Gary Floyd
of Navarro County, Texas


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6/12/2002  Ryan has continued to succeed after leaving State Home


Gary Floyd, right, is enjoying a successful career in teaching after moving from the Corsicana State Home to be a foster child in the home of Willie C. and Ardelia Smith. He stayed with his foster brother, Tinnis Manning, last weekend and attended the State Home's annual reunion. Daily Sun photo/JOAN SHERROUSE

 

By JOAN SHERROUSE/Daily Sun Staff

With one more year to go at Corsicana High School, Gary Floyd was evicted from his home.

The year was 1982. At 17, Floyd was living at the Corsicana State Home, but changes were eminent, and the young residents had to find somewhere else to live.

He was one of the lucky ones. The young African-American whose teenage years were marred by family and discipline problems,found the encouragement and support he needed to become an engineer, a master reading teacher and an ordained minister.

He knew his new foster parents, the late Willie C. and Ardelia Smith, from church, but when he moved in with them, a new-found sense of direction emerged.

"Once I moved into Mrs. Smith's home, it was never understood that I was going to be there for just one year," Floyd said. "She said, 'You're a member of the family from here on out, and it doesn't matter what else happens, you have to live up to the expectations of this family.'"

The expectations were simple but profound -- go to church and go to school -- and Floyd took them to heart.

From high school, he went to Texas State Technical Institute in Waco where he earned the two-year engineering degree he would need to secure his future. Despite carrying a full class load and working -- first at a fast food restaurant then in an auto parts store -- Floyd was determined to succeed.

"It was difficult, but I made it," he said.

During the six years he worked in the engineering field, he was active in the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and a world of opportunities began to appear, including his involvement with the Temple branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

By that time, he had decided to earn a bachelor's degree at Prairie View College with an eye toward political science and pre-law studies, and he spent four years as president of the school's NAACP chapter.

Then, the window of opportunity closed on law, but the door to teaching opened, and Floyd walked through it, acting as a substitute while he worked to earn his certificate.

Teaching English suited him, but he was never one to pass up an opportunity to improve himself. When then-Governor George W. Bush initiated the Master Reading program in Texas, Floyd jumped at the chance to receive training, and became one of the first African-American men to earn certification

Other accomplishments include a first-time presentation at the Texas Council of the Teachers of English Convention in San Antonio, membership on the advisory panel for eighth-grade writing, grammar and literature textbooks for Prentice Hall and an office full of awards.

"I don't sit still a lot," he admitted. "I always have something I'm working on."

His interest in the ministry began in 1989 after he graduated from Prairie View.

"I got a job in Temple and attended church in Waco," he said. "I met the pastor of Carver Park, and he was a quadriplegic and needed a lot of help, but he was such an inspiring person to see with the difficulties he had."

Based on his own experiences, he tells youngsters to set goals, get a good education and be persistent.

"Persist, don't complain, have the right guiding principals for your life and you'll do well," Floyd said. "Any thing you do, do it right."

He spent the weekend in Corsicana, staying with his foster brother, Tinnis Manning, and attending the State Home's annual alumni reunion. Monday, he returned to his teaching job at Houston ISD, ready to meet a new set of challenges head on.

"I'm still trying to better myself with schooling and things like that," he said. "I'm hoping to go to the University of Texas for my master's degree in English education. Hopefully, in the fall of 2003, I'll start on my masters down there."

Joan Sherrouse may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]


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