Floyd Sherrod, loving husband, father, lawyer, advocate for the less fortunate, passionate Democrat, avid birder, kind listener, voracious reader, and deep thinker, passed away suddenly on Monday, April 10, 2023, at the age of 86, having done his part to make the world a little better place.
Floyd had four sons from his first marriage: Hank, Chris, John, and Richard. In 1986, he found his true love and life partner in marrying Elizabeth (Libba) Barnwell, and lovingly accepted her daughter, Laura, as his fifth child. Floyd loved each one and was always willing to provide a kind ear and wise counsel.
Floyd was predeceased by his parents, Floyd and Effie Poole Sherrod, and by his sister and brother-in-law, Sherry & Pat Sandlin. Floyd is survived by his wife, Elizabeth (Libba); by his five children, Hank (Robyn), Chris, John (Melinda), Richard, and Laura (Josh Wilkinson); by eight grandchildren, Josh, Colly, Luci, Jackson, Jessica, John, Roman (Alicia), and Addie; three great-grandchildren: Darby, Brynleigh, and another due in May; and niece, Scott Sandlin, and nephew, Patrick Sandlin.
Born to educator parents, Floyd’s father was the principal and his mother was a math teacher at the school in Woodville, Alabama. Floyd stood out from the crowd at an early age. At age 14, he was an Eagle Scout with 27 merit badges and, at age 15, he was appointed to be a Page at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago by Alabama Senators John Sparkman and Lister Hill and Congressman Bob Jones.
Floyd was a gifted thinker and scholar. He was Valedictorian of his Decatur High School class of 1954 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year at Sewanee. He received a Masters from Tufts University and was among the top Graduates in Law School at the University of Alabama.
After completing his legal education in 1961, Floyd followed his passion to the District of Columbia, where he worked as a lawyer in the Department of Justice, as the Legislative Assistant to Senator Sparkman, and as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Labor in the Lyndon B. Johnson administration. The 1968 election sent Floyd from D.C. to Athens, Georgia, where he taught at the University of Georgia School of Law, published in the Georgia Law Review on environmental law, and edited Environmental Law Review, where he selected, organized, and introduced the best articles each year.
Floyd returned to Alabama in 1973, first in private practice in Decatur, and, then, in 1978, in Florence, he would find his life’s work as the Managing Attorney of the Florence office of Legal Services Corporation of Alabama which provided free legal representation to low-income people. Floyd opened the northwest Alabama office, hired and supervised the staff, and set about making a difference in people’s lives. In the early years, Floyd was instrumental in filing class action lawsuits on behalf of eligible groups who were seeking justice: in one, he was appointed to represent inmates in a lawsuit over inhumane conditions at the Lauderdale County Jail (that ultimately led a federal judge to order the county to build a new jail) and in another, filing suit to stop a local restaurant from discriminating against certain employees.
Floyd’s work and calling was helping low-income people in much less high-profile ways. He sat with them, listened to them, heard their stories, felt their pain, tried to help them, without judgment, solve problems regarding their benefits, housing, medical care or whatever the need. For over 26 years, day in, day out, Floyd (along with his staff, who loved him and the mission), gave his clients the gift of his empathetic ear and keen mind. And when he wasn’t doing that, he was working in other ways, including advocacy with the state and local bars, to make things better for low-income Alabamians.
His commitment to the less fortunate did not stop when he left the office. Floyd was active in the local food pantry at the Help Center of Florence, long past his retirement from Legal Services. Besides serving on the board for a time, many a weekend, often with a grandchild in tow, Floyd would pick up and deliver food donations to the Help Center, and was very involved in Meals-on-Wheels. Through his involvement with Florence Kiwanis, he served the community by reading to children at Handy School, ringing the bell for Salvation Army, and flipping his share of pancakes.
Floyd’s state and local involvement extended well beyond the Help Center. He was on birding boards (Alabama Audubon Council, Alabama Ornithological Society), served on the Alabama Rivers Alliance, supported Alabama Arise, and was an active member of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. Time with friends at ILR, “Gonce Book Group”, and his noon study group enriched his life.
Floyd seriously loved birding. He enjoyed being outdoors observing their behavioral and nesting habits. His hearing was notoriously deficient, but he did his best, struggling to identify them by their songs. His many travels with Libba over the years usually included a bird-related detour in numerous countries around the world. He shared his interest for birds with those he loved, and, for many of us, time with birds will be time with his spirit.
Floyd will be profoundly missed by his family, friends, and the community. A celebration of life service will be held at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Florence. (The date will be announced at a later time.) The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Florence Help Center, Meals-on-Wheels, Alabama Arise, or St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.
An online guestbook may be signed at greenviewmemorial.com.
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