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Opening Speech of Juneteenth Celebration 2022 - Black Excellence in Floyd County by Rosa Lovo

  • Today we celebrate black excellence and in doing so, I want to take the time to recognize the achievements made in the Floyd community by our black residents.

  • In 1974, we established the Floyd Co. Rescue Squad. Members of the first volunteer crew included Jerry Helms, Grant and Elsie Helms, Bruce Turner and Bill and Constance Hayden.

  • Bill Hayden is to this day still the only black member on the Floyd board of supervisors.

  • Meanwhile Bruce Turner also served the county as a police deputy for many years before retirement and becoming the first black member of our Town Council.

  • How many of you are aware that our current School Board office was once Harris Hart? The black school in Floyd did not desegregate until 1966: 12 years after Brown vs Board of Education due to massive resistance in our state and in our town! This school only went to the 8th grade after which students would attend the Christiansburg Colored Institute if they could to finish their education.

  • We would like to emphasize that this desegregation included both students and teachers. The first black teachers in our public school system were: Walker Campbell and Eva Claytor who both taught at Floyd Elementary School while Grace Beale became the first black teacher at Check Elementary.

  • In 1992, Rochella Claytor represented the black community as the first Black Valedictorian to graduate from Floyd County High School.

  • Following his mother’s footsteps, Winfred Beale, an FCHS alumnus, returned to teach in 1974. He soon became the coach of the football team, teaching and coaching for 48 years. He was recently honored by having the football stadium named after him in 2021. He has since retired from teaching but continues to coach football and track.

  • Last but not least, although he was not born and raised here, George Christopher Jones became an active community member when he met and married a Floyd county girl. He was the associate pastor at Little River Missionary Baptist Church, a friend and a mentor. He helped organize the first Juneteenth celebration in Floyd as a member of Floyd CARE. None of this would have been possible without him. On June 10th of this year, he passed away after a years long battle with cancer. Though he was laid to rest only hours ago, we will always remember his big smile, hearty laugh, and vivacious personality. His loss will be felt throughout the community and we offer our deepest condolences to the family.

  • These are only a few examples of achievements made by the black citizens in Floyd throughout the years. However, today when you leave here I want my people to remember that we are black, we are excellent, and thank god we are free.

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