are gone now. I continue to value my friendship with Don and Jacque and admire each of them. What follows are some of my memories of how Jack and Verna’s children impacted my life.
In 1953 Coach Don Floyd organized a junior high football team in Charleston. I was in the eighth grade and had decided to NOT play football. Coach Floyd made a speech to the boys in our class and after the speech my mind was changed. For my remaining five years of school in Charleston, football would be extremely important.
I thought Don Floyd was an outstanding coach. Why did I think that back then, and why do I think it now?
A coach must persuade his players to expend maximum effort. How do they do that? Many do it using fear. The player thinks, “Oh my, I must exert myself, for if I don’t, the coach will be angry and I will be punished.” A coach may yell insults at players individually. Davis Floyd did that some of the time. Don never did. I don’t remember him ever singling out an individual player for verbal abuse. In fact, I don’t remember him raising his voice in anger.
Coaches sometimes make passionate speeches to inspire players and Don did that occasionally.
I have no idea if other players saw Don the way that I did. But I wanted to perform for him because I thought that he would suffer if we did not do well. I thought he needed for us to be dedicated to football, and I was. I did not fear him at all, but I had great respect for him. I desperately wanted to please him.
A measure of how much I valued his opinion is the following memory. Our senior year we played Mansfield in Charleston. Coach Floyd had moved on to Stuttgart that year, but he had come back to Charleston for the Mansfield game. At one point we ran 23 Pass when we were at the 50 yard line moving eastward. The pass to me was perfect. It was easily catchable and I missed it. And when I did, I thought to myself, “Oh no, Coach Floyd saw me miss that pass.” I hated to disappoint him.
In the fall of 1956, at age 16, I joined the National Guard and Coach Floyd was our commander. We were, at that time, an ambulance company and as part of our training we learned to give shots. We would pair up and give each other shots of saline solution. On one occasion everyone in the company was getting a real shot. I don’t remember what it was. A nurse was giving the shots and, for a reason that I don’t remember, Coach Floyd singled me out to give a half dozen of the shots. The nurse went over with me exactly what was expected. Then Coach Floyd made a remark that I still remember. He said to the nurse, “You only have to tell Junior something once.” I was profoundly flattered. That remark was proof to me that he thought I was somehow special.
Don was, of course, not only a National Guard Commander and a football coach, he was a successful teacher. I had him for Biology and thought he was excellent. My friend Leon Raney (class of ‘56) remembers him as an outstanding American History teacher. Leon and his wife Mary (Wilson) Raney (class of ’57) currently live in South Dakota, but spend summers at different locations in the Deep South, partly because Leon likes to learn about the history of different parts of the country. Leon credits his love of history to Don’s history class. He also remembers that Don inspired him to want to go to college. Leon showed me a letter that he and Mary wrote to Don and his wife Betty, in which they explain what a great positive influence Don and Betty had been. At one point the letter reads, “The two of you through your words and examples showed a generation of CHS students that with hard work and effort we could make something of ourselves.” And later in the letter, “The mere fact that none of us ever wanted to do anything to disappoint either of you shaped our lives more than you could ever know.”
Leon recently told me about attending the Charleston Reunion last year and how much he enjoyed visiting with Coach Floyd. But he reported that Don was having difficulty walking. I was sad to hear that, but, since I am 73 years old, it follows that Don is getting up in years. Imagining Don struggling to walk, I was reminded of a particular play that occurred during junior high football practice in 1953. The ball was on the 30 yard line on the north side of the field. I was playing defensive end and Don ran with the ball around left end – toward me. He, of course, did not run into me. Just as I lowered my shoulder to try to tackle him, he came to a complete stop. My shoulder struck him in the thigh as he stood stock still. It was like trying to tackle a fence post. He did not move at all. I wrapped my arms around his legs and they felt as though they were made of steel. I discovered something. Coach Floyd was Superman!
That was 61 years ago. Times change and so do we all, even Superman.