In the late eighties, I had an internship in the internal PR department of the Department of Administrative Services, the “centralized procurement function for state of Georgia government entities.” Yup. About as exciting as it sounds. When my boss wasn't shopping for shoes at the old downtown Rich’s store, she regaled me with stories about my fabulous predecessor, super intern Jenny. Apparently Jenny was not only brilliant, but also tall and lanky and lovely — and fond of shoes.
The highlight of my tenure was correcting grammar and spelling on memos from the office of then-governor Joe Frank Harris. The low point was writing an article for the internal newsletter about DOAS employees who had the same names as famous folks. The hardest interview of my journalistic career was chatting up Jimmy Stewart in the fleet management division, who was old and embittered because the only thing people thought interesting about him was his name. I left the internship with a conviction that I'd never work in state government and with a complex that I’d never be as marvelous as Jenny. Indeed, my friend, Wendy, took over the internship from me and also heard tales of the wondrous Jenny — nary a mention of mediocre Rebecca.
The only bright spot of the internship experience was that MARTA stopped right inside the the building, meaning you could trundle up to an exciting day of government work without encountering Atlanta heat, humidity or downpours. The structure that straddles the MARTA line and includes two twenty-story towers on either side of the tracks is known as the Twin Towers Office Building within state goverment circles. Its official moniker: The James “Sloppy” Floyd Veteran Memorial Building. Most Atlantans call it Sloppy Floyd.
The Twin Towers were erected in the early 1980s, the first phase of a planned massive government complex that would encircle the state capitol. They were noteworthy as the first buildings in the area to be taller than the Gold Dome itself. The rest of the complex never materialized; except for a parking deck, nothing else has been built and government agencies have leased out older buildings and office space around Downtown. In addition to the DOAS, the towers are home to a number of agencies including the state’s office of consumer protection, the pardons and paroles board, the state ethics commission, and the sex offender registry. The Georgia Building Authority manages a few spiffy event venues on the twentieth floor of the west tower that have a lovely skyline view and can be rented through Stately Events.
The towers themselves are blocky and non-descript. Makes you glad, from an urban design perspective, that the rest of the complex wasn’t constructed. The most interesting thing about this structure is the name. Just who was “Sloppy” Floyd?
James H. Floyd served in the statehouse for two decades and rose to the position of appropriations committee chair, which seems a good way to gett things named for you; in addition to the towers in Atlanta, a state park near Summerville was christened in Sloppy's honor.
When Sloppy died, the New York Times described him as “one of the most powerful and colorful members of the Georgia Legislature.” Reading extensive news accounts of that era, I’ve learned that “colorful” is newspaper shorthand for eccentric and/or demagogic. (Exhibit A: Lester Maddox. Exhibit B: Huey Long. For Exhibits C-Z, just google “colorful Southern politician.”)
Floyd’s main claim to “colorful” claim came in January 1967, when, a year after winning a spot in the Georgia House, Julian Bond, former SNCC and student movement leader, was finally sworn in. Despite an electoral victory, Bond was denied his seat by Georgia lawmakers on grounds of his antiwar activism. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually intervened. (Click here to read the Warren opinion in the case “Julian Bond et al., Appellants, v. James 'Sloppy' Floyd et al.”)
On the winter day Bond took the oath of office, most of the good old boys in the Capitol treated it as an inevitable non-event, but Floyd flounced out of the House chamber in protest. “This has nothing to do with race,” Floyd told Times reporter Gene Roberts. “We’ve got other Nigger people in the House — and we seated them.”
In 1974, Floyd died of an apparent heart attack at the age of fifty-four. The same year, Bond was elected to the Georgia Senate, where he served until 1986, stepping down to run for U.S. Congress (losing to fellow SNCC alum John Lewis). He’s served as chair of the NAACP, and had a distinguished career as a professor and academic administrator.
>> Click here to watch 1966 WSB footage of a march protesting the denial of Bond’s seat in the Georgia legislature, including a speech in support of Bond by Martin Luther King, Jr. Video from the Civil Rights Digital Library, University of Georgia.
The James “Sloppy” Floyd Veteran Memorial Building
200 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, 30334