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J.H. Floyd built one of Florida‘s first black nursing homes. His portrait was found in the trash

Staff Writer
Walton Sun
Walton Sun

CORRECTION: William Fred Jackson, the publisher of the Weekly Bulletin, died of cancer in 1989. A previous version of this story stated otherwise.

The Rev. J.H. Floyd built three churches in Sarasota’s historic African American community. Floyd taught carpentry at Booker High School and built houses and businesses when his white counterparts refused to do so.

Because the city’s segregation laws barred the black community from nursing homes when they became too ill or infirm to care for themselves, Floyd raised money and, in 1957, broke ground on Newtown’s first senior care facility.

New nursing home owners say they didn't throw away founder's portrait

That’s why so many were outraged when Floyd’s 16-by-20 portrait was recently found in a waste bin of the nursing home that once bore his name.

“They just casually threw it away,” said Jetson Grimes, an entrepreneur and community organizer. “Some people just do not see the value in who black people are.”

Floyd’s portrait was retrieved from the trash at Crossbreeze Care Center on 1755 18th St. and taken to Grimes, who runs the Newtown Historical Gallery on Osprey Avenue in Sarasota, Grimes said. The gallery, a museum of sorts, pays homage to the expansive history of Sarasota’s oldest black community.

The man who saved it didn’t know who Floyd was. Grimes did. There are newspaper clippings of Floyd all over his gallery. There’s even a historical marker with his name on it not far from the nursing home. He called former Sarasota mayor Fredd Atkins and City Commissioner Willie Shaw. Atkins and Shaw were shocked when they saw the portrait.

“Why didn’t someone not ask; why didn’t they talk to somebody?” said Shaw. “There are people in this community who would have taken it and found it a home.”

Atkins called it a “total disrespect and disregard for this community. For them to just throw it in the garbage is worse than what I can imagine.”

It isn’t clear why or how Floyd’s portrait ended up in the trash.

J.H. Floyd Sunshine Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, now called Crossbreeze Care Center, is under new management. The 101-bed nursing home was sold to a Miami-based company almost a decade ago. It changed hands again in 2017.

Crossbreeze’s administrators did not return a request for comment. A receptionist who answered the phone on Thursday said she didn’t know anything about the portrait and said that “we aren’t even named J.H. Floyd anymore.”

George Bumbray also didn’t know how Floyd’s portrait ended up in the trash. Bumbray, a retired C.I.A. agent, is the chairman of the nonprofit organization that used to run the nursing home. The nonprofit sold J.H. Floyd Sunshine Manor in 2012 to help improve the two other facilities next door, Sunshine Meadows and Sunshine Village.

The two companies that have owned the facility since have made a number of changes to Crossbreeze Care Center over the years, Bumbray said. The roof was replaced. New medical equipment was purchased, and dozens of new employees were hired.

The portraits of Floyd and all the board of directors are also gone from the main entrance.

“They used to hang there, so everyone could see that strong black men and women ran this place with pride,” Bumbray said.

For Grimes, the curator of the Newtown Historical Gallery, the portrait is more than just a photograph.

“This is something that gives honor to a person of undue restraint, someone who went beyond the call of duty,” Grimes said. “The portrait means he’s done things that are important.”

A dreamer, a builder

Floyd moved to Sarasota in 1925 as a young building contractor at the height of Florida’s building boom.

He built and renovated homes in the city’s black and white communities, laid the foundation for the Helen R. Payne Day Nursery and built the USO Recreation Building on 34th Street for black World War II soldiers. After the war, the building became the Newtown Recreation Center.

Floyd also built three churches: True Vine Missionary Baptist Church, New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and Mount Moriah Baptist Church. He was ordained as a minister in 1957, serving as pastor until his death in the 1970s.

In 1957, Floyd and members of the Choirs Union, a charitable group of choir members from a handful of black churches, broke ground on the Old Folks Aid Home on East Myrtle Avenue.

Before the facility opened in 1960, the only place for African American seniors to grow old was in their homes. In 1967, a new facility was built on 18th Street, where Crossbreeze Care Center stands now. The facility was named J.H. Floyd Sunshine Manor, whose namesake served as president of the board of directors for almost 20 years.

Decades after Floyd’s death, J.H. Floyd Sunshine Manor had fallen on hard times, with tax filings showing their revenue dropping by more than $1 million in 2010. It was sold to make improvements to the other facilities.

Bumbray, chairman of Sunshine Meadows and Village, believes that perhaps someone at Crossbreeze Care Center didn’t see the historical value of the portrait, which now has a permanent home at the Newtown Historical Center.

While history is thrown away all the time, Commissioner Shaw said these things happen all too often in the black community that has seen a lot of change over the years.

In the early 1970s, photos, yearbooks, trophies and other memorabilia were tossed out of Booker High School as the school district tried to encourage integration in Sarasota’s public high schools, Shaw said.

William Fred Jackson, the publisher of the Weekly Bulletin, the area’s first African American newspaper, died of cancer in 1989. Many of the newspaper’s photographs and archives were lost, Atkins said.

“That’s what happens to our history,” Atkins said. “Someone loses a home or a business and folks come and just rake the place out into the trash pile.”

Since receiving a grant from the city of Sarasota in 2015, Vickie Oldham and a team of professionals and volunteers have painstakingly tried to salvage and chronicle the history of Newtown and the local struggle for civil rights. Many of the photographs and historical items they use in the project came from private collections stuffed in envelopes or cardboard boxes in a garage.

“These things don’t end up in places like the historical archives because black people here have always had a fear of giving their photos or memorabilia to the white people who traditionally have run historical archives,” Oldham said.

Most people bring their belongings to the Newtown Historical Gallery, nestled next door Grimes’ salon. The small gallery is stuffed almost to the brim with things people bring in.

While Grimes, Oldham and others are working toward creating a permanent African American museum in Sarasota, the project has been slow to come to fruition. Oldham envisions a space big enough to fit Newtown’s rich history.

“One man’s trash is another man’s gold,” said Shaw. “There are people here who will take your treasures. All you have to do is ask.”

This story originally published to heraldtribune.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.