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“A Salute to Birmingham’s Own”



SHIRLEY GAVIN FLOYD was born March 5, 1953 in Birmingham, Alabama.  She was 10 years old in 1963 when the protest demonstrations, sit-ins, and marches were active in Birmingham, Ala. One day, a group of students from Wenonah and Ullman High schools came to Brunetta C. Hill Elementary School on their way to A. H. Parker High School, encouraging school students to leave school and march. Shirley joined the crowd and followed them to A. H. Parker High School. After leaving Parker High School, she followed the crowd down 8th Avenue North as they were making their way to Lincoln Elementary School. When she reached the YWCA, which was located on 8th Avenue North and 5th Street North, she spotted her mother standing in front of the YWCA demanding her to get out of the line and come home at once! Being an only child, Shirley had to obey and was removed from the crowd.
Throughout her life, she felt a void when it came to the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. Her parents never explained what the protest was all about and as a result, she found herself clueless and ignorant concerning the cause for which so many were fighting. Her interest overwhelmed her and she began to seek out anyone who knew about the movement and especially those who participated in it.
In the year of 2002, Shirley retired from Lawson State Community College after 27 years of service. Two months after her retirement, she went into an office building located on 4thAvenue North called the “Civil Rights Activist Committee: Home of the Foot Soldiers Headquarters.” There she found Mr. Tommy Wrenn, a Foot Soldier who had been employed as a “Field Staff Worker” under the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  When she introduced herself and asked him what a Foot Soldier was he sat straight up and started telling her about the Civil Rights Movement. Shirley was so overwhelmed with what he said, she decided to come back the next day and talk to him again. Proud of the interest that Shirley had and seeing the hidden talent that she possessed, Mr. Wrenn asked her to take part in the upcoming 1st Annual Foot Soldier Grand Reunion by lending assistance to the Project Director, Mrs. Flo Wilson-Davis. After the reunion, Mr. Wrenn hired Shirley in the Civil Rights Office as the Business Manager and the rest is history!
Shirley began to study the history of the Civil Rights Movement and through Mr. Tommy Wrenn, was able to meet and interview such Civil Rights icons as: Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, Rev. James Bevel,  Rev. Tony S. Cooper, Ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. and Mrs. Joseph and Evelyn Lowery, Mr. Davis Jordan, Mrs. Amelia Boynton, Mr. James Armstrong, Rev. James E. Orange, Dr. C. T. Vivian, Mr. Ralph Worrell, Mr. Frederick Moore, Mr. Colonel Stone Johnson and a list of others, too numerous to name.  It was at this time that she realized the importance of their various horrid and brutal encounters throughout the civil rights struggle and decided that these stories needed to be published and preserved. She asked for permission to interview and publish the stories of as many Foot Soldiers as she could and Mr. Wrenn authorized her to do so with his consent and support. She founded a civil rights newspaper which she titled: “The Foot Soldier Informer.” The newspaper was designed to tell the stories of the “unnamed and ordinary” Foot Soldiers in their own words. Presently, there are seven volumes of this 21 page document published and it is also preserved in the archival section of the Birmingham Public Library. Mr. Wrenn is credited with teaching Shirley most of the civil rights movement history and exposed her to areas and regions where the crucial and bloody battles were fought. In the year of 2004, he took her to Selma so she could be knowledgeable about “Bloody Sunday” and the horrid and infamous brutal attack on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the year 1965. That same year, at her first  “Bridge Crossing Jubilee,” Shirley was selected to lead the march by Rev. James E. Orange and has led the march yearly since that time. The following year, in 2005, she walked the 57 mile historic route from Selma to Montgomery in appreciation of the pilgrimage made in 1965 by those courageous voting rights protestors. To her credit, she has walked that same historic route three consecutive times.
Besides being dedicated to the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers, Shirley also holds the position of President of the Smithfield Neighborhood Association where she has been active in this civic role since the year 2000. There she dedicates her time to making sure the neighborhood is viable with the necessary businesses and entities that will enhance and instill pride in all of its citizens.
When not engaged in civic duties, she takes the opportunity to offer condolences to bereaved families as she is employed with Davenport-Harris Funeral Home as a Funeral Attendant and Limousine Driver and has been employed there since 2002.
Shirley is working on her 5th Civil Rights Documentary which will be released in the year 2015. Due to copyright laws, the title of this documentary cannot be revealed at this time but is proving to be as great or greater than the ones before it.
This is just a snapshot of the works of Birmingham’s own: Shirley Gavin Floyd. She is committed to the struggle and we are proud of her accomplishments. Best wishes to Shirley in all future endeavors. She is truly, BIRMINGHAM’S OWN!


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