Gracie Floyd, the Anderson County Council’s lone Democrat and its only Black member, died Friday night of “COVID pneumonia and other health complications,” according to a statement from her son, Greg.
She was 75.
Floyd, a retired educator, was the council’s longest-serving member and the most recent holder of the seat that has been in her family since the 1990s. She represented Homeland Park, one of Anderson County’s poorest neighborhoods, and the area around it.
Her late husband, William Floyd, was the first African-American to serve on the Anderson County Council. When he died of a heart attack in 1999, she fulfilled the remainder of his term and had been re-elected to represent County Council District Two every year since. Most recently, she defeated Republican David Standard in November.
Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns said county flags will fly half-staff in honor of Gracie Floyd beginning Saturday.
“Mrs. Floyd fought a brave fight for 21 years,” Burns said Friday night. “We are grieving and our hearts go out to her family and friends.”
Floyd died just before 6:30 p.m., according to her son’s Facebook post. Burns said the councilwoman died in a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.
She grew up in Columbia in a neighborhood where the street was a dividing racial line, said Joey Oppermann, a close friend who met her during a political campaign in 2004.
Floyd and some friends integrated a segregated park when they played tennis one day, Oppermann said.
“The police officer hollered and fussed, said if you don’t leave immediately and he said other things that aren’t printable,” Oppermann said. “They acted like they couldn’t hear him and he eventually left. After that, it was integrated.”
Called Valley Park at the time, it is now the Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
She had a fulfilling career as a teacher and administrator in the Upstate, Oppermann said.
Floyd didn’t aim to end up in politics, before or after her husband’s death, but she prayed on it, Oppermann said.
Joe Davenport, who had encouraged William Floyd to run for council in 1994, pressed Gracie Floyd to follow suit.
They commiserated over the loss of their spouses, and Davenport told her she could do it. Gracie Floyd made a phone call to her mother and that was it, she was in and would never stop working for her people, Davenport said.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.
“She gave back to her people more than you could ever think,” he said. “She just knew how to do that.”
Floyd could find ways to work levers of power to help her district, Davenport said.
She never minded being the lone advocate for a person or an idea — a position she regularly found herself in on a council otherwise filled with Republicans.
Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts said Floyd helped introduce him to when he was first running for mayor, she brought him to several of the many community groups that she helped to found or lead over the years.
He had dinners with the Floyds growing up. William Floyd and William Roberts, the mayor’s father, were both prominent high school coaches.
“I’d play basketball with Coach Floyd,” Roberts said. “Mrs. Gracie loved Coach Floyd and talked about that a lot.”